On #CancelColbert And The Limits of ‘Liberal Pass’ Humor

By Arturo R. García

One of the arguments surrounding the #CancelColbert campaign has been that it has effectively given some white people “passes,” among them the target of the Stephen Colbert “Foundation” bit that inspired the tag in the first place, NFL owner Dan Snyder.

And that’s a fair point. But it’s also inaccurate to suggest that the campaign did not deal with “real racism.” Because, as we’ve seen over the past few days, a quite verifiable strain of hatred — at times veering into racism and misogyny toward activist Suey Park, as well as others discussing the issue — on the part of people who claim they’re not just defending Colbert, but comedy itself.

(Note: This post is image-heavy, with coarse and NSFW language under the cut.)

But for the sake of being through, let’s start with Snyder, and that widely-criticized foundation we wrote about last week. Not only is it a rather awkward public relations smokescreen, but the head of the group, Gary L. Edwards, presided over another group’s execution of a labor contract with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs that was cut off after one year for providing “unusable” results.

A 2012 report by the Department of the Interior found that Edwards and the National Native American Law Enforcement Association were supposed to provide the bureau with suitable Native American candidates for law enforcement positions based out of tribal communities. Instead, this happened, emphasis mine:

While rebuking the bureau for ignoring federal regulations and negotiating a flawed contract with Edwards’ group on its own, the report also said Edwards’ organization “took advantage of [the bureau’s Office of Justice Services] and the contract defects to produce unusable contract deliverables.”

Both the [Washington] Post and USA Today reported that out of 748 job applications forwarded to Justice Service officials, none were of use.

The federal Inspector General’s office subsequently recommended the contract be terminated after finding that only 22 out of 514 applications reviewed came from people of Native American descent.

As Indian Country Today Media Network noted on Tuesday, protests against both Snyder and the foundation also have their own tag, #Not4Sale, which has been drowned out in the commotion. So let’s start by remembering that and encouraging you to check out the Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry (#EONM) campaign.

As for Colbert’s bit itself, refresh_daemon broke down why it failed earlier this week:

In order to properly satirize Snyder, then Colbert would have to say something that is undeniably racist to the whole of his audience. However, as we know, offense against Asians isn’t undeniably racist to the public because the outrage against the use of the word “Ching Chong Ding Dong” nor the casting of Asians as “sensitive” does not come from the whole of the public, but primarily from Asian Americans and their allies in the anti-racist movement.

Because of the lack of recognition of the wholly racist nature of the phrase “Ching Chong Ding Dong,” it is then not necessarily going to translate wholly or completely to the The Colbert Report‘s audience that “redskin” is an ethnic slur. The use of “sensitive” is simply problematic on its own because that’s even harder to gauge as the racism of the Colbert persona nor does it really have any corollary in Snyder’s choice of naming for his foundation, so it ends up seeming like a freestanding statement.

This results in the satirical critique only partially working for a select audience of Asian Americans and highly astute patrons of satire, while the greater audience might vaguely recognize that it’s supposed to be something possibly racist, but, given the predominant but often dormant or subconscious prevalence of anti-Asian racism in society, some in the audience might also just instinctively laugh along with the Colbert persona, rather than at Snyder, who is the target.

Pretty simple, right? Not to this person who tried to crash our comments section:

So here you have an Asian-American explaining why he found the joke problematic in detail, and out of good faith, only for someone to say his explanation “doesn’t hold much weight.” This comment’s second “point” also delves into many Colbert-backers’ biggest conceit: that it couldn’t possibly be them defending him using insulting language. It’s some Other people:

And that problem has plagued both The Colbert Report and its sister show, The Daily Show, for years: the notion that they constitute Liberal Passes for many of their fans and/or defenders. That, because the two shows mostly pick on conservative politicians or “The Media,” their viewers are progressive by default. No doubt some of these people are also quite happy to tell you these days that they Love Science because they watch Cosmos; after all, it even has a Black person in it!

