Self-Censorship: Et Tu, Penn Jillette?
by David J. Rusin • Jul 12, 2010 at 10:04 am
The path to self-censorship now runs through Las Vegas. Last month, a magazine named Penn Jillette — half of Penn and Teller, the duo known for their hybrid magic-comedy act and their sacred-cow-goring TV series — as the celeb who most personifies that city. In the accompanying interview, however, Jillette's damn-the-torpedoes, truth-telling image falls apart faster than an ill-conceived Vegas wedding when he reveals his show's approach to religion:
Are there any groups you won't go after? We haven't tackled Scientology because Showtime doesn't want us to. Maybe they have deals with individual Scientologists — I'm not sure. And we haven't tackled Islam because we have families.
Meaning, you won't attack Islam because you're afraid it'll attack back … Right, and I think the worst thing you can say about a group in a free society is that you're afraid to talk about it — I can't think of anything more horrific.
You do go after Christians, though … Teller and I have been brutal to Christians, and their response shows that they're good f***ing Americans who believe in freedom of speech. We attack them all the time, and we still get letters that say, "We appreciate your passion. Sincerely yours, in Christ." Christians come to our show at the Rio and give us Bibles all the time. They're incredibly kind to us. Sure, there are a couple of them who live in garages, give themselves titles, and send out death threats to me and Bill Maher and Trey Parker. But the vast majority are polite, open-minded people, and I respect them for that.
Jillette is just the latest poster boy for how fear of violence — which Islamists intermittently reinforce through actual violence, such as the recent assault on Muhammad cartoonist Lars Vilks and the attempt to torch his home — nurtures self-censorship about Islam. Yet Jillette does deserve a little credit here. He not only cops to his own dhimmification, but also voices a truth rarely made so explicit: that those who walk on eggshells around Muslims have few, if any, worries when insulting Christians. Some other evidence of this striking contrast:
British potter Grayson Perry acknowledged censoring himself about Islam due to fear, but produces art depicting Christian figures in the most offensive manner possible.
Citing concerns of "a fatwa on my head," director Roland Emmerich nixed plans to show the Kaaba being destroyed in 2012, even as he leveled Christian landmarks.
Comedy Central blacked out images of Muhammad in an April episode of South Park, but just weeks later announced an irreverent series about Jesus moving to Manhattan.
Mr. Jillette, your honest description of this free speech double standard and its ultimate source — observations of Christian cheek turning versus Islamist house burning — is admirable, even though your cringing prostration before the jihad is not.
Related Topics: Cartoons, Censorship, Entertainment / Media, Free Speech, Interfaith | David J. Rusin
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