South Park and Freedom of Speech

NanaHood wasn’t meant to be about politics. It is a place to celebrate the joy of being a parent and grandparent. Yes, I talk about a lot of other things but most of them are within the context of family relationships. This post is different.

This post is about freedom of speech and my thoughts about what that right does and does not constitute. So heed the this warning, if you don’t care or don’t want to know what I think about this basic right, stop reading right now and go to a different web site.

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This week I have watched the news and read articles about the television show South Park and how the creators of the show were threatened with physical violence because they depicted Muhammad in a bear suit. The people who produce the show censored it to prevent any repercussions by Muslim extremists. I don’t watch South Park but the idea that the show’s writers were endangered because of something they had written peaked my curiosity,  so I kept reading the newspaper article about the incident. It wasn’t mentioned on many of the television shows I saw but the show also made fun of Jesus and Buddha.

“In Wednesday’s new episode, Jesus Christ was depicted watching pornography and Buddha was portrayed snorting cocaine,” the article stated.

Why didn’t that make the news?  Why didn’t Christians stage protests, make phone calls, or talk about it on news shows? They should have and maybe they did and I just failed to hear it, but for the most part the only part of South Park that got national media attention was the part about Muhammad that was censored and that’s only because of the threat made by a group who took offense.

Satire is supposedly funny but in my opinion when laughter comes at the expense of someone else’s discomfort you’ve gone too far. I don’t know a lot about the Muslim faith, but I do understand that it isn’t pleasant to have your religion made fun of.  When I read the statement above about Jesus and pornography I literally got a sick feeling in my stomach.

So I asked myself, do writers in this country have the freedom to make fun of religion? I believe that freedom of speech does give them that right, but that using that right is wrong. It’s a case of being legally right and morally wrong.

I am NOT defending South Park. Just from what little I have read about their show I think it’s disgusting, but they have the right in this country to be disgusting and so does everyone else. Unfortunately a lot of people take advantage of this right but many of us play a role in contributing to the immoral decline of our country because as long as there are people in the world who watch/listen/ or read sleazy material, there will be those who choose to write/produce/or act in these obscene shows.

South Park was obviously censored because of the writer’s disrespect to Muhammad and the fear of retaliation, but the producer’s so fit to allow public ridicule of Jesus and Buddha. So it would seem that in order to keep South Park (or other shows) from making fun of people or groups of people is to threaten physical violence. Wrong.

Anyone familiar with Christianity knows that Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies and do good to those who persecute them. I don’t claim to be a scholar on world religions but most of them have similar teachings. Hating someone because of what they say or do defies one of my favorite rules for life given to me by my grandmother, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

As I said before, I don’t watch South Park or shows like it and I will do my best to encourage my children and grandchildren not to watch them as well. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing but when it’s used simply to gain attention and boost television rankings, or to make fun of others in a mean and spiteful way, it’s not using freedom of speech…it’s abusing freedom of speech.

To me the more alarming aspect of this whole story is that there isn’t a stronger, louder more vocal protest by Christians against the show’s disrespect of Jesus Christ. Freedom of speech isn’t just for the writers of South Park. It also gives us the right to say what we think about television trash.

Two of my favorite quotes….

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. ”            Albert Einstein

“All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.”  Edmund Burke

Closing on a positive note….

The really nice thing about all this controversy over a television show is this…there’s a button on every remote control that says “Off” and we have the power to push it!

Comments

  1. You are SO RIGHT with this post!! I was aware of the Muslim uprising, but since I never watch this show it wasn’t on my radar screen, and had no idea of the comments about Jesus….what a sorry show!! I will write the network on behalf of my Christian faith and protest the episode.

  2. Beautifully said, Teresa!

  3. Southpark is quite funny but some of the scenes maybe a bit too morbid even for adults.,.’

  4. janet smith 21 May, 2010

    I’ve seen bits & pieces of southpark & I think it is disgusting-so when i’m channel surfing I just surf right on thru.Good column Teresa.