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A tweet too far. #cancelcolbert and twitter hashtagivism
March 28, 2014 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Last night on the show Colbert's show posted a tweet, "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." That didn't sit well with twitter user and blogger Suey Park who created and then promoted the hashtag #cancelcolbert.

This prompted a lot of discussion from Slate and Salon, to the sports blog deadspin.

This prompted outcries from a number of areas, based off the fact that this isn't the first time Colbert has done faux-racist gags to the fact that the tweet was taken out of context and it was in fact criticizing known-racist Dan Snyder. He had recently created a potentially problematic Original Americans Foundation, likely to cover up or at least spin the fact that the Washington NFL's teams name is a racial slur.

Others are using the opportunity to discuss the nature of twitter activism (twactivism?), it's effectiveness, as well as the ,'big tent' nature of such campaigns.
posted by Carillon (627 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
If Deadspin wanted me to take them seriously in terms of journalism, using a racial slur in their headline was really not the way to go about it.
posted by Kitteh at 2:09 PM on March 28 [12 favorites]


I guess some liberals haven't figured out the satire thing too.

I saw it and thought it was pretty funny.
posted by johnpowell at 2:11 PM on March 28 [17 favorites]


The @colbertreport Twitter account is run by Comedy Central and not administered by anyone on the show. The tweet got deleted, and Colbert himself took to the twitterwaves to clarify things with a link to the actual segment:
#CancelColbert - I agree! Just saw @ColbertReport tweet. I share your rage.
Who is that, though? I'm @StephenAtHome http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/b6cwb3/sport-report---professional-soccer-toddler--golf-innovations---washington-redskins-charm-offensive
posted by Etrigan at 2:12 PM on March 28 [14 favorites]


I guess some liberals haven't figured out the satire thing too.

Yeah, not about that. Sometimes, satire, or things that are intended to be funny, aren't funny at all because they use words that victimize people in a way that they are not comfortable with.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:12 PM on March 28 [58 favorites]


This is at least partially about context, isn't it? The joke makes its point in the larger routine on the show and might serve to make people familiar with that routine remember it, but if you've not seen the whole routine it reads as racist. Whomever operates the Colbert Twitter feed needs to think harder about what they excerpt online.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:13 PM on March 28 [22 favorites]


It's not that funny if you're heard it in earnest from other racists way too many times before. You can speak up against racism towards one group without needing to throw other groups under the bus.
posted by divabat at 2:13 PM on March 28 [24 favorites]


Excellent Jezebel (Erin Ryan) piece on this.
posted by Bwithh at 2:13 PM on March 28 [22 favorites]


I prefer the Onion's take.
posted by saladin at 2:13 PM on March 28 [31 favorites]


An important aspect too is the notion of it being ok for Colbert to use questionable terms because it's ok, we know he's joking.
posted by Carillon at 2:13 PM on March 28 [13 favorites]


Whomever operates the Colbert Twitter feed needs to think harder about what they excerpt online.

Depending whether Viacom believes that any publicity is good publicity, that person has been either fired or promoted to V.P. of social media.
posted by griphus at 2:15 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


Are Suey Park & co. "liberals"? I'd guess they'd be very uncomfortable with that term - preferring some form of "radicals" instead.
posted by Bwithh at 2:15 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


But the fact that a joke died on the Internet yesterday is not the problem here. The most unfortunate result is that now all over cyberspace – and regular space – folks are asking themselves whether or not “The Colbert Report” should be taken off the air instead of asking, “Wait, why are they still called the Redskins?”

Neil Drumming
posted by MoxieProxy at 2:15 PM on March 28 [22 favorites]


Did everyone actually watch the entire segment? There was some context.
posted by johnpowell at 2:15 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


I saw this in MeFi's own mgk 's Twitter, where he was making the point that Swift, that classic go to, says some equivalently awful things about the Irish.

Without getting into the details of that equivalency, I will say one big difference is that Swift had a much smaller audience, and a much more private one in some ways: he was mostly speaking directly to the object of his satire in a way Colbert isn't, and probably can't in this century.
posted by PMdixon at 2:15 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


This is why twitter isn't the ideal forum for a lot of things. I get that the folks at Comedy Central need to promote the show, and twitter has a tight association with TV/media PR. But this is clearly a much more complicated idea than can be easily conveyed in 140 characters without losing its context and just coming off as straight up racist.

I also think Colbert's brand of comedy doesn't really jibe that well with racially charged topics, for precisely this reason. I'm not sure racial slurs like the ones used in the tweet get a pass when used as part of a larger joke, even if the joke itself is anti-racist.
posted by Sara C. at 2:16 PM on March 28 [15 favorites]


Did everyone actually watch the entire segment? There was some context.
posted by johnpowell at 2:15 PM on March 28 [+] [!]


I don't think Suey Park & co. watch the show. the outrage was triggered by the tweet, not the TV show broadcast the day before
posted by Bwithh at 2:16 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


I don't think Suey Park & co. watch the show. the outrage was triggered by the tweet, not the TV show broadcast the day before

#firethedudewhorunsthecolbertshowtwitterfeed is too long for a hashtag, though.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:17 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


If Deadspin wanted me to take them seriously in terms of journalism, using a racial slur in their headline was really not the way to go about it.

They have a fair (implicit) point that "Redskin" ought to be just as taboo as "Gook," and it gets used in headlines all the time.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:17 PM on March 28 [25 favorites]


Who is that, though? I'm @StephenAtHome

And this is why internet witch hunt pitchfork-and-torch mobs are a net negative force no matter how much you agree with the cause. It's just way too easy to whip up a massive assault force against someone who didn't even say anything, or against the wrong person, or...

ugh.
posted by emptythought at 2:19 PM on March 28 [44 favorites]


I don't think Suey Park & co. watch the show. the outrage was triggered by the tweet, not the TV show broadcast the day before

Her first tweet on the subject (before she started using #cancelcolbert):
I used to respect and enjoy your work, @ColbertReport. Fuck you.
posted by Etrigan at 2:19 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Some tweets I like re: this --

"Being a parody doesn't have any special ameliorating qualities that inoculate one's actions from doing harm." -- @rljd (Jesse Dangerously)

"I love how 'comedy is provocative' is constantly invoked in defense of 'ironic humor' but never in the defense of the right to respond.

"Which essentially amounts to: We have the right to say things that piss people off, but people don't have the right to get pissed off.

"If you want to do 'provocative' comedy, fine. But then be prepared to accept that you may provoke people in a way you didn't intend." -- @shakestweetz (Melissa McEwan)
posted by Kitteh at 2:20 PM on March 28 [36 favorites]


I guess some liberals haven't figured out the satire thing too.

Some conservatives still haven't figured out that Colbert *is* satire!

Still and all: Satirical racism doesn't usually sound very different from earnest racism to me. It's not that it's impossible to do, but it's pretty difficult and chances are that even someone who's actually good at satire (and most people who do satirical racism suck at satire) is going to step in it.
posted by rtha at 2:21 PM on March 28 [25 favorites]


Yeah, this is the risk you take when you do racial satire. Good intentions and the benefit of your fans' doubt don't set you outside of the larger context of the topic. And I think Colbert himself is savvy enough to recognize this, and if he had been the one to make the actual tweet, would have offered a mea culpa.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:24 PM on March 28


Hashtag activism?!! Oh fer cryin' out loud.

Folks who want to make a change should get off their asses and actually do something.
posted by LarryC at 2:27 PM on March 28 [48 favorites]


I think couching this under the rubric of the old saw about "provocative comedy" is a little misguided. It's not like the Colbert Report is now doing openly racist humor, and is insisting that they have a right to do this, and if you don't like it, go ahead and be offended.

Nobody at Colbert seems to be posturing in that way, for one. It's clearly a failure of the Comedy Central PR department, and not the fault of the show. I question whether racial topics are the best path for The Colbert Report to go down, given their tone, but I assume that these are conversations that are happening in a somewhat self-aware way in the Colbert writers' room. In any event, this is much more of a "toeing a line in a way that ultimately failed" kind of thing, and not really a "DELIBERATELY PROVOKING YOU POLITICALLY CORRECT FUCKERS" kind of thing.
posted by Sara C. at 2:27 PM on March 28 [31 favorites]


I was on the bus a couple years ago and there were a bunch of middle schoolers on it as well. As they all piled together near the backdoor to get off at a stop, one of them abruptly leaned into where an elderly Asian woman was sitting, reading and minding her own business, and he shouted CHING CHONG MAMASAN in her face. He and his friends howled with laughter and jumped off the bus. Super funny, right? Hey, it was just a joke.
posted by rtha at 2:28 PM on March 28 [15 favorites]


The presumed target of this satire, the neanderthal defending a racist football team name, will not think "gee maybe redskins IS as bad as other slurs" because they're giggling at those other slurs too. Liberal satire is profitable because the not-racist knows-better audience laughs alongside those who believe Colbert's tweet should be uttered in polite company to stick it to the PC police.
posted by gorbweaver at 2:28 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


This hashtag kills fascists.
posted by mazola at 2:29 PM on March 28 [52 favorites]


Super funny, right? Hey, it was just a joke.

That's not really analogous to what happened.
posted by Hoopo at 2:31 PM on March 28 [101 favorites]


This was a good joke pointing out the privileged idiocy of Dan Snyder's actions. The employee who took the punchline out of context and put it on Twitter made a big mistake.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:31 PM on March 28 [40 favorites]


Hashtag activism?!! Oh fer cryin' out loud.

Folks who want to make a change should get off their asses and actually do something.


I think you mean /*sunglasses*/ "get off their hashes."
posted by The Bellman at 2:31 PM on March 28 [26 favorites]


Hashtag activism?!! Oh fer cryin' out loud.

Folks who want to make a change should get off their asses and actually do something.


Do you know for a fact that they aren't?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:31 PM on March 28 [16 favorites]


This makes me wonder about Jimmy Wong's "Asians in the Library" song. Is that problematic in the same way as the Colbert segment and/or Tweet? http://youtu.be/zulEMWj3sVA
posted by helpthebear at 2:32 PM on March 28


This seems like a perfect example of why I don't like twitter: the total removal of context and nuance.

There is no way to have a meaningful conversation about anything in a format that - at best - obscures all surrounding discussion.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 2:33 PM on March 28 [13 favorites]


Nobody at Colbert seems to be posturing in that way, for one. It's clearly a failure of the Comedy Central PR department, and not the fault of the show. I question whether racial topics are the best path for The Colbert Report to go down, given their tone, but I assume that these are conversations that are happening in a somewhat self-aware way in the Colbert writers' room. In any event, this is much more of a "toeing a line in a way that ultimately failed" kind of thing, and not really a "DELIBERATELY PROVOKING YOU POLITICALLY CORRECT FUCKERS" kind of thing.

On that note, this tweet didn't even match the tone of the racial satire that Colbert actually does on his show, which positions his character as more of a naive idiot who hasn't thought beyond talking points and privilege than as someone who would just start dropping slurs.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:35 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


I saw it and thought it was pretty funny.

I don't think the bit on the show is what set off the whole mess. it was that a tweet went out, completely without context. I can certainly understand the tweet being taken the way it was. It was kinda not great.
posted by Hoopo at 2:36 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


That's not really analogous to what happened.

I wonder where kids learn the "it's just a joke lighten up grow a thicker skin comedy pushes the envelope" stuff from.

CC writer who sent that tweet ended up hitting the wrong people with the humor bullet - the people they were aiming at don't give a shit about using racist terms, and it's not like a tweet from anyone at Colbert is going to shame Snyder into anything.
posted by rtha at 2:37 PM on March 28


As someone who cares a lot about Asian American issues, this particular reaction to the tweet annoys me for a couple reasons:

1. It's a showcase for how twitter is in general, an ineffective medium for real dialogue. Go big on outrage or go home. I'd rather go home.

2. Asian Americans have, in my recollection, a poor track record on taking stands against humor. I was reflexively opposed to Sarah Silverman's joke years ago like many AAs, but when I realized the full extent of the joke she was making, I actually found it ok. It's in the same tenor as this joke, which is lampooning the thoughts and behavior of people we actually find objectionable. I don't think this is the hill we want to be dying on, frankly.

3. Tied to this, I get irritated when AAs get really selective about their outrage - as in only when it affects us specifically. I was on the National Black Law Journal, I volunteered for the NAACP. I was and am continue to be up in arms amongst my friends and associates about the root issue here, Dan Snyder's racism with his football team. Was Suey Park equally vocal about that? I tried to go through her twitter stream but didn't find any related tweets to it. Was Suey Park vocally angry about possibly one of the funniest moments in Colbert Report history (That I find more objectionable that this, but also more hilarious)? I get that AAs have to be advocates for AAs when no one else will be (things like AA admission rates being suppressed to the University of California system and Ivy league schools) , but this is NOT one of those times.

4. I think its a salient point that a white guy is making these jokes that is problematic, but at the same time, if a POC comic was making this joke on some tiny soapbox somewhere, it wouldn't nearly be as effective at satirizing Dan Snyder, mostly because of the platform Colbert has.
posted by shen1138 at 2:37 PM on March 28 [63 favorites]


Re the Jimmy Wong thing -- well, Jimmy Wong is Asian. Asian performers get a bit of space to talk about racism through satire, which is not really extended to people like Colbert.

/used to date a Chinese-American artist who had a whole comedy/performance art thing that played with the Ching-Chong slur. Said artist is not Jimmy Wong. I swear. Though I do know him. Kinda.
posted by Sara C. at 2:38 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Looks like bad judgment from someone who doesn't see how this kind of thing, esp. divorced from context á la Twitter, can go really badly. It is unequivocally offensive, and not delivered in the context of the show (where it would likely be cut as grotesque, unsubtle, offensive); yet that context is probably present in the mind of the young, poorly paid, happy-to-be-there dummy that composed the tweet. This person may not be a balls-out full-go racist, but he or she would do well to examine the thought process that led to this action.

And, while I think Suey Park is well justified to be pissed, and well within her rights to raise a stink about it, I do not support her petition to take the show off the air.
posted by Mister_A at 2:41 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


Ain't no tempest like a teapot tempest.
posted by bicyclefish at 2:41 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


This post at blackgeoscientists was a good take on how to put it in context and fight for a better world in a calmer fashion.
posted by mathowie at 2:41 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


(twactivism?)

twitivism
posted by indubitable at 2:41 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I wonder where kids learn the "it's just a joke lighten up grow a thicker skin comedy pushes the envelope" stuff from.

The worst thing about this is that it pushes marginalized people away from the idea of jokes and comedy, at all. I heard the term "Gah, it was just a joke!" so many times in my formative years, that it took until my late 20s to even come around to the idea that I could be a funny person. I still really hate comedy that's rooted in "making fun of". The term "edgy" is also ruined for me, forever, in similar ways.

If you ever wonder why there are fewer women, queers, and people of color in comedy, remember the cliche "It was just a joke..."
posted by Sara C. at 2:42 PM on March 28 [14 favorites]


Satire shouldn't punch down and Colbert falls into that habit way too often than he should. This blog cataloguing transphobia in both the Colbert Report and the Daily Show is pretty relevant, as a lot of the people in the tag when I last looked brought up that issue too.
posted by flatluigi at 2:43 PM on March 28 [15 favorites]


I'm thinking the two Korean American authors at Deadspin might have had something to do with the headline.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 2:43 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Also, fake wink-wink racism making fun of other racism by showing how ignorant it is by being just as bad or worse wink-wink jokes are rarely ever good. I saw this segment on Colbert and thought it went over like a dud and when it hit twitter the next day, it was a zillion times worse out of context, but still, it's a dumb comedic approach I wish the writers would pass on in the future.
posted by mathowie at 2:44 PM on March 28 [12 favorites]


If I were the Social Media Intern in charge of that Twitter feed, I might not have posted that particular tweet—but this is a tempest in a teapot.

Colbert is well known for playing a satirical character who exaggerates the most callous of (real or caricatured) conservative attitudes. Even without the context of the particular episode, it was obvious to me on the first read that the tweet was satire.

Even if you're somehow not familiar with Colbert's shtick, there are plenty of people who can provide that missing context for you: "well, actually, that tweet is actually from a program that's known for parodying regressive attiudes; there's a 99.99% certainty that they were actually expressing anti-racist sentiments, albeit sarcastically". And at that point, what, exactly, is there to take offense at? Why not just say "oh, I didn't know that; I'm relieved to learn that there's actually slightly less racism in the world than I believed there to be ten seconds ago"?

So they used some particular words. Words that can be used hurtfully, yes—but the meaning of words always relies on context and how they're used.

If we're weighing the value of having a culture that admits satire and black comedy against the value of having a culture where no one gets to say anything that could possibly offend anyone, ever—well, it seems to me that the former is the obvious winner. Satire is a potent tool for coping with, and fighting against, absurd injustices. It might not be your cup of tea, but don't make the mistake of assuming that people who do find it useful are bigots.

(And this isn't a defense of shithead comedians who make jokes about race that are genuinely mean-spirited. Yeah, they say "it's just comedy!", but it's not. It's malice hiding behind a façade of comedy. Like the difference between art and obscenity, you might not be able to define the difference between Tosh.0 and Stephen Colbert in a concrete, legalistic way—but the difference is plainly obvious.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:44 PM on March 28 [30 favorites]


Twitter may be a poor venue for substantive conversation, but I do find it useful for finding out about things (like this Comedy Central incident) and connecting me with people and sites where substantive conversation is going on.
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:46 PM on March 28


escape from the potato planet: as posted here earlier, Suey Park and company are well aware of Colbert's schtick. Doesn't make what he said OK.

And no, it's not "slightly less racism in the world". It's just adding to it.
posted by divabat at 2:46 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Folks who want to make a change should get off their asses and actually do something.

Yeah I mean its not like they started what appears to be a wide discussion and media coverage on the rather complex topic of racist satire as actual racism, and brought to light some legitimate issues of representation among the outrage.
posted by griphus at 2:46 PM on March 28 [33 favorites]


And no, it's not "slightly less racism in the world". It's just adding to it.

How so?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:47 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


As a white person, I think it is useful to be tremendously cautious about telling people of color that they wouldn't be so outraged if they just had my sophisticated take on the topic, and that surely their choice of how and where to express their outrage shows that it is not to be taken seriously.

Yes, I'd be very cautious about that indeed.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:47 PM on March 28 [49 favorites]


I extremely doubt anyone who was lashing back at Colbert like this was unaware that it was a satirical show. The problem people are having with it is that in this case (and in many other incidents previously) it's shitty satire, ridiculing people already being ridiculed seriously around the world.
posted by flatluigi at 2:48 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


Whatever, whitey!
posted by Mister_A at 2:48 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


it's not like a tweet from anyone at Colbert is going to shame Snyder into anything.

I actually disagree with you on this. Enough ridicule and pressure is eventually going to make him do something. The less acceptable "Redskins" as a name becomes to the average person and the more people call it out, the harder it's going to be for him to justify it.
posted by Hoopo at 2:49 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


ridiculing people already being ridiculed seriously around the world

Uh, no. It's ridiculing Dan Snyder.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:49 PM on March 28 [10 favorites]


ridiculing people already being ridiculed seriously around the world.

Ugh, I know, when will he stop ridiculing tone-deaf billionaire sport-franchise owners! Won't someone think of the moguls?!
posted by Tevin at 2:49 PM on March 28 [24 favorites]


I don't understand the Twitter/Tumblr-verse's zero-tolerance policy to impolitic statements or actions, even when they come from valuable, longtime ideological allies. The Mozilla scandal is similar.

Stephen Colbert, professional satirist, articulate progressive, and all-around mensch, has a single off-color joke bastardized by his company's Twitter account? FUCK HIM. CANCEL HIS SHOW.

The Mozilla Foundation, one of the most important bastions of open-source and inclusion in the tech world, promotes a veteran, highly accomplished employee who harbors a single offensive political opinion? DELETE FIREFOX. BOYCOTT THE ENTIRE COMPANY.

There are more ways to express criticism and opposition than DESTROY THING. Especially when THING is an incredible asset to the cause 99.9% of the time.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:51 PM on March 28 [190 favorites]


There are more ways to express criticism and opposition than DESTROY THING. Especially when THING is an incredible asset to the cause 99.9% of the time.

