AFA Censorship

The Western Way of Religious Criticism

Mark Steyn recently contrasted NBC's stance on Christian and Muslim sensitivities:

Thus, NBC is celebrating Easter this year with a special edition of the gay sitcom "Will & Grace," in which a Christian conservative cooking-show host, played by the popular singing slattern Britney Spears, offers seasonal recipes -- "Cruci-fixin's." On the other hand, the same network, in its coverage of the global riots over the Danish cartoons, has declined to show any of the offending artwork out of "respect" for the Muslim faith. Which means out of respect for their ability to locate the executive vice president's home in the suburbs and firebomb his garage.
I have an email today from the American Family Association -- how I got on their email list, I couldn't guess -- trumpeting the end of that episode.
Action by AFA Online supporters has cause NBC to pull the offensive segment scheduled for the April 6th episode of Will and Grace.

In an attempt to confuse the public, the network issued an intentionally misleading statement which left the impression that AFA had lied to our supporters. Here is the statement NBC sent to their affiliates for the affiliate to use in responding to emails and calls:
Some erroneous information was mistakenly included in a press release describing an upcoming episode of "Will & Grace" which, in fact, has yet to be written. The reference to "Cruci-fxins" will not be in the show and the storyline will not contain a Christian characterization at all.
NBC did not say that they (NBC) had issued the "erroneous information" but left the reader with the impression that AFA had issued the "erroneous information."

When NBC said that the script "has yet to be written," what they didn't tell you is that the "story board" had been completed and the offensive material was scheduled to be a part of the episode. The story board contains the outline of the program. That is the reason for the detailed description of the episode issued by NBC in their initial press release.

For a better understanding of this deception by NBC written by a third party, click here.

The bottom line is that the actions taken by AFA Online supporters like you caused them to rewrite the episode and remove the offensive segment!
Emphasis in the original.

Assuming that no one expects the AFA to firebomb anything, it would appear that NBC is still sensitive to Christian complaints as well, at least if they get enough of them that it appears poised to impact their market share.

Now, the question is this: is this kind of pressure a good thing, or a bad thing? It's nonviolent; people are exercising their own free speech by telling NBC what they think of the idea, and their freedom of association by warning that they will not associate themselves with NBC by watching its shows, thus impacting the network's revenue stream.

On the other hand, it succeeded in silencing NBC's "provocative" statement. While I don't think Western civilization will be in any way harmed by the absence of this particular joke on its television networks, it's plainly the case that the network has been intimidated into changing its mind. My question -- informed by the recent discussions -- is whether we should say, "Good" and leave it at that, or whether we should have mixed feelings about it.

There is a similarity here with the case of the Danish cartoons, but also a difference. I think we can agree that this method is vastly preferable to that of threatening beheadings or burning buildings. I think we would agree that AFA has every right to criticize NBC for what the AFA sees as blasphemy (and, in fairness, what NBC surely also saw as blasphemy -- blasphemy was the point).

Is it good or bad that religious folk use their influence to silence blasphemers, at least in the most public squares and the most revenue-centric networks? If we agree that the AFA didn't do anything wrong, does that mean that the effect is necessarily good? The speech in this case was intentionally disrespectful, and surely merited the condemnation of society. But was it good that this condemnation prevented the episode from airing as written? If the AFA didn't do wrong by protesting, being within its rights of free speech and free association, did NBC do wrong by caving in?

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