Scuttle the USS Murtha
From the Scrapbook
May 10, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 32
South Park, the popular and all-purposely offensive animated series, recently featured the Prophet Muhammad in one scene dressed in a bear suit, which was censored by Comedy Central, followed by a speech on intimidation and fear, which was heavily edited. Comedy Central’s action was taken in response to threats from one Abu Talhal al Amrikee, a Muslim convert/blogger whose real name is Zachary Chesser, who had vowed to kill South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and emphasized his threat by posting photographs of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film director stabbed to death by a radical Muslim in the Netherlands.
Comedy Central, it need hardly be said, is the self-described “edgy” network that is home to Jon Stewart and The Daily Show and is not famous for its gentle treatment of satirical targets. But one threat from an Internet psychotic, on behalf of religious bigotry, and Comedy Central revealed the spine of an overripe banana.
No, The Scrapbook is not disappointed in Comedy Central under the circumstances, since The Scrapbook had no expectation that Comedy Central would do the right thing. But even the purveyors of The Colbert Report must surely understand that the freedom they enjoy to say and do what they want—and make truckloads of money in the process—comes at a price, and the cost goes up for everyone when Abu Talhal al Amrikee runs Comedy Central.
The news Friday that the Obama administration is halting new offshore oil drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon platform disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is unsurprising given the media’s DefCon1 level of hysteria. But the paradox is that it is precisely the rarity of offshore drilling disasters of this kind that skews our perception of risk.
The Scrapbook’s go-to energy adviser, Steven F. Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute, emails: “If we were truly concerned about minimizing risks of oil spills in the ocean, we’d cut back on shipping oil by tanker. The amount of oil spilled in tanker accidents dwarfs the amount spilled from drilling rig accidents. (The long-term global trend of oil spills from all sources is down, despite the increase in both offshore drilling and oil shipped by tanker.)
“The Deepwater Horizon spill,” Hayward tells us, “is on course to match or exceed the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. But the Exxon Valdez spill was only the 35th largest tanker-related spill over the last 40 years. Since the Exxon Valdez, there have been seven larger tanker spills; the ABT Summer disaster off the Angolan coast in 1991 spilled seven times as much oil as the Exxon Valdez, but received hardly any media coverage in the United States. And while it is too early to know how extensive will be the damage to Gulf Coast shoreline ecosystems, it is not too early to expect that many dire predictions will be proven wrong.
“This has been the pattern since the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969. A hastily assembled White House panel of experts concluded that it might take 10 to 20 years to stop the still-seeping oil in the Santa Barbara Channel. It took only a few weeks. Another group of experts forecast that with the number of rigs operating in the channel, a similar blowout could be expected to occur on average once a decade. There hasn’t been another one in the channel since. Dire predictions of the permanent loss of wildlife and damage to the channel’s ecosystem became a daily refrain. But as Time magazine reported five months after the spill, ‘dire predictions seem to have been overstated. . . . Now, four months later, the channel’s ecology seems to have been restored to virtually its natural state.’ A multi-volume study by the University of Southern California two years later concluded that ‘damage to the biota was not widespread.’
“No energy source is risk-free or environmentally benign; just ask West Virginia coal miners, or check up on the avian mortality of wind power, or the potential disruption of desert ecosystems from proposed large solar power projects, or, indeed, the additional pollution of the Gulf coast from ethanol production. The greatest risk of all is the inability to weigh trade-offs.”
In Fairness to Fab
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