Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Pop Culture

South Park and the decline

Ross Douthat in today's NYT: "In a way, the muzzling of "South Park" is no more disquieting than any other example of Western institutions' cowering before the threat of Islamist violence. It's no worse than the German opera house that temporarily suspended performances of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo" because it included a scene featuring Muhammad's severed head. Or Random House's decision to cancel the publication of a novel about the prophet's third wife. Or Yale University Press's refusal to publish the controversial Danish cartoons ... in a book about the Danish cartoon crisis.....
But there's still a sense in which the "South Park" case is particularly illuminating. Not because it tells us anything new about the lines that writers and entertainers suddenly aren't allowed to cross. But because it's a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all.....
Our culture has few taboos that can't be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.

Except where Islam is concerned. There, the standards are established under threat of violence, and accepted out of a mix of self-preservation and self-loathing.This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that "bravely" trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force"

Categories > Pop Culture

Discussions - 13 Comments

Don't you know any non-violent Muslims? If so, would you purpose to show him a humorous drawing of Mohammed, just for a laugh?

I know what you mean and happily signed on to the Facebook, "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day" feeling irritably defiant of just what you draw attention to in the post. Here it is a couple of days later and I am not so comfortable. I do know a few non-violent Muslims and would not have them know outright how foolish that aspect of their religion seems to me. I would not purpose to offend.

One currently abandoned taboo, part of our religious tolerance, which I suspect you would otherwise embrace, is that we politely avoid offending people on the basis of their religion. I agree that we should not allow ourselves to be cowed by the threats of the violent, whoever they are and whatever their religion or lack of it.

I know, those who produce "South Park" ought to be free to express themselves. It is their right. If they are going to be offensive to Christians (and I have heard that they often are) and others then I suppose they ought to be equal opportunity offenders and be allowed to go after Muslims, too. Still, how do conservatives find themselves in the position where they must be defending the offensive, like Douthat is?

Peter, I think you overlook the entire "politically-correct" social movement. We censor ourselves all the time, and when one of us speaks our mind, we are instantly transformed into bigots of one stripe or another. Of course, when minorities (which would include Muslims) do the same, we think it's "authentic" and "multicultural" and "pluralistic," etc. In short, it's a vicious double-standard that muzzles certain people but not others. Very convenient for the Left.

Did anyone really expect spine from Comedy Central? They are whores, pure and simple.

I for one am cheering Kate's good sense. Since we are reading in one of my classes "1984", I was tempted to send the article to the students. I resisted the temptation, on the ground that it requires very careful reading, as Kate gave it.

I thought the rule actualy was that no muslim could display an image; not no person. It is funny, and was pointed out in the episode, that they displayed an image in 2001 and no one noticed. The fear part is so stupid, but I really wonder why the pro patriot act crowd is against this sort of censorship when they gave in to despotism due to unrealistic fear in most cases. I think that most are just viewing this all under their own rose colored glasses and are upset because Islam has been portrayed to be the broadly drawn easy to understand enemy of America post Soviet Union. It would be like hearing Ivan Drago say I must break you and we censor anti Stalin programing. Would we not attack mainstream people or media if they put forth conspiracy theories and demand that their perspective be thrown down the memory hole? Either its all allowed or nothing is allowed. The market consumers should be able to decide, and in that manner is the best way to reclaim any sort moral value: simply ignore the smut. Comedy Central has every right to censor although it was lame, but they should have never blocked the uncut episode from going up at Southpark Studios for free streaming. They can't keep the uncut episode under wraps for long, I imagine someone from the show will "loose" a file and will get out; making them look way worse because they not only censored the Islam parts but also censored the critique of their own practices.

It must be a blue moon tonight, Kate, since I agree with a fair portion of your comment (although I didn't and wouldn't sign up for such a dumb facebook group - actually, I skip facebook completely, so perhaps I shouldn't take much credit there).

The Islamic ban on depicting Mohammed is not a simple thing (surprise) and Muslims themselves have depicted him many times. See here for some examples (although I don't generally like the site overall, this page has its merits):

You've got a good point though, about conservatives taking the side of South Park. What's next, principled conservatives cheering on for "p*ss-Mohamed" by some cutting-edge NYC artist? Just as long as it's not Jesus, I guess it's A-OK.

But perhaps you should think again about "how foolish that aspect of their religion [the supposed, and untrue, ban by ALL Muslims on Mohamed depictions] seems to me." See here, for starters - it's primarily certain types of fundamentalist Muslims who go for this ban:
(see "depictions of Muhammad" at Wikipedia)

It's religion, Kate. By it's very nature, it isn't rational (see Kierkegaard). And that isn't necessarily negative, but to scoff at that ban (by some Muslims) while believing in water-to-wine and/or the parting of the Red Sea (see the painting in my 1st link of Mohammed splitting the moon) or the virgin birth, or transubstantiation, etc., etc. - well, it's a wildly inconsistent standard for foolishness, no??

