"Has South Park gone too far this time?" asks an article published on April 21, referencing the show's previous depiction of Muhammad in a bear costume. Just hours later, however, it became obvious that Comedy Central is the one that had gone too far — in kowtowing to radical Islam.
For the 200th installment of South Park on April 14, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone penned a storyline poking fun at the now-familiar trend of censoring images of Muhammad — something that the series had experienced firsthand four years earlier. The new episode, titled "200," features perpetually mocked celebrities demanding that the kids track down the prophet, as they wish to steal his power to remain free of ridicule. The townspeople fear the consequences of Muhammad appearing in public, so he is disguised as a goofy-looking bear mascot.
Step 1: Every now and then, Islamists use "education by murder" to mark, with blood-red lines, what will not be tolerated from non-Muslims, such as unflattering commentary about the Islamic faith or caricatures of its prophet. Examples include the 2004 butchering of Dutch provocateur Theo van Gogh and the 2006 orgy of violence sparked by the Danish Muhammad cartoons.
Step 2: Like clockwork, pusillanimous Westerners bow and scrape to avoid upsetting Muslims. From altering disaster films to removing museum art to canceling book launches, the capitulation often takes place without any direct prompting. A little murder goes a long way.
Step 3: If some free expression manages to survive Step 2, a not-so-subtle reminder of Step 1 is offered. The fringe group Revolution Muslim carried this out after "200," stating: "We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show." It helpfully included a photo of van Gogh's corpse and a sermon from terror cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Comedy Central got the message. In April 21's follow-on episode, "201," the network placed black boxes over all images of Muhammad (even those in the bear suit), bleeped his name, and shamelessly censored a speech about intimidation and fear.
Step 4: "Mainstream" Islamic groups deny that the radicals of Step 3 have anything to do with Islam. Right on schedule, Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR donned his tinfoil hat and insisted that "most Muslims suspect [Revolution Muslim] were set up only to make Muslims look bad. We just have very deep suspicions. They say such outrageous, irresponsible things that it almost seems like they're doing it to smear Islam." Another case of "anti-Islamic activity," no doubt.
Step 5: The path is now cleared for many additional surrenders (Step 2) and threats (Step 3). As Eugene Volokh explains, "The consequence of [Comedy Central's] position is that the thugs win and people have more incentive to be thugs. … Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated."
This is the way the Western world ends: not with a bang but a wimpishness.