When a recent episode of the cheeky South Park depicted the prophet Mohammed in a bear suit, its creators were probably well aware of what they were setting in motion. Some fundamentalist nutjob would take exception and threaten them on a website, the episode would be dumbly censored, fans would get pissed and retribution against the offending site would be swift and terrible:
Then the unexpected: Dan Savage posted a cartoon which, in solidarity with South Park and free speech in general, jokingly proclaimed May 20th as “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”:
…and outrage went viral.
The cartoonist wasn’t expecting her whimsical tongue-in-cheek proposal to go viral, much less turn into a competition to come up with the most offensive images possible. As a result, she’s distanced herself from the whole idea:
The Seattle artist whose anti-censorship cartoon has helped spawn “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” says she wants no part of the May 20 event, which is gaining momentum online.
“I made a cartoon that went viral but [this campaign] isn’t really my thing,” cartoonist Molly Norris tells Comic Riffs, characterizing her cartoon as merely a personal response to Comedy Central‘s censorship of a “South Park” episode last week. “Other folks have taken it over” — an appropriation she says she is distancing herself from.
Not only the cartoonist, but the creator of the inevitable “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” Facebook page has also opted out. After a couple of days of spittle-flecked comments and grotesque images being furiously uploaded, the creators of these benign little free speech demonstrations apparently realized things were going sideways. They were expecting maybe… civility? Haha. New to the internet, I see.
Images of Mohammed might be proscribed by Islam, but there shouldn’t be anything to prevent a non-Muslim from drawing one. And as a free speech exercise, there was a point to be made about the whackjobs who consider threats of violence an appropriate response to perceived slights to their religion: something like, grow a pair.
On the other hand, setting aside a day for the express purpose of insulting one specific religion seems like a proposition destined to devolve into a shit-slinging competition of Olympic proportions. Too many people don’t understand that while the right to be an asshole is an important part of free speech, it’s not a requirement.