The internet liberal outrage machine doesn't really "do" subtlety.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 2:53 PM on March 28 [21 favorites]


If nothing else, Rhaomi, the Internet has taught me it's much easier to live in one pole or another and never dare to dream of some weird land in between.
posted by Tevin at 2:53 PM on March 28 [10 favorites]


escape from the potato planet: Uh, no. It's ridiculing Dan Snyder.

I'm talking about things he's done as a whole, dude, including the blog I linked earlier. But, please, keep insisting there was nothing about that joke that might've been taken as harmful to anyone.
posted by flatluigi at 2:54 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


A lot of what bothers me about the response to this on Twitter is the horrible shit coming out of the mouths of the people it doesn't bother, the majority of which seems to be white guys. I tweeted my disappointment about this terrible tweet and was immediately "mansplained" to by men I had never met, and believe me, they weren't exactly erudite and kind.
posted by Kitteh at 2:55 PM on March 28 [28 favorites]


I still can't get over Jonathan Swift's recommendation we eat children. CHILDREN! He claims it's satire, but I looked up satire in the dictionary and it didn't mention anything about eating children. CHILDREN!
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:56 PM on March 28 [69 favorites]


Especially when THING is an incredible asset to the cause 99.9% of the time.

I'm kind of getting the impression not everyone here thinks this about Colbert. I'm hearing the idea that his schtick isn't understood by some people and therefore he's of no more value than the real thing like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh. I'm not really clear on whether this means, like, always, or just on this joke.
posted by Hoopo at 2:56 PM on March 28


My big question is why we go straight to #cancel when we're mad instead of #talkto, #correct, or #educate. Well, I do know why, alas, and that's because we're in a puritanical moralizing episode of our culture in which everything's gotta be cut-and-dried, black-or-white, and always, always you're-with-us-or-against-us despite how badly that worked out for humanity in the last few decades.
posted by sonascope at 2:57 PM on March 28 [56 favorites]


Twitter is about the worst place I could imagine to publish something that comes off as offensive unless read "in context."
posted by exogenous at 2:57 PM on March 28


I extremely doubt anyone who was lashing back at Colbert like this was unaware that it was a satirical show.

Really? Even in this thread itself, never mind on Twitter, I find this entirely debatable. I sincerely can't tell who's out to ride the moralistic outrage for all it's worth, and who simply missed the point of the joke in the first place — it really does seem like some people tossing in these generic denunciations of "satiric racism" haven't understood that the joke is explicitly and straightforwardly antiracist. I mean, some people seem to think that Colbert's form of "satire" means some combination of zingers and non-earnestness without thinking about, or having any intuitive feel for, the way satire actually works, and others are really just looking to stamp out certain forms of language use and are indifferent to the actual meaning of a single given utterance.

I really think it's possible, and worth considering, that some of the most vociferous denouncers of the joke are effectively opposed to sarcasm and satire in general, no matter what the content. If their most salient trait is humorlessness, and their argument is anti-satirical, maybe at this point they'd honestly do better just to rebrand as the League of the Always Moralistically Earnest, banding together across political lines.
posted by RogerB at 2:57 PM on March 28 [22 favorites]


As a Jew who finds the occasional anti-semitic humor on The Daily Show mostly funny but occasionally pushing the line into discomfort, I have one thing to say:

Harden the fuck up.

It's a tweet. It was obviously meant as humor, not to denigrate. It is obviously not backed by racist behavior except for occasional insensitivity. And a comedian who is always sensitive to everyone's feelings is not really funny.
posted by cman at 2:58 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


(Seriously, this all about Limbaugh saying, lookie, I can be a racist ass because I'm just as witty as Colbert.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:58 PM on March 28


the Internet has taught me it's much easier to live in one pole or another and never dare to dream of some weird land in between.

If that dream is of a mystical land in which Asian Americans are expected not to get upset by jokes at their expense and cannot express their frustration except in ways deemed appropriate by white people, that's probably a dream worth revisiting.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:58 PM on March 28 [12 favorites]


Suey Park has spent the entire day retweeting hundreds of tweets from people telling her how great she is, with the occasional nutpicking "hey look, there's racist people on the internet; ergo, my original point stands" posts.

She's not naive and she's certainly not stupid. She's doing exactly what folks like Michelle Malkin and James O'Keefe have done- leveraged social media and the advantage of a huge audience and needing only a small percentage to do relatively little to project "action" in some way and get noticed for it. Her "demand" is for something that is, incapable of happening- no matter what, she'll never actually accomplish "canceling Colbert," but she'll make herself more popular while doing it and screaming "injustice" the whole way via a perfectly-crafted-to-incite/troll argument.

Is it truly not obvious to everyone her goal at this point is to be invited on Monday's episode of the Colbert Report, as well as any other network that will have her? Her Twitter profile is literally the email address to contact for bookings.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:59 PM on March 28 [61 favorites]


This blog cataloguing transphobia in both the Colbert Report and the Daily Show is pretty relevant, as a lot of the people in the tag when I last looked brought up that issue too.

Yeah, I'm really getting tired of transphobic "jokes" that just seem to permeate everything. From the stuff on TDS/Colbert to pretty much every sitcom to Joss's godawful Tweet that he doubled down on, it's gotten really fucking tired.
posted by kmz at 2:59 PM on March 28 [10 favorites]


Roger, the point is that the putatively anti-racist joke used some really awful racist terms to make its point. I don't think this is a complicated point, you stupid cracker.
posted by Mister_A at 2:59 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


I think it's kind of funny that so many people here are OUTRAGED by people objecting to the tweet. Harden the fuck up indeed. Can't you all get over the idea that not everyone agrees the tweet was funny?
posted by rtha at 3:00 PM on March 28 [26 favorites]


[Folks, I understand the impulse but probably best if we don't repeat the ironic-slurs thing here?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:01 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


I am amused that some people think it's funny that so many people here are OUTRAGED by people objecting to the tweet.
posted by mazola at 3:02 PM on March 28


Can't you all get over the idea that not everyone agrees the tweet was funny?

Well I certainly can, and I can even get behind telling Colbert to not do that again! But I'd rather he not get cancelled, because I kind of like that show!
posted by Hoopo at 3:03 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I am incensed that this amuses you!
posted by Mister_A at 3:03 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


The actual goddamn joke is that we're talking about this goddamn shitstorm instead of Dan fucking Snyder and his unapologetic racist sport team!
posted by Tevin at 3:04 PM on March 28 [39 favorites]


For crying out loud. There's a fucking football team whose name is a racial slur. Chris Rock had a bit where he refers to the NY n-words as an analogy. It's brilliant and it actually convinced stupid old teenage me how utterly ridiculous the Washington football team's name is.

But yeah, let's go cancel Colbert! That's an entirely proportionate and feasible response. Ugh.
posted by leopard at 3:05 PM on March 28 [35 favorites]


XQUZYPHR: She's also been reTweeting people making racist comments and death threats at her.

And what's wrong with retweeting people supporting you? Damned if you do damned if you don't?
posted by divabat at 3:05 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


The context in this case was really, really important to the joke, and I do think that whoever was handling the tweeting for Comedy Central at least needs to have a serious talking to about appropriate context. But I don't agree with the notion that even in context this could be wrong, because I think it's a point that needs to be made, and I think that at this stage most of Colbert's audience were people who could be counted on to know that "the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals" would be something a racist would say, but at this stage an awful lot of those same people will still defend the name of the Redskins as not being the same thing. And those similarities need to be pointed out. You have to go over the top with the comparison because people aren't getting the subtle. You can't just say "it's problematic" because nobody's doing anything about it. You kind of have to, at some point, remind people that we don't have any sports teams using the well-known slurs against black people or Asians and we wouldn't be okay with that, and it's not okay for anybody else's slurs, either. The joke isn't funny unless it's something the audience would find inappropriate, because the point is how it's inappropriate.

But if it's not pointing out a similarity to anything else in a way that a random person who hadn't seen the show was going to recognize? Then it's an entirely different joke, and awful. And I think in Suey Park's case, the "cancel" terminology seems to have worked--#talktocolbert wouldn't have started any kind of widespread conversation about it, #cancelcolbert did. That, I absolutely applaud.
posted by Sequence at 3:06 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


If Deadspin wanted me to take them seriously in terms of journalism, using a racial slur in their headline was really not the way to go about it.

Can I ask you this, honestly? When you wrote that, were you implying that "Gook" was the slur? Because I think that's what the point was- that people would focus on that word being insensitive and not recognizing that "Redskins" is just as offensive.

Much as how, you know, there's now Yet Another Internet Thread about people being angry on Twitter for no reason, instead of Dan Snyder being a racist asshole.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:07 PM on March 28 [14 favorites]


Next Colbert show should have John Goodman walking up to the stage to Stephen and say "That was not the correct nomenclature"
posted by hellojed at 3:09 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


Hey you can dislike the Washington team name AND agree in principle with the complainants here, AND disagree with their proposed solution all at the same time.
posted by Mister_A at 3:11 PM on March 28 [13 favorites]


It is possible for both Dan Snyder and Stephen Colbert to be racially insensitive, and because somebody is addressing one it does not mean they are forgiving or ignoring the other.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:11 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


#dislikeeverything
posted by Hoopo at 3:12 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


I posted this when someone mentioned this controversy on Facebook, also seems relevant here:

I don't think Colbert should be cancelled, but I'm really tired of "ironic racism." It plays on stereotypes that are already racist, and it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that people find a constant barrage of jokes about their identity, ethnicity or gender to be offensive regardless of how "ironic" it is or even if you're "putting it in the mouth of a racist.

I can definitely understand why people would be offended even if they understood the satire in the Colbert show. The tweet was a bad idea, and people are allowed to respond if they think something is offensive. I agree #cancelcolbert is an overreach, but Twitter tends toward the dramatic hashtags given the medium. I think something about how they shouldn't have used ironic racism would have been better for sure.

But it still seems in this thread and also all over the internet that people don't understand why ironic racism can be hurtful.

Also, it just seems like Asian Americans are never supposed to say anything about oppression, because it always seems the case that someone tells them they should just shut up about whatever it is, grow a thicker skin, it's not a big deal. And yet Asian Americans continue to bring up very similar topics and have something to say about them (jokes, comments about cultural alienation despite being born here, sexual stereotypes).So maybe there is something to them and people aren't always "making a big deal out of nothing"? It just seems like every time a brand new case must be made for why something is a problem.
posted by sweetkid at 3:14 PM on March 28 [32 favorites]


True, Bunny, and well said. Though it feels like an extra slap of 'rawr' because it seems like overall the story has been about Colbert instead of Snyder.
posted by Tevin at 3:15 PM on March 28


I found the bit to be absolutely hilarious but understand why other people don't. #reasonablepeoplecandisagree
posted by josher71 at 3:15 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


potentially problematic...

potentially?

Dude, just change the name of your team.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:15 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


As a white person, I think it is useful to be tremendously cautious about telling people of color that they wouldn't be so outraged if they just had my sophisticated take on the topic

I presume that you're responding to my sophisticated take on the topic?

I happen to be a white person disagreeing with an Asian person, but not because I'm white or because she is Asian. As far as I'm concerned, I'm just a person disagreeing with a person. I promise you that there are plenty of whites and Asians who agree with your take on the issue, and plenty of whites and Asians who agree with mine. Neither Park nor myself are representatives of our races.

flatluigi: I'm talking about things he's done as a whole, dude, including the blog I linked earlier. But, please, keep insisting there was nothing about that joke that might've been taken as harmful to anyone.

Sorry. That's not at all obvious from your comment. Dude.

Anyway, I haven't said that there was nothing about the tweet that couldn't be misinterpreted. There's always room for any words to be misinterpreted—willfully, as in this case, or otherwise.

If that dream is of a mystical land in which Asian Americans are expected not to get upset by jokes at their expense

The joke was not made at the expense of Asian-Americans. You know this. Please stop holding up this straw man.

dances_with_sneetches: I still can't get over Jonathan Swift's recommendation we eat children. CHILDREN! He claims it's satire, but I looked up satire in the dictionary and it didn't mention anything about eating children. CHILDREN!

Ha! That's exactly what I think of every time this "THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU JUST CAN'T JOKE ABOUT" attitude comes up. People have no trouble understanding jokes, metaphors, and other non-literal language about all manner of violence, murder, and other horrible things. What's so hard to understand about this tweet? I mean, you might think it's a dumb joke, but there's a pretty big gulf between "I did not personally find this tweet amusing" and "BURN THE RACIST".

rtha: I think it's kind of funny that so many people here are OUTRAGED by people objecting to the tweet. Harden the fuck up indeed. Can't you all get over the idea that not everyone agrees the tweet was funny?

No one's outraged about that, and no one is having trouble getting over it. They're more than welcome to find it unfunny; it doesn't bother me in the slightest. What I'm objecting to is the notion that it's appropriate to response to a tweet that you find unfunny by shouting down the tweeter and publicly crucifying them as racists, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

I'm checking out of this thread now. Have fun, you crazy kids.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:16 PM on March 28 [18 favorites]


The internet liberal outrage machine doesn't really "do" subtlety.

Outrage in general doesn't do subtlety. Even if things like racist attitudes aren't always subtle (and they tend to not exceed a pretty low standard for subtlety), discourse itself, in the sense of there being a larger context to what is said, tends to be more complicated. I don't mean that Suey is wrong or that the Colbert Report isn't at all wrong, but it's frustrating that the loudest and most impassioned voices tend to dominate, even when they're putatively speaking out against injustice, and when someone takes that position, it can become impossible to comment on their critique or reaction without being accused of being against whatever they say they are for, precisely because outrage negotiated through the internet, and even worse through twitter, is a terrible substitute for an actual conversation.

All that having been said, from my standpoint as a White and non-Asian person, it seems like the Colbert Report tweet in question was pretty clearly mocking racist people who don't have any idea how racist they are. But in order to take it that way, you have to grant that the tweet is issued from a persona which is satirical, and I think that's where the break-down between speaker and audience occurs here, and I really think it's a failure of the medium and a failure to control their use of the medium properly that's to blame.
posted by clockzero at 3:18 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


What do you expect from someone who once worked for the George W. Bush administration?
posted by Benjy at 3:19 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


What I'm objecting to is the notion that it's appropriate to response to a tweet that you find unfunny by shouting down the tweeter and publicly crucifying them as racists, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

The best part about all of this is, and I want to be clear I am serious when I say this and not just trying to be clever or snarky or whatever, is that I have absolutely no idea which party in this story you're referring to here.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:19 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I was ready to dismiss the whole #CancelColbert thing until I saw all the racist, misogynist and straight-up threatening messages Suey Park has been receiving.

I do believe that Colbert is an ideological ally but something he's doing is resonating with a lot of racist people (although I'm sure [or I sure hope] that some of them are wanna-be-provocateur bros who don't give a shit about Colbert but are afraid the internet is trying to take the First Amendment out of comedy)

So yeah, I too am wondering if his satire is punching up or down, if he's speaking truth to power or going for the easiest laugh and if he's actually doing any good, just by being on the right side of the issues.
posted by elr at 3:23 PM on March 28 [13 favorites]


The internet liberal outrage machine doesn't really "do" subtlety.

Or much of anything at all.
posted by clarknova at 3:24 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


The joke was not made at the expense of Asian-Americans. You know this. Please stop holding up this straw man.

Here's the thing, though. Even if the joke wasn't made at the expense of Asian-Americans, deliberately, because Stephen Colbert is a racist who hates Asian-Americans, some people don't feel like hearing terms like "ching chong ding dong" or "oriental". It's hurtful and shitty.

The exact nuance of the joke -- whether it's, like, Your One Racist Uncle, or Andrew Dice Clay, or Vice Magazine, or whatever -- doesn't matter. What matters is that the world is full of shitty slurs and it's a constant reminder of all this stuff. Stuff that doesn't go away just because the joke-teller "didn't mean anything by it" or was trying to make a larger non-offensive point.

I frankly feel sort of weird about typing out those slurs in this comment, just because it's yet another time Asian-Americans I know and like have to read them.
posted by Sara C. at 3:25 PM on March 28 [41 favorites]


The joke was not made at the expense of Asian-Americans.

I don't understand. It's an "ironic" racist joke that uses racist language about Asian Americans. How is it not a joke made at the expense of Asian Americans? Like, I guess you can disagree about whether or not you think people are warranted in being offended by it, and Asian Americans aren't ultimately the target of that joke, but they are absolutely caught in the crossfire.

More generally:

Hey! I'm a person who's watched a lot of Colbert. I absolutely understand the point of the joke he was making. If I had watched that episode, I would probably have laughed at it. I do think that Colbert has bought some good will over the years and I don't personally share the more extreme calls for him to be torn down because of this. But I also think that the ironic racism and transphobia that his show -- and the Daily Show -- engages in is counterproductive at best and actively reinforcing non-ironic racism and transphobia at worst.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:25 PM on March 28 [23 favorites]


The weird thing is, I'm not actually sure how much context you need besides the general one surrounding Colbert's character on the Colbert Report (often-bigoted conservative blowhard). Because I didn't know about the Redskins thing, and yet the point of the joke seemed very clear to me: insensitive jerk is creating a charity to help a group of people he clearly doesn't understand enough to avoid insulting on a casual basis.

But I also get that it's not satire for lots of people, that they get called those sorts of things without irony or lightheartedness, and that even with the context lots of people are just plain tired of ironic racism as an easy crutch for humour. I think in this particular case the joke's pretty spot on, but it's not going to kill me if we decided it's too soon to joke about this sort of thing.
posted by chrominance at 3:26 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


The @colbertreport Twitter account is run by Comedy Central and not administered by anyone on the show.

It would be a lot easier for me to take seriously anyone's complaints about this, um, "situation" if I saw any indication that anyone complaining had noticed this fact or was able to make the distinction.

Stephen Colbert didn't write the tweet. His writers didn't write the tweet. It wasn't written by his staff or an intern with his show. The tweet appears to have been written by someone insignificant employed by the network that broadcasts (so to speak) the show. But I suppose #MoveColbertOverToCBS isn't as punchy.
posted by cribcage at 3:27 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


#satire
posted by iamck at 3:28 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


So when they cancel Colbert for being racist, will it be replaced with South Park or Tosh.0 reruns?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:29 PM on March 28 [18 favorites]


I'm asking my company to preemptively fire the social media intern, just as a precautionary measure.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 3:29 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


I don't understand. It's an "ironic" racist joke that uses racist language about Asian Americans. How is it not a joke made at the expense of Asian Americans?

Colbert himself is the butt of the joke. He's supposed to seem so out of touch with society that even in his hamfisted attempt to help out a community, he can't help but insult and dismiss them. You are not intended to take the term "ching chong" as an actual insult, but as a ridiculous anachronism indicative of an era that we've left behind.

I think whether you think the joke succeeds or not depends at least in part on whether anyone's thrown "ching chong" at you as a genuine term of derision lately, and that maybe the only reason I'm okay with it (as a Chinese person) is because I'm privileged enough to not have anyone yell that at me recently. In other words, whether we've actually left that era of casual Asian-targeted racism behind or not is up for debate, and maybe that's where the joke ultimately falls apart.

Which would be ironic because this would be one of those times where Colbert (and his writing staff) built a joke designed to work in an environment where no one "sees" race anymore, even though one of the recurring gags on the show is how Colbert doesn't "see" race and therefore is not racist.
posted by chrominance at 3:33 PM on March 28 [18 favorites]


The joke was not made at the expense of Asian-Americans. You know this. Please stop holding up this straw man.

I know you're not coming back, but I'm not sure this is as clear cut as you think.

I understand that the joke is not being made "at" the expense of AAs. BUT I do think it's worth examining that AAs are the "safe" minority that can be used in this instance as the medium by which the satire is done. This is also the remaining element of the Sarah Silverman joke that I am still uncomfortable with.

My go to move is to say "If that joke were using blacks and some equivalent racist term, or gays and an equivalent homophobic slur, do I think they would have gotten away with it?" In Sarah Silverman's case, if she had used the n-word instead of the ch-word, I don't think it would have gone over as well with most people, and I think she deliberately chose the slur she did because it would be safer.

