Monday, April 26, 2010

Ross Douthat on South Park

Ross Douthat has an excellent commentary on the South Park censorship flap in the New York Times entitled "Not Even in South Park?" Here is the ending.

But there’s still a sense in which the “South Park” case is particularly illuminating. Not because it tells us anything new about the lines that writers and entertainers suddenly aren’t allowed to cross. But because it’s a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all.

Across 14 on-air years, there’s no icon “South Park” hasn’t trampled, no vein of shock-comedy (sexual, scatalogical, blasphemous) it hasn’t mined. In a less jaded era, its creators would have been the rightful heirs of Oscar Wilde or Lenny Bruce — taking frequent risks to fillet the culture’s sacred cows.

In ours, though, even Parker’s and Stone’s wildest outrages often just blur into the scenery. In a country where the latest hit movie, “Kick-Ass,” features an 11-year-old girl spitting obscenities and gutting bad guys while dressed in pedophile-bait outfits, there isn’t much room for real transgression. Our culture has few taboos that can’t be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.

Except where Islam is concerned. There, the standards are established under threat of violence, and accepted out of a mix of self-preservation and self-loathing.

This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that “bravely” trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force.

Happily, today’s would-be totalitarians are probably too marginal to take full advantage. This isn’t Weimar Germany, and Islam’s radical fringe is still a fringe, rather than an existential enemy.

For that, we should be grateful. Because if a violent fringe is capable of inspiring so much cowardice and self-censorship, it suggests that there’s enough rot in our institutions that a stronger foe might be able to bring them crashing down.

Read it all here.

The only thing I don't understand is why Douthat is so sure that Islam is so marginal that it poses no threat. Is it good old American self-confidence? Or is it whistling past the graveyard? Well, did the thugs actually get away with censoring South Park or not? You have your answer there.


Jason V. Joseph said...

But it seems strange that Douthat doesn't bother to criticize South Park-a show which only dirties the public waters. One doesn't have to agree with the entire fundamentalist muslim agenda in order to see that they have a point about our base popular culture.

Carson Holloway discusses this point further on Public Discourse:

Craig Carter said...

Thanks for the link to Carson - he is always worth reading and I will read that post.

I agree with you that pornography is not speech and therefore not protected free speech and that Christians do not have any stake in defending it.

However, to censor in favor of one religion only - which is what happened in the South Park incident - is to establish that religion as the specially protected one. And that is what is going on with the self-censorship of all critique of Islam by Westerners bent on appeasement. There is no end to appeasement - it will only lead to more violence in the end when the mob reaction comes.

What is going on is a concentrated campaign by secularists to knock Christianity down and ensure that it can in no way be perceived as the religion of our culture, while at the same time Islam is being elevated to the position formerly held by Christianity. Why secularists, atheists and amoralists would collude in this is a great mystery because they are far better off under Christianity than under Islam. It is a kind of death wish.