An Open Letter to Comedy Central over the Censorship of South Park

To Ms. Runyan and Others Whom It Concerns:

By today, you have noticed the enormous backlash against your broadcasting network regarding your decision to first excessively censor and then remove from both the channel and website the most recent episodes of South Park. Shortly after, previous episodes available on the website for online streaming disappeared, becoming available in weekly increments starting Saturday. I do not know if this is a regular occurrence regarding the streaming of current season episodes. I sincerely doubt that it is considering they’re going to be available in a relatively short amount of time, leaving absolutely no profitable reason for not allowing them to be streamed now.

However, much more disconcerting is that you have back tracked and removed an episode from 9 seasons ago, and not just in that you never broadcast it anymore on Comedy Central. Nor that you have just removed its availability on the website. I cannot even access this episode on my Netflix Instant on my Playstation 3 console. Where I pay for the right to instantly rent movies rather than wait for a disc in the mail. It is no different than getting the disc in the mail. I personally do not understand how or why this is a reasonable action. I can almost, if I tilt my head a little to the left, see why it would seem smart to remove it from the website, but to take such drastic action as to remove it from any possible connection to the Internet? There is only one step to go forward on this path. You may as well pull the hard copies from store shelves and eat the profit loss, because if censorship is your goal, you have surpassed everyone’s expectations.

You may think that catering to the whims of terrorists who feed on our fear, use it for their own selfish and immoral gain, is a smart way of protecting your bottom line. But obviously, it isn’t. You are only hurting yourselves. You have lost fans. There are people, hundreds of thousands, who will refuse to watch anything broadcast by your network. Who will go so far as to boycott your parent companies, Viacom and CBS Corporation. Ratings will drop. Profits will plummet. All because your company catered to “possible” threats by a group of people who don’t even represent the whole religion. Radical Islamic terrorists may be what people picture when someone says the word, “Muslim.” But they do not own the entire religion. They do not control the entire Muslim world. Much less hold as much sway as people tend to believe. In fact, your catering to terrorist demands only gives them more power. Because people, of all shapes, kinds, and faiths, respect persons they consider to have authority.

You have essentially told the world that Muslim terrorists have power. And then proved it.

By trying to not offend these terrorists, you have only added fuel to the fire that burns within them. They now know that if you dip a toe into a pool of water they do not like, they but have to yell “BOO” and you will jump six feet into the air and run away screaming.

Have you no shame? Speak of security concerns all you please, men and women have died overseas fighting for Democracy, to give real, unaltered Freedom a chance in places that lacked any such rights before. They fight so others may share in our right to express ourselves in any way we wish. Yes, sometimes words can cause violence; yes, sometimes there are repercussions for what we say, but where is your right to deem censorship the path to fix these problems? No good ever results from censorship, as you can well see now. Your company will suffer, your network will suffer, perhaps not as much as it rightly deserves, but it will still feel the bite of those who fight for Freedom of Speech, and never against it.

You see, what we understand and you do not, is that everyone must stand by their words. The creators of South Park themselves wrote, created, and produced episodes 200 and 201 exactly as they wanted it to be. They were willing to make compromises, and censored the image of Muhammad– not out of respect for Muslims, but because they knew it would only be rejected if they didn’t– and you took it the next step out of your own fear, not theirs. They sent it to you in a form and shape they were willing to stand by, whatever the consequences may be. And who in your company has the Magic 8 ball that gives the exact right answer every time? Who asks it ridiculous questions like, “Will airing Ep. 201 get us killed? Will it cause a riot we could be sued for?”

Where are your principles? If they were at your bottom line, you wouldn’t be alienating your rather expansive fan base by debasing a show that has always had the courage to say the hard stuff, in a way satiric, raunchy, and with a delicate touch of intelligence that does, in fact, reach people. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are no idiots. They do not produce a “dick and fart” joke show that does nothing but only poke fun at celebrities and weave ridiculous story lines together. They end nearly every episode with a moral. Not always a smart one, not always one that is touching and sincere, but they try to remind people that it’s just a show, and to take something positive from it.

In fact, you bleeped one of the few redeeming qualities of Ep. 201, where Kyle speaks of “what he learned today” and touches, pertinently so, on how it’s important to not cave into fear and intimidation. And sadly, I know no more than that because no one is allowed to know what Kyle, Jesus, and Santa Claus said to illuminate the purpose of the two episodes!

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

You have given up your liberties. You have shamefully given up the liberties of others. The actual creators were willing, whether courageous or stupid in their bravery, to stand by what they had made, whether it brought them harm or had far worse consequences. In the end, they were unashamed of what they had produced. They felt it held value and did more than just offend people. They have never been afraid talk about the issues no one else will discuss. That even the lauded “Family Guy” won’t seriously approach. And while a critic may not think they approach any topic seriously, they always have been and always will be willing to approach them. That is more than can be said for nearly every show on television. There is no other show that has gone full-force at nearly every seriously debated issue in the public limelight, with both a light heart and serious undertones that remind the world that nothing–nothing–is as serious as we sometimes think it is.

You all took the threat so seriously you were willing to give up your liberties for just a minor, brief sense of safety. You don’t deserve either.

People can say that Matt and Trey have not taken the threat as seriously as they could have, but perhaps they have it right, and all their detractors have it wrong. We cannot take every threat, every nasty dirty word, lobbed our way seriously, otherwise we would be nothing but broken bones and hearts lying cold in the street.

Sometimes, if you believe in yourself, in what you’re doing, you have to do it, no matter how many times someone says you’re wrong. Most especially when your country’s Bill of Rights guarantees you the ability and right to say what you need to say.

If you wish to become the Ministry of Truth, to alter history in favor of yourself, to appear as though you’ve never dared to offend anyone… excuse me, anyone you think could possibly harm you.. because we all know you have been ever willing to let South Park throw crap upon layer of crap on Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Scientology, celebrities, racial stereotypes, homosexuals, transsexuals, and so on and so forth, because these groups will protest, but never threaten violence.. you do no more than expose your company for the coward it truly is. Sometimes there is risk involved in bravery, in speaking the truth about the hard issues that no one else is willing to talk about, but that’s what makes South Park the amazing show it is. There is always something controversial going on in South Park, and it opens the lines of communication for people to discuss these issues in way that allows us to approach it a little less seriously, which makes honest dialogue easier to come by.

So, to the commandants who manage Comedy Central, repeal your banishment of South Park’s 200th and 201st episodes. Let the world see them as they were meant to be seen. Do not trade your liberty for brief security, but stand tall in knowing that you are of few brave enough to speak the truth, to approach an issue loaded with fire on either side, and inject humor into the situation. Help people see the light, instead of fueling the flames on either side.

Through your actions you have not averted violence. You’ve extended its breeding ground. Keep in mind that many fans of South Park are US citizens, and these US citizens now have another reason to misinterpret the Islamic religion. The Muslims who raised but a few voices against you will only spread the word that only a few key words are necessary to bow the back of the great giant that is the United States of America.

Remember where your company resides. Remember where you live. Remember where you were born. Remember what your life as an United States citizen should mean, and stand by that!

Shanna Wynne

A former viewer, a fan of South Park, and a highly disappointed American Patriot

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