Going to one end of the spectrum, if the Colbert skit had used white people and some joke referring to all of them being KKK members or Nazis, people would have scratched their heads in confusion, because this example of "racism" is basically unrecognizable. Going to the other end, I think Colbert and his writers recognized that using blacks would have not have been kosher, either in the original 2005 joke or this current callback. So going to AAs as a minority you "can" joke about to make your point without being too worried about any potential backlash, to me, is problematic. Why do AAs have to be the punchline? Why didn't you use blacks? Is it because you knew using black stereotypes would (rightfully) draw ire? So why is it ok to use AAs?

I still think that at the end of the day, I'm ok with these particular deployments of the racial joke, unlike, say, the Ho Lee Fuk fake names of the Asiana crash. He's still making fun of racists, using their racist bullshit. But I think its very reasonable to think carefully about these things, rather coming to a snap judgment, even if both positions ultimately come to the same conclusion.
posted by shen1138 at 3:34 PM on March 28 [17 favorites]


cribcage: The tweet is a direct quote of words that came out of Stephen Colbert's mouth on the show.
posted by flatluigi at 3:34 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't just that Stephen Colbert or Dan Snyder think that appeals to satire or tradition gives them a pass on broadcasting and reinforcing an existing set of oppressive discourses; it's that the overall pattern of discourse in their society is all about handing out passes and generating those oppressive discourses, almost all the time.

The other side of it is that counter-discourse *might* get an apology out of Colbert, if a heavily conditional not-really-an-apology one….and it won't get even that out of Dan Snyder or rtha's louts on the bus.

Colbert should stop helping things stay awful, and calling him out is empowering in that it gives people who are oppressed a voice and a potentially powerful role in the event of this particular moment of oppressive discourse. This is a fight for a toehold, and going after Colbert and his show does a lot more in that respect than going after Snyder and his supporters.
posted by kewb at 3:35 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]




MY FRIENDS! HAS JUSTINE SACCO TAUGHT US NOTHING?
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:36 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


You are not intended to take the term "ching chong" as an actual insult, but as a ridiculous anachronism indicative of an era that we've left behind.

But what if the "you" in this sentence is an Asian-American?

Also, the idea that we've left behind the era of shitty tired racial slur jokes is very, very naive. I know a Chinese-American who quit his job because of the constant racist humor. This is not like Deadwood using the term "celestial".
posted by Sara C. at 3:37 PM on March 28 [10 favorites]


Colbert himself is the butt of the joke. He's supposed to seem so out of touch with society that even in his hamfisted attempt to help out a community, he can't help but insult and dismiss them. You are not intended to take the term "ching chong" as an actual insult, but as a ridiculous anachronism indicative of an era that we've left behind.

I think whether you think the joke succeeds or not depends at least in part on whether anyone's thrown "ching chong" at you as a genuine term of derision lately, and that maybe the only reason I'm okay with it (as a Chinese person) is because I'm privileged enough to not have anyone yell that at me recently. In other words, whether we've actually left that era of casual Asian-targeted racism behind or not is up for debate, and maybe that's where the joke ultimately falls apart.


We did not leave that era behind. I have people yell Ching Chong at me and I am not even Chinese or East Asian American. I have been told repeatedly that my eyes are small so I should understand why people think I am East Asian. Even to the point of trying to convince me I have some mistake in my family tree or my understanding of it. But yeah, I personally have heard Ching Chong and "fly lice" and all that in my direction.
posted by sweetkid at 3:38 PM on March 28 [19 favorites]


If he's punching up, and the people he's punching don't feel punched, and the people down there are yelling "ow!", is he really punching up?
posted by Omnomnom at 3:42 PM on March 28 [25 favorites]


sweetkid: "But yeah, I personally have heard Ching Chong and "fly lice" and all that in my direction."

I was honestly having a hard time seeing this, and then your comment reminded me that my mother-in-law has repeatedly used the word "orientals" in my presence. Even keeps doing it after I tell her that she needs to stop.
posted by Big_B at 3:42 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


The internet liberal outrage machine doesn't really "do" subtlety.

The general point that rage and subtlety aren't compatible loses something when it's over-specifically pointed, however true.
posted by weston at 3:44 PM on March 28


Also, the idea that we've left behind the era of shitty tired racial slur jokes is very, very naive.

Well, yeah. I thought I said as much in the comment, but I'm happy to reiterate that yeah, we haven't left behind that era at all, though I'm lucky enough to generally be surrounded by people who don't do that (which is also an element of privilege I happen to enjoy, and obviously is not enjoyed by a lot of other Asian people).
posted by chrominance at 3:45 PM on March 28


We definitely haven't left that era behind. For instance, there's a major professional sports team called the Redskins.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:52 PM on March 28 [38 favorites]


My Grown Up inner voice is saying this :

"I understand the joke you were making, Colbert Report, and while I don't doubt that your intentions were good, the way you chose to do it undermined your intent. This does not negate the good work have done, but I do hope you can take this as an opportunity to sharpen your comedic chops and avoid using hurtful language to underscore your points in the future."
posted by Tevin at 3:52 PM on March 28 [24 favorites]


Can I ask you this, honestly? When you wrote that, were you implying that "Gook" was the slur? Because I think that's what the point was- that people would focus on that word being insensitive and not recognizing that "Redskins" is just as offensive.

Much as how, you know, there's now Yet Another Internet Thread about people being angry on Twitter for no reason, instead of Dan Snyder being a racist asshole.


Yes, I was implying that word was a slur. It's a hateful nasty term. I am not giving the other slur a pass. They're both shitty and they both need to not be said.

Yes, Dan Snyder is a racist asshole. This is not a game of who gets a pass. No one who uses or endorses either word gets a pass. But hey, we're all just humorless and don't get satire, amirite?
posted by Kitteh at 3:53 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


But hey, we're all just humorless and don't get satire, amirite?

I don't agree, but yes, many people think that. It's going to be a long road until that isn't the case.
posted by josher71 at 3:55 PM on March 28


I don't understand the Twitter/Tumblr-verse's zero-tolerance policy to impolitic statements or actions, even when they come from valuable, longtime ideological allies. The Mozilla scandal is similar.

Let's bear in mind that the Twitter/Tumblr-verse is really just people. That is to say, there are a lot of people out there who take zero-tolerance policies towards impolitic statements or actions. The web lets us find things to rile us up more quickly.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:58 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Does anyone else see a parallel here between the argument made by the Redskins' supporters "There's no reason to be upset - we're honoring you, and if you don't like it, you just want something to complain about!" and this idea that POC are supposed to be fine with slurs used in the service of making fun of racists? "We're defending you! Why can't you understand and accept that I prefer to do it in this way so I can still look cool and edgy, instead of like a bleeding heart killjoy?"
posted by Selena777 at 4:03 PM on March 28 [25 favorites]


XQUZYPHR: She's also been reTweeting people making racist comments and death threats at her.

And what's wrong with retweeting people supporting you? Damned if you do damned if you don't?


Because it's very blatant that she wanted to turn the story, which had already gone from the actual story of Dan Snyder being insensitive to Native Americans to Stephen Colbert being insensitive to Asian Americans, into Strangers on the Internet being insensitive to Suey Park, heroic activist (available for bookings at the above address).

She went on HuffPost Live this morning, and when she was criticized by the host, she turned to Twitter to accuse HuffPo of sexism and privilege. She's now doing the nutpicking strategy of highlighting that, no shit, there's crazy, stupid racists who enjoy anonymity on the internet. That's a horrible thing, but it doesn't actually validate or contextualize her argument about Colbert (which, I'll repeat, she refuses to acknowledge in her attempts to keep the story alive is based entirely on taking a partial quote out of context). It just suggests she's a sympathetic figure, for which you should take the "side" of, and I am aware of this because it is literally how every story on Twitchy or Brietbart.com works. This isn't a revelation; it's a social media formula.

Treatment of Asians, especially in media, is an issue that does matter to me on a familial level. There absolutely should be a conversation on race in this country, including race treatment of Asian Americans. Suey Park does not seem to want to actually have that conversation as much as she wants to have Suey Park Moderates Said Conversation. And she seems to want it to be the tired online format of "I'm going to yell at you now, and if you disagree with me, you're either a racist or I'll associate you with racists," bookended by a false premise (that Colbert is a racist) and a fantastical project (that she actually wants to have his show taken off the air) That's not ever going to be a productive conversation. Ever.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:07 PM on March 28 [79 favorites]


If Colbert wants to call me a sick tranny freak as part of an attack on the transphobic, that's a-ok by me. Having Colbert attack your enemies by pretending to attack you is an honor.

All that being said, the more succesful Colbert gets, the more depressed I am that we'll probably never see any more of Strangers with Candy.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:08 PM on March 28 [12 favorites]


Does anyone else see a parallel here

Not really. Colbert's joke acknowledges the words he used are shitty, and that's the whole reason he used them. For the name "Redskins" to be some kind of honor, they have to overlook that it's a shitty word.

I guess what Colbert overlooked is that he still used the words and they are still shitty to people even within the context of the joke.
posted by Hoopo at 4:10 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Having Colbert attack your enemies by pretending to attack you is an honor.

No, no it's not. Also the issue was Native Americans/Redskins/Dan Snyder, which doesn't need to involve Asian American stereotypes at all.
posted by sweetkid at 4:10 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


[I totally take your point, Ursula Hitler, but again let's skip the slurs even if meant ironically?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:10 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Additionally, even as a black person, I've totally noticed that in mainstream comedy Asians are used as a "soft target" for racial jokes all of the time. They've got good reasons to respond and react to that.
posted by Selena777 at 4:11 PM on March 28 [29 favorites]


Sounds like it's time to retire my @LennyBruce account. #CancelBeanplating
posted by uosuaq at 4:13 PM on March 28


The thing is, Colbert isn't really using the phrase in an "I'm being shocking and ironically racist" way. Maybe he was the first time he said it, but that's been his go to "ironic racist" phrase for a while now. It's lazy writing at this point because that's the racial slur that they can use on tv without people getting upset (until now).
posted by Gary at 4:18 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


There are folks who say comedy should always punch up, never down, and folks who say satire is an acceptable form of political comedy, but it seems to me that it is impossible to hold both of those positions. Satire pretends to take the "up" side, and runs with it overtime, showing just how horrible the "up" side really is. In other words, it punches "up" by acting as if it's punching "down" and showing just how horrible the "up" side is. Swift's proposal worked just that way: it pretended to be the "up" side and advocated murdering and eating children, the "down". It punched so hard down that the reader would think "Man, the 'up' side is fucked up, huh!"

So I guess I'm cool with someone saying "Satire is good because it lampoons the up", and I'm cool with someone saying "Satire is bad, because while well intentioned, it causes more harm than the good it sets out to achieve", but I cannot understand someone who claims comedy should only punch up but also claims satire is ok.
posted by Bugbread at 4:29 PM on March 28 [31 favorites]


Whatever, whitey!

More of a coffee color actually, heavy on the cream.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:30 PM on March 28




The internet liberal outrage machine doesn't really "do" subtlety.

a) there's no such thing. b) Disagree with Suey Park all you like, but the truth of the matter is that as always, you need to shout to get yourself heard, especially in cases where you're trying to reach through to a giant media machine.

That the offensive tweet in question was satire aimed at Dan Snyder doesn't come across, because the way it was written all context is lost and all that's left is the joke, which only has the racism in it working for it. Park is right to be offended and annoyed by it and the way she responds is up to her. Personally I don't blame her for trying to use this to get some attention to the bigotry aimed at Asian Americans.

And yes, that needa a big megaphone.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:31 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


Bugbread: You seem to completely misunderstand Swift's proposal if you think it was trying to satirize children. Either that or you're misunderstanding what people mean by "punching down."
posted by flatluigi at 4:33 PM on March 28


Why is satirical racism worse than satirical conservatism? It clearly is, but I'm curious why. More to the point: is satirical conservatism possible without satirical racism?
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:39 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


"but as a ridiculous anachronism indicative of an era that we've left behind."

Except it's not. Husband teaches at an urban high school, and I just asked him about this. Ching-chong and chinky are regularly used by some students to refer to the Asian students.

Pushing that language out into the world via Tweet is not a cool thing to do. It tosses just enough gravel under the tires for those words to gain traction again.
posted by kimberussell at 4:43 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


You seem to completely misunderstand Swift's proposal if you think it was trying to satirize children. Either that or you're misunderstanding what people mean by "punching down."

True…but Swift was trying to satirize English attitudes towards the Irish, but to do so he has to adopt the voice of someone who refers to the Irish as lazy wretches fit only to be or breed food stock for their betters at multiple points in the "Proposal." So it's still fake "punching down" in order to "punch up."

Now, Swift's satire (especially to us, today) seems very clearly like fake punching down, but it also doesn't work unless the real "punching down" is really damn close to the absurd extreme in Swift's work. That still leaves open the difficult questions of whether that closeness to the real "ounching down" doesn't both cloak the satirist when using what amount to actual oppressive language aimed at others -- Swift was Anglo-Irish, not "native" Irish -- and leave open the possibility of a misinterpretation that actually ratifies still-active oppressive discourses.

Can satire avoid appropriating minority discourses or reproducing problematic discourses? Does the production of satire require a certain form of discursive or material privilege, which in turn makes satire inherently problematic?
posted by kewb at 4:44 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


I still can't get over Jonathan Swift's recommendation we eat children. CHILDREN! He claims it's satire, but I looked up satire in the dictionary and it didn't mention anything about eating children. CHILDREN!

It's possible that A Modest Proposal would be less of a classic if it included a bunch of triggering racist slurs.
posted by NoraReed at 4:46 PM on March 28


BUT I do think it's worth examining that AAs are the "safe" minority that can be used in this instance as the medium by which the satire is done.

Additionally, even as a black person, I've totally noticed that in mainstream comedy Asians are used as a "soft target" for racial jokes all of the time. They've got good reasons to respond and react to that.

I think shen1138 and Selena777 make a good point about what is riling people up about the tweet: that Asians are an easy target for racist jokes, ironic or not. It is possible to be aware that it is intended as satire, agree that "Redskins" is a racist name for a sports team, and still be offended by that tweet. And it is easy not to be offended by racist language if...you are a member of (or can present as) the racial majority in your country and have never had to hear racist comments personally directed at you.

If the segment in question had instead used the n-word, would it have been acceptable? Would it have felt maybe a tad more queasy and uncomfortable hearing a white person use those terms, however ironically? Then why is it OK when we use slurs mocking Asian people to make a point?

It would be different if racism against Asians was a thing of the past, but as posters here have explained countless times, it still exists and affects people on a regular basis.
posted by pravit at 4:46 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


It's possible that A Modest Proposal would be less of a classic if it included a bunch of triggering racist slurs.

It doesn't exactly treat the Irish very well, on a subject I'm sure many Irish people didn't think was very funny, if you were to take it at face value
posted by Hoopo at 4:48 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


A shande for de goyim
posted by anateus at 4:48 PM on March 28


It's possible that A Modest Proposal would be less of a classic if it included a bunch of triggering racist slurs.

Correct. Just the underlying assumption that all we Irish people are no better than cattle.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:48 PM on March 28 [20 favorites]


Because it's very blatant that she wanted to turn the story, which had already gone from the actual story of Dan Snyder being insensitive to Native Americans to Stephen Colbert being insensitive to Asian Americans, into Strangers on the Internet being insensitive to Suey Park, heroic activist (available for bookings at the above address).

That seems to be a fairly uncharitable reading of her actions, not to mention an accusation always thrown out against people attempting to point out racism; "race hustler" is still a term slung about today.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:48 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I was ready to dismiss the whole #CancelColbert thing until I saw all the racist, misogynist and straight-up threatening messages Suey Park has been receiving.

Is there anyway people could realize that "death threats" have become tragically casual? Especially on a service as coarse as Twitter.

- A long time ago I posted a strongly worded, but completely innocuous camera review online and somebody said I should be raped to death.

- A couple years later I let loose my opinions on a Radiohead song on YouTube I did not care for. Again, I was told I should die in a painful and weirdly sexual manner.

- I made some jokes about anti-abortion people online. Guess what? "[I] should die, not the babies."

- I made fun of Anarchists. Death threat.

- I made fun of libretarians. Death threat.

This is a real problem, and I accept as a giant guy it doesn't bother me like it might others..... but you don't strengthen your argument by pointing out what anybody who has even the smallest level of exposure and opinion deals with online.
posted by lattiboy at 4:50 PM on March 28 [16 favorites]




Her first tweet on the subject (before she started using #cancelcolbert):
I used to respect and enjoy your work, @ColbertReport. Fuck you.
posted by Etrigan at 2:19 PM on March 28
[1 favorite −] [!]


I call bullshit on Suey Park's statement here that she used to enjoy The Colbert Report. The ENTIRE SHOW plus most of Colbert's off-show public presence centers around a fake parody extreme conservative sexist, homophobic, racist rightwingnut blowhard and his views. As the Wiegel Slate piece shows, the Asian joke in this controversy is a callback to a joke Colbert made years ago in an early episode, and he's done similar racial riffs of various sorts since. Really, Suey Park is claiming that she used to like the show but only now *this* time she's horribly offended and outraged? .

Nah, she doesn't watch the show. Maybe she's seen a few video clips in the past or read about Colbert's activism somewhere, that's probably about it.
posted by Bwithh at 4:51 PM on March 28 [16 favorites]


Is there anyway people could realize that "death threats" have become tragically casual?

And that's supposed to be okay?
posted by divabat at 4:53 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


And that's supposed to be okay?

No, as I specifically said in the end of my comment, when I called it a real problem.
posted by lattiboy at 4:54 PM on March 28 [16 favorites]


It's possible that A Modest Proposal would be less of a classic if it included a bunch of triggering racist slurs.

It uses "Papist" a couple of times; that was definitely an anti-Catholic slur in 1729, having been used pretty much exclusively by English Protestants.
posted by kewb at 4:54 PM on March 28 [13 favorites]


I don't understand the Twitter/Tumblr-verse's zero-tolerance policy to impolitic statements or actions, even when they come from valuable, longtime ideological allies. The Mozilla scandal is similar.

Something that isn't' super THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN RIGHT NOW NUCLEAR DECAPITATION STRIKE doesn't spread quickly, and isn't easily "like and repost"-able. Whether it's their intention or not, things like that naturally rise to the top because they're easy to jump on the bandwagon of, polarizing, and just generally generate attention.

This type of thing spreads not just with people who agree with it, but people going WTF or opposing it. The point is it gets the most attention.

So yea, whether it's a calculated move or not that's what gets the most retweets/reblogs/etc. I hate it, but i don't really see how to change it.

Also, while i respect the argument that colbert isn't some perfect angel, i think that people are doing just a wider version of the whole thing that isn't just "they did one bad thing fuck them", but "they aren't perfect fuck them". If someone does 8 good things and 2 bad things are they a shitty person?

Because the answer from most of the internet left warriors for good types seems to be yes. I am sympathetic to being burned out on white straight guys going "yr losing a powerful ally!", but seriously you gotta draw the goddamn line somewhere. No one, or at least very few people with that amount of reach in media are going to hit every perfect note you want them to. Some of it is just their flaws of a person, and some of it is shucking and jiving for the man just enough that they don't get buried by the establishment.
posted by emptythought at 4:55 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


It uses "Papist" a couple of times; that was definitely an anti-Catholic slur in 1729, having been used pretty much exclusively by English Protestants.
On top of that, it uses it to directly say that an added side benefit of eating Irish babies would be to reduce the number of Papists.
posted by Flunkie at 4:57 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


It's super telling that in her Time op-ed, Suey Park focuses on the worst fan responses as her ace-in-the-hole ( while also not bothering to distinguish between Colbert fans and random trolls and her enemies ) and also does that while she doesn't talk about the mechanics of the joke except in a superficial and fleeting way. She would have a better argument if she dissected how the joke works piece by piece and explained why it's so offensive to her and her supporters.
posted by Bwithh at 5:00 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


flatluigi: "You seem to completely misunderstand Swift's proposal if you think it was trying to satirize children."

I'm not sure how you got that impression from what I posted. I'm saying the exact opposite.
posted by Bugbread at 5:01 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


Failure to recognize that right-thinking people are all in this together is a pretty big sign of an "activist" that doesn't know what they want or where they're going. I'm looking at you, Suey Park. I've read her long format interviews and essays, and I think that brand of "separate but screw you" is going to lead to precisely nothing, except fame for her personally perhaps. But by all means, let us indulge in creating safe spaces for people like Suey Park to have abstract conversations about whiteness. The real activists will be conducting community outreach, voter registration drives, and other boring things back in the real world.