As Mia McKenzie at Black Girl Dangerous puts it:

Where are these theoretical people who were racist until they watched “Colbert,” or “SNL,” or “Chelsea Lately,” or any other show that uses white racial satire, and had their racist minds changed? Do we really believe these people exist? Do we really believe there were hella people watching Colbert’s skit about Dan Snyder’s awful foundation who had their minds changed about it as soon as Asian slurs were thrown into the mix?

Thus, if Park is to be criticized for being supported in public by Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin, what does it say about Colbert that these are the types of sentiments expressed in his defense?

These images were independently sourced by searching through the #CancelColbert and #CancelSueyPark tags. A more comprehensive — and graphic — selection of outrage can be found at this Storify by John Weeks.

The comics industry also checked in with the amount of thoughtfulness we’ve come to expect:

Now, do these sound like people who are rushing to center Native American activism? Or who would be willing to consider that, as @BhaswatiChat and Your Moment Of Transmisogyny have pointed out, both the Report and the Daily Show have a history of using transphobia for a laugh?

But maybe the most egregious early response came from Huffington Post Live host Josh Zepps, who couldn’t get through his interview with Park last Friday without asking, “Do you understand the point of satire?” (spoilers: she does) while also calling her opinion “stupid,” and dismissing the entire concept of Orientalism as “a stupid, stupid word.”

Zepps followed that performance with this self-satisfied remark:

Amazingly, HuffPost Live felt this qualified Zepps to host another discussion around #CancelColbert, in which he stated that “victimization is not my primary way of interacting with the world,” while another guest, Joslyn Stevens, said of Park, “And then she was getting all these threats. I mean, she asked for it.”

And then, Zepps was tapped to host a discussion regarding the #transh4ck and #trans100 tags to mark the 2014 Trans 100 event. As John Weeks details in this timeline, when panel members cancelled their involvement because of Zepps, the show felt it was better to pull the entire segment rather than respect the guests’ concerns over the host. So, are we to take Zepps as the kind of ally communities of color should seek out?

Colbert himself — the person, not the character — had a chance to douse some of the fires he helped create with his much-anticipated response to the controversy on Monday. Instead, he blinked.

BD Wong (right) pays a house call to “The Colbert Report.”

Whereas The Daily Show has expanded its on-air approach to include correspondents of color like Jessica Williams, Al Madrigal, Larry Wilmore and Aasif Mandvi — with each of them challenging host Jon Stewart’s privilege as well as other stereotypes  in their own words — Colbert only saw fit to include BD Wong for a cameo in a dream sequence.

Colbert was also as guilty of erasing the Native community’s stake in the affair as anybody else; he referenced the Keep America Beautiful “crying Indian” commercial and wore the colors of Snyder’s NFL team without any comment from Wong; he did not discuss the #Not4Sale, #NotYourMascot, or #NotYourTigerLily campaigns; and he did not, as activist @jaythenerdkid suggested over the weekend, invite a Native American comedian on the show for their take on the matter.

Instead, he turned it into a standard-issue monologue about “dark forces” trying to cancel his show. He “satirically” played the victim, and his audience was not-very-satirically happy to indulge him. He also included a perfunctory, one-line request for people not to harass Park. But within seconds he was also “satirically” comparing himself to Jonathan Swift and Jesus Christ, so what reason do his fans to take that seriously?

Indeed, the man who famously faced down President George W. Bush at his own gala affair couldn’t muster the nerve to confront a fanbase that probably couldn’t tell Jonathan Swift from Jonathan Taylor Thomas before last week. He wasn’t just “accomodating the idiots,” he was appeasing them.

Colbert’s performance also undermined the oft-repeated claim that his original bit was invoking the spirit of Swift; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Christopher Hedges actually shot that idea down in an October 2013 interview criticizing both Colbert and Stewart:

They will attack the excesses or the foibles of the system, but they are never going to expose the system itself because they are all millionaires, they’re commercially supported. You have very few people, George Carlin was one, who will stand up and do it. If you do that, it is tough to make a living. Carlin maybe being the exception. But if you really use satire the way Swift used satire, to expose the English barbarity in Ireland, you’re going to be very lonely. Because culture, like everything else in the society, has been completely corporatized.

