The Fallout From the South Park Death Threat
Over the past two weeks, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been riding out the 200th episode celebration from hell. What started out as a milestone for the Comedy Central series led to death threats from a radical Islamic website. On top of that, their most recent episode, which included a lengthy response to the hype via a brave speech about fear, was completely bleeped out in a defensive effort by Comedy Central. In effect, Parker and Stone found themselves the subject of the very censorship they ridiculed earlier this season. So now what happens?
Well, nothing, in spite of Revolution Muslim's "warning" that the South Park creators will "probably" be assassinated. According to the New York Times:
It sounded like a threat to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. That's what he called it. So did a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York.
Then why have there been no arrests?
The F.B.I. man cited First Amendment issues. Mr. Kelly said the threat had not risen to the level of a crime. But it did not mean that police investigators "weren't taking it seriously," said Paul J. Browne, a spokesman for Mr. Kelly. The department was already monitoring Revolution Muslim and had stepped up its presence at the Manhattan office of Comedy Central, Mr. Browne said.
Revolution Muslim is said to have no more than about a dozen members, some of them converts to Islam and considered way over the top by many fellow Muslims. In assessing the threat, Mr. Eisenberg said, much depends on the probability of follow-through, on how afraid the target should realistically be, on whether "there's any imminent likelihood" of some nut's being incited to murder by the Web posting.
The F.B.I. may not be taking action but South Park fans are, with an event planned for May 20 called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." The project was spearheaded by Seattle artist Molly Norris, who dedicated a drawing (of various objects including a coffee cup and a spool of thread, all claiming to be likenesses of Muhammad) to South Park's creators. Ironically, after several blogs and radio stations picked up on the event and Norris received an overwhelming response from critics, she began to distance herself from the movement; still, even without her support, a Facebook page for the event has over 9,000 confirmed guests as of Tuesday.
Meanwhile, several other television personalities have formally addressed the controversy. Last Thursday, Jon Stewart referenced his network's decision to censor the episode: "The censorship I think was a decision Comedy Central made to protect their employees from what they believed to be any harmful repercussions to them. Although, after forcing many of these same employees to work on Mind of Mencia and Krod Mandoon, damage done."
The Simpsons referenced the story on this Sunday's episode, with Bart writing a message to the show's creators ("We'd stand beside you if we weren't so scared.") in the show's opening gag (pictured above). Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane seemed to echo the same sentiment when he appeared on Larry King Live this past Sunday, saying "I think any combination of angry plus deity equals danger... If it were me and I was in this situation, [I would think], 'OK, is this worth being shot? Is this the funniest joke ever written?"
Meanwhile, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been busily working on a new episode, "Crippled Summer," set to air tomorrow night. According to the network's press release, the episode will center on Jimmy and Timmy's summer camp experience with "their handicapable friends."