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When your cartoon can get you killed

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by jetssack, Apr 26, 2010.

  1. jetssack

    jetssack Member

    When your cartoon can get you killed
    by Phil Bronstein
    San Francisco Chronicle
    Monday, April 26, 2010

    The prophet Muhammad in a bear costume.

    There, I said it publicly. I'm joining in foul-mouthed solidarity with South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who portrayed the prophet that way on their cable show recently. On its Web site, the New York-based Islamic group Revolution Muslim flung immodestly veiled death threats at them, comparing Parker and Stone to Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh; the director was shot and decapitated in 2004 for what was considered by his murderer to be an unflattering movie portrayal of the prophet.

    Now I'll just wait for my fatwa. I wonder if it comes by mail and whether I'll have to sign for it.

    CNN's Anderson Cooper rightfully got his cowlick in a flip over the whole story last week, emphasizing the "chilling" effect it had on "a country which prides itself on its freedom of speech." Bill O'Reilly called the South Park boys "courageous."

    Parker said the whole thing was "messed up," and Stone slammed the press for wussing out by not making more of earlier, similar Islamic extremist threats against artists.

    The author of the Van Gogh film, Ayaaw Hirsi Ali, insisted that people "stand by Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker. ... If the entertainment business were to take this on and just show how ridiculous this is, there will be too many people to threaten, (and then) I won't need protection," which she still has. And neither would South Park satirists, though O'Reilly said they should get some.

    Threats might be a recent phenomenon for cartoonists, but reporters who cover dicey and dangerous topics are already familiar with this kind of menace. More than 800 journalists have been killed around the world since 1992, 71 just in 2009.

    As the South Park stew was starting to boil last week, a panel at the Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium at UC Berkeley was taking up the issue of consequences for journalists "who face the wrath of those they cover," as moderator Brian Ross put it.

    Reporters talked about menacing actions and lawsuits, having to look under their cars for bombs and covering CIA shenanigans and Mexican drug cartels.

    The subject was most dramatically etched on the face of Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Smith. He talked about one lawsuit filed against him by a casino executive that threatened to shred his life.

    His young daughter had had one surgery for a brain tumor and was in the hospital waiting for a second round. "In the middle of that, I had (libel) litigation filed against me for $15 million." He went into bankruptcy because his publisher couldn't afford to back him. "The stress that put on my family is hard to describe," Smith said, struggling to keep from crying in a roomful of hardened reporters. He turned down what he said was a $300,000 payoff attempt in exchange for his public apology. The case later was dropped. His daughter is in a wheelchair, but she's alive.

    Smith still writes his columns, even though "some days you don't know how you can go on."

    Parker and Stone might feel the same. Their network, Comedy Central, heavily censored their latest Muhammad-related South Park show.

    The possibility of a big free-speech chill is everywhere, every day, whether you created Cartman or write news stories.

    That's messed up, for sure.

  2. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    Your point?
  3. bwright

    bwright Member

    I think it's fucked up that CC so heavily censored that episode last week. But there's a thread on this on the "anything goes" board.
  4. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    What angers me is that LVRJ reporter who had to go into bankruptcy because his publisher couldn't afford to back him up in a libel lawsuit.

    Really? A paper allows a report in the paper, then let's their reporter go into financial hell because they don't want to back him up?
  5. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    I agree with the columnists. If I was Steven Colbert or Jon Stewart I would dress up like a bear and say I am Muhammed and encourage others to dot he same. If everyone makes fun of it, they won't do a thing.
  6. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    I think his point is the animals that made this threat need to be put down like the rabid dogs they are.
  7. Oggiedoggie

    Oggiedoggie Well-Known Member

    I don't quite understand what folks are still wringing their hands over this now that Snoopy has been sold.

    Does anybody else remember anything of this magnitude in their lifetime? I don't.
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