This week's syndicated column:
The creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, get it.
They get the free-speech significance of the Danish Muhammad cartoons epitomized by Kurt Westergaard's bomb-head Muhammad.
They even get it across.
"It's so sad, the whole Muhammad, the whole Danish cartoon thing," said Stone, Parker seated beside him during a joint interview with the entertainment website Boing Boing.
Don't laugh. "Boing Boing" here goes where "elite" media fear to tiptoe, let alone tread. The subject was the 200th episode of South Park, which, in unusually clean if satirical fashion, focused on Islam's fanatical, and, to Western sensibilities, ridiculous prohibitions on depictions and criticism of Muhammad, who is at one point presented in a bear suit disguise. (Now you can laugh.)
Stone continued: "It's like, if everyone would have just, like, (done what they) normally they do in the news organizations, (and) just printed the cartoons..."
"Everyone would have rallied together," interjected Parker.
"Now that guy (Westergaard) has to be hiding and all this (bleep) because everyone just kind of left him out to dry. It's a big problem when you have the New York Times and Comedy Central and Viacom basically just (wimping) out on it. It's just sad. I was, like, really sad about the whole thing."
This -- despite the grubby vall-speakish patois of the astronomically successful Hollywood postmodern -- is a singularly powerful statement. It is powerful in its sincerity, and it is singular in its, well, singularity. No other American "name" I can think of, no one tops in pop culture, has spoken out against or even mentioned the Islamic threat to Western freedom of expression as exemplified by the Sharia dictates against "Muham-tooning." Certainly no one has produced creative content about it. Rather, such dictates have been religiously followed -- no pun whatsoever intended -- just as though our society were itself officially Islamic. This makes South Park's message the closest thing yet to a mainstream declaration of independence from Sharia. For rejecting both the threat of violence and the emotional blackmail emanating from Islam over critiquing Islam's prophet, the two South Park creators deserve a medal.
"They're courageous -- no doubt that they are," said Bill O'Reilly of Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" this week. He was discussing the Islamic death threats against Parker and Stone that, naturally, followed the recent South Park Muhammad episode. The threats came in a jihadist video (caption: "Help Us Remove this Filth") portraying the writer-producers as likely victims of Islamic violence along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie, Geert Wilders, Kurt Westergaard and Lars Vilks. A photo of the slain body of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, his head nearly cut off on an Amsterdam street in 2004 by a jihadist assassin, served as an example.
Rather than praise Parker's and Stone's courage, however, O'Reilly went on to disparage their judgment.
"Was it the smart thing to do in light of the Danish cartoonist and van Gogh?" he asked. "It's harmless to me," he continued about the episode in question. "But if you are a hardcore jihadist any mention of Muhammad in any kind of way, particularly if you poking fun at him, is a capital offense."
According to whose law, Bill -- Islam's or ours? Or is our law now Islamic? Those are the question citizens of the Western world need to hear discussed. But not on the O'Reilly Factor.
"See, I would have advised them not to do it," O'Reilly continued, "because the risk is higher than the reward."
One reason there is such a high "risk" is because media people such as O'Reilly left Westergaard and now the South Park creators, as Parker put it, "out to dry." All media in American should have reproduced Westergaard's cartoon, just as all media in American should now applaud Parker and Stone for their defense of free speech against Sharia. Surely, it is O'Reilly's responsibility as a leading broadcaster to do that small bit to keep the airwaves free.
Alas, this man of the folks doesn't see it that way. "You don't want to give in to the intimidating forces of evil," he said. "But you got to deal with reality. And these people are killers and they will kill you."
In other words, shut up about Muhammad, and everything will be fine -- or at least Islamic.