Within the interior (irrational) "logic" of a religion, it's entirely understandable how believers might wish to prohibit depictions of their God(s) or prophet(s), to avoid idolatry. This concern hasn't just arisen with Islam, either. Consider similar prohibitions by Byzantine Christians, and even contemporary debates among Protestants about saints and icons of saints, Marianism, etc.

I think non-Muslims ought to be able to draw/paint/depict what they please, period, and if I actually WANT to draw Mohammed (funny, I've never had the urge to, and still don't!), I ought to do so, but clearly there's a malicious, juvenile, in-your-face (and also Holy-Warriorish) aspect to these kinds of responses that really makes me hold my nose and run away. Douthat's haughty tone and self-righteous bluster don't make it smell any sweeter, either.

What does "your comment will be held by the blog owner" mean I should not have done? This is not the first time lately that I have run afoul of the blog rules, whatever they are.

Wow, what a coincidence Kate, us posting at the exact same minute - esp. considering my (no doubt welcome) infrequent visits here lately.

Also odd that you're now having the same problem that I did have for several weeks, but now it seems resolved for me. (Major thanks to Ben Kunkel - a man with integrity!)

Maybe the blog just can't accept both right-wingers and left-wingers simultaneously??

Seriously, though, before my major problems I would still get the "held for approval" thing if I posted something with more than a couple URL links. Could that be it?

Craig, I expect you are correct, but I only had two and the UGGS guys usually only use one, anyway.

Here's what I wrote, which I know I should edit to suit the changed thread, but don't have time. Sorry for the hit & run.

Prior to the fuss over the Danish cartoonist I had thought as you do, Brutus, that is was stricture to be followed by Muslims. Islam has many sects and the Wahhab, for an example of of those who threaten others over images, is just one of them. As a Christian, I find confusion in our various denominations and their sects and cannot keep theirs straight at all. I point out the Wahhab in this context because they are required to hate the rest of us since we do not believe as they believe.

Poking around this morning, I find this on the topic of images: which includes passages from the Koran and explanations, but seems a very American kind of Islam since it includes the line "Take down that picture of Martin Luther King."

Thinking the two hyperlinks might have put the comment beyond the acceptable limit I split up the comment:

Steve, while I like being cheered as much as anyone, my response says nothing about how to handle this matter, really. How we handle this in a national political way will necessarily be different than how we handle it on a personal level. It is just exasperating dealing with Islam in our Judeo/Christian/secular culture which has a hard enough time managing those elements without conflict; people are always being offended about one thing or another. We have muddled along with tolerance (often, but not always) and liberty and Islam (mild) seems to be able to muddle along, too, while Islam (hot) is something else altogether.

If it is any comfort, today's news brings this: about some silly people who went out to a concert dressed as Nazis and got beaten up by a crowd when they left. Is it nice to know there still some other cultural taboos?


Hence, I would add briefly, sometimes religion has nothing to do with taboos. Although maybe the fancy Fascist dressers' assailants were Jewish and I am wrong having missed that in my rapid reading of the article.

Kate, you might have missed this in the article about the guys in Nazi garb in Philly:

"He said that although men dressed as Nazis were at the downstairs show, at the same time a largely gay dance party was going on upstairs."

I suspect someone from upstairs caught wind of the creeps downstairs, and then plans were made for an "after-party."

Glenn Greenwald does a pretty thorough evisceration of Douthat's piece - he gets into the p*ss-Christ comparison and much more - right here:

I don't particularly care for the take no prisoners--all is fair for open mockery and ridicule--style of humor that is South Park, but it is an amusing show from time to time. Nonetheless, when all is torn down, I'm not sure what is left standing. Most South Park episodes end in sentimental bromides regarding civil peace and the goodness of family. This at least demonstrates Stone and Parker's decency, but after such ruthless criticism of everything existing mere sentimentality lacks substance. None of this sounds particularly conservative to me, and the show is ultimately tasteless.

However, several years ago Brian Anderson's "South Park Conservatives" attempted to adopt South Park for a certain kind of conservatism--or at least it attempted to enlist the show as an example of a challenge to the allegedly monolithic liberal media, as well as representing an effective and entertaining antidote to PC that appeals to younger generations. On this level, I think he is more or less correct.

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL:

Warning: include(/srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/sd/nlt-blog/_includes/promo-main.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/2010/04/south-park-and-the-decline.php on line 793

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/sd/nlt-blog/_includes/promo-main.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/opt/sp/php7.2/lib/php') in /srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/2010/04/south-park-and-the-decline.php on line 793