Colbert is on your side, genius.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:01 PM on March 28 [12 favorites]


No, as I specifically said in the end of my comment, when I called it a real problem.

Well you basically said "well it's not a big deal, but i'm not saying it's not a big deal".

Your message is kinda weasely and minimizing there with a blast shield of "that's not really what i mean" strapped on, when that is in fact exactly what you're saying.
posted by emptythought at 5:02 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


So, if I'm following all this right, Colbert basically said "him doing X is as stupid as me doing Y", his network's twitter typist wrote that out as "Colbert's doing Y", someone who read the tweet was offended, and now everyone's arguing about whether or not using Y as an example of bad things is wrong?
posted by Mooski at 5:02 PM on March 28 [10 favorites]


One way to determine if a joke aimed at a particular identity is across the line: Alter it so it's about other identities and see if it feels like it is more or less offensive.

If Colbert had made a joke about not offending Black people and ironically used slurs against Black people in it, or if it was about Latinos, I doubt it would have made it on the air in the first place.

I also think white people have a tendency to mistake mock Chinese and mock Japanese as things that are goofy, rather than potentially offensive.

Some questions I don't have answers to:

Is it OK for people who speak one language to make fun of the sound and cadence of another language?

Is there a moral difference between these acts?

1. Mocking the language of people who comprise a substantial minority inside your own nation.
2. Mocking the language of people who live outside your own nation.
3. Mocking the language of people who are the same race as you (white non-russians mocking russian. See also the Swedish Chef).
4. Mocking the language of people who are perceived as more privileged than you (A Black person mocking an Asian's language, anybody in the US mocking French, English, German)

What about Anglophone and Francophone Canadians mocking each other's speech? And does it matter if the mocking happens in Toronto or if it happens in Montreal?

Or is it not the actual mocking of the language that's at issue here? Is it just the unpleasant history of how this particular mockery has been used in the US?

As for the use of "Orientals", that seems a little more clear cut. One of the more common tropes in parodying racism is the use of words that are both offensive and archaic, in order to portray the subject of the parody as an anachronism. That seems inoffensive to me. Am I wrong?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:04 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


So, if I'm following all this right, Colbert basically said "him doing X is as stupid as me doing Y", his network's twitter typist wrote that out as "Colbert's doing Y", someone who read the tweet was offended, and now everyone's arguing about whether or not using Y as an example of bad things is wrong?

I would say that's a fair reading, yes, mooski
posted by emptythought at 5:05 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Swift was Irish.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:05 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


It uses "Papist" a couple of times; that was definitely an anti-Catholic slur in 1729, having been used pretty much exclusively by English Protestants.

You don't hear it much today, but it was pretty widely used as a derogatory term well into the 20th century in the US. The kind of thing you'd find in KKK literature; a slur right-wingers used towards Kennedy.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:06 PM on March 28


Swift was Irish.

No, he was Anglo-Irish, a Protestant dean, in fact; he was critiquing English treatment of Catholic Irish, not anything that was happening to him or people much like him.
posted by kewb at 5:07 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


One way to determine if a joke aimed at a particular identity is across the line: Alter it so it's about other identities and see if it feels like it is more or less offensive.

A particularly lazy way that rarely, if ever, makes anyone say, "Oh, gosh, I guess that really [was|wasn't] so bad," and is far more likely to start a war of "Yeah, but my group is more oppressed than your group!"
posted by Etrigan at 5:07 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I really hope that The Colbert Report uses the weekend to pen a thoughtful response to all of this, and airs it on Monday's show. I don't want to see Colbert cancelled, but I'd love to see it veer away from the kind of ironic racism that, even taken in its satirical context, is unfunny to a significant share of viewers, myself included.

The show could also stand to diversify its overwhelmingly white and male writing staff. Having people with a greater range of experiences on board can only sharpen the satire, and help to avoid tempests like this in the first place.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:08 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


I have an idea for the #cancelcolbert instigator: Put a whole bunch of time and energy into getting Colbert's subversively progressive show canceled. Start old-fashioned letter-writing campaigns. Invest in a few dozen robo-dialers to inform the masses of Colbert's racist leanings. Lean on advertisers so hard that the only company that'll allow their spots to run during The Colbert Report is Synth Coke. Pump more money into #cancelcolbert and buy off a few down-on-their-luck politicians, instructing them to clog up Washington with nothing but variations on the theme of getting Colbert canceled.

Congratulations! You got Colbert canceled!

Comedy Central fills the time slot with a new nightly show hosted by one of the most successful comedians in America, Jeff Dunham.
posted by item at 5:16 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


So I guess I'm cool with someone saying "Satire is good because it lampoons the up", and I'm cool with someone saying "Satire is bad, because while well intentioned, it causes more harm than the good it sets out to achieve", but I cannot understand someone who claims comedy should only punch up but also claims satire is ok.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to hold the same opinion for the former and also a slightly modified version of the latter: "Satire is bad sometimes, because while well intentioned, it still can cause harm". A lot of things are mixed bags depending on your perspective, and I think satire is one of those things. It does have unintentional side effects, like the cadre of people who just don't get why their own use of slurs as a "joke" with no substance should get a pass because satire. Also some people are just sick and tired of hearing the language a satirist is using no matter what the reason. And that's perfectly understandable.

I think "punching up" and "punching down" is at best a loose descriptor because there's not just an "up" and "down" context, even if most people agree on the general direction of a specific punch.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:18 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


The show could also stand to diversify its overwhelmingly white and male writing staff.

Maybe they could hire Suey Park? She's apparently got this whole satire thing down to a science.
posted by Atom Eyes at 5:20 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


flatluigi: "You seem to completely misunderstand Swift's proposal if you think it was trying to satirize children. Either that or you're misunderstanding what people mean by "punching down.""

Oh, wait, nevermind, I see where the confusion came from. I rewrote what I wrote so many times the grammar got screwed up. When I wrote "it pretended to be the "up" side and advocated murdering and eating children" I meant "it pretended to be the "up" side and to advocate murdering and eating children" (that is, it satirized the English by pretending to "be the up side" and pretending to "advocate murdering and eating children").
posted by Bugbread at 5:21 PM on March 28


I think the Colbert tweet was too far, poorly done, that Comedy Central should apologize, and Colbert should take this as a sign that he might need to some thinking about ironic racism.

I totally do not understand the call to arms to cancel the show. That seems wildly out of proportion to the point of being counter-productive.
posted by desuetude at 5:23 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


People are well within their rights to make an unholy stink if they are offended by something on TV. But to jump right on the idea of canceling Colbert's show strikes me as excessive and silly. Whether you agree with the way he said it or not, anybody with a lick of sense can see that the bit was a slap against racists and not Asian Americans. Tell Colbert you think he needs to make that clearer next time, give him guff for talking in a silly voice and saying words you found offensive. Fine.

But if you did actually get his show canned, all you'd really be doing is giving an early Christmas present to the creeps at Fox News.

[I totally take your point, Ursula Hitler, but again let's skip the slurs even if meant ironically?]

Duly noted. But jeez, even when referring to myself?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:35 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


Protests to have shows cancelled for being offensive seem fairly common. How often do they actually work? I'm trying to come up with examples and drawing a blank. Alec Baldwin had his show cancelled, but I don't know if that was a protest-influenced decision or MSNBC made that call all on their own (the article seems to suggest the latter).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:39 PM on March 28


Swift was Irish in the sense that he was born in Ireland. To use that fact to imply that A Modest Proposal is OK because he was a member of the ostensible target of its satiric bigotry is borderline absurd. He was born to English parents, from England, was a protestant, and was an educated-class member of the elite ruling minority who were doing the oppression that he was satirizing, not a member of the Catholic native Irish who were actually being oppressed.
posted by Flunkie at 5:41 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


If you're doing edgy comedy (not that Colbert is that edgy, necessarily), you have to expect to fail sometimes. A major failure mode of comedy that addresses racism by satirizing racists is "asshole". The person behind the twitter handle for the show clearly failed in the asshole mode. It's not worth canceling the show over, but it is worth thinking about, both for the writers and the Colbert fans.
posted by immlass at 5:44 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


If Colbert had made a joke about not offending Black people and ironically used slurs against Black people in it, or if it was about Latinos, I doubt it would have made it on the air in the first place.

If Colbert were Chris Rock, an analogous joke using slurs against black people could certainly have made the air. I credit the Chris Rock bit (standup version here) with cementing my personal thinking on the issue, so I don't think it's just laughs; there's a powerful argument here with the power to change minds.

It's certainly worth pointing out the dangers of using offensive language to make a point about offensive language. I just find "#cancelcolbert" so dumb.
posted by leopard at 5:49 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Solution: Suey Park as Colbert guest. Should be comedy gold.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:57 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


This is god damned ridiculous. This wasn't ironic racism like "Mind of Mencia". The joke wasn't that what he said is offensive.

The joke is that what he said is both patently offensive, and as offensive as the Washington team name and it's asshole owner.

It's not offensive just to get a laugh by being offensive. It's offensive to make precisely the point that the people who are getting mad are trying to make.

It's utterly stupefying that Twitter can create this shitstorm.
posted by graphnerd at 5:57 PM on March 28 [15 favorites]


Well you basically said "well it's not a big deal, but i'm not saying it's not a big deal".

Your message is kinda weasely and minimizing there with a blast shield of "that's not really what i mean" strapped on, when that is in fact exactly what you're saying.


I'm positive I said it doesn't bother me, but I understand why it bothers others. You can go read it. It's right up there.

It's being minimized because it is minimal. Anybody with a couple thousand followers and an opinion can pull this stuff out of their feeds in their sleep. If you've ever listened to any amount of right-wing propaganda, the "moonbats want to kill me!" thing is pretty common. Just because you agree with Park doesn't mean it is a valid argument now.

If social activists didn't agree with Park and her positions on this, she would rightly be called out as a SEOActivist. A self-promoting, soulless, 21st century nightmare of a person that even a cursory examination of her online work makes self-evident. A person who lives and breathes hashtags and has little to say past 140 characters.

The parallels between diametrically opposed people for Park and Colbert as "flawed allies" are kind of hilarious.
posted by lattiboy at 5:58 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


1. This is obviously aan. importaint thing to talk about

2. Suey Park is not a terribly good person to have involved in any serious discussion about it.
posted by edgeways at 5:59 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Just found a piece about this on time.com by Suey Park and I'm not impressed. I believe Colbert to be a man of good will who is sincerely opposed to racism, and when someone *wants to be on your side*, even if you think they've fucked up in their attempt to do so, this is not how you handle the situation. Antagonism and hectoring will only create defensiveness; the goal should be *progress*. Help the people who want to help you by correcting them gently and sympathetically. Otherwise, good luck in your lonely struggle for justice.
posted by uosuaq at 6:02 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


For what its worth, I'm happy to get on board with a #cancelswift Twitter storm.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:07 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Wow, yeah. She apparently considers someone saying "I don't find this offensive" a derail of a debate about something she finds offensive. She is not talking about what I would call debates I don't think
posted by Hoopo at 6:13 PM on March 28


Swift was punching down. Way down. He punched starving, Irish babies. At a time when viciously racist colonial policy was leading to millions of deaths. It was one of the most gruesome moments in European history, and the man had the gall to suggest we eat the very victims:

"A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter."

I know he was joking, but that's such a disgusting insinuation, at precisely the wrong time. Imagine how the Irish reading it at the time must have felt. Even as a joke, suggesting that you eat the baby of someone whose baby is literally starving is not a funny joke. Swift was abhorrent. There are some things that you really should never joke about. Genocide is one of them.

In fact, A Modest Proposal should probably be banned. There are still survivors of famine and genocide in the world. Think about how they would feel if they read Swift's essay. Or the Irish. It must be very hurtful for the Irish, even now, to read the essay, and be reminded of what that time was like. Or babies. What if a baby read A Modest Proposal? A baby would definitely cry.

What I am trying to say is, although Swift couched his argument in satire, he actually said some really awful things. He punched down by literally suggesting infanticide and cannibalism. During the perpetration of a crime so awful that it is difficult to even contemplate.

Similarly Colbert's "satire," while well-intentioned, can be seen as offensive. To be fair, what Colbert said was nowhere near as extreme or horrific as Swift. But still, there is a parallel. Where Swift maligned Irish babies to make a point about the horror of the English role in creating the famine, Colbert actually said a racist thing in order to make the point that the Washington Football Team has a heinously racist name.

Both were trying to be funny, and both made good points. But that is no excuse to say what either of them said, really. Just as we should ban Colbert, we should stop teaching Swift. We could go farther, just to make sure Swift can't hurt anyone (especially babies) by going to libraries, finding all of his books, and burning them. That way, no one would have to read the horrible things that he wrote anymore. Who's with me?
posted by the thing about it at 6:17 PM on March 28 [67 favorites]


All that being said, the more succesful Colbert gets, the more depressed I am that we'll probably never see any more of Strangers with Candy.

I'm personally sad he stopped voicing Dr. Impossible on Venture Bros.
posted by JHarris at 6:22 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


In fact, A Modest Proposal should probably be banned.

Better yet, burn it.
posted by Omon Ra at 6:38 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I guess I learned today that, for the sake of a tortured and inapt parallel defending racism, Swift not only has his Irish identity removed, but also becomes one with the oppressesor, never mind his explicit Irish patriotism. So goes Synge, so goes Wolfe Tone, so goes Yeats.

The relationship between Irish, Anglo Irish, and the English is orthogonal to the relationship between whites and people of color in America. I don't think we should be using Swift as a point of comparison here, as it is a poor parallel, but especially if, to make a twisted point, we take his Irishness away from him, and take Swift from Ireland.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:41 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Swift may have been Irish, but he was not a baby.
posted by the thing about it at 6:43 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


Er, rather than "defending racism," I mean to say "defending speech that people hear as racist."

Sorry to be inexact. I got my Irish up.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:44 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Swift may have been Irish, but he was not a baby.

Surely he must have been.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:45 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


The fact that people are arguing that a modest proposal is bad satire and getting favorites on here legitimately makes me want to disable my account. Seriously.

What counts as OK satire for you? are only people in the disadvantaged group allowed to crack those kinds of jokes? because that was the kind of satire that made the people on the "up" side look like shit.

If the goalposts have been moved so far that a modest proposal is in the "bad" zone and people are going "you know what, yea, it is" then i don't even know what kind of sane discussion we can have here.
posted by emptythought at 6:46 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


Empty thought I think you might be missing the satirical nature of that comment
posted by Hoopo at 6:48 PM on March 28 [33 favorites]


It's probably better not to "count favorites" when you're looking at something emptythought. I favorited that comment because I thought it was interesting. I still don't think A Modest Proposal is "bad," whatever you're saying that means, because the actual comment was a lot more than that.

I favorited it because usually in these threads people are all WHAT YOU HATE SATIRE HAVE YOU EVEN HEARD OF A MODEST PROPOSAL and I thought it was interesting someone had a mite more to say.
posted by sweetkid at 6:49 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I got annoyed at that too at first but once you get to the part where "it should probably be banned" then yeah I see what you did there.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:51 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


I'm going to bed now but this came across my RTs in Twitter in terms of Suey Park. Whether you find her and her supporters (of which I am one) to be humorless or not, these searches are okay to you? This is how we should react to WOC who dare to malign/get angry at people who like Steven Colbert (see: Dane Cook, Daniel Tosh, any white comedian who says something cool and edgy, etc)? Because if that's the case, this is quite depressing.

I get satire (though some folks in this thread think I don't), I get a lot of humor. I just get sad and tired when it uses POC/WOC for its easy targets. Punch up, not down, but as someone said upthread, it doesn't seem like anyone cares where they punch.
posted by Kitteh at 6:51 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


And yet I get screamed at for using the word brobdingnagian. People are okay with Swift until he taxes their vocabulary.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:51 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Oh, good lord. The idea that Swift's Irishness was "removed" by noting that "Swift was Irish" is an utterly facile statement when used as an implication that the reason AMP is OK was because Swift was a member of the people who his sarcastic bigotry was ostensibly aimed at is absurd, flat out; no "borderline" about it this time.
posted by Flunkie at 6:52 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


I hope we can continue to discuss Swift, because obviously he's the real subject of the thread.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:53 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I'm not defending racism; I am quite sincere in arguing that Colbert's bit was functionally racist, whatever its intention. I am genuinely interested in the question of how satire can function given the social context in which it usually has to function given the issues raised in this thread.

But Swift, as a member of the Protestant Ascendancy, is very much not the target of a line like "Papist." The Penal Laws that applied to the Catholic and Dissenting Irish did not apply to him, for example, and without an understanding of those laws the very notion of Irish poverty that he critiqued becomes historically incoherent. I'd also argue that applying the notiuon of "triggering" to 1729 without considering historical difference might be a bit foolish.

(Not to continue the derail too far, but Yeats is actually really problematic in this context; he genuinely did, towards the end of his life, spend a lot of time trying to argue for a special place for the Anglo-Irish as privileged mediators of Irish culture. Purgatory has some really weird stuff in it about the pollution of the bloodline of an Anglo-Irish family by what's implied to be "native Irish," for example.)

None of this means that the Anglo-Irish did not consider themselves Irish, that Swift did not see his work as defending all the Irish, or even that A Modest Proposal is "bad satire." The question is whether or not satire as an enterprise is inherently a bit problematic, and how we have to think about it and respond to its problematic aspects. Colbert's bit has bigger problems still, but this struck me as a potentially interesting avenue for discussion.

I think people are trying to find a bright line here, when in fact the issue is more complicated.
posted by kewb at 6:54 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Feel free to stop.
posted by Flunkie at 6:54 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


So, when do we get back to talking about Dan Snyder being an asshole?
posted by RakDaddy at 6:57 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Dan Snyder still not the topic in the OP.
posted by sweetkid at 6:58 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


I think people are trying to find a bright line here, when in fact the issue is more complicated.

From my point of view, this is one of the most important parts of the meta-conversation here. This is a tremendously complicated issue. There are good faith arguments across the spectrum here regarding many different issues related to the original post.

One of the many things that makes Metafilter a better place for discussing this sort of issue is that we have the opportunity to discuss the points raised at length and in depth.

Twitter is not a forum that allows most nuanced conversation. By design, its aimed at pithy, provocative statements. If you're trying to boil down a challenging subject like "is this particular form of satire appropriate for addressing issues of race" to 160 characters, you're limited in how deeply you can explore the issue before somebody moves on to the next March Madness themed tweet.

The originator of the #cancelcorbert hashtag may or may not have intended for this to turn into what its turned into, but at least ts positive that we're having a conversation here on Metafilter on this topic. Its positive that we're disagreeing in reasoned, intelligent ways. Some minds may be changed - I certainly have a better understanding of why some people are offended by even the complete Colbert bit (and I respect that position and will make an effort to avoid satirical racism in my own comedy).

Its somewhat less positive that other portions of the world are limited to "GRAR RACIST COLBERT BAD HUMORLESS ASIAN WOMAN BAD #LOOKATMEDAMMIT" conversations, whether that be due to temperament or limitations of their social media platform of choice.

tl;dr - Twitter continues to be great for "I just pooped" updates and less great for discussions of important social issues.

So, when do we get back to talking about Dan Snyder being an asshole?

I, for one, try to do that hourly.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:06 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


Whether you find her and her supporters (of which I am one) to be humorless or not, these searches are okay to you?

Where in the world would you get that idea?
posted by benito.strauss at 7:06 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Dan Snyder is a racist asshole.

In trying to skewer Dan Snyder, Stephen Colbert and his writers ended up engaging in racist discourse and effectively reinforcing by repetition a number of racist ideas, including the notion that "ironic" racism is somehow acceptable or even progressive, that anti-Asian racism is "softer" somehow than any other form of racism, and that a bunch of white dudes have any business using slurs that don't impact them in any way resembling their impact on people historically targeted by those slurs.

