Eric or Cartman?

I’m a proud fan of South Park, an American animated sitcom which plays on satirical humour that’s often dark, extremely crude and sometimes slightly cynical. I don’t get how some people don’t find it funny or just don’t get it at all but that’s not the point.

Last night I was watching Whale Whores (s13e11) which addresses Japanese whaling and condemns both the whalers and animal activists who profit from fighting against them.

Paul Watson, a controversial animal and environmental rights activist who also founded the reality television series Whale Wars, is featured in that episode rather critically.

Since Paul Watson is of great relevance to Social Entrepreneurship and its ethics (or the lack of it), here are some things you should know about him:

  • 60 years old
  • president of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
  • advocates using violence and unethical means in stopping whaling activities (for e.g. sinking of whaling ships)
  • labelled “eco-terrorist” by some
  • quoted saying “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win. Then you write the history.”
  • arrogant leadership style
  • extensive list of activism and activities

You can watch the entire episode at South Park Studios.

In South Park, it turns out that the Japanese are killing dolphins and whales because they were misled by an American-doctored photograph (the above) into believing those sea animals were responsible for the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. To resolve the enmity the South Park heroes photoshopped the picture so the sea animals are replaced by  a cow and a chicken. The Japanese now become infuriated, believing cows and chickens have framed the innocent whales and dolphins. The Japanese decide to cease their whaling efforts and start slaughtering cows and chickens, storming farms full of the animals. The episode ends as hero Stan’s father, Randy, congratulates him for making the Japanese “normal, like us.”

What makes killing of cows and chickens more righteous than the killing of whales and dolphins? Because the former is in more abundance than the latter, that is why?

Is the capturing and enclosing of dolphins and whales in marine parks and aquariums any better than the act of killing them for human food consumption?

What can or cannot an activist do? What is much, or too far an extent? What is ethical and what is not? Should the strength of numbers be at all a determinant to a moral complicit?

What is the media’s role in social entrepreneurship?

South Park is a fairly light-hearted approach to austere and loaded issues, but it will for sure strike a chord – no, make that play a melancholic melody in your hearts.

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