Because of his position, it’s unlikely Colbert will face much in the way of serious recrimination for his side-step act Monday night. The more people just take it for granted that people with national platforms like his have no responsibility for the hate and privilege spewed in their name, the more that kind of thing will go on. But, disturbingly, that sense of resignation has also opened the door for hatred to worm its way into #BuildNotBurn, a tag designed to encourage stronger communication among activists of color:

What Hans there conveniently forgets, besides his infantilizing language, is the role “progressives” like him have played in muddying the waters around not just #CancelColbert, but #HowIMetYourRacism, or conversations concerning “rape jokes.” In these situations, many comedy fans often like to say something to the effect of, I wish people wouldn’t be so sensitive when they hear a joke. Myself, I wish people who weren’t white cis-het males could get to question comedians without being threatened — and that more of these “satirists” felt secure enough in their power to call their own fans out. Because hey, they can take a joke, too, right?

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  • aboynamedart

    It read to me like she’s pointed out her support for tags like #NotYourTonto and #NotYourMascot. So we might just be seeing things differently there.

    And as I posted elsewhere in the thread, this specific piece isn’t about the fight between activists of color; it’s about Colbert’s lack of action and his followers’ GOP-level rhetoric when he was challenged. So are you suggesting she “asked for it”?

  • aboynamedart

    There was shit being thrown on both sides and your pieces fails to point out that out.

    Quite true. But this piece wasn’t about that, because I’m not in the business of getting in the middle of an inter-activist fight; we’d have to point out in that case that Park’s detractors were calling her “a child” and making spurious comments regarding her “mental stability.”

    This piece was about the actions of Colbert and his supporters. So unless you’re saying she deserved racist and misogynist rhetoric being thrown at her for challenging a white corporate comic, this is a derail.

  • aboynamedart

    What I suggested — that he address it head-on, rather than the disappointing bit we ended up getting — was, I thought, the middle ground. You’ll note I never called for his cancellation.

    But for that to happen, we have to accept the premise that white comedy is not sacrosanct. And I don’t appear to be the extremist here.

  • aboynamedart
  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    Since I’ve never watched Colbert’s show, I was unaware of how often he engaged in anti-Asian jokes in the name of satire. So I think Park was right to make a more forceful demand than she might have if this was just a one-time joke. And I agree with what you wrote about how liberals like to act like they’re anti-racist without ever actually doing the work behind supporting anti-racist efforts.

  • skilletblonde

    When Stewart won his first Emmy do you remember the writers that accompanied him on stage? There wasn’t a a blip of diversity. His writers are a choir of white men. This is Stewart’s and Cobert’s target audience. And that is who showed up to put Suey Park in her place. And they did it in a most vile and despicable way. They are the very same so called Liberals that think Seth McFarlane’s cartoon depiction of the Chinese wearing a Cooley hat and buck teeth are funny. Chelsea Handler’s jokes of the Asian male’s small genitalia are just so hilarious. They’ll defend Sarah Silverman’s jokes about Chinks, black face, and her decrying about the fertility of 14 year-old black girls. They are the very same lot that claim to hate Rush Limbaugh’s racism, sexism and homophobia, but love Howard Stern for the exact same thing.

    Whether it’s Suey Park or the Native Americans, many Whites find it impossible to respect the culture of other groups. They refuse to acknowledge an ethnic group’s interpretation of their own achievements and history. After all, they know you, better than you. This why the late John Kent Cooke, former owner of the Washington Redskins insisted, “I admire the Redskins name. I think it stands for bravery, courage, and a stalwart spirit and I see no reason why we shouldn’t continue to use it.” Never mind what Native Americans say. And just as Mr. Cooke, and now Mr. Snyder, has determined that Redskins is not offensive to Native Americans, Cobert’s audience has determined, Ching Cong Ding Dong is not offensive to Asians.

  • Mong

    She is right, she is smart, she is spot on with her opinions. The ultimate privilege most likely wont understand the ultimate underprivilege.

  • aboynamedart

    People are not “content” because the critiques have done nothing to impede or dissuade Colbert from using racist or transphobic punchlines.

    It’s also problematic to suggest that anti-racism activists should be “content” to be ignored by a popular white liberal. Colbert has earned the benefit of the doubt, but not a get out of jail free card. Park herself has admitted to liking the show, and noting that it did take an over-the-top threat to get these complants even on the radar.

