Carol Platt Liebau: The Issue Is Coercion

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Issue Is Coercion

It's impossible not to be ambivalent about the whole "South Park" issue.

After all, it's hard to cheer a program that shows Jesus defecating on an American flag (even though, frankly, His image is plenty strong enough to take it -- and so is the flag's). But it's also impossible NOT to admire people like Matt Parker and Trey Stone, who are willing to stand up for free speech when so many are cravenly ceding their rights.

Seems to me the issue comes down to coercion. A lot of people are saluting South Park even though they aren't generally into offending people of a faith not their own. It's because all free people are instinctively outraged by tyrants who would threaten physical harm as a result of speech they don't like. It's un-American. (But then again, so is gratuitously mocking other peoples' religious convictions.)

So what's the answer? Too bad Stone & Parker can't put their prodigious talents to work to illustrate the following precept: "Our decision not to show Mohammed ISN"T because we're scared; it's because of our respect for the genuinely held beliefs of the many good Muslims throughout the world."

The problem is -- how could we possibly say it so that our enemies would believe it?

Oh, and one more thing: One can only hope that all the people supporting South Park are likewise supporting the war in Iraq. Because any "courage" being shown by Stone/Parker is dwarfed by that of the soldiers fighting to secure their rights to be politically incorrect. Let's hope we're all using that freedom wisely.


Blogger stackja1945 said...

People have fought and died to give other people the right to be correct and the right to be incorrect and to be smart and to be silly.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Sven said...

I think we should also keep in mind the correlation between the quality of the war and the quality of the humor.

World War II was unquestionably a great war and gave us unquestionably great punchlines. To wit:

The teacher stands up and says, 'I think I should point out that 'Fokker' is the name of the German-Dutch aircraft company'"

Har har. That gets me every time.

It goes without saying that the Vietnam conflict produced unspeakably atrocious comedy, from the vile emissions of Lenny Bruce to the dadaist rantings of the Smothers Brothers.

Therefore, if we want to improve the level of jocular discourse I suggest military aggression in a more respectable region. I'd suggest the Baltics.

6:47 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

To be fair, the show didn't really depict Jesus defacating. It showed the terrorists depicting Jesus (and everyone else) as defacating.

I look at this as similar to the rape scene in Rob Roy. While I prefer not to see that sort of thing, it is unquestionably true that such things happen and an honest work of art can legitimately depict them.

To object, even on the grounds of "embarassing the angels" to an offensive depiction without taking into account the moral evaluation implied by the depiction is to make art both less relevant and, ironically, less moral.

3:29 PM  

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