Politics

Violence—and the Threat of Violence—Works

Spoilers for last night's South Park below.

As Matt Welch noted on Twitter, there was an interesting convergence of right-leaning media last night on the subject of one Donald Trump:

The guys from South Park would probably be vaguely annoyed to be lumped in with "right media" writ large, but the phrase "South Park Conservative" exists for a reason. What Welch has highlighted are voices of three different aspects of the GOP coalition—the libertarian right, the base of the base, and the establishment right—all hammering hard on the guy who is leading all the polls for the GOP presidential nomination. I can't remember anything quite like it having happened before.

I thought Rich Lowry's unstoppable tirade about El Trumpo's figurative emasculation at the hands of Carly Fiorina would be hard to top, but the South Park guys have never been one to shy away from a challenge. In last night's episode they showed a Canadian politician mocked up to look like Trump literally being raped to death. It was pretty fantastic.

That being said, it's the sort of thing that's worth stopping to think about for a second. I mean, Trey Parker and Matt Stone went there. They showed a (lightly fictionalized representation of a) major American presidential candidate being f—ked to death onscreen by one of the show's beloved characters.

And yet, episodes of South Park have famously been bowdlerized by parent company Viacom when the show attempted to display an image of the Prophet Muhammad. This censorship occurred because of violence committed by Islamist savages in response to past displays of Muhammad.

So, to recap, at this point in American history you can show a major American political figure being anally raped until he expires but you cannot show an image of a historical figure from Islam. Why? Because Muslim radicals do not want the image shown and threatened violence if South Park exercised its freedom of expression.

To be entirely clear, I don't blame Parker or Stone for this at all; the pusillanimous behavior of Viacom is not on them. Indeed, their efforts have helped illustrate a very valuable point about late-stage American democracy: Committing acts of violence and threatening the same will help you get what you want. The lesson for the Trumpistas who proliferate on Twitter and the other deep dark reaches of social media is obvious. If you want them to lay off your guy—if you can't handle Trump being made fun of for being a cowardly prat who wants to use the power of the state to silence those who would criticize him—then all you need to do is threaten the weak-kneed cowards at Viacom.

Because violence works.