    And white people laughing at white racism, by itself, does nothing to impede it. The Colbert Nation has done nothing as a collective to take on Snyder. And members of it, as seen here, have felt justified to use it to respond to the accusations against him.

    Lastly, as stated earlier, when Colbert told his audience, “go edit Wikipedia,” they were more than willing to do so. What is so beyond the pale about being disappointed that he didn’t directly say, “Don’t be a racist and a misogynist in the name of defending me or my show?” He didn’t start their behavior, but he sure hasn’t done anything to stop it, either.

  • aboynamedart

    And what I’m saying here is, a sizable number of Colbert’s supporters haven’t taken that to heart thus far. So clearly it’s not working on some level. Why is the idea of him directly addressing that seemingly a step down for him?

    • janegray

      Sure, but, in my experience, there are some people who just cannot be reached. I don’t think him addressing that would be a step down, but, I also don’t think it’s possible for him to reach everyone.

  • http://drdawgsblawg.ca Dr. Dawg

    I don’t blame some of Colbert’s idiot defenders on Colbert any more than I blame Suey Park for being supported by the likes of Malkin. None of us are our audiences, nor should we shoulder the blame for their bad behaviour.

    • aboynamedart

      So you’re prepared to excuse other political figures for their supporters’ actions? Or does Colbert get a pass?

  • janegray

    Michele Malkin supports anti-Asian sentiment when it suits her, though.

  • aboynamedart

    I can buy that. Still points to his lack of understanding on a larger level, though. Rest assured, the segment would have gone more smoothly had Marc Lamont Hill been hosting.

  • Clara

    Your analogy between treating White male race perspectives as valid and ‘asking men what childbirth is like for women’ does not persuade. The recent 12 Years a Slave spent much of its running time dramatizing how slavery warped White people, how slaveowners embraced a brutality so terrible they could not often reconcile this with their cherished Christian theology. We’d miss something if we told ourselves that none of this was important. You embrace an incomplete race politics when you assert that White men should have no voice; really, that’s exactly what White supremacy asserts about people of color. Do you want to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house, or do you want to be the master, Hammtime?

    How on earth is “how slaveowners embraced a brutality so terrible they could not often reconcile this with their cherished Christian theology” the equivalent to the systemic racism and structured oppression that people of color experience? It’s not. It really is not. I agree that white people experience negative effects of racism, but those effects do not make them as much victims of racism as black people. Are the opinions of heterosexual people valid about LGBTQ issues? Sure, straight people can be allies and have opinions, but their (and I include myself here) opinions need to take a backseat when LGBTQ folks speak out against oppression, just as white people need to step back and actually listen.

    The way I see it, everyone is going to have an opinion no matter what. It’s a matter of realizing when your voice should not be at the forefront. Case in point, on racism, white people’s voices should not be the at the forefront of the experiences of people of color.

    It’s not clear what #ApologizeColbert would have accomplished, but Ms. Park’s starting position dismissal of reasoned discourse on race as playing into respectability politics resulted in a general lampooning online race activism in multiple venues, from HuffPoLive to the Colbert Report. How is this helpful?

    It’s not like Suey just decided not to use “reasonable advocacy” for #CancelColbert on the fly. She tweets about how past experience has told her that she will be dismissed no matter how “reasonable” she tries to be, so in her mind, what is the point? I put “reasonable” in quotation marks because reason is really not objective, as you seem to assume it is. From whose perspective do we determine what is “well reasoned” anyway? It is certainly not people of color who get to decide. Suey’s larger point is that people of color should not have to bend over backwards to make white people feel comfortable while talking about privilege and oppression, especially when it becomes an emotional labor that has very little guarantee of being successful.

    Also, (this is not directed towards you MelaninManson) I’m going to point out that Suey has already used her social platform to advance Native American advocacy, See #NotYourMascot and #NotYourTonto.

    • MelaninManson

      Clara, there’s no need to expect equivalence between different communities’ racial trauma to justify the belief that no one’s opinions on race are invalid just because of who they are.