There are some questions about how to execute and respond to satire, about whether or not racism can be successfully satirized in ways that are not themselves racist, and probably about how comedy more generally functions within critiques of racism and other forms of oppression.
posted by kewb at 7:08 PM on March 28 [24 favorites]


It's possible that A Modest Proposal would be less of a classic if it included a bunch of triggering racist slurs.

Swift uses the anti-Catholic slur "Papist" twice in A Modest Proposal. I don't know offhand of any other slurs, but this was definitely a potentially hurtful term for a prominent Anglo-Irish Protestant to be using, especially at a time when anti-Catholic bigotry in Ireland was a serious issue. He clearly used the term to satirize people of his own religion and class who treated the Catholic Irish as subhuman, but I'm sure it still could have been hurtful to the people his satire was intended to defend. He also cites an "American" he knows in London as being very knowledgeable about eating children. This could easily be interpreted as a casual painting of indigenous people as cannibal savages. Whether this part is satire of true ignorance on Swifts part I don't know.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:11 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Where in the world would you get that idea?

Apologies, there just seemed to be a lot of Suey Park-blaming going on. I wasn't trying to imply that this was a stance the community was holding. Again, apologies.
posted by Kitteh at 7:11 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


...and on Twitter, you only have 160 characters to express what Kewb just described and its sometimes easier just to write #cancelcolbert and grar on to the next topic.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:12 PM on March 28


Thanks, Kitteh. Totally accepted.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:13 PM on March 28


Hard to keep up with these things. I read about a Don Snyder, billionaire racist and his Original Americans Foundation and I'm assuming he means Americans who can trace their ancestry back to the Revolution (as opposed to, say, Ellis Island Johnny-Come-Latelies).

Imagine my surprise.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:27 PM on March 28


I thought Suey Park's article on Time.com was interesting.

Particularly:

The logic of those who argue “Get Over It” is set up to privilege reckless behavior by placing the blame on the audience. But if the joke isn’t actually racist, then why have so many racist slurs been hurled at those of us promoting #CancelColbert? The outrage surrounding our criticism is about white liberals feeling entitled to engage in hate speech under the guise of “satire.” These white liberals are not mad that we pointed out racism, they are mad that they now have to consider the ways in which they may be racist.

Andy Smith on Twitter argued: “Folks seem to think that you can effectively address anti-Native American racism by satirically engaging in anti-Asian or anti-Black racism.” Such an approach presumes anti-Native American racism isn’t distinct and that it doesn’t need to be addressed on its own terms.

posted by sweetkid at 7:30 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


If Colbert had made a joke about not offending Black people and ironically used slurs against Black people in it, or if it was about Latinos, I doubt it would have made it on the air in the first place.

Well, it would be kind of hard for him to play a Black character, but he does do a Latino one.

You don't hear it much today, but it was pretty widely used as a derogatory term well into the 20th century in the US. The kind of thing you'd find in KKK literature; a slur right-wingers used towards Kennedy.

I knew Evangelical Protestants who used it as an anti-Catholic slur as recently as my teen years.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:32 PM on March 28


I was watching Stephen Colbert's show when he first debuted his ironic racist Asian stereotype character. It was years ago but I remember it because it was the first time I heard a white person doing a mock Asian accent since the bus incident in high school.

I was a white kid growing up in a mostly white kid suburb. There was this Asian-American kid on our street named Dan who was two years younger than us. We didn't hang out with him too much because at our high school you only hung out with people in your grade. But we'd sometimes call him up if we were playing driveway basketball or suicide.

One day on the bus ride home two kids thought it would be funny to start calling him "little grasshopper" and shouting that "ching-chong" type stuff in a fake Asian accent. This was in the 1990s, and we had been raised to be tuned in to racism. I knew it was awful and wrong, but I didn't to a thing to stop them. They were a year older than me. There were two of them and only one of me. I could have come up with a million excuses. My friends, also friends of Dan, outnumbered those two kids. But we did nothing. Every time I think of the situation I still feel like shit. Especially about the part where Dan didn't say anything. Even as the bus stopped at his house. He just got up and walked down the aisle. The whole bus was silent.

SO when I first saw the Colbert bit with him talking in an exaggerated Asian accent, I honestly did think it was funny, because he was mocking Rush Limbaugh, a known racist and asshole. But that was also the first time since the bus indecent that I'd heard a white person talking in a mock Asian accent, so it reminded me of Dan. And I wondered if he was watching the show too. And then I didn't know what to think.

I don't want to be one of those people who says "ironic racism is never funny" but it's something you have to approach very carefully, especially if you're white. I'm not in the cancelcolbert camp; I guess I'm more in the "explain why Colbert's ironic racism is not cool and try to get him to respond" camp.
posted by mcmile at 7:32 PM on March 28 [32 favorites]


The ads for The Colbert Report here used to include an excerpt of one of his segments, so I saw it a number of times, where he showed a clip of a woman saying that redskin was the equivalent of the n-word. To which he replied, 'No it's not, let me show you - redskin redskin redskin. And now, n...' followed by the 'Sorry for the Technical Problem!' screen.

Was that him being racist? Was that him pointing out that society doesn't have the rules against some slurs that they do against others - and was he agreeing with it or disagreeing with it? How much does it matter that this was part of a larger segment about the racism inherent in keeping the name of Washington's team?

I think the Swift comparison is relevant, because claiming that intent is divorced from result and that context doesn't matter in terms of satire is to take away the whole point of an entire comedic form, and the reason why A Modest Proposal isn't being lambasted is because people don't self-identify with its targets, or victims, any more. Its 'triggering slurs' are outdated, its context historical, so there's none of, say, the vast pro-life movement decrying a suggestion of baby-eating being a valued and frequently taught essay.

So, sure, be outraged that Colbert is apparently, when in character, capable of saying things you find offensive. But it shouldn't then be surprising if people react to that as if stripping context and meaning is a foolhardy, thoughtless thing to do, especially when it comes to a comedy programme explicitly parodying certain political and social positions. Because it can come off as a massively hypocritical 'my outrage is about the right things and fair, while yours is clearly an oppressive, silencing, and shows you're probably as culpable as the thing I'm offended by.'

I thought the Jezebel piece linked above was a worthwhile look at the whole thing.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:37 PM on March 28 [16 favorites]


Not to mention this, one paragraph up:
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.
The reason Park focuses on The Colbert Report is that, unlike Dan Snyder, TCR is trying to claim the mantle of anti-racism while propagating racism. The people TCR claims to be working "for" in its satire and the people whom the bit slurs are still very much "others" to TCR's writers and host.
posted by kewb at 7:42 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


The people TCR claims to be working "for" in its satire and the people whom the bit slurs are still very much "others" to TCR's writers and host.
]


Yes. This is exactly why "ironic racism" reads to me as, "let's laugh about this amongst us white people." It really feels like it excludes all the nonwhite people it's supposedly helping to support. If you've never had someone get in your face and yell, "Ching Chong, love me long time," it's easy to make a joke like "I mean, it's just like someone saying CHING CHONG, can you even imagine, or making 'love me long time' jokes, like, we're so BEYOND that no one DOES that."

But they totally do.
posted by sweetkid at 7:55 PM on March 28 [24 favorites]


Here's KathrynT making an awesome comment about how ironic racism seems mostly a white person to white person thing ( disclosure: in a MetaTalk thread I started).
posted by sweetkid at 8:09 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


I really dislike this punching up/punching down metaphor that seems to have become really popular in threads about humor and oppression. The idea behind it is admirable, but people tend to take the metaphor itself waaaaay too literally to the point where it's implied that people exist on some sort of definable, ordered continuum where this person/group has 287 subaltern points or that person/group is 84.3% oppressive, and figuring out whether a joke is hurtful or not is simply a matter of plugging in variables and doing the math.
posted by threeants at 8:16 PM on March 28 [20 favorites]


because: Intersectionality, and
because: Context, and
because: don't become too lazy for actual Analysis
posted by threeants at 8:17 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


In trying to skewer Dan Snyder, Stephen Colbert and his writers ended up engaging in racist discourse and effectively reinforcing by repetition a number of racist ideas, including the notion that "ironic" racism is somehow acceptable or even progressive, that anti-Asian racism is "softer" somehow than any other form of racism, and that a bunch of white dudes have any business using slurs that don't impact them in any way resembling their impact on people historically targeted by those slurs.

This.
Attacking racists by using racist language is clever in theory. But in practice, it inadvertently reinforces the notion that casual racism against Asians is acceptable. It is not that difficult to watch someone say "I'm making a racist joke about Asians...but it's OK because I'm actually making fun of racists and everyone knows I'm not really racist" and take away "I'm making a racist joke about Asians...but it's OK because I'm joking and everybody knows I'm not really racist."

It is (rightfully) shocking to hear a white person on national TV to say "n*gger" in any context, but casual racism against Asians is so prevalent in American media that people are just desensitized to it. It's become so accepted in our culture that if you take offense to it, people will spin it around and accuse you of being oversensitive and "PC."

The narrative minorities are supposed to accept is, "we're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you - so lighten up and grow thicker skin!", while conveniently ignoring that the racial majority gets to make all the jokes.
posted by pravit at 8:26 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


Personally I would say this tweet is a pretty bullshit example of throwing one group under the bus to ostensibly make a somewhat opaque point about racism against another group. When thinking about potential motives, responsibilities, and benefits of the doubt, let's keep in mind that The Colbert Report is part of Comedy Central, which is part of Viacom, one of the world's largest media conglomerations. These are money-making operations, not social change organizations.
posted by threeants at 8:27 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Words in print just don't carry the show, do they? It's one problem in our electronic-communication society that hit the fan this time. There will be more yet to come.

Everything about the Colbert show is parody - how can people not realize this? He's outrageous in his diatribes against whatever he's mocking at the time - that's what makes his comedy priceless and en pointe. I agree that the person raising all the commotion about this either has never seen the show or hates it - what a golden opportunity to try to destroy it. In the first place, I'd have to question the mentality of anyone who found this whole thing offensive; I'd question whether they even understood the point - very likely it was over their head. I find those who are still offended, even after the explanation of the context and the point and the real object of the satire - the Redskins name - especially galling because it isn't that they don't understand the point now - they've made a deliberate choice to be offended, and that's just over the top and unjustified.

The Colbert Report is brilliant comedy and it's bound to raise the hackles of someone somewhere just as a matter of course. Yes, I'm white (sorry about that) but here's the thing: If Colbert did a segment on old white-haired women being annoying as hell - they should all be sent to an island together with their dratted electric wheelchairs - and on, regardless of how far he took the idea - I'd laugh myself silly (for that matter, I could give him some material). As for being "hurt" by the "racism" here, I have to say puhleeze - there are a kazillion serious, vicious, truly racist attacks going on out there every day - go there and fight where you're truly needed - I think Colbert is just useful to the overly-sensitive because he's Colbert.

The real problem, again, is trying to convey an entire program in words; it's like when someone tries to tell you all about a movie they saw - it just doesn't work and Twitter is about as useful as nothing in the same way.
posted by aryma at 8:28 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Yes, I'm white (sorry about that)

As for being "hurt" by the "racism" here, I have to say puhleeze -

Talk about not getting the point.
posted by sweetkid at 8:30 PM on March 28 [14 favorites]


I'm going to bed now but this came across my RTs in Twitter in terms of Suey Park. Whether you find her and her supporters (of which I am one) to be humorless or not, these searches are okay to you?

"annoying" and "opportunist"? Whatevs. I'm also going to figure, with it being a search box, that "suey park kill" is people searching for death threats against her for whatever reason, whether it's to point them out in support of her cause, to simply gauge how many are being made, or maybe to be evil and join in.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:30 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


Yes, I'm white (sorry about that) ...

Can you clarify for me why you think you need to or why you think it's expected that you should apologize for being white?
posted by benito.strauss at 8:40 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


I've been pondering today how one can successfully satirize racism. Dave Chapelle's Black White Supremacist springs to mind, but I wonder if the argument that even this sketch provides fuel for racists could be applied here. Certainly Monty Python explored prejudice, but the sketch is loaded with potentially offensive labels. Yes, that's the point of course, but I can see an argument that the sketch is hurtful.

To satirize something, you need to depict it. When you do any kind of comedy, there will be people who don't get it. With satire, one of the risks of people not getting it is that they'll believe you're not being satirical at all - Colbert's invitation to speak for Bush springs to mind. Heck, my metalhead cousin didn't see anything funny about This is Spinal Tap - it all struck him as true and accurate. Thus, there is a risk anytime you create satire that it will be difficult for some people to determine whether you're serious or not.

Colbert is widely known as a satirist by this time. If even Colbert - probably the best known American satirist of our time - can't make a satirical joke at the expense racists without it also being hurtful to a group of people, then I wonder whether its possible for anyone to create race based satire without it being hurtful?

To whit, is it possible to satirize racism successfully without depicting hurtful racist behavior? Expanding this, can one satirize sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc without depicting hurtful behavior?

I think the concept of racism can be satirized successfully in some cases by removing the human element entirely - for example, comic and cartoons can do this by creating worlds populated by non-human characters. Dr. Suess' Star Bellied Sneetches springs to mind. The behavior can, thus, be depicted without the specific real world words.

Perhaps singling out a group that isn't usually used as a target of prejudice (Belgians?) and creating a fictional set of slurs around them could serve a similar purpose.

Anyhow, I'm genuinely not being satirical in this comment or with this question. I am genuinely interested in people's opinions - are there other ways to satirize racism without depicting real world racism in a hurtful way? Is it inevitable that any time a real world oppressor is portrayed in a way that cuts at their oppressive behavior without depicting that same behavior? Is satire just an incorrect way to draw comedic ridicule onto racist/sexist/etc behavior?
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:22 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


Yes, I'm white (sorry about that)

This is my surprised face.
posted by cazoo at 9:27 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


These are money-making operations, not social change organizations.

But given the inordinate power and control they have over people's opinions and behaviour, if you can bend them to your means, then you can use them as a very powerful force.

Would you rather Stephen Colbert was publishing his satire in a photocopied fanzine in a coffee shop in Portland? This is the kind of purer-than-thou attitude that leads to radical/progressives to be forever chasing their tail, spending their days making sure they're more PC than the next person.
posted by Jimbob at 9:30 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


i'm asian and i understand the bit and i was ok with the sarah silverman one as well. i agree that they are jokes about racism told from the POV of an ignorant character. part of that understanding comes from being able to give benefit of the doubt to colbert and silverman as artists because i'm familiar with their work as well as having the impression that they're probably decent human beings.

i'm not comfortable with telling other asians what they should be feeling in these situations, it's a little messed up so many people are perfectly comfortable doing that. those words suck and i've had them thrown at me and even while i understand the jokes there is a twinge that isn't really outweighed by the larger context, the twinge exists alongside the other issues.

i'm not sure where this focus on park as a person is coming from. is it not possible to discuss the broader point without putting her character under the microscope? are there not people in this very thread who've made her points better whom you could maybe engage instead or in addition to? instead of focusing on someone you think is being an asshole on twitter?

aryma you're assuming quite a lot of ignorance on the part of those who disagree with you. i understand it's satire and i still have a problem with you characterizing people as being overly sensitive here. those words hurt and i'd rather you didn't dismiss people on this site who've said they have complicated feelings about hearing them slung in any context. we understand the satire, stop explaining it like we've never taken a lit class.
posted by twist my arm at 9:32 PM on March 28 [30 favorites]


i'm not sure where this focus on park as a person is coming from.

Probably because of the way Twitter works, and the way social media tends to work. She started it, she turned the focus on to the (inexcusable, but completely standard) abuse she received, and from what I've seen on my Twitter timeline today, 5% of the tweets have been about the actual Redskins issue, 20% on Colbert, and 75% on how awful those Twitter trolls are. Yes, we know, people on Twitter (disproportionately women) receive death and rape threats. It happens daily, to millions of women who aren't Park, and so the conversation has ceased to be about the appropriateness of Colbert's skit, or the tweeting of the skit, or the meaning of the skit in terms of systemic vilification of native Americans. I guess you can't stop that - like I said, it's how social media works - but damned if Park didn't appear to try her hardest to steer things in that direction. Social Media Guru.
posted by Jimbob at 9:42 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]




I'm kind of getting the impression not everyone here thinks this about Colbert. I'm hearing the idea that his schtick isn't understood by some people and therefore he's of no more value than the real thing like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh. I'm not really clear on whether this means, like, always, or just on this joke.

Then, those peoples' kids realize their parents are morons, Colbert is the bee's knees, and their parents die. Big picture. Forest.
posted by lordaych at 9:51 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


This has been an interesting personal experience for me.

When I first read the tweet it left a bad taste in my mouth even though I immediately recognized it as satire.

But my rational side said, this is Colbert, I'm sure he's just trying to make a point.

Then I read posts on Facebook defending Colbert, which I quickly stopped doing because it made my vision go red.

I started reading this thread, and I found myself nodding along to some of the more well-thought out defenses of ironic racism in comedy. I've enjoyed such humor in the past, and thought I learned something from them.

But then I read the first and second accounts about Asians experiencing racism. And I remembered being called a gook in LA one night by a man wielding a trash can lid. And last year, when a passing car shouted "Godzilla" at my family. Etc.

It makes me sad to realize that logically I can appreciate and laugh along with "ironic" racism, but still feel like shit about it.
posted by kyp at 9:56 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


Can you clarify for me why you think you need to or why you think it's expected that you should apologize for being white?

Well, I'll tell you why I think it's expected to apologize for being white. It's my understanding that, as a white person, at birth I was issued an invisible knapsack full of invisible privileges that only apply to white people in this society. Due to all of these metaphorical buffs, power-ups, and bonuses, plus being born into an inherently racist culture (owned and controlled by white people), any views or opinions I have about race or racial issues will be considered tainted, skewed, off-base, uninformed, and incorrect. And probably racist.

Also, I get bonus demerits for being born a poor Southerner. What could a trailer trash redneck from Alabama like myself have to say about race that isn't racist?

I tend to avoid commenting in threads like this because they tend to be populated by earnest, humorless, incredulous killjoys who seem to believe that any statement that even remotely hints at being racist, regardless of context or intent, is grounds for nuking whoever made the statement from orbit. Multiple times.

But, since you asked...
posted by KHAAAN! at 10:07 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


Well, I'll tell you why I think it's expected to apologize for being white ...

From your answer it sounds like you don't really expect an apology from you would actually do anything. It sounds to me that you feel that in a conversation like this 1) a lot of assumptions are made about you, some of which you think are unfair, and 2) there's no way you think your comments and opinions will be taken seriously or given any weight. So the "apology" is a way to express your frustration? Have I understood you correctly?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:24 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


I don't feel like I should apologize for being white, but MeFi has made it pretty clear that if you are in a dominant group (a male, white, cis, hetero, etc.) you should not be commenting much in threads about non-dominant groups, because if you disagree with a non-dominant person you're mansplaining/making it all about the white people/etc., or, if you agree with a non-dominant person you're white knighting.

Now, the way I wrote that, it sounds like I'm railing against those positions, but I'm not, really. I think they have merit (though I think the "white knighting" gets handed out too freely). I've seen lots of mansplaining, "what about men?!", etc., so I know that it's an easy trap to fall into, and, as someone who hits the multifecta (white cis hetero male with no disabilities, etc.) my perspective is probably skewed enough that my opinion isn't really all that valuable. If I'm disagreeing with a bunch of folks on an issue, there's a really high likelihood that I'm just wrong about the issue. It would be like me going into a discussion between engineers and giving my liberal arts education opinion on why they're wrong about bridge building codes.

But, if I were to be in a situation like that where I wanted to comment on a topic about a non-dominant group, I would definitely feel like I should apologize for being white/male/cis/whathaveyou...or, specifically, that I should apologize for expressing my opinion on the subject despite being white/male/cis/whathaveyou. That's just how MeFi culture rolls, and though it can sometimes be annoying, on the average I think the positives have outweighed the negatives.

But this is more metacommentary than on-topic.
posted by Bugbread at 10:28 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


A Modest Proposal was satire aimed at helping the Irish poor, coming from someone sympathetic to them on a personal level who put great effort in. This joke was not for the benefit of Asian people. The assumption behind the joke is that they don't have to deal with this sort of racism anymore.

