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Unformatted text preview: Incendiary Salmon Helmets: Censored South Park vs. The Greater Good While delivering the unanimous majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court in the 1919 case of Schenck vs. United States , justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote: The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. Referring to a now-famous analogy of an example of where free speech is forbidden and illegal. The ruling of the case established a precedent that has held up to this day; that not all free speech is protected. If your free speech panics or otherwise hurts a group of citizens, it is not classified as free speech. Applying the fire in a theatre analogy to various mediums where the concept is argued becomes a tricky subject; can news organizations overdramatize events to keep audiences glued to their broadcasts? Can an American citizen access and/or post his or her views on an anarchist website dedicated to overthrowing the US government? One of the most debatable subjects is works of fiction; does the government have the right to censor false stories made up by an author? When a fictional work is censored, those who authored the work often cite their freedom of speech and criticize the censorship. Often times, however, a fictional work can bring about the type of reaction akin to yelling fire in a theatre. In these cases, censorship is needed and required if it serves the greater good of society; however now the issue of defining what serves and what doesnt serve the greater good is brought up. A good case study is the television show South Park , whose recent censorship problems highlight both justifiable and unjustifiable censorship from its network Comedy Central and its parent company Viacom. A show like South Park , though fictional, can at its worst have the same reaction as yelling fire in a crowded theatre, despite it being a fictional program. Many cable television networks attach a persona to their overall programming; be it television for a specific group of people (women, African-Americans, etc.) or a specific type of show (nature programs, networks devoted to food). One such network that builds many of its programming around a central theme is Comedy Central. Viacom-owned Comedy Central has several shows that try and extract comedy from controversial subjects such as race, sexuality, politics, and anything else for a laugh. The flagship show that touts this philosophy is South Park , a television show about a group of boys growing up in a small Colorado town. South Park started out as a show that mostly used pop-culture references and scatological humor for laughs, becoming a fad and gaining popularity with adolescent youths. After the initial grace period ended, the creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone took the show in an entirely different direction. The beginning of the fifth season marked a change in South Park , as the show became darker and started to satirize current events and trends in mainstream...
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- Spring '08