(The important part is at 5:06.)
So let’s review.
Stephen Colbert plays a character on the “Colbert Report” described by Colbert himself as a “well-intentioned, poorly informed high-status idiot”.
Said “well-intentioned, poorly informed high-status idiot” uses part of his show to “Defend” (i.e. Make fun of.) Washington Redskin’s owner Dan Synder’s refusal to change to the name of his team and subsequent forming of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. (Which has already been described by one tribal leader as “somewhere between a PR assault and bribery,”)
An out of context line from the piece gets tweeted by the Comedy Central account and before you can say “Race War”, The internet loses it’s shit.
The #CancelColbert hashtag was started by Suey Park (previously of #NotYourAsianSidekick) on Thursday night in response to the comedic misfire. “#CancelColbert because white liberals are just as complicit in making Asian Americans into punchlines and we aren’t amused,” Park tweeted.
Colbert himself weighed in with a tweet: “#CancelColbert – I agree! Just saw @ColbertReport tweet. I share your rage. Who is that, though?”
Whether the joke was offensive or not is really up to personal taste, but the line isn’t particularly surprising. Colbert’s entire schtick is playing a more overt caricature of conservative talking heads, making their implicit racism explicit in what is now an extended, decade-long bit. That one line — when divorced from context — appeared to just be a racist quip possibly illustrates the point. It’s cranking offensiveness up so far as to be inherently unbelievable. Again, react however you choose, but this sort of thing is Colbert’s bread and butter.
Exactly. The whole point of the piece was not “Asians are so kooky” but “Look how clueless rich white guys are about race”. This is not Daniel Tosh making bad rape jokes or even The Onion screwing up a tweet. Hell, it’s not even Rush Limbaugh making a joke about Sandra Fluke allegedly being a “Slut”. (Because as I’ve said before, the premise behind it didn’t even work!) Colbert was working the right side of the power equation by using “Stephen Colbert’s” cluelessness to point up Synder’s cluelessness. A fact that seems lost on Ms. Park. Who also tried to make her case at Time.com today.
If comedians want to protest the racist name of the Redskins football team and to ban racist mascots, as the comedian’s defenders claim is his goal, there are a variety of ways to organize and to highlight this issue. But this isn’t about white liberals wanting to change the name, or their devotion to destroying settler-colonialism: It’s about their feeling entitled to make jokes about “The Other” in the name of “progress.” This does nothing to alleviate the burden of people of color; it simply perpetuates a part of the entertainment industry in which our marginalization remains profitable.
Again, the joke was not about Orientals being “The Other”. It was about dumb white guys being dumb white guys.
Also, just a reminder. Stephen Colbert is not an activist. He is a comedian. It is not his job to pick up the flag for your cause. It’s his job to get laughs. By any means necessary.
We are proud to be what Sara Ahmed defines as Feminist Killjoys — meaning we “Will not laugh at jokes designed to cause offense.” (Bold type mine. RJ.) We refuse to believe we have created racism by pointing to it and naming it. As Dave Zirin tweeted in our defense: “if Suey Park pointed at a burning building, then she must be an arsonist.” We don’t accept such silly logic.
Two things. One, technically Colbert was the one pointing at the burning building by making fun of Dan Synder. If anyone is erroneously calling any one a fire bug, it’s Ms. Park.
Two. (And this is the part that really pisses me off.) Will not laugh at jokes designed to cause offense?
Well, Ms. Park. Then I guess you should stay the hell away from Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Patton Oswalt, Monty Python, David Cross, Dennis Leary, and Larry, The Cable Guy. Because if you thought Colbert was offensive, these guys would make your eardrums bleed. (Although, seriously, you should stay away from Larry, the Cable Guy because…yikes!)
Anybody can be offended by any form of comedy at anytime. Offense is the natural byproduct any art with a strong point of view. The question anytime it happens should not be “Is this offensive” but “What is the offensiveness in service of?”.
In this case, it was Colbert using his persona of “Entitled Idiot White Guy” to make fun of an Entitled Idiot White Guy.
Racism is a social illness that needs to be addressed. But going after the people mocking it instead of enabling it is a waste of energy.
Speaking of which, I noticed that Ms Park received a tweet of support from of all people, Michelle Malkin.
It should be noted that this is the same Ms. Malkin who once wrote a book defending WWII Japanese Internment Camps.
Take a moment to chew on that irony, campers.
EDIT: 03/29/14 6:41 P.M. Corrected the timing on the Hulu Embed.