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Carol Coleman, bless her, tried to squeeze the Muhammad Vs. South Park debate into about ten minutes of The Wide Angle on NewsTalk today . While inviting a brash comedian to debate a Dublin Muslim leader might have seemed like a good idea at the time, it would have been perhaps more illuminating to invite someone who had actually seen the episode under discussion.
As it was, we were treated to a breakneck rendition of Abie Philbin Bowman's talking points, with no reference to the issue at hand, and the opportunity to banter with a very accommodating moderate Muslim on the other end of the phone was lost. Neither party addressed the South Park depictions and no new information or critique was offered.
The moderate Muslim mentioned that it was important to consider the intentions of the cartoonists, of which he admitted ignorance. Carol seemed bewildered by this, spluttering 'It's only a cartoon!'
It now appears she has never seen a single episode of South Park. Thankfully Bowman set her straight regarding the very meaning of satire itself: that it always has a point.
Of course, unmentioned in all this went the fascinating crux of Matt and Trey's dangerous depiction of Muhammad (but how could our panel know, not having watched the show?), which was that it was not actually Muhammad in the bear suit at all, but Santa Claus.
This begs the obvious question: Why exactly are these people threatening South Park?
The salient points here are (a) people just get mad for the sake of it (b) no-one knows the exact 'rules' for safe Muhammad-depiction (Is it okay if he speaks? What if he's under a sheet? If we don't know what he looked like, how do you know it's him? If I draw a stapler labelled 'Muhammad' is that blasphemous? etc.).
Mohammed is fast becoming the new 'Rules Of Fight Club':
- You do not talk about Muhammad
- You do not talk about Muhammad
How ridiculous is the notion that you can tell other people what to draw and what not to draw based on your crazy cult's beliefs? I could start a religion that believes Elvis is God and that depictions of Elvis are punishable by death. I'd have more homes than Santa Claus to visit if I wanted to kill all the infidels. But would anyone acquiesce to my childish demands?
Are we going the way of Australia? Every day I read the anguished cries of our upside-down brethren as they bounce endlessly from one blocked website to the next.
Will we one day look back on the first 20 years of the internet as not merely the exciting, and somehow rustic, pioneering dot-com days but as the Golden Age when information was free to all?
The Irish government has had extensive discussions regarding internet censorship, 'without any public consultation or legislative approval,' as noted by Digital Rights Ireland.
It's a frightening nightmarish Orwellian scenario, little minds in little rooms tightening the information spigot with no public oversight.
And I'm sure the list of criteria for blocking sites will grow ever larger as the redacting pen becomes a paint-roller.
…increasingly, governments and law enforcement agencies are pushing for much broader use, ranging from blocking filesharing sites to trying to tackle cybercrime and terrorism…
Blocking websites as a counter-terrorist move? Has anyone thought this through? Let the hate-mongers have their little playground, it's easier to track them that way. Or are we afraid of the strength of some of their political arguments?
It's a throwback to the days when tackling terrorism meant 'trained actors playing Gerry Adams for fear that his musky charisma and siren song might somehow bewitch the Plain People of Ireland.'(†)
If we do join North Korea in censoring the internet, it will be yet another example of ill-informed jackanapes making secret decisions, for unfathomable reasons, against the interests and wishes of the majority–just like the idiotic blasphemy legislation and the mysterious licensing laws of this country.
As usual, biting satire says it best.