Just ignore them...

Chortle editor Steve Bennett on the story we didn't run (until now)

Jim Davidson represents everything I dislike. If he further angers me, he runs the risk of ending up like dead. What’s more, I know where he lives: Dubai.

Does this sound like a serious death threat to you?

What if I were Muslim? And what if instead of Jim Davidson, it was Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park?

Yet when Revolution Muslim make their veiled threat, it was widely reported. Chortle chose not to – though by explaining why, I’m aware I’m going to have to repeat the story, thus defeating my point that it was a non-event that should never have been publicised. Not only that, in amplifying the threat around the world, media organisations from CNN to the BBC acted dangerously irresponsibly.

I don’t know much about Revolution Muslim – and their website seems to have collapse under the weight of interest this media blitz has generated. Now big they are is unknown, though they previously appeared to be best known for handing out anti-Jewsh leaflets outside a mosque preaching peace. On that occasion, there were just two radicals from the group spreading their message.

Their inflammatory comments about South Park this week came after the animated show depicted Mohammed – though in deference, or more likely mockery, of Islam’s beliefs that his likeness should never be seen, the cartoon prophet appeared in a bear costume. Outraged, Revolution Muslim linked Trey and Parker to the assassination of provocative Dutch film-make Theo Van Gough on their amateurish website, where the threats would only presumably have received a limited audience of like-minded zealots.

Yet now the comments, perhaps of just one sad attention-seeking loner, have echoed around the globe, as if they were important. The New York based group are now famous and their threats against South Park have acted as a recruiting call for jihadists everywhere. This would not have happened without the news industry wanting an easy story.

Such ‘anger as…’ stories are remarkably easy to manufacture. British stand-up Russell Kane this week landed Australian broadcaster Ten in hot water over an autism gag he made on air, that attracted maybe half a dozen negative comments on the company’s website. Picked up by the press, it’s suddenly a big deal. Likewise, we all know what happened to Jonathan Ross – only after The Mail on Sunday got upset, and not on initial broadcast.

Once the news is out there, the culture of instant news puts pressure on every other outlet to follow it up. You don’t want to appear left behind – and, indeed, Chortle got more than one email alerting us to the South Park story. Bloggers and Twitterers will whiz it around the planet in minute, and even respectable news outlets, under huge financial pressures, can easily check the story and get it on their websites in minutes.

Why this one? Google ‘Obama must die’ and you get five and half million hits, few of which are presumably genuine threats, and hopefully Homeland Security are on top of them. Yet maybe because the target in this case was an apparently trivial comedy show, or perhaps because of touchy Muslims over-reacting fits the current news narrative – either way, the Revolution Muslim threat made news.

This will only encourage people who tend to have extreme views to want to express them more openly, and using more inflammatory language. If one man with an axe to grind can get this much publicity, surely it will only encourage more to follow. What of the sort of people who feel isolated, insignificant and disenfranchised who tend to be easy pickings for the extremists. They normally want to make a mark on the world, so seeing the ‘fame’ a death threat can bring – let alone trying to act on it – will only be an encouragement.

Revolution Muslim have had some success. Comedy Central has bleeped out the word Mohammed from the broadcast version of the contentious episode, which presumably wouldn’t have happened had the threats stayed on the website (South Park has previously depicted Mohammed without repurcussions). And never mind the ridiculously illogical idea that saying an animated character inside a bear suit is Mohammed makes him so. What if I say this is emoticon ;-> is my portrayal of the prophet. Does that mean the three punctuation marks are blasphemous?

Anwyay, back to my main point. Jim Davidson must die.

Published: 23 Apr 2010

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