An opportunist ruins a good joke and hijacks an important discussion.
On Wednesday night’s episode of “The Colbert Report,” the satirical comedic news program on Comedy Central hosted by comedian Stephen Colbert, a joke lampooning Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s absurd creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation to deflect criticism that his team’s racist nickname is racist.
The joke’s at 4:10 of this clip:
The key joke:
Folks, this move by Dan Snyder inspires me, because my show has frequently come under attack for having a so-called offensive mascot. My beloved character Ching-Chong Ding-Dong…the point is, offensive or not — not — Ching-Chong is part of the unique heritage of the Colbert Nation that cannot change. But I’m willing to show the Asian community that I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitive to Orientals or Whatever.
The show’s promotional Twitter account subsequently tweeted, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”
Naturally, faux outrage ensued.
This attracted the ire of a 23-year-old freelance writer and hashtag activist named Suey Park, who gained prominence last year with the #NotYourAsianSidekick micromovement.
I used to respect and enjoy your work, @ColbertReport. Fuck you.
— Suey Park (@suey_park) March 27, 2014
The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals has decided to call for #CancelColbert. Trend it.
— Suey Park (@suey_park) March 27, 2014
For much of the night, Park made war on Comedy Central, and thousands copied the hashtag. The network had made a powerful hashtag enemy, as Park reminded it. This was her work. She started hashtags like Comedy Central started six-episode sketch shows. The Guardian had placed her in a list of the “top 30 young people in digital media,” No. 12, right below “Kid President.” Her Facebook fan page and Twitter account provided information on how to book her, because she “speaks on race/gender and social media” and is a “board member of Activist Milennials.” For much of the night, her Twitter feed tracked 1) the progress of #CancelColbert, 2) tweets thanking her for the hashtag, and 3) tweets from racist idiots who were angry at her.
Still trending and waiting @StephenAtHome and @ColbertReport. Want to know how many hours #NotYourAsianSidekick trended? #CancelColbert
— Suey Park (@suey_park) March 28, 2014
By the time she tweeted that, the right had caught on. Tweeting at Colbert was an unexpected opportunity for cultural revenge—the petard-hoisting of a liberal comedian whose schtick was saying outrageous things in the voice of a “right-winger.” The prime mover was Michelle Malkin, the Asian-American conservative (and, it is inevitably said, author of In Defense of Internment) who names and shames the people who hurl slurs at her.
Co-sign! RT @suey_park I’m sick of liberals hiding behind assumed “progressiveness”#CancelColbert
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) March 28, 2014
If you managed to avoid the Internet last night, you missed a crash course in hashtag activism.
Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog struggles with this, because he both applauds Colbert’s obvious intent and yet doesn’t like the backlash directed at Park by some of Colbert’s defenders.
Colbert’s character is an oblivious right-wing jerk who thinks he’s reasonable and charming, and I feel Colbert sustains that conceit brilliantly most of the time, and successfully skewers people who have a good skewer coming. But it can a delicate task playing an offensive boor without saying offensive things in a way that gives them the power they’d have if you actually believed them — when I was growing up, I watched Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker on All in the Family get loud ovations for lines that were seemingly meant to offend, and it began to seem as if he’d evolved into the show’s hero. But I don’t see Colbert having jumped the shark that way.
To me, it’s not over the line — it’s an oblivious-about racism character mocking a real-life racist. But I’m a white guy. To Suey Park, who’s Korean-American, it was over the line, hence the #CancelColbert Twitter storm. I simply don’t know how this feels to her, or to other people it offended.
But I also think it’s indisputable that Colbert was trying to drop the joke on the right side of the line. I think a campaign that calls for cancellationdoesn’t take his intentions into account, here and throughout the years he’s done this character.
So I disagree with Park — and I find this all exasperating, because the real person named Stephen Colbert is trying to be on the right side and American society is full of so damn many dangerous, malevolent, destructive bastards that this campaign seems wildly misdirected.
But NMMNB commenter Ernest Miller spots the truth:
Many of the attacks on Park are atrocious. It is very sad that many of those who disagree with her are condescending (or worse). But, Park is social media savvy and I believe that she was trolling. It is arguable whether Colbert crossed the line. Even if he did, however, it is clearly not a reason to cancel his show, such as for the reasons you mention in your post. But why #CancelColbert? #CancelColbert is alliterative, catchy and more likely to trend than #ApologizeColbert or #ColbertScrewedUp. It is also clearly meant to be inflammatory to Colbert fans. Park shouldn’t be forced off the internet (#ProscribePark ?), but she should be called out on her trolling. If Colbert’s bit offended, then let’s discuss it reasonably. But, apparently, reasonableness doesn’t get as many retweets and favorites.