Once again with ironic racism like the tweet, it is making jokes about one marginalized group ostensibly in support of a different group. And of course as per usual, it is made by a member of neither group. This satire was not to get people to feel sympathetic towards people of Asian descent. You're not really supposed to think about them at all. In fact, the satire is supposed to work by getting you to think of how outrageous it would be to use those slurs and that's just like what Daniel Snyder has done, used hateful slurs. But it takes a bubble of privilege to believe those slurs are archaic. If the satire works it is by denying the extent of racial prejudice against people of perceived Asian descent.

To a lot of people (like maybe the people sending racist comments to Suey Park in defense of Colbert), it's funny cause he said "Ching Chong". Not because he's making fun of racists. This is especially the case when it's just a tweet.

Ironic bigotry can't work yet.
posted by Danila at 10:29 PM on March 28 [13 favorites]


I should apologize for being white/male/cis/whathaveyou...or, specifically, that I should apologize for expressing my opinion on the subject despite being white/male/cis/whathaveyou.


The person who apologized for being white was basically like....so sorry I'm white, but uh, all y'all are wrong and shouldn't be "offended" by the "racism", scare quotes on those words of course. And of course a bonus comment about how people should really be worried about the REAL racism out there.

All this after a bunch of comments by Asian Americans and others about how the ironic racism really is hurtful, and there seems to be an allowance for racism against Asian Americans as ok or "softer" than racism against blacks or Hispanics, for example.

Plenty of people have commented in this thread without apologizing for being white. The ones who have contributed successfully (without pushback I mean) are people who are not trying to tell Asian American people how to feel or using scare quotes about their experience or telling them to worry about real racism instead, thereby underlining the idea that making ironic jokes about Asian Americans is totally cool and not indicative of a real problem.
posted by sweetkid at 10:35 PM on March 28 [10 favorites]


I'm going to bed now but this came across my RTs in Twitter in terms of Suey Park. Whether you find her and her supporters (of which I am one) to be humorless or not, these searches are okay to you?

This is an absurd comment, and the irrationality of it is pretty illustrative of why responding to issues like this emotionally and personally (which really appears to be the basis of a lot of Twitter/Tumblr SJ) isn't productive.
posted by graphnerd at 10:36 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


sweetkid: "The person who apologized for being white was basically like....so sorry I'm white, but uh, all y'all are wrong and shouldn't be "offended" by the "racism", scare quotes on those words of course."

Yeah, and I hesitated to answer because I didn't want what I wrote to be interpreted as "this is why aryma apologized for being white". There are a whole lot of different reasons people might apologize. Some might be heartfelt, some perfunctory, some passive aggressive, some snarky. But KHAAAN! jumped in with his own personal reason, so I wanted to also add my perspective. It wasn't a defense of what aryma wrote.
posted by Bugbread at 10:41 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


> But my rational side said, this is Colbert, I'm sure he's just trying to make a point.
... And I remembered being called a gook in LA one night by a man wielding a trash can lid.


I think you hit on a really good point. I read The Onion piece linked above (the title is "Redskins’ Kike Owner Refuses To Change Team’s Offensive Name") and kind of jerked back — I'm Jewish you don't see the word "kike" in a lot of places these days. And then I had the exact same reaction: What point are they trying to make?. Because I've got a long history of reading The Onion and I trust them to not go all bro-racist on me. So I thought about what the point was, got it, laughed, and thought it was great. If The Onion wants to use the word "kike" to make the point on how bad the word "redskin" sounds to Native Americans it's fine with me.

With people we trust we can play around with insulting language. Unfortunately it's easy to misjudge the level of trust people have in us, especially in media that are more than few-to-one, like TV or the Internet.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:44 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


Very relevant article by Suey Park in @shanley's Model View Culture: Hashtags as Decolonial Projects with Radical Origins
We resist linear timelines. We resist patriarchal academic and activist bloodlines.

To use the ideas of Jack Halbertsam, we will push against family time/nation time. We read family/nation time as forced order, as the imposition of whiteness, heteronormative and imperial priorities into our lives - the Imperial Timeline. The Imperial Timeline describes hegemonic, white, capitalistic rendering of events.
As a believer in Nature's Simultaneous 4-Day Cubic Time, I can get behind this. Family time is, per Halbertsam, "the normative scheduling of daily life (early to bed, early to rise) that accompanies the practice of child rearing. This timetable is governed by an imagined set of children’s needs, and it relates to beliefs about children’s health and healthful environments for child rearing." "Nation time" seems to be locked up in a book on queer/feminist time, so I can't help anyone there.

On a previous hashtag:
Most recently, #NotYourAsianSidekick split into two factions. One group committed to women of color feminist politics set the dismantling of anti-blackness as both a priority and future of the hashtag. Another group insisted the hashtag belonged to the Asian American “community”.
Basically she has beef with Angry Asian Man which I think this references. (He has expressed disagreement with the current campaign, as has a famous Asian-American anti-zombie activist, with the leader of Asians giving a stand down order.)
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:53 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


graphnerd, please read further. Kitteh followed up with a very gracious response when questioned about that.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:57 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


. Also the issue was Native Americans/Redskins/Dan Snyder, which doesn't need to involve Asian American stereotypes at all.
posted by sweetkid at 4:10 PM on March 28
[4 favorites +] [!]


It made sense for Colbert's character - he had a problem with Asians ( I am talking about Stephen Colbert the fictional character NOT the real person ) from early on in his show's history. So that's the personal bias the character is "making amends for" with the foundation .

I like that Colbert and his writers pay attention to the personal details , history and consistency of his character - it is not just mindless facile caricature. I don't want comedians to feel like they have to tiptoe through an outrage minefield all the time , whether I enjoy their particular comedy or not .
posted by Bwithh at 11:47 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


Also, although it is very true that the line works very much better and is less confusing in its full TV context, I still think (I'm E. Asian, if that matters; I'm sure Park would say I'm a male and I'm too Westernized so I couldn't possibly understand as well as she can ) it works as a joke on its own as a tweeted line (but is more risky); the joke line on its own is still primarily making fun of Colbert the character, it's not a line bashing Asians . Some poor Comedy Central social media clerk is probably going to lose their job over this.
posted by Bwithh at 11:56 PM on March 28


[Comment deleted. Throwing in rapey jokes in a defense of ironic racism isn't really a good approach here.]
posted by taz at 1:00 AM on March 29


save alive nothing that breatheth: "We read family/nation time as forced order, as the imposition of whiteness, heteronormative and imperial priorities into our lives - the Imperial Timeline."

Okay, I'm assuming this is one of those spoof sites, right? The real Park isn't really saying daylight-based lifetime rhythms are impositions of whiteness, right?
posted by Bugbread at 1:00 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


So, Suey Park writes TimeCube is what I'm lead to believe?

Also, a hashtag having FACTIONS is maybethe silliest fucking thing I've ever heard.
posted by lattiboy at 1:08 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


So where should I put this "Comments since someone joined the thread to explain to us that the Colbert show is satire and if we just understood that we wouldn't be upset:" sign, then?
posted by ominous_paws at 1:10 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Saying something is satire doesn't mean people can't be offended by the words you choose to use. When you choose to use words that have hurt people in the past (and hurt them in the present), then no matter what your good intentions, they can hurt.

And you don't get to decide for them if it hurts or not. What hurts, hurts. And they get to express that. It's been extremely unhelpful for people to shout at Ms. Park and others that they should lighten up. It's even worse when people threaten them with violence or otherwise menace or harass them. That's so far disproportional it sullies so much of this.

Comedy can fucking hurt. And it can even hurt those that the teller didn't intend to hurt. Satirists should know that it can on occasion be a carpet bomb, not a scalpel.
posted by inturnaround at 1:12 AM on March 29 [7 favorites]


No spoof. Model View Culture was previously linked though it spurred no discussion.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 1:15 AM on March 29


It's really interesting to see just how far down the rabbit hole people will follow somebody like Park before they realize exactly how radical she is.

"Colbert was quite insensitive!.... But I'm a big fan of 'morning'... so I guess we'll be parting ways now."
posted by lattiboy at 1:21 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


More classic Park from the Model View Culture site:

"Twitter is... a "dangerous" online "ghetto" that threatens white middle-class users. In other words, by not being a segregated space, Twitter is marked as an unsafe space for the white middle-class user who has to share a platform with people of color, especially when whiteness and privilege are made visible."
posted by Bwithh at 1:22 AM on March 29


What I can't get over is that anyone thought the thing about it was being serious. For the love of God, y'all. Maybe put on an Allman Brothers record and have a beer or something?
posted by ob1quixote at 1:55 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


I'm mostly familiar with Black Twitter which has an active womanist and social justice arm that is deeply connected to other poc. I've seen Suey's writings before and I know she is part of this overall group. They are using Twitter in a way that has proven deeply uncomfortable and provocative for some white people in part because there are no apologies or attempts to soften language or speak about racial issues under white supremacist terms. They are bold and they don't act like their audience is white people because it isn't necessarily. Sometimes they start movements on Twitter that inspire conversation and change elsewhere (e.g. #solidarityisforwhitewomen).

I don't use Twitter at all but I read Storifies regularly for these accounts because a lot of great conversations are happening. I appreciate what they're doing in general. Twitter is an epistemic and discursive equalizer in many ways. Everyone gets the same amount of characters and people are able to discover and connect with others, create new social circles, empower and learn from each other, and push for their voices to be heard and for their ideas to be confronted.

Some people have to be the loud ones to get any conversation started, especially when it's a conversation the majority doesn't want to have or even know can be had. The show won't be canceled, everyone knows that. I also don't think voices like Suey's pose any threat of overtaking the conversation; they are much more likely to be drowned out or silenced.

People are saying that all of this detracts from the racism against Native Americans but it's no good doing something racist to fight racism and Asian Americans matter too. People should choose their battles but this one has merit in my opinion. It would be great to focus more on that than trying to make her look crazy or like some kind of race hustler. She could be wrong without being those things.
posted by Danila at 2:02 AM on March 29 [17 favorites]


The real Park isn't really saying daylight-based lifetime rhythms are impositions of whiteness, right?

No it has nothing to do with that. She's talking about who gets to own the narrative, and will narrative be used to further colonialist, white supremacist corporate goals or anti-racist, feminist, anti-colonial goals.

This is all laid out in the article.
posted by Danila at 2:17 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


I read the article, but other than the new expression "family/nation time", the sentence "We read family/nation time as forced order, as the imposition of whiteness, heteronormative and imperial priorities into our lives" is a really straightforward sentence. I didn't see anything else in the article that changed what it meant. The closest I can guess is that maybe she meant "We read the imposition of family/nation time onto hashtags as forced order, as the imposition of whiteness, heteronormative and imperial priorities into our lives - the Imperial Timeline". Is that what she's saying? Because otherwise, I'll have to take your word that it's laid out in the article, but I don't see it.
posted by Bugbread at 2:57 AM on March 29


But, wait, it doesn't matter. If she's not saying that, then it doesn't really matter if it's my inability to understand what she wrote, or her inability to write. The point is just that she's not saying the crazy thing I thought she was saying, so it doesn't matter why I was mistaken, and I apologize for the derail.
posted by Bugbread at 3:05 AM on March 29


No, as I specifically said in the end of my comment, when I called it a real problem.

Well you basically said "well it's not a big deal, but i'm not saying it's not a big deal".


I believe this phenomenon -- the falsely attributed direct quote that restates someone's comment reductively -- is what some of us have been yelping about on MeTa for a while as a divisive and confrontational strategy lately becoming quite common around here.

The words you put in quotes are your own, emptythought, not lattiboy's. The quote marks, even prefaced by "basically," imply otherwise.

That's not what lattiboy "basically said" in a comment with 10 or 12 sentences. That's how you wanted to hear it reduced. The proper prefacing remark is not "you basically said," but "what I heard you say is."

Putting words in other peoples' mouths is a pernicious and dishonest rhetorical strategy, unless we are all satirists all the way down.
posted by spitbull at 3:53 AM on March 29 [8 favorites]


(twactivism?)

twitivism


twitizen twactivism
posted by univac at 3:58 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I wrote what turned out to be an essay explaining my interpretation of Suey Park's essay, but too much of a derail and I'm going on a long trip in a half hour. So I will memail it to you bugbread. It is possible that Suey Park and I are both crazy in the same way on this issue.
posted by Danila at 4:36 AM on March 29


As a believer in Nature's Simultaneous 4-Day Cubic Time

For those like me who had not heard of this.
posted by josher71 at 5:38 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Family time is, per Halbertsam, "the normative scheduling of daily life (early to bed, early to rise) that accompanies the practice of child rearing. This timetable is governed by an imagined set of children’s needs, and it relates to beliefs about children’s health and healthful environments for child rearing."

While this doesn't read like a good-faith comment at all what with the sneering "Time Cube" references and the total lack of intellectual curiosity -- oh noes, some of these words and concepts are apparently are "locked up in a book" you might have to read in order to better understand something! -- it's probably still worth unpacking Halberstam's point and relating it to this thread, so let's have a go, shall we?

Most institutions, including governments, businesses, and the like run on schedules that are designed with the expectation that everyone doing anything is living a white, middle-class, nuclear family sort of existence. Additionally, culturally specific definitions of punctuality, time-of-life, and so forth are taken as blanket, essential truths about how everyone's life works. So, for example, a woman in her teens is supposed to be thinking ahead to marriage, conceiving a child before a certain age, starting a career (or not having a career) in order to make sure motherhood works out on a certain schedule, etc. So deeply held are these assumptions that virtually everything you encounter, every narrative, dialogue, institutional system, will operate as if everyone encountering it has these shared heteronormative family goals as defined in the dominant culture of the nation.

However, people who are not middle-class, white, heterosexual or gender-normative will not live their lives according to these assumptions. Moreover, these assumptions are not genuinely "natural" or "innate" truths. It's quite possible to have a functional society without the same concept of punctuality, for example, or with a different approach to how labor and leisure are distributed across a set span of time, or even with a family structure that doesn't lend itself to the same life milestones (i.e., marriage, first child, and so on) or work-life balance in terms of your daily schedule.

To anyone who doesn't share the assumptions or fit the profile, then, these schedules and narratives work to impose the timelines and daily schedules, the very rhythm of life, of a totally different kind of culture and existence. Anyone not living according to these expectations is made to feel "wrong" or "inefficient" or "inferior;" their way of being in the world is effectively diminished or derided.

Now, this doesn't require a conspiracy, and it doesn't require a cackling person with an Iron Cross tattoo and a pointy white hat laughing at everyone else. All it requires is a complete unwillingness to reflect on the idea of a different experience of everyday life on the part of those who benefit from or submit themselves to the dominant set of assumptions and assume that they are natural, superior, more efficient, or whatnot.

This unthinking assumption is really what we call privilege; it works for you and everyone you know, so it surely must work for Those People Over There. If they complain, they must be cranks, or inferiors, or somehow just wrong. Without a good faith effort to listen to someone whose experiences don't coincide with your assumptions, you end up participating in structures that oppress these other people.

It's that lack of good faith effort, that unwillingness to dislodge the comforting assumptions, that form the combination of complacent bad faith and unexamined entitlement called, among other things, "privilege."

Part of the problem people are having with Park's essay stems from a different manifestation of privilege. The assumption is that we all see Colbert's satire as so inherently worthwhile and right-headed that the slurs used int he comedy bit are somehow disarmed, somehow no longer slurs that people can experience in malicious or oppressive ways. But of course, if these words or words like them have always worked as a direct assault on you as a person, on your very validity and dignity as a person or a being, then hearing one more white guy finding a way to call them harmless *is actively harmful.* (The nature of that harm has been hashed out at some length already in this thread, so go back and read.)

And the really amazing thing? If you're not in the group for whom all of this is harmful, no one is asking you to apologize at all! They're asking you to do two things, which are difficult but not particularly onerous: first, maybe listen to them and learn from what they have to say. You don't know what it's like to live their lives; they are the experts int hat field, not you. You wouldn't enter an advanced physics classroom and get huffy when the manner of discourse and the perspective on the world don't fit your own assumptions, so why would you barge into another culture's or another person's working experience of the world and do exactly that?

Second, you're being asked to come away with questions about your own assumptions, the invisible assumptions of the world around you, and the way in which those assumptions may be creating a hostile culture for people whose ways of being and experiences don't line up with those deep, but ultimately artificial assumptions. This is the hard part, the part that takes some long-time work and practice, but it's also a worthwhile part.

Understand that the culture around you is designed to tell you that your discomfort with these questions is equal to the pain of someone hearing racial slurs on a daily basis just because of what they look like, the oppression of someone whose sexuality or gender identity leads that same culture to tell them to not be who they are or just go die somewhere, of being the only minority in a room full of white het dudes and being expected to laugh at a joke that assaults them as a person because "it's irony" or "it's satire."

You live in a culture that tells you you are right in who you are, how you are, and all that you say or do. You are being asked, rather politely at first, to notice that in most circumstances we would call this narcissism or megalomania. Why is "normal" your normal? What happens when someone else's normal comes into contact with it? It's an invitation to consider the possibility of a radical perspective shift. Be polite, take it, and listen patiently rather than talking because you assume you are Always Right and Very Smart Indeed about All Things. You might just learn something worthwhile.
posted by kewb at 5:40 AM on March 29 [42 favorites]


Society is shaped, unfairly most if the time, by the dominant culture, but it's not entirely its fault that the sun rises in the morning and sets at night.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:52 AM on March 29


Society is shaped, unfairly most if the time, by the dominant culture, but it's not entirely its fault that the sun rises in the morning and sets at night.

We have many, many examples of people who live by a different schedule; come to think of it, even with daylight savings time, there are good chunks of the year wherein we wake up while it's still dark and/or don't get to go home from work until it's already dark. And then there're night-shift workers.

And all of that is just within the narrowed spectrum of options within a dominant cultural paradigm. In any case, the essay and the reference are about more than just sunrise and sunset.
posted by kewb at 5:57 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Ironically enough, I guess it's too early on Saturday morning for me to form cogent thoughts or have the ability to fully comprehend subversive writing. I probably should not have made my previous comment.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:11 AM on March 29


[Comment deleted. Save alive nothing that breatheth, cut it out with the all-caps, advice animal macro gotcha, and over the top sarcasm, and just talk like an adult if you want to discuss.]
posted by taz at 6:22 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


3. Tied to this, I get irritated when AAs get really selective about their outrage - as in only when it affects us specifically.

This is harmful bullshit that you are spreading. AAs I know are upset by racism in general. Please don't do this.
posted by ignignokt at 6:24 AM on March 29 [9 favorites]


A friend of mine took standup comedy classes several years ago, and they informally explained privilege to the class without using or knowing the term. They said you have to be careful about racial humor. The only safe ethnic group to not worry about offending are Asians because you won't get much trouble in a club. Yes, some New York comedy workshop geniuses actually said this.

Whether this is or the Silverman chink joke are "funny in context" is less important than that they demonstrate a belief in this principle and a general lack of respect for Asians as a people.

I really like Colbert as both a comedian and what I know about him as human being, but he's done this at least once before several years ago, and it is alienating that his crew did it again. I am disappointed that they took the weak route when usually they are a little more courageous.
posted by ignignokt at 6:37 AM on March 29 [6 favorites]


Society is shaped, unfairly most if the time, by the dominant culture, but it's not entirely its fault that the sun rises in the morning and sets at night.
That's not actually how time works. I don't wake up in the morning when the sun rises, the way my pre-modern ancestors probably did. I wake up when the clock says it is 6:00 AM. Sometimes it's dark when I wake up, and sometimes it's light. The US national government dictates when my clock says 6:00 AM, and the clock saying 6:00 AM doesn't correspond directly to anything in nature. When Americans first started using clocks, everyone would set their own clocks by determining that it was noon when the sun was directly overhead, which meant that 6:00 for me would be a little earlier than 6:00 AM would be for the people in the next town to the West. This didn't pose a problem until the emergence of a transnational rail network, when the railways needed standardized time in order to make workable train timetables. In the 19th century, the railways created a system of 100 time zones, which presumably most individual families and businesses ignored. The current four time zones, which people in the US take for granted, were established in 1883. An international time standard, based on the time at the Greenwich Observatory in the UK was established in 1884. Daylight savings time, which is controversial and not practiced everywhere in the US, was established during World War I as a war measure. The same World War I-era law dictated that everyone had to use the standard time zones. I'm not saying that any of these things are sinister or imperialist, but they were things that were done by people, not nature, and they were on some level political. Debates about daylight savings time still are political.