      It doesn’t matter if one is oppressor or oppressed: everyone has a voice that deserves respect in race dialogues. Both Josh Zepps and Suey Park lacked respect for each other’s perspectives in the clip above, but Mr. Garcia asks us to decry Zepps’ performance and ignore Park’s. That’s not logical.

      But I agree Clara – “reasonable” is not an objective standard. My basic problem with #CancelColbert is that it lacked a clear message. Since she didn’t actually wish to have Colbert’s show cancelled, the hashtag used an extreme request where moderation could have maintained a broader appeal. To me, that’s confusing and unreasonable.

      But to defend Park, supporters maintain that her reluctance to embrace moderation in race advocacy is somehow justified by her experiences. I have no way to judge this, just like I can’t judge how #ApologizeColbert would have fared. But at this point, Park’s extreme rhetoric, her indifference to interracial dialogue, and her supporters consistent use of Oppression Olympics taxonomy to classify who can and cannot speak with authority on American race relations has offended a great many people, from all backgrounds.

      Me included.

      And that’s fine – we don’t all have to be friends. But in the process, Park’s work has made a mockery of Asian American online activism. Now is not the real test – that will be the next time a comedian or other public figure delivers an off-color monologue with Asian stereotypes and/or anti-Asian epithets. When some people defend the next bigot’s anti-Asian commentary, when they assume that angry Asian Americans are simply being ‘too sensitive’, I fear they will cite the #CancelColbert incident as evidence.

      That will be Park’s legacy – giving Americans more reason to ignore Asian American anger at ching-chong humor. How helpful.

  • Synnovie

    There’s no winning here though. If she’d said this is wrong, please apologize? She’d have been ignored and called PC. If she does it this way, which works? You criticize that. She literally could not have acted in a way that would have worked and pleased people.

    People have criticized his use of the character before -and he didn’t stop-. This is not news to him.

  • aboynamedart

    Go fig, I’m still waiting for Colbert to do the same. Maybe we’ll both be disappointed.

    But it’s also disingenuous to suggest Colbert can’t influence his customers (or would you prefer “Nation”?) when we’ve seen him deploy viewers to edit Wikipedia. Would it really have done damage to his brand to drop character for even a minute to say, specifically, “stop using racist and violent language to defend this show”?

  • aboynamedart

    Quite the contrary, calling on Colbert not to use a slur for the routine isn’t limiting him — it’s asking him to expand his act, to do better. The routine reveals his own lack of nuance. After all, it’s not like his viewers wrote Snyder en masse right after it aired.

    And let’s not pretend that comics using slurs do so out of a commitment to social justice; as Kenzo Shibata explains, that just puts Colbert right in line with other Comedy Central hacks:

    It was not something that would have normally entered into my radar since I don’t follow the show. Frankly, I lost interest in the show after its first season. We get it. He’s a fake pundit. His schtick is that he acts slightly more ridiculously than right wing Fox News talking heads. His schtick made for passable segment fodder, but I don’t have the patience for 22 minutes of ironic racism, sexism, and classism. This is on the network that put Daniel Tosh’s punch-down-and-laugh-at-rape brand of humor a nightly delight and made famous comic Anthony Jeselnik, whose show The Jeselnik Offensive exists solely to give a national platform to racist, sexist, classist jokes. With a line-up like this, sometimes it’s hard to tell where the winks-and-nods exist.

    Initially, I wasn’t all that offended by the fact that he told a racist joke. I was offended by the fact the tweet was a racist, UNFUNNY, CHEAP joke. This was the kind of joke that 5-year-olds would tell to bully me when I was in grammar school. Upon watching the full sketch, I failed to see any kind of high satire from it. The construction of the joke was indeed satire, but sometimes it’s hard to tell when someone is laughing at you or with you when the punchline is basically the same punchline an actual racist would tell. Regardless of how someone whose never been slurred ethnically may feel, the difference between ironic racism and racism is a liberal arts degree.

    On this specific occasion, Colbert missed the mark. And his subsequent explanation didn’t help much with the problem of obscuring the coverage of Snyder’s foundation, either. If his satire were that powerful, the Democrats wouldn’t be sweating this year’s midterms.