Removed from the context of the Snyder controversy and oblivious to the nature of Colbert’s show, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to someone to find the tweet offensive. But Park, an activist against Asian stereotypes, was fully aware of the context. She nonetheless successfully trolled Twitter by creating the hashtag #CancelColbert and turning what should have been a discussion about an term that’s actually racially offensive to some and yet used in real life by a major team in our most prominent sports league into a discussion about whether a comedian making an obvious joke on a satirical comedy show should be fired. That may be a “crash course in hashtag activism” but it’s also a textbook case of trolling.
If jokes that fall flat, offensively so, were grounds for dismissal there would be no comedy on TV today at all. At least there would be no topical humor.
@Dave Schuler: Concur. I thought the joke was well within the bounds of satire but, even if it was lame and beyond the pale, it would at most be cause for issuing an apology, not firing. But, again, I’m pretty sure Park agrees. This was just really effective trolling that drew the attention from a household name to a virtual nobody.
Something else that should be considered. If humor that somebody might find offensive is grounds for dismissal, isn’t that giving political opponents a powerful weapon? Or is it only grounds for dismissal when they’re people with whose political views you disagree?
So, someone took Stephen Colbert out of context to make him look bad? Aww, poor guy.
As an Asian, I find Park offensive, and wish that people would ignore her. She’s making Asians look stupid.
“hashtag activist” and “hashtag activism”: Phrases that will be banned when I become President.
See also: Awareness.
@Gavrilo: A not unreasonable point.
@Anon: Well, maybe that’s her subtle way of breaking stereotypes.
To a certain extent. There’s a joke at the end of everything Colbert does. Where’s the joke in Park’s tweets?
To my ears and eyes, taking things out of context for satirical purposes is quite different from taking things out of context in order to more easily purge the undesirables.
Colbert’s ratings will go up from the attention, as will awareness of Snyder’s douchitude. Chance of cancelation: 0.
The original tweet was posted without context so I could see how someone not familiar with Colbert might take it the wrong way. However, Park states right in her first tweet that she enjoys his work. How can you be a fan of his and not see what he was doing? If she hadn’t admitted being familiar with him before the tweet, I’d cut her a lot more slack.
However what makes my head spin is how fast folks like Malkin and her ilk jumped on the CancelColbert bandwagon. Weren’t these people just loudly defending the Duck Dynasty guy a few months ago?
I can see how Asians might have found this offensive. And if this woman had wanted to bring that to Comedy Central and Colbert’s attention, she might have even gotten an apology, and a bit of awareness.
But that’s not the message she wanted to send. Her message was much simpler: “Pay attention to MEEEEEEE!”
And now we have this tut-tutting over the terrible way people have been mean to this non-entity merely for the crime of using a demand for censorship as a way to boost her own brand.
To me, she’s on the same level as the “housewife” (also, rarely mentioned, Republican activist) who crusaded in the late 80s for the cancellation of “Married With Children.”
Publicity whores trying to cash in on the success of people who have actually accomplished something.
Here’s a hint: If your “activisim” is confined to sending messages of no more than 140 characters, you’re not Cesar Fvcking Chavez.
Conservatives seem to have a great deal of trouble with the word “comedian” as if Colbert was appointed or elected to anything. The rank opportunism speaks for itself, along with the ham-handed response of denigrating a fictional character as if he were real. Given that, it’s hard to know who should leave the show: Colbert or Colbert?
I’m still in awe people in the news pay attention to social media as if it demonstrates anything. 20,000 “Likes” or “Retweets” are not comparable to 20,000 protestors.
I’ve seen protests that start from social media fauxrage, and they draw hundreds, if even tens. This is a cloistered bunch looking at their favorite toy (which, demographically, they are mostly the only ones who own it) and concluding from what arrangement digital tea leaves fall in that something has happened.
I beg you, please add “Double Down” to the ban list. ktnxbye
@Tillman: Another way to put it: this is lazy writing. You don’t have to find sources or interview people or even travel to check social media and read the tea leaves.
