Comedy Central Again Steals 'South Park' Thunder

A scene from
A scene from "Cartoon Wars," an episode of "South Park" by creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker in which the show goes to black instead of showing an image of Muhammad. (Comedy Central)
By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, April 14, 2006

Comedy Central has gone all cautious and timid again, this time banning an image of Muhammad from an episode of its irreverent cartoon series "South Park," citing "recent world events."

Just last month, the cable network pulled a rerun of an episode in which creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker took on Scientology, citing "events of earlier this week."

The most recent cave-ola occurred during this week's denouement of a two-part episode called "Cartoon Wars." In it, Stone and Parker addressed the violence that erupted over cartoons featuring images of Muhammad that first appeared in a Danish newspaper. Representations of the prophet are banned by most schools of Islamic thought.

Weeks ago, when they were mulling the episode on this subject, Cowardly Central told Parker and Stone they could not run an image of Muhammad on the network.

Ironically, about five years ago, "South Park" did just that. That episode was called "The Super Best Friends" and in it Jesus and his Super Best Friends -- including Muhammad, Krishna, Buddha, Joseph Smith, Laotzu and Moses -- took on the church of Blaintology, founded by David Blaine, the street magician who is a sweeps special staple of ABC.

Of course that episode ran before the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks in Manhattan and Virginia.

In Wednesday telecast of the two-parter, South Park moppet Kyle tries to persuade a Fox broadcast network executive to air, uncensored, an episode of its animated series "Family Guy" featuring an image of Muhammad.("Family Guy" was, you need to know, standing in for Parker and Stone's own show to make the point.)

Meanwhile, South Park's residents have gathered to figure out how to save themselves from the wrath of radical Muslims in the wake of the "Family Guy" broadcast.

When a pundit suggests they all bury their heads in the sand so the extremists will know they were not watching the episode, one citizen dares speak out:

Freedom of speech is at stake here, don't you all see? If anything, we should all make cartoons of Muhammad and show the terrorists and the extremists that we are all united in the belief that every person has a right to say what they want.

Look, people, it's been really easy for us to stand up for free speech lately. For the past few decades, we haven't had to risk anything to defend it. One of those times is right now. And if we aren't willing to risk what we have now, then we just believe in free speech, but won't defend it.

The Fox suit decides to stand up for free speech and show the episode. But at the point at which "South Park" viewers should have seen Muhammad handing a football helmet to one of the toons of "Family Guy," the screen went black and on that was the message:

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