South Park: And the moral of the story is…[censored]

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, purveyors of toilet humour, obscenity and slander of just about every celebrity and religious figure in the world, have succeeded in gaining even more notoriety for their 200th anniversary episode of the cartoon South Park.

The premise for the two-part episode is that all the celebrities of Hollywood (otherwise known as the Legion of Doom) gather forces to file a class-act lawsuit against the residents of South Park for their continual defamation of figures such as Tom Cruise, Barbara Streisand and even the Pope. However, in order to truly gain the “the power to not be ridiculed”, the celebrities must kidnap the Prophet Mohammed, the only figure in the world to hold this “superpower” and clone it for themselves.

The day after the first part of the episode was broadcast on 14 April, a post on the (temporarily defunct) Revolution Muslim website appeared not threatening, but warning the creators that “they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show”.

Comedy Central in response, decided to censor Mohammed’s name from the second part of the episode which was broadcast on Wednesday. In addition, the customary concluding speech at the end of every episode, in which some kind of moral is normally gleamed from all the chaos, was also censored. According to the makers, the speeches that were made by various different characters were about “intimidation and fear”, and contained no mention of Mohammed.

The network’s decision to censor Mohammed’s name and image can be justified to some extent due to fears from religious attacks, or simply just to create greater publicity for the show. However censorship of the concluding speech is simply an over the top reaction, stifling exactly the kind of “rational dialogue” endorsed by the Revolution Muslim blog: to “create the possibility that a deeper and more productive dialogue may be initiated.”

Moreover, it is questionable whether the act of censorship itself was intentionally written into the script as part of the joke. In the one of the penultimate scenes, Tom Cruise manages to finally clone Mohammed’s “power to not be ridiculed”, and emerges out of a contraption only to end up as a censored black box himself. The only way to not be slandered or defamed it seems, is to become completely unrepresentable and inexistent, proving that absolute censorship itself is impractical, ridiculous and unrealistic.

For an interview by Xeni Jardin with the creators about the 200th episode click here.

The interview also contains an uncensored clip of Mohammed from an episode broadcasted two months before 9/11, which generated almost no controversy whatsoever. Already, there have been rumours of an uncensored version of the second episode being leaked online.

Danes ask EU to curb English libel law

Depending how you look at it, the debate over English libel law became more absurd/serious this week, with Denmark’s justice minister asking the EU to intervene to prevent a proposterous libel claim against Danish newspapers going ahead in London.

EU Observer reports:

On Monday, the Danish government said that they had had enough. Danish justice minister Lars Barfoed demanded that Brussels step in to prevent lawyer Faisal Yamani from suing the Danish papers for damages in British courts on behalf of 95,000 descendents of the prophet who say they and their faith have been defamed.

The Danish papers in question had published cartoons of the prophet Mohamed, and refused to remove them from their websites.

Now, bad as English libel law is, we at least cannot sue for libelling the dead in this country. So how could this claim go ahead? Possibly if the claimants could show that they had suffered in their communities as a result of the publication. But that does seem pretty far-fetched.

Still, we must be embarrassed when a fellow EU member is so concerned about our libel laws. Things have to change.