On last night's "Daily Show," Jon Stewart noted the blatant censorship his employer Comedy Central exercised against its popular show "South Park" by banning it from showing, and even uttering the word "Mohammed" in this week's episode after a threat came forward from an Islamic group.
"The censorship was a decision Comedy Central made I think as a way to protect their employees from what they believe was any possible harmful repercussions to them," Stewart stated, adding, comically, that "after forcing many of these same employees to work on [Comedy Central shows] "Mind of Mencia" and "Crod Mandoon" … damage done. But again they sign the checks."
Stewart is one of the few left-leaning media figures to note a glaring double standard: in popular culture, religions of all kind are regularly mocked but Islam mostly gets a free pass. "Comedy Central decided to censor the episode. It's their right," Stewart stated. "We all serve at their pleasure." But his extensive recap of all of the religions the show has made fun of over the years was clearly a critique of Comedy Central's decision.
***UPDATE: Trey parker and Matt Stone issued this statement earlier:
In the 14 years we've been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn't stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn't some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn't mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we'll see what happens to it.
Allahpundit is less than impressed: "So not only did Comedy Central censor the Mohammed stuff, but when they were called out for being cowards, they censored that too. Perfect."
STEWART: Man, what a show tonight. Our guest tonight the lovely and talented Zoe Saldana will be joining us. We're very excited about that.
By now those of you with access to media have probably heard that our friends and colleagues Matt and Trey got in a little but trouble during the airing of their weekly animated series "South Park." And by trouble I mean veiled death threats. It was a provocative episode, where they addressed the Islamic prohibition on depicting the prophet Mohammed.
Their solution of course, as is the solution to many of life's problems, bear suit. It's actually the same way I got out of jury duty.
By the way, it turns out it wasn't really Mohammed in the bear suit, it was Santa Claus. I say that not to enrage the elf community. I guess when you are dealing with irrational anger the facts of what the show was arrant really the issue. Comedy central decided to censor the episode. It's their right. We all serve at their pleasure. I have more than once been called out of my home on a sunday to dance for the head of programming for pleasure at his winter chalet. "Can I put my clothes on now? I'm not finished."
The censorship was a decision Comedy Central made I think as a way to protect their employees from what they believe was any possible harmful repercussions to them, although after forcing many of these same employees to work on Mind of Mencia and Crog Mondoon … damage done. But again they sign the checks.
But I think for me the most striking thing as I ponder the difficult circumstance, our great and hilarious and intelligent and sweet comedy brethren Matt and Trey now find themselves in purely for expressing themselves is this. The threats that they received come from Revolution Muslim, a group located in New York City. Yeah.
This group, residing in the shadows, or should I say former shadows of World Trade Center are allowed to praised Osama Bin Laden, celebrate the anniversary of 9/11 and try to intimidate the creators of south park all while enjoying our lovely theater district, our many diverse restaurants including really the best Jewish delis you'll find and our new high line park. It's a park made out of an elevated train line. It's a super-thin park in the sky. Let's play frisbee. Little help.
And these numb nuts get to enjoy it all because of how much we in this country value and protect even their freedom of expression.
As I witness the reaction of this episode, it makes me realize that I myself actually owe a lot of religious people an apology, not for making jokes at their expense but for not appreciating and thanking you for how well you've handled it. Because I mean we've been assholes… to the Jews:
["Daily Show" clips making fun of Jews and Judaism.]
That's all we could throw together in 2 hours. We've also made mention, I believe, of Christians.
["Daily Show" clips making fun of Christians and Christianity.]
And to the other religions, which I guess you would call them offbeat, or miscellaneous.
["Daily Show" clips making fun of … just about everyone.]
Jon: Boom! That's everybody. Boom! I just want to point this out, typically, the angriest letters we get tend to come from the Amish. Surprising. But their letters, the calligraphy...
For more now on the South Park controversy, we're joined by our senior Islamic correspondent Aasif Mandvi. Aasif, what do you make of South Park controversy?
MANDVI: What am I, Jon, every Muslim in the world? I represent all Muslims, come on!
STEWART: Well, in this building actually. I mean, for you would a depiction of Muhammed in some form upset you?
MANDVI: Jon, look. I'm a pretty liberal Muslim meaning during Ramadan every every now and then I'll sneak a diet coke before sundown. It would make me uncomfortable and I could understand people being upset about it.
STEWART: Even though it's a cartoon.
MANDVI: Yes. But here is what is more upsetting someone in the faith I believe in threatening another person for doing it.
STEWART: Why is that? What y- do you think that?
MANDVI: Well, a, it's so 12th century, and b, I don't like having to walk around wearing this suit.
STEWART: Wow. You had to have a special suit made?
MANDVI: No, it's a tommy Hilfigher but I had to buy it.
STEWART: Thank you very much. Aasif Mandvi, everybody.
In conclusion, I think there's only one thing left to say to Revolution Muslim and I hesitate to use this phrase because it's a phrase I've used before in reference to other people, Fox News, Bernie Goldberg, Cramer, the crew at Chick-Fil-A at 8th Avenue that can't seem to get a salad right.
And I don't want to lump these people in with Revolution Muslim and extremists like that because even in our angriest and most contentious moments, people at Fox and those things are basically human beings I disagree with. They are at worst opponents, rivals, disputants, aspersioners, nemesi. But we're not enemies. Revolution Muslim, your type of hatred and intolerance, that's the enemy.
[The F--K You Song, revisited.]