Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto waded into the "South Park" - Muhammad controversy with a column
employing this title, subtitle and closing summary:
Everybody Burn the Flag
If we don't act like inconsiderate jerks, the terrorists will have won ....
The problem with the "in-your-face message" of "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" is not just that it is inconsiderate of the sensibilities of others, but that it defines those others--Muslims--as being outside of our culture, unworthy of the courtesy we readily accord to insiders. It is an unwise message to send, assuming that one does not wish to make an enemy of the entire Muslim world.
Comparing a drawing of Mohammed to flag burning completely misses the point of the energy people have towards the idea driving a Draw Mohammed Day (which looks as though it might have been cancelled anyway on account of...something). Taranto also looks at what kind of behavior will or will not place the Muslim community outside of our culture in a fashion that leans heavily on the politically correct at the expense of logic.
When our culture is working the way it should there are no sacred cows. When our culture is firing on all cylinders we collectively take the same amount of incoming fire from our national satirists. Taranto's belief that Muslims should receive some sort of special treatment -- a unique inoculation when it comes to this sort of satire -- that's the act that puts the Muslim community outside of our culture. To be a part of our culture and community means taking the good and the bad.
If Taranto's saying we shouldn't offend people just to make a point, that's an impossible standard to maintain consistently, and an especially surprising one coming from a journalist. I also reject the idea that such a protest on our part would "make an enemy of the entire Muslim world." The Muslim world deserves a little more credit than that.
But the bottom line is that no one wants to offend Muslims. That's not what the outrage over Comedy Central's gutless censorship and the subsequent attraction to Draw Muhammed Day is about. If we were all about offending Muslims, we didn't need a cartoonist to remind us to do so. It's also worth mentioning that Christians are especially sensitive to the idea of treating all faiths equally and with respect. Not just because that's a requirement of our own faith but because we know the sting better than most when it comes to being singled out for a pop culture thrashing. Granted, some of those shots are deserved and some are even funny. But some are not. Especially the "singled out" part, which is why Taranto's flag burning analogy is such a bad one.
We are all allowed to burn the flag. Therefore we all share the right to make whatever statement is made through that act and offend others while doing so. Regardless of your position on the law that allows flag burning in this country, it is at least consistent.
Comedy Central, however, is not consistent. They only allow certain statements to be made about certain religions.
"While some Muslims hold beliefs that it is against Islam to make images of the Prophet, others have more relaxed attitudes, and among Shia Muslims, such pictures are common, and much liked."
Again and again and again, the programming on that channel (and elsewhere in pop culture-dom) savages Christianity and with rare exception, only Christianity, especially of the evangelical sort. In other words, the unwritten rule is that it's okay to burn the Christian flag but not the Muslim flag.
And this is what makes Trey Parker and Matt Stone special. The "South Park" creators are equal-opportunity offenders. They are to this generation what the George Carlins and Richard Pryors were to theirs: satirists who don't believe in sacred cows; who employ their unique talents to launch biting, intelligent satire that rarely feels mean-spirited (though it can make you squirm) against any puffed-up balloon they think deserves a pin-prick. Ideology is not what drives them. They don't even seem to be angry. Their muse is what they see as pretense, dishonesty, the very idea that something should be held up as sacred -- and most importantly, making their audience laugh.
(This is a striking contrast to the partisan bully-pen made up of Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, David Letterman and whoever's on SNL this season. These are not satarists but rather ideological warriors, Obama's Palace Guards, disguised as entertainers.)
The energy towards Draw Mohammed Day has nothing to do with offending Muslims, it's not even about creating gratuitously hurtful portraits of Mohammed -- certainly nothing as wildly offensive as dipping a crucifix in urine (paid for with taxpayer dollars). What it is about is sticking our finger in Comedy Central's cowardly eye and fighting for what they won't on behalf of their own artists: The First Amendment.
On some level, we're also standing up to the jihadists, the Muslim extremists intimidating through violence and murder anyone (including millions of innocent Muslims) who don't live their lives according to a twisted ideology. The whole idea behind Draw Mohammed Day was never to offend the everday Muslim but rather to litter the landscape with so many fatwa-worthy targets that a fatwa becomes as impossible as counting the stars.
If you think about it, that's a pretty good tactic. And we are at war with these fanatics, right?
Is it possible innocent Muslims will see something they rather wouldn't during a Draw Mohammed Day? Of course it is. Just as it's possible Christians like myself will see something we rather wouldn't in an upcoming "South Park" episode.
But that's the price we all pay to live in a free society. All. All of us. And paying that small price which serves a much greater good is part of being "inside our culture."
The outsiders are the ones given the free ride.