Anyhow, I think the response to the time thing is actually a little telling. It's representative of some stuff that goes on here and elsewhere. There are a lot of tech-minded people who take for granted that the humanities and social sciences are simple and easy. Therefore, if they encounter humanities or social sciences writing with complicated theoretical ideas that they don't understand, they assume that the writing must be stupid. It can't be that they don't have the necessary background to understand the stuff, and it can't be that they need to read a little more carefully and ponder what the author is saying. It has to be that the writing is ludicrous. That impulse to dismiss is often compounded when the author is a woman or a person of color, nevermind both.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:33 AM on March 29 [22 favorites]


All in the Family wouldn't have lasted two episodes if it had been released today, and yet it played a large part in exposing the ignorance behind the prevailing racial attitudes of its time.
I can't help but think we're losing something by banning well-meaning satire.
posted by rocket88 at 7:44 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


you don't get to decide for them if it hurts or not. What hurts, hurts. And they get to express that.

Sure, they can express it all they like. And everyone else can also express whether a show being cancelled or a person being fired is an appropriate response to this person's hurt.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:48 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Therefore, if they encounter humanities or social sciences writing with complicated theoretical ideas that they don't understand, they assume that the writing must be stupid.

Please see my comment directly after the one you quoted where I admitted I did not understand the writing. It's written in what seems like pretty opaque, garbled English to me, but it's not the author's fault necessarily that it seems that way to me. I'm just not familiar enough with the particular language of this sort of subversive writing to fully comprehend it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:08 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


That impulse to dismiss is often compounded when the author is a woman or a person of color, nevermind both.

Sorry, I missed this gem the first time through. If that's aimed at me in particular, it fell pretty wide of its mark.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:30 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


"I can't help but think we're losing something by banning well-meaning satire."

Is it actually being banned, or merely subjected to the criticism that any other artistic/cultural product with political undertones is vulnerable to?
posted by Selena777 at 8:31 AM on March 29 [14 favorites]


Not aimed specifically at you, Devils Rancher. It's not aimed specifically at anyone, and you weren't even the person saying the most knee-jerk dismissive stuff on this thread.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:35 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I tend to avoid commenting in threads like this because they tend to be populated by earnest, humorless, incredulous killjoys who seem to believe that any statement that even remotely hints at being racist, regardless of context or intent, is grounds for nuking whoever made the statement from orbit. Multiple times.

I don't think there is a single commenter in this entire thread who has said they think Colbert should be canceled, or that anyone should be "nuked from orbit." There are a lot of thoughtful comments explaining why people find ironic racism problematic, but I guess those are just "killjoys."
posted by pravit at 8:36 AM on March 29 [14 favorites]


That impulse to dismiss is often compounded when the author is a woman or a person of color, nevermind both.

Sorry, I missed this gem the first time through. If that's aimed at me in particular, it fell pretty wide of its mark.

There's a broader cultural pattern in which women and POCs are dismissed, one that resolves into rather clear signaling to such people about the way the dominant culture assigns a low value to them and their speech. If the person being misunderstood or dismissed falls into one of these categories, the dismissively phrased misunderstanding or vocal ignorance becomes part of the same signal.

When someone responds critically, it's usually not so much about their turning around and determining who you are so much as it's a request for patient, sometimes counterintuitive -- because of those assumptions and signals some people don't have to think about -- examination of and reflection upon how the actions and words work out there in the world.
posted by kewb at 8:43 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


Not aimed specifically at you, Devils Rancher.

Thanks.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:54 AM on March 29


I don't think there is a single commenter in this entire thread who has said they think Colbert should be canceled, or that anyone should be "nuked from orbit."

To be fair, this conversation would not be happening if it weren't for Suey Park's savvy at social media (#cancelcolbert).
posted by graphnerd at 9:13 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Hey if I'm standing accused of dismissing WoC I will offer in my own defense that in starting a strange, strange tech company the 3rd or 4th person I asked to cofound is LITERALLY a WoC Social Critic (Science/Tech Studies) I wanted onboard for Social Criticism, because I'm intending to come correct in all aspects of business. And please understand there was no Affirmative Action in this decision, it was all business. She decided she was too busy with things like "finishing her doctorate at a top university" so not co-founder, only contract work...

The main difference is I think her stuff is pretty good, I assign a high value to her and her speech, but maybe I think Suey Park's stuff is kinda shit.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:32 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


this conversation would not be happening if it weren't for Suey Park's savvy at social media

nobody else would care? no other asians would care? it wouldn't've been made into an fpp? this specific conversation on this specific site in this specific universe would've turned out differently? nobody watches the colbert report except park?

it's an issue that has touched more than a few people in this thread. it's related to a lot of our experiences. try not to dismiss the entire conversation as one person's savvy (which i think a hashtag doesn't qualify as, personally). i see from your other comments that dismissiveness is kind of your bag though. to be fair.
posted by twist my arm at 9:34 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


Some of my best friends.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:34 AM on March 29 [5 favorites]


this kind of story shows us that foxnews really has won. this isn't about racism; it's about people filling their need for indignation so desperately that they will willingly suppress any element of context, intent, or fact to do it. manufactured outrage is a more profitable online currency than bitcoin. i've had to discard much of my regular media over it (salon has one guy whose job is pretty much just to accuse people of homophobia and transphobia in progressively snarky terms.) unfortunately, much queer media has given over to it as well and are starting to sound like Sedaris' Glen's Homophobia Newsletter.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:39 AM on March 29 [14 favorites]


To be fair, this conversation would not be happening if it weren't for Suey Park's savvy at social media (#cancelcolbert).

Ultimately full credit must be given to Dan Snyder's provocative stance on behalf of the Washington team's current name. It really got a productive conversation going.
posted by leopard at 9:46 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


first, maybe listen

This! Listening is pretty much the best thing.

When someone voices an opinion, listen. Listen before responding emotionally. Listen without interrupting. Listen even if you do not agree, and are not going to agree. Listen because it's your opportunity to learn something about how another person experiences the world, especially when that experience doesn't match your own.

And then? You can still agree to disagree. It's fine to respond to "I found this offensive, and here is why," with "Huh. I did not find it offensive, and here is why, but I acknowledge your experience."

It is, however, kind of bananas to respond to "I found this offensive and here is why," with "You are not allowed to feel that way, even though that is how you felt, and here's how angry I am at you for still feeling that way, even though I explained to you that you shouldn't feel like that."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:55 AM on March 29 [10 favorites]


And then? You can still agree to disagree. It's fine to respond to "I found this offensive, and here is why," with "Huh. I did not find it offensive, and here is why, but I acknowledge your experience."

It is, however, kind of bananas to respond to "I found this offensive and here is why," with "You are not allowed to feel that way, even though that is how you felt, and here's how angry I am at you for still feeling that way, even though I explained to you that you shouldn't feel like that."


this ignores that much of the discourse now (1) is disingenuous, and/or (2) misinterprets emotion as objective reality.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:06 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


How does one 'misinterpret emotion as objective reality'? If someone is hurt by something I dont' think is or should be hurtful, are their feelings not real?
posted by beefetish at 10:10 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


If someone is hurt by something I dont' think is or should be hurtful, are their feelings not real?

the feelings might be real, but they don't necessarily reflect an external reality, and we have no obligation to humor people who assume they do.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:14 AM on March 29 [5 favorites]


the feelings might be real, but they don't necessarily reflect an external reality, and we have no obligation to humor people who assume they do.

This is the part where we're going to have to agree to disagree.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:40 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


this conversation would not be happening if it weren't for Suey Park's savvy at social media (#cancelcolbert)

It is possible to disagree with the way Suey Park chose to bring attention to the issue, while agreeing that it is an issue that should be discussed. I personally think the #cancelcolbert thing is overly sensationalist and possibly self-promoting, and of course I don't think the show should be canceled. Nobody in this thread does. But it's a shame that people are pointing to one person's extreme reaction to the Colbert segment, and using it to dismiss everyone who has explained why they have a problem with it or ironic racism in general.
posted by pravit at 10:45 AM on March 29 [8 favorites]


the feelings might be real, but they don't necessarily reflect an external reality, and we have no obligation to humor people who assume they do.
That goes both ways. I'm under no obligation to humor you either.
posted by wuwei at 10:52 AM on March 29 [5 favorites]


The frustrating part to me (aside from taking energy from Snyder) is there really isn't much actually critical analysis of the joke and why it does or doesn't work which I think helps move this conversation away from dismissal and demonization. Bwithh hit upon part of it that I think is necessary for talking about the joke and that is its history. (Note: I am going to link to the videos but you may or may not want to view them.)

The stereotype Chinese character Colbert played in the past first appeared in 2005. That initial bit, unless there was more context, seems pretty straight racist to me. The only funny part is him disavowing that its him which is probably the standard reaction any comedian or political show personality would make when called out on such an impression. The original bit seemed like it might not have been scripted and was just Colbert, unfortunately, doing an impression to mob for his in-studio audience. So if that's the case ... ugh.

But Colbert continued to use the character, fortunately a bit more for good. A couple years ago he used it to mock Rush Limbaugh by accusing Limbaugh of insensitively ripping off (insensitively!) his Chinese character. The segment also had some other good bits though and that wasn't the focus -- the mention of Colbert's caricature really existed so that Colbert could introduce clips of Limbaugh's other offensive impersonations (black people notably and then Parkinson's sufferers). The Rosie O'Donnell bit is of course mocking Rosie's use of fake Chinese on The View (which was itself criticized by a NYC councilmember John Liu (and others) at the time). The "defending Rosie" bit also introduced the idea that there was a "Changstapo" after Colbert for his racist impression of Chinese people. There are of course other videos where he uses the characters. He briefly referenced the character in 2006 to mock the NY Post's use of "Wok" for "Walk" in a headline. In 2007, he did a bit about his use of racist slurs which features a fake Today show interview where he defends his slurring of Hungarians by .. bringing up the Chinese character (I'm not sure who he's mocking but it's probably contained in the original Today show interview). In 2008, he had a longer bit about being vetted for the Obama admininistration where the caricature is brought up at the end of the interview and is clearly the failing that ends the interview (over cocaine use, insulting the president, etc.). Again in 2008, he rates some pop music albums where he doesn't play the original clip but briefly drops back into the character (and then denies that it's him but him playing a character). In 2009, he again drops into the character, albeit briefly, when talking about Black Friday, the holiday that can't offend anyone, which then makes the bit offensive (you could call this "ironic racism").

Even before this week, Colbert had been criticized for the character as just bad ironic racism. A comment in this post on Amy Sedaris' use of ironic racism also invokes Colbert's use. This Atlantic piece makes the point that Colbert's impression might just be interpreted as much more sinister in the future along the samel ines as racist humor in magazines from the early 20th century are regarded now. This more extensive post notes that Colbert can't really be an anti-racist campaigner while stereotyping Asians, specifically in the context of Congressional testimony where an Asian Congressperson invited him to speak on behalf of migrant workers who are largely Latino and subject to harmful stereotyping.

So with that history, what about the most recent joke? It only works because of the implied deep parallels between Colbert's history and Snyder's. We've got a long running offense: the Redskins team name versus Colbert's ongoing use of a racist caricature. We've got people over time trying to get the offense stopped: people have been trying to change the team name for a long time versus Colbert ostensibly being hassled to stop using the character. Finally, we have the perpetrators attempting to make amends by the absurd creation of an institute to help the people they are being bigoted towards.

I'm not going to say it entirely works, especially after all this research. Looking into the history of the original bit makes me much more squeamish -- I'd assumed he was mocking someone specifically with that original 2005 bit that I just didn't know (e.g. a talk show personality or similar). That he's used the caricature for good since by using it as a parallel world to point out clear racism is better. But, as some have noted, many people when watching the 2005 clip embedded probably just laugh at the "funny Chinese speech" and don't get the subtler points. The use of the original clip may just result in lots of people laughing at a straight-up bigoted joke and not really laughing at the idea that this is a thing people actually do to de-humanize (e.g. Rush Limbaugh doing impressions of black people). Sadly, though, some of his invocations of the caricature also fall back into mostly lazy stereotyping that don't attack racism or bigotry very well (specifically the bits in 2008 and 2009 about pop music and Black Friday). His use of the caricature is sadly not entirely just to mock actual bigots. The most recent joke is pretty strongly using the parallel world of "Colbert the personality performing a Chinese caricature" to mock actual bigotry, but the history is a bit more complicated than just an ongoing satire.

Perhaps my searching is poor but I'm actually kind of surprised how little criticism there seems to be of Colbert for this character before now. Are there more people criticizing the character before now that I missed? Or perhaps the criticism has been happening on platforms that don't show up fairly high in google rankings (I admit to only going to around 6-8 pages in for most of my searches).
posted by R343L at 10:55 AM on March 29 [34 favorites]


And now I see a typo. "samel ines" is supposed to be "same lines". Sigh.
posted by R343L at 11:03 AM on March 29


My own perspective is that if Colbert is to engage in satire of a many modern American movement conservatives, he is almost required to be racist while in character. It seems like he tries to soften it a little bit by making the character clueless rather than malicious. However, I can definitely understand people's outrage, and I would never blame anyone for expressing that.

I think such humor is legitimate, but there is a line, a line that can only be discerned by judgment and wisdom, as well as listening to discussions like this one. I initially thought Colbert definitely didn't cross the line, but now I'm not so sure. Either way, he came really close, if not.
posted by JKevinKing at 11:17 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


many people when watching the 2005 clip embedded probably just laugh at the "funny Chinese speech" and don't get the subtler points.

Which I guess raises an interesting question - to what extent is the artist responsible for mis-interpretations of the art by the audience? Or is that not even a relevant question? I'm sure we all are familiar with the efforts of 'family values conservatives' to defund museums that featured art that they thought was offensive.

I guess in this case I feel like that taken purely in isolation, the tweet can easily be interpreted as offensive. But placed in its actual context of an on-going piece of art aimed entirely at taking down the absurd notion that people can be "colour blind", and given further that this element of that project was specifically created in the service of an anti-racist effort, the reaction seems overdone at best, self-serving at worst.
posted by modernnomad at 11:24 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


I think the most important test of "ironic" humor satirizing racism is whether it makes the target wince or laugh. I can't imagine many supporters of keeping the "Redskins" name wincing at this joke, so I think it's a failure.

Chris Rock's bit where he refers to the NY N-words, seems more likely to make (some of) the targets uncomfortable. It also makes a difference that Chris Rock uses a slur that would be aimed at him, so he's more clearly taking the side of Native Americans and saying, "Don't do to them what you wouldn't do to me."
posted by straight at 11:26 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Which I guess raises an interesting question - to what extent is the artist responsible for mis-interpretations of the art by the audience?
I think that presumes that there is a single, correct way to interpret a work of art, which seems to me to be a bizarre way to think about art criticism in general, not even getting into issues about what's offensive or not.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:31 AM on March 29


Sorry, yes, that is a good correction. I did not mean to suggest that there is a single correct way of interpreting art, but rather is the artist responsible for interpretations that differ from their own intent when creating that art?
posted by modernnomad at 11:33 AM on March 29


As a Chinese American dude, I was OK with the Colbert thing, but mostly it's because I like his work and trust him as a performer. If I didn't, I'd probably have a different opinion. Just like if you and your friends make ethnic jokes at each other all the time, this is completely different from you making ethnic jokes at complete strangers.

As a guy who used to do standup comedy: You don't get to control how people react to your jokes. If a lot of people are like "I think your jokes are kind of hurtful", it's probably a good idea to think about it. Just like if nobody is laughing at your jokes, telling the audience that they suck and that your jokes are hilarious is not going to change their minds.

If you are like "Man, people are way too sensitive about Asian jokes! That was fine!" and "I feel like I need to apologize for being white here!", maybe the conclusion is that people are sensitive to different things. If your conclusion is "Only things to which I am sensitive are valid", I think you might have problems.

If you don't believe that in this day and age, people still have really strange ideas about Asian people, even on metafilter ... well, there are many, many examples from Metafilter. My favorite is still the guy who wanted to write a FPP talking about how Asians don't value compassion and see it as a weakness. Presumably he had never heard of Buddhism.
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:50 AM on March 29 [22 favorites]


Nietzsche said that a joke is an epitaph on the death of a feeling. That's not always true, and obviously not true of all jokes, but there's a fair bit of truth in it--about much humor anyway.

A lot of humor pushes boundaries in that way, as does the tweet in question. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd guess that this isn't that bad, though I'm not sure whether I'd make a joke like that myself. The CR took a shot at something probably racist by saying some other stuff tongue-in-cheek that would be racist if said seriously. Maybe it's racist anyway, but this is a notoriously tough question. In a joke like that, you risk hurting some people (innocent, un-involved people) to make a point. It's not crazy to think that there's a consequentialist component here--if I can say something that has a low probability of insulting group A in order to make an important point about group B, it's common to think that it's permissible and worth it.

If enough of that is right, then a big part of what's at issue here is an empirical question that might be settled by taking a poll of Asians. Perhaps an overwhelming majority will think this is NBD. Perhaps an overwhelming majority will say "Damn, you know what kind of hurt." Nobody will conduct that poll...but we could if we were serious about this issue... Such results wouldn't be decisive, but they'd be damn informative.

I don't know whether TCR's joke was permissible or not. But the more-or-less centrist, more-or-less no-BS liberalism of The Daily Show and TCR is a liberalism I trust. That liberalism has shown that, even when it is wrong, it has the capacity to correct itself over time and get better.

The liberalism-or-radicalism of Ms. Park, however, I don't trust at all. I think it's based on a toxic mishmash of badly confused pseudophilosophical theories, and tends, like most radicalism, to have a tendency to lack the very self-corrective nature of more centrist liberalism. Ms. Park has said--just to take one example of many--that white males have no right to speak on this issue. That is a non-standard view to say the least. To say the most, it might reasonably be characterized as more substantially racist than anything going on in TCR's tweet. (It's true that many Asians will have a clearer view about, say how prima facie hurtful such remarks are; it's false that only Asians are capable of reasoning about the issue.) She's also really fond of the obfuscatory cant that is beloved in that sector of political space, and that doesn't help... (And, incidentally, that's not a STEM vs. humanities issue... I'm in the humanities, and most people I know have no use for the neo-pomo ways of thinking that have taken over on the left.)

So, it's hard not to zoom out from the tweet itself and think about the bigger picture. TCR might be wrong, but if they're wrong, it's in what I'd call an understandable way, and they're the kinds of people who can be reasoned with, and who can change. Ms. Park represents a position that, so far as I can tell, does not have any interest in being reasonable nor being reasoned with. I wouldn't mind if people had a reasonable public discussion about this. But not everyone who sticks their oar in on an issue like this is similarly interested.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 11:59 AM on March 29 [17 favorites]


It seems to me that even people who say "funny in context" are assuming a lot about the audience. It was clear that the bigotry of "All in the Family" was intended to be satirical. But it's also pretty clear to me that for some percentage of the audience, the show allowed them to feel superior to Archie Bunker while still somehow getting a thrill from hearing those slurs with apparent/assumed impunity. I watched Colbert's actual presentation, and I think there was a level of that there.
posted by BibiRose at 12:08 PM on March 29 [8 favorites]


I thought that tweet was just awful. I have a hard time seeing how the formula - I am willing to show ( group ) community I care by introducing the (really, really shitty offensive thing to say about said group) Foundation for Sensitivity to (derogatory word for said group) or Whatever - is funny any way I look at it. WTF Colbert Report?
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:08 PM on March 29


It's kind of hilarious seeing so many white people here say how Suey Park SHOULD feel as an Asian person, and also know what he r"true" motivations are.

