As longtime readers know, I have enormous respect for the Democrats as masters of the politics of personal destruction. What a track record! “Bushitler,” “General Betray-Us,” — excellent stuff, up there with Oscar Wilde. But this is, like, a whole new level: Bill Clinton is on the road demonizing (and with an impressively straight face) half the American people as the express lane to ka-boom! And the poodle media are taking it seriously.
Meanwhile, Comedy Central — you know, the “hip,” “edgy” network with Jon Stewart, from whom “young” Americans under 53 supposedly get most of their news — just caved in to death threats. From a hateful 83-year-old widow who doesn’t like Obamacare? Why, no! It was a chap called Abu Talhah al Amrikee, who put up a video on the Internet explaining why a South Park episode with a rather tame Mohammed joke was likely to lead to the deaths of the show’s creators. Just to underline the point, he showed some pictures of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film director brutally murdered by (oh, my, talk about unfortunate coincidences) a fellow called Mohammed. Mr. al Amrikee helpfully explained that his video incitement of the murder of Matt Stone and Trey Parker wasn’t really “a threat but just the likely outcome.” All he was doing, he added, was “raising awareness” — you know, like folks do on Earth Day. On Earth Day, lame politicians dig a hole and stick a tree in it. But aggrieved Muslims dig a hole and stick a couple of comedy writers in it. Celebrate diversity!
Faced with this explicit threat of violence, what did Comedy Central do? Why, they folded like a Bedouin tent. They censored South Park, not only cutting all the references to Mohammed but, in an exquisitely postmodern touch, also removing the final speech about the need to stand up to intimidation.
Stone and Parker get what was at stake in the Danish-cartoons crisis and many other ostensibly footling concessions: Imperceptibly, incrementally, remorselessly, the free world is sending the message that it is happy to trade core liberties for the transitory security of a quiet life. That is a dangerous signal to give freedom’s enemies. So the South Park episode is an important cultural pushback.
Yet in the end, in a craven culture, even big Hollywood A-listers can’t get their message over. So the brave, transgressive comedy network was intimidated into caving in and censoring a speech about not being intimidated into caving in. That’s what I call “hip,” “edgy,” “cutting-edge” comedy: They’re so edgy they’re curled up in the fetal position, whimpering at the guy with the cutting edge, “Please. Behead me last. And don’t use the rusty scimitar where you have to saw away for 20 minutes to find the spinal column . . . ”
Terrific. You can see why young, urban, postmodern Americans under 57 get most of their news from Comedy Central. What a shame 1930s Fascist Europe was so lacking in cable.
Fifteen years ago, Bill Clinton set out to hang Timothy McVeigh around the necks of talk radio and, with a further stretch, Newt and the congressional Republicans. It was an act of contemptible but undeniably brilliant opportunism. It worked out so well for him that a couple of years later, after the Princess of Wales’s fatal car crash, George Stephanopoulos enthused to Christopher Hitchens: “Tony Blair’s handling this really well. This is his Oklahoma City.” As Hitchens remarked, this is the way these people think.
Which works fine when you’re up against phantom enemies of the kind Clinton preferred to take on while giving real threats the run of the planet. If the tea partiers were truly the murderous goons they’ve been portrayed as, they would draw the obvious lesson from the kid gloves with which Comedy Central strokes Islam. They would say, “Enough with peaceful rallies where we pick up the litter afterwards. Let’s just threaten to decapitate someone. You get more respect that way. At least from the media.”
But they won’t do that. Because, notwithstanding their outrageous demonization by the media, they’re not terrorists. So, in the end, Comedy Central has incentivized Islamic violence and nothing much else. Nevertheless, we should be grateful to its jelly-spined executives for reminding us that the cardboard heroes of the American media are your go-to guys for standing up to entirely fictitious threats. But for real ones? Not so much.
Elsewhere, Ann Althouse has a blog post whose title sounds like it could a high concept pitch for a new Comedy Central or MTV “reality” series over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the Sherry-Netherland: “Is radical Muslim the new Goth?”