As someone with family roots in Asia, I humbly apologize for Malkin. And as someone with parents who were interned during WWII, I would also say to her “STFU, you rabid, bug-eyed chihuahua!”
@James in Silverdale, WA: “Conservatives seem to have a great deal of trouble with the word “comedian” as if Colbert was appointed or elected to anything.”
If Colbert — and Jon Stewart and Bill Maher and a million other non-conservatively-correct comedians — are indeed appointed to their popularity, then the reason unfunny losers like Greg Gutfield aand Dennis Miller are so completely ignored by audiences is because of hate and discrimination, not because their shows leave only a strong desire for a shower.
Wow, a lot of vapid twitter exchanges over … nothing.
It’s too bad that Park, a writer, has no idea what satire is. She, like many Republicans, do not understand that Colbert is an act, he’s a comedian, he’s spoofing the subject.
In looking up the bio and background of Ms. Park, she has a degree in psychology on the University of Illinois and is a graduate student in ethnic studies at Ohio University.
Do me she fits the stereotype of an ethnic activist. We she got to college she found out she was not the smartest student or the hardest working student so she decide to be the most Asian student at Illinois. It also appears that she is a lesbian so her activism is mixed but it does explain why she is so liberal.
Also, I wonder what first name that her parents gave her and why did she choose Suey as her American name.
It should be noted that simply looking at the #CancelColbert trending can’t be assumed to be support for Suey Park. A lot of the tweets using the tag appear to be using it ironically to mock Park.
Aslo, given that Colbert himself tweeted the tag (https://twitter.com/StephenAtHome/status/449396208533270529), it’s not clear how many of the people using it are Park’s followers and how many are Colbert’s followers.
@James in Silverdale, WA: @wr: I’m pretty sure Park isn’t a conservative.
@Stormy Dragon: Right. That’s how hashtags work: They’re a means of indexing a conversation around a trending topic.
@James Joyner: didn’t mean to imply she was conservative. Publicity whoring transcends ideology. I’m perfectly willing to accept the fact that this terrible person is on my “team.”
@James Joyner: Good point. 🙂
What seems to be getting lost in this is that of course it is offensive. People should be outraged when someone creates a foundation to cover up racism. But Colberts was fake, created to draw attention to Dan Snyder who is actually doing it in REAL LIFE! Where is her #CancelRedskins campaign?
Some people seem confused because Stephen Colbert plays a right wing character on tv also named Stephen Colbert. Maybe he should have chosen a different name for his tv character.
Stephen Colbert the character may in fact lack racial sensitivity. I doubt the real Stephen Colbert does. Do these same people get angry at movie characters? Maybe Tom Cruise should be arrested for all those people he has killed on film.
I feel the same way about these kind of shows. I remember the Don Imus hassle of several years ago. These people are going to say things – for an effect, not for any sort of wisdom or truth; and not to intentionally insult someone. Criticism of a lot of these shows seems to be subjectively selective. I don’t recall anyone having a problem with Jay Leno, or Seinfeld. I guess because they managed to include every group.
We live in an age of extremely sensitivity and ever pervasive political correctness don’t offend anyone syndroms. It is time to lay back and let the good times roll. Back in the day it was “Pollock” jokes and no one got bent out of shape over it.
One figure of speech I would like to see ended is the always popping up “Breaking News”, which very seldom is breaking. Or news. Especially in the case of CNN.
@Tyrell: “Back in the day it was “Pollock” jokes and no one got bent out of shape over it.”
Sure, but let one person crack wise about Jasper Johns, and everyone went nuts.
And yes, that is pretty much about as obscure as we’re gonna get around here.
Hear hear. I think there’s a show on one of the cable news channels actually named “Breaking News”. Lots of false News Alerts on that channel. too. It’s all phonied up anxiety production.
Since today is Talk about what bugs me day let’s rip out all of those horrible news crawls and massive logos that 9/11 made permanent.
I hate seeing a small-timer try to milk something like this – I’m referring to Colbert, of course. Have you looked at his ratings? He gets stomped by Friends reruns.
He’s been beating the Tonight Show in the key demos.
I am an Asian-American (Filipino-American to be specific) and this woman doesn’t speak for all of us. A quick note to Suey Park – go back to whatever sheltered-life you came from and do yourself a big favor by not sabotaging and judging a show you obviously know nothing about. You say you’re an activist? Why not actually go travel somewhere in the Middle East and help oppressed women over there, instead of hiding behind your computer.