    • Delaurentum

      You’re right. At first I didn’t see it because I face racism everyday. It was so obvious to me that the bit was supposed to be an over the top fun house mirror… But that’s because I see this crap come out of people’s mouths all the time in complete seriousness.
      I don’t necessarily agree with Suey’s tactics (her original tweets distracted from the absurdity that is the Red Skins foundation), but Colbert has a bad track record with racial satire, especially anti – Asian racial satire. She was right to call him out and the response puts the lie to the “post – racial” label Americans like to tout. I just hope she gets through this safely.

  • Hammtime

    “Many of the fans of Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks adore the vile racist hatespeech from a character like Uncle Ruckus, without any interest in parsing his conservatism; the point is that it’s not clear that these people are bad fans, nor is it clear that the shows that cater to their racial levity deserve cancellation.”

    I see the comparison between McGruder’s The Boondocks and The Colbert Report as missing a key element – power dynamics. The Boondocks creator, Aaron McGruder, is black as is the character Uncle Ruckus. The satire delivered is a triple shot at white conservatives, black conservatives, and white supremacy in general. The satire is delivered by blacks and attacks up and across the power dynamic. Stephen Colbert is white. The character he portrays is a white conservative. His satire shot down. The beneficiaries are white; white liberals in particular who use this to have a laugh, pat themselves on the back and attempt to distance themselves from Snyder and “other” white ppl. The purpose is to appease liberal whites and allow them to separate themselves from complicity in white supremacy and as we saw with the attacks on Suey, there are many racists among them.

    “Telling people that their opinions aren’t valid because they are White men is offensive.”

    No, in regards to race and racism, white men’s opinions are not valid. You are self-crucifying this ALL white men’s opinions are invalid. Very much playing the white men as victims in this situation and overall which is terribly in accurate. What possible insight could a white man/person give as the beneficiary of the oppression that is directed on the person/people he gives the opinion to? There is none. This seems very obvious. It would be akin to asking men what childbirth is like for women. Sure, they have a viewpoint and an opinion but valid? Nope.

    “This is about the efficacy of so-called radical race protest, where some angry people of color ignore basic decency and reasoned discourse…”
    Just stop right there. “if only these people had asked nicely…” then the world would be their oyster and the evil racist people in the world would stop? That’s what you’re implying. Look at the reaction and attention #CancelColbert got. Colbert was forced to address it on his show. If it had been #ApologizeColbert do you think he would have went, “oh, whoops, my bad. That was pretty terrible of me to say and I was wrong. It hurt people and I will do better. I am very sorry.”? Nope. You’re making the argument for respectability which is a form of control from white supremacists and their supporters. I won’t listen unless you do what “I” want you to do. “Say it the way I want you to say it and maybe I’ll let you…”

  • janegray

    I understand where people are coming from, but the idea that satirists should have to censor themselves to avoid indulging the kinds of people who don’t think it’s a joke bothers me. I do wish he’d set people who aren’t in on the joke straight and tell them to lay off Suey Park.

    • aboynamedart

      That’s the thing, though: A more forceful, specific call to stop with the racist, misogynist language in his “defense” wouldn’t have constituted Colbert censoring himself. It would have been him engaging with his fans as people. He’s got the platform to afford to do that every once in a while. So this was a missed opportunity, on several levels.

    • DovSherman

      It’s less about indulgence than effectiveness. If his satire is going to go right over the top of the heads of those people, it means that the only people who hear him criticize racism are the people who already agreed with him and didn’t need any convincing at all. It means that his satire achieved absolutely nothing. The use of a racial slur to fight racism through satire might be a good goal but if the satire is done in such a way that it actually fails to be heard by anyone who didn’t already agree with it, it seems that a price has been paid for no return value at all.

  • Not_so_Mellow

    The difference between Colbert’s horrible, racist and sexist supporters and Michelle Malkin’s is that Colbert called his supporters to stop (you can call it a “perfunctory, one-line request” if you like, but the fact that he broke character on-air to say it makes it significant), while Suey Park called Malkin her friend.

