Comedy Central was trying to steer away from controversy when it censored two recent episodes of South Park featuring jokes about the Islamic ban on depicting the Prophet Muhammad. It didn't work. Instead, the network might -- just might -- have found itself the intended victim of a terrorist attack.
The location of the unexploded car bomb discovered by New York City police on Saturday night has many observers speculating that the thwarted bombing attempt may be connected to the censored episodes and the angry, threatening response they prompted from some Islamic organizations. The SUV containing the homemade bomb was parked on 45th Street near Times Square, on the same block as the headquarters for Viacom (VIA), which owns Comedy Central.
A Viacom spokesman declined to comment, saying, "There is not information one way or another on a possible connection, only speculation at this point." But investigators haven't ruled out the possibility that the bomb was intended as a reprisal.
Wavering in the Face of Confrontation
Indeed, that would seem to have been the intention of the author of a post on Revolution Muslim, a radical blog. While being careful not to call directly for violence, the writer predicted that Matt Stone and Trey Parker, South Park's creators, would meet the same fate as Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered after his work put him in conflict with Muslim extremists. Revolution Muslim also reportedly published the address of Parker and Stone's production studio, as well as Comedy Central's New York address -- the one near which the bomb-rigged car was found. (The original post appears to have been deleted and replaced by a "clarifying" update.)
While South Park's creators enjoy a remarkable degree of freedom to lampoon any persons or institutions they choose, Comedy Central has repeatedly demonstrated a tendency to waver in the face of the confrontations they provoke, particularly when they involve religion. In 2006, the network declined to air a repeat of an episode making fun of the Church of Scientology and its most famous (and litigious) adherent, Tom Cruise.
But if history is any guide, attempts to intimidate Parks and Stone personally will only inspire them to new heights of satiric ferocity. Stone recently told the Huffington Post he was "so disappointed" by the "completely wimpy" failure of American humorists and media companies to support a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as an exercise in free speech. Said Stone: "[I]t would've been an important statement for one media outlet in America to stand up."
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