    At some point someone drew a line in the sand, and everyone who agreed with #CancelColbert became a friend and everyone else became an enemy. So Michelle Malkin, who famously wrote in support of Japanese internment during WW2, became a friend to Asian America, and people like Angry Asian Man, Kristina Wong, and Jeff Yang, who saw merit to Suey Park’s position but questioned the validity of #CancelColbert, became sexist white sympathizers.

    • aboynamedart

      Colbert called his supporters to stop (you can call it a “perfunctory, one-line request” if you like, but the fact that he broke character on-air to say it makes it significant)

      He barely broke character, if at all. And, as seen above, whether it had any effect is questionable, to say the least.

      Suey Park called Malkin her friend.

      And Colbert and Comedy Central presumably call their horrible, racist and sexist supporters — including perhaps some who don’t disagree with Malkin on other topic — fans and customers. Colbert had a chance to challenge them, and instead took the safe route.

  • aboynamedart

    Hi, and thanks for the reasoned take. But I do disagree with you on a couple of points:

    What’s clear from Colbert fans like Josh Zepps is that race advocates who wish to interrogate or challenge these possible Bad Fans will face skepticism. That was Josh Zepps’ starting point

    Except Zepps never questioned those fans; his line of questioning toward Park and dismissal of the existence of Orientalism put him closer in line to those fans. Not to mention his remarks about “victimization” and “professional umbrage-takers.” It’s not hard to see why his guests in the Trans 100 segment chose not to participate.

    This isn’t about when people of color question comedians, it’s about people of color making sense to everyone when they question comedians. Hans C. Schellenburg was right

    Any “ally” that uses the kind of language he did is just as guilty of avoiding decency and rational discourse, which seemed to me to be a betrayal of the very goal of the #buildnotburn tag. And don’t get me wrong, I hope for the best for those efforts, and I’ve learned a lot from people on multiple sides of this discussion. But if it’s starting from the position that one side is “children,” well, that will add complications moving forward.

    • MelaninManson

      You’re right, Arturo – Zepps never questioned those fans. That’s my point: Zepps was always going to be skeptical, even critical, of Park’s advocacy against the Colbert Report. Zepps mirrored many of the people who either saw the original segment and/ or generally support Colbert’s satire. Park’s job was to present to those skeptics a reasoned critique of their beloved satire that asked them to reconsider their stance by thinking about unintended consequences. Really, she just needed to be reasonable – her position may not have changed minds in real time, but it could have earned some respect from viewers who began the interview aligned with Zepps’ position.

      But that’s not what happened. Instead, cynicism took hold from the start: Zepps’ rancid antagonism toward race advocacy was met with Park’s sneering indifference toward the perspectives of White males. Hilarity ensues, if it all wasn’t so sad of course. But reading your post, Arturo, we are supposed to lament and challenge Zepps’ ignorance without commenting on Park’s.

      In this context, I agree with Mr. Schellenburg. For decades, an online Asian American advocacy community has thrived, and in the last few months, people watched mainstream media fall over themselves to provide public speaking opportunities to a young woman whose comments consistently betray a lamentable ignorance of that community’s work, especially its feminist material. That ignorance is not some unpardonable sin, but it’s useful to those who disagree with that community’s project.

      Or put another way, open skepticism at (or public contempt toward) Asian American race activism has, in my view, increased after #CancelColbert. It’s easy to blame fans of Stephen Colbert like Josh Zepps for this, but it’s more accurate to suggest that Ms. Park played the decisive role in this souring of public sentiment. I can understand that some people want to support Suey, but sometimes support means acknowledging where people make mistakes, so they can learn from them.

      • aboynamedart

        If a single woman in her twenties has this sudden power to undo decades of activism, that’s a conversation perhaps some of those activists should have with each other.

        Also, reading your post, we’re supposed to just accept Zepps not even doing his job, and Park was supposed to appease that for the sake of winning over some mythical HuffPo fan.

  • Ann

    “They can’t take a joke” is the motto of bullies from grade school on up. When something is not funny, why should anyone be required to laugh at it? I have always loved Colbert’s show, but I have always found his Asian stereotype jokes to be cringe-inducing, not funny. I’m not in a select group of Asians. I’m an old white lady from Texas.