No, wait, not hilarious. The opposite of that.
posted by ShawnStruck at 12:12 PM on March 29 [10 favorites]


With over 300 comments can you link to some of the ones that said that?
posted by rocket88 at 1:20 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Having seen the segment, I think it is hard to miss the entire point of satire. It's only by framing the Washington Redskin's actions in parallel, more odious terms, that he can get people to see something they would be otherwise blind to, namely that the Washington Redskins have been around for so long, and Native Americans are so marginalized, that many might not see the racism and offensiveness in the name, and creating a foundation with that name doesn't make the name any better.
posted by zippy at 1:36 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


overheard on Facebook: "OK keep Colbert, but let's go ahead and cancel National Whitesplaining Week, sound like a plan?"
posted by AceRock at 1:36 PM on March 29 [16 favorites]


Joe Strummer cried when he heard that American pilots were blasting "Rock the Casbah" when they bombed Iraq. Artists have almost no control obey what happens to their work once it's released to the wild.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:37 PM on March 29 [6 favorites]


Dear Stephen, boy, howdy, you really screwed up. You should apologize sincerely, profusely, and you should make some sort of amends, in addition to not screwing up like this again.
posted by theora55 at 1:38 PM on March 29


There's funny, there's not-funny, and there's not-funny-enough and all three are completely subjective.

Different comedians have different responsibilities built into what they're trying to do.

Daniel Tosh's job is to make people laugh at all costs. He can hurt as many feelings as he wants so long as he doesn't go so far as to lose viewers and advertisers.

Jimmy Fallon's is to make people laugh in an inclusive way very accessible way. Ellen Degeneres has the exact same job, but with the added pressure of being one of the most prominent lesbians in America. She is expected to represent the LGBTQI community in a shining light, but it is up to her whether she wants to carry that mantle.

Jeff Dunham ' s job is to make people laugh, with an overarching theme of THE WORLD IS TOO POLITICALLY CORRECT and I'M THE GUY WHO'S SAY WHAT EVERY ONE ELSE IS AFRAID TO SAY (through puppets but whatever). He says a lot of shit that I find horrible and hacky but to give him the benefit of the doubt, let's say he's trying to celebrate the differences between groups of people by lampooning the stereotypes in completely over-the-top ways. He expects people to get offended and it helps his career when they do.

Sarah Silverman's job is to shock but not hurt. Mike Birbiglia and Ron White and Kevin Hart and Tig Notaro and Lewis Black are storytellers and truth-tellers. Patton Oswalt and Louis CK are somewhere inbetween.

Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock both made pointing out racial inequity in America a big part of their comedy. Their job was to make people laugh, heal old wounds and forge new unions. When Chappelle saw large groups of fans missing the satire and only laughing at the stereotypes, he took a hiatus from comedy (and hasn't returned to satire). I haven't heard Rock make any similar statements, but I have seen his career to take a turn towards elevating black culture in pop culture by highlighting the uniqueness of the experience (like in the movie Good Hair) and the lack of uniqueness (the family comedy Everybody Hates Chris)

Colbert ' s job is to make people laugh. He does it. His job is to lampoon the buffoonery he sees in right-wing media/politics by adopting an over the top right-wing persona. He does that.

But is his job then to change politics and change the conversation and change the situation and is he doing it?

I am not a twitter activist but I know a lot of them (most of whom are also IRL activists, it should be noted). I haven't heard any of the indigenous/first nations/NDN activists in my circles come to Colbert's defense and I'm guessing it's because while his heart was in the right place, and the (televised) bit was funny (subjective, obvz), it WASN'T FUNNY ENOUGH. It didn't provoke a change in the hearts and minds of Redskins fans or ownership and it hurt the feelings of a portion of the Asian American community that is probably part of the show's intended audience.

There's nothing wrong with straight, white men. Several of my best friends are straight white men and I even have some in my family (that's a joke, see? Intended as like an ANTI racist dog whistle. It's not very funny but I'm not a comedy writer). The thing is that while none of my indigenous friends are defending the Colbert bit, a lot of my straight white male friends are, and their blogs and articles, imploring the "internet outrage community" to "understand satire", "learn to take a joke", "grow a thicker skin", and "find a real cause to unite behind", have comment sections filling up with people eager to use racial slurs that are both very tired and very fresh, against Suey Park.

Someone above said that you can't be for satire if you're not against people saying horrible things with a wink and a nod, and I agree, but if bits like this do not lead to action beyond the initial laugh, do not result in a sea change of public opinion, and are defended outright by people using hateful racist language in their defense, the satire is probably pretty worthy of criticism.
posted by elr at 2:21 PM on March 29 [30 favorites]


Epicycles within epicycles within epicycles within epicycles. As raw racism falls by the wayside, we move onto more subtle stuff, until that too falls away. When you're in the middle of it, it may be hard to see, and only from the perspective of time does it become apparent. Like the progressive for its time concept of "worthy Negro", that's clearly horribly patronizing from today's perspective. I once read a book - sorry don't remember the title - about the region today known as Namibia, back then as South-West Africa (among other names). It was written sometime in the 30's or 40's or so. The author clearly felt passionately and sincerely about the plight of Africans and wrote a whole book arguing for the independence and self-governance of the people and so on. I'm sure for that time, he was clearly a progressive. But over and over and over again, I cringed, as he'd drop insanely prejudiced statements even as they were meant to be compliments - completely lacking in self-awareness. One in particular I remember, when he was writing effusively about a very distinguished African leader who was active during that time. Among the many great qualities he enumerated, he also said something to the effect that the leader knew what he needed to do to raise up his people to the level of civilization, and knew the "weaknesses" of his people, such as... cleanliness! Holy moly! What in the world?! This, friends, was a progressive, a great ally to the Africans at the time. I am quite sure he'd be deeply offended if you were to tell him that he holds frankly racist views and assumptions.

Isn't it obvious it's the same situation today? People who may be at the cutting edge of progressivism, may also be entirely blind to more subtle stuff. It won't make for happy reading a few decades from now.

So that's kind of inevitable to some degree, that not all those who are allies may have a full grasp of the complexities.

I'm not going to express any opinion about Colbert in this case, rather ask a trickier question that always rattles in my head when these types of situations occur: what is the best course of action in response? Obviously it will differ depending on the particulars, but sometimes, it may be more practical from a long-term point of view to accept the ally, and pass over in silence their flaws, because at the moment it's more important to have them fully motivated in your corner than to attempt to have them reach enlightenment immediately. What would that African leader do upon reading that passage? Would he still smile at the author and continue to solicit his help, or would he correct him (more gently or less gently)? What if he calculated that it's not worth it at the moment, and it's better to concentrate on the bigger picture and cross that bridge when he has the luxury of the big battle behind them?

It's a question about tactics. Are we already at a time, when we've got enough of the raw racism defeated, so we have the luxury of concentrating on the more subtle stuff? If yes, then sure, go at it, hammer and tongs. If not, maybe wait for a more opportune time - but shouldn't we watch not to fall into the trap of perfect time ever delayed (a la MLK's Letter from Birmingham Jail)?

And the tactics might need to be even more sophisticated. Does it make sense to react with classic measures to an issue that might be better addressed with different techniques? Surgery and massive antibiotics might be indicated for an infected deep wound, but perhaps some cream and gentle care might be better suited for a more superficial wound and doing surgery and antibiotics might be actually counterproductive given the trauma and side-effects? Match the curative measures to the exact state of the disease.

I once had an interesting conversation with a Korean-American friend. His position was that he doesn't want to confront small-time everyday ignorance from casual or even good friends - the unfunny "what's for dinner - dog?" jokes and the like. And that he felt it was tactically a bad decision for Asian Americans to make a lot of public noise about small-time racism against them that springs from ignorance rather than outright malice. And the reason, was that he felt AAs were on a different trajectory from African Americans wrt. racism. AAs stood a good chance of escaping into the mainstream in the same way that the Irish, the Italians and so on did. Rocking the boat was merely going to alienate those who were ignorant rather than malevolent. Instead of being their buddy, they have to suddenly see him as an aggrieved minority. With time, they'd gain knowledge through osmosis, so why not give them time, instead of trying to hurry the process and in that hurry causing a permanent shift in the way they see you - as another of "those" people, whom you have to treat like a live bomb and can never be truly sincere with... now you'll never be one of us - you'll be one of them, the ones who are permanently aggrieved, and who are best smiled at and then avoided. He feared that AAs will then be lumped together with those "hopeless permanent victims always on edge permanently aggrieved minorities". And, in his view, AAs are close to escape velocity from racism, to be launched into the Irish-jokes, and Italian-jokes, but at bottom "our guys" orbit... as long as they don't screw it up by hooking up with the "other" hopeless minority cargos. I observed that this doesn't seem very big on solidarity, but he had a different take and so forth - epicycles within epicycles.

Colbert's tweet: Is it? Yes or No - but what to do?
posted by VikingSword at 2:34 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


The HuffPo live interview with Suey Park is here. I'd seen some tweets about it from her and frankly at least one makes the claim the interviewer muted her. If you watch the video he said some stupid things, she got upset, he asked her to explain and she refused. So he ended the interview. The interviewer is a bit of an ass but I can't exactly call it being muted when the interviewee is saying he can't understand because he's white and then refusing to talk. Perhaps they've left off further parts of the exchange but it seems reasonable to end the aired segment when the conversation is that unproductive. That entire interview was a wasted opportunity to actually talk about the boundaries of humor but I don't think either party was up to the task.
posted by R343L at 4:05 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


Solution: Suey Park as Colbert guest. Should be comedy gold.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:57 PM on March 28 [5 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


Obama should invite them to the WH Rose Garden for beers!
posted by Bwithh at 4:20 PM on March 29


VikingSword: AAs stood a good chance of escaping into the mainstream in the same way that the Irish, the Italians and so on did.

That is an interesting viewpoint from your friend. But the difference is obviously physical appearance. Somebody of Irish, Italian, or European Jewish descent is difficult to distinguish from other white people by physical appearance alone, but Asians can't "blend in." They get a big "I'm ethnic" marker that can't be hidden or turned off. Even an adopted Asian kid with a "white" name is going to have to deal with racial stuff that other white kids will not.

The other thing is that a good deal of Asians in the United States are first-generation immigrants or temporary residents (tourists, students, etc.), and as such commonly perceived of as foreigners. It will probably be decades until it is more common for a given Asian person in the US to be 2nd or 3rd generation than 1st generation.

I would also disagree that other minorities are "permanently aggrieved", or that it is necessarily better to be perceived of as the passive and docile minority. ignignokt posted something above that I think is worth repeating:

A friend of mine took standup comedy classes several years ago, and they informally explained privilege to the class without using or knowing the term. They said you have to be careful about racial humor. The only safe ethnic group to not worry about offending are Asians because you won't get much trouble in a club. Yes, some New York comedy workshop geniuses actually said this.

Why would this be? Probably because Asians are still a relatively small portion of the US population, so you're unlikely to alienate many people, but also because Asians have a reputation for being the "good minority" that never speaks up for themselves.
posted by pravit at 4:48 PM on March 29 [13 favorites]


I'm sort of amazed that we are having this "conversation." I mean, the entire point -- both of the racist Stephen Colbert character and the calling-out-racism Colbert show -- was that his position was pretty much exactly as racist as Snyder's, so why the double-standard?

To people complaining that racism against Asians is too easily accepted, I think the response is, "clearly not as easily accepted as racism against Native Americans." I wouldn't say "suck it up" but I might ask people to consider whether this is helping or hurting the original aggrieved party.
posted by bjrubble at 4:48 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


The original bit seemed like it might not have been scripted and was just Colbert, unfortunately, doing an impression to mob for his in-studio audience. So if that's the case ... ugh.

There's no way that's the case.
posted by EmGeeJay at 4:51 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]




EmGeeGay- if it was scripted then what was the joke? All it is then is a generic racist caricature followed by a not very funny denial. In that case it's just incredibly poor satire. It's not even in the original version linked to some actual bigoted speech by the likes of Limbaugh.
posted by R343L at 5:07 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


That is an interesting viewpoint from your friend. But the difference is obviously physical appearance. Somebody of Irish, Italian, or European Jewish descent is difficult to distinguish from other white people by physical appearance alone, but Asians can't "blend in." They get a big "I'm ethnic" marker that can't be hidden or turned off. Even an adopted Asian kid with a "white" name is going to have to deal with racial stuff that other white kids will not.

I don't know if physical appearance actually makes any difference. In the Kim Kardashian thread, someone mentioned how Kardashian and West were not perceived as a straightforward interracial couple by many people, because Kim was not seen as really "white". Then somebody linked to a picture of Kim and of Sophia Loren and they were dead ringers skintone-wise, and asked why is one considered white and the other not.

Well, funny, funny, funny - back in the 70's and 80's in Sweden, the popular racist term equivalent (apologies for what comes next) for "darkie", was "svartskalle" (black skull). The idiots who would use that racist term would ABSOLUTELY consider someone of Italian extraction as a svartskalle. Kim would be 100% svartskalle. If Loren was not a celebrity and she walked down the street, she'd be a svartskalle. It was really not about physical appearance. I remember distinctly Yugoslavs - Serbs and Croats - who were very, very light brown-haired and completely white skin, called "svartskalle"! There was no freakin' logic to it at all. Racists have no logic when it comes to appearance. I completely believe that physical appearance is not a factor in that sense.

At the other end of this, maybe I live in a bubble, but at least here in LA, interracial marriage and all is so prevalent among AA's that - and I absolutely could be totally wrong - that in my (probably horribly limited) experience, have never seen AAs treated in a racist fashion. Again, I cannot speak for AA's experiences, nor would I try. But it seems to me - I've been here for some 30 years now - there's been a dramatic shift in attitudes in CA, where being AA is not being "the other". Now, without doubt, there are tons of pockets of racism everywhere in CA against AAs, but at least in my circle of friends, nobody thinks, f.ex. of my friend Bobby, who happens to be Chinese-American as anything other than Bobby - his race is not a factor. Again, I want to emphasize, I do not in any way want to speak to other people's experience - but in my limited (very limited) view - I have seen a dramatic shift, so that, at least for a portion of the population, racism against AA's has vanished (tiny population, probably). What I'm saying is that I'm optimistic that physical appearance is not an obstacle to joining the mainstream 100%. Racists will see the Irish as "black", even if you can't see any physical difference, Jewish people as "Jews" even if they're blond and blue-eyed, so physical appearance makes no real difference to racists. At the other end, reasonable people accept variation in appearance as being part and parcel of the mainstream. I don't think of it as a factor going forward.
posted by VikingSword at 5:30 PM on March 29


VikingSword: I don't think the idea is that blending in is "sufficient", but that it's "necessary but not sufficient" for assimilation.
posted by Bugbread at 5:35 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


EmGeeGay- if it was scripted then what was the joke? All it is then is a generic racist caricature followed by a not very funny denial. In that case it's just incredibly poor satire. It's not even in the original version linked to some actual bigoted speech by the likes of Limbaugh.

The Colbert Report was in its early days back then. The bit was meant to reflexively demonstrate and parody the main conceit of the show itself: that on this show, the character "Stephen Colbert" will say things the real Stephen Colbert finds patently offensive. Also, that he is an insensitive and dunder-headed blowhard.

Not one of the show's finer moments. But we absolutely know it was scripted, if only because there is no Colbert Report "satellite feed" for bloggers to intercept. Comedy Central isn't a news network, and the show is pre-taped.

I went looking for real-world 2005 context that may have inspired the bit's specific language, but came up empty. Was it Rosie O'Donnell saying "ching-chong, ling-long" on The View? No, that was 2006. Was it Don Imus' racist remarks about a women's basketball team? No, that was 2007. Was it Rush Limbaugh mocking the president of China? No, that was 2011. It went on like this.
posted by EmGeeJay at 5:36 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Fair enough. Though I didn't think it was literally a satellite feed but it seemed plausible it was a between official takes bit that rumors got around about. I had the same problem finding an explanation for the context as I'd previously assumed it was something like the O'Donnell thing.
posted by R343L at 5:45 PM on March 29


the o'donnell thing actually had what i felt was a nice moment.
posted by twist my arm at 6:01 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I love how Ching Chong Ding Dong is originally claimed by fictional Stephen Colbert to be his Asian alter ego as his excuse for the "leaked" video! And yeah, definitely scripted, and the joke and "satellite feed" clip has been called back on for more schtick several times over the years since
posted by Bwithh at 6:24 PM on March 29


The idiots who would use that racist term would ABSOLUTELY consider someone of Italian extraction as a svartskalle.

1970's Sweden was probably a very ethnically homogeneous place, and I can see Southern Europeans sticking out there in the same way that Asians stick out in the US. But European ethnicities have been living and intermarrying in the US for generations, creating a "melting pot" that basically anyone of European descent can blend into. People can't drive past in their pickup truck and yell "Goddamn Swede!" the same way they can yell "Goddamn n*gger" or "Goddamn ch*nk", simply because they can't distinguish Swedes from the rest of the population.

But I hope you are right, and someday people will be unable to distinguish other races in the same way that most Americans today can't distinguish people of Irish, German, Polish, etc. descent as anything other than "white." And we can all joke about each others' forgotten and possibly made-up ethnic backgrounds.
posted by pravit at 6:35 PM on March 29


Tan Riot.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:47 PM on March 29


Since racism in the name of satire can be funny, can I dress up in blackface and call myself a 'nigger' on stage and be excused for it if it's a satiric tirade against racism?

"After all, it's satire, can't you see?"

Because if it doesn't pass that smell test, I don't understand why it should otherwise.

-

As an Asian-American, I'd say that non-AA people actually don't really understand the weight behind phrases like "ching chong" or "gook", the same way that I can never fully understand the weight behind other racial slurs, not being the direct recipient of those slurs. I can only try to put myself in a position where I do not use those slurs because I understand them to be offensive by others, not because they are not offensive to me.

Even the fact that I wrote the n-word out above might be uncomfortable for most people on Mefi - I know it's uncomfortable as hell for me. But why are you (we) weirded out by the fact that I used that racial slur, even when I'm doing it as an example to prove a point? Shouldn't you be totally okay with it and be fine with me tossing around the n-word everywhere, since after all, we all understand that I'm paraphrasing?

If you understand that discomfort and say "the n-word" in conversation as opposed to the actual slur, then I'd ask why you are also okay with someone using another racial slur just because it's a satire, in turn.
posted by suedehead at 7:05 PM on March 29 [7 favorites]


Just to clarify, using the racial insults in satire is bad, but in education is acceptable?
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:24 PM on March 29


I don't have much to say about this, given how I don't know much about racism faced by AAs. I can say, I have appreciated the comments in this thread. I have learned a lot.

One thing I can note is this. When I saw that episode of Colbert, I had heard about the Snyder thing, but not in great detail. I knew it was some sports team, but I didn't know which one (the news source I read from refused to use the name and claimed any reader would know which team they meant. I didn't), and I knew he had started some charity to help Native Americans in need. I vaguely went "huh, that sounds nice I guess." Then I watched Colbert's skit, and I realized what a petty, insignificant stunt Snyder's had been. So, at least there's this: the skit clued me in to the racism inherent to Snyder's actions.

I'm not making an "ends justify the means" argument. Just offering a data point.
posted by meese at 7:26 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Park may now be alleging that her response was satire...:

https://twitter.com/suey_park/status/449949287741280256

But who can tell?

If an evil mastermind wanted to lower the quality of political and social discourse all across the world, s/he couldn't do any better than Twitter no matter how much effort s/he put into it...

Fiendishly clever.

Blogs look downright thoughtful and judicious by comparison...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:48 PM on March 29 [6 favorites]


Since racism in the name of satire can be funny, can I dress up in blackface and call myself a 'nigger' on stage and be excused for it if it's a satiric tirade against racism?

It's been done. I mean, just off the top of my head.... Bamboozled by Spike Lee

"The content is intended as satirical, with its show within a show featuring its characters, all in blackface, performing in a watermelon patch. The Roots, a hip-hop band from Philadelphia, have a role as the show's house band, The Alabama Porch Monkeys. The audiences within the movie, initially baffled, come to love the show, and after a few episodes Hispanics, Asians, blacks, and even elderly white women show up in blackface and proclaim themselves "[n-word]s"."
posted by Bwithh at 8:18 PM on March 29


PERFORMING CRAZY.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:24 PM on March 29


My go to move is to say "If that joke were using blacks and some equivalent racist term, or gays and an equivalent homophobic slur, do I think they would have gotten away with it?"

YES.

This is, and always has been, Colbert's schtick. He has feminists on for cooking segments. He brings Neil Degrasse Tyson on the show to talk about science, and argues in support of Creationism. He exposes homophobia while ostensibly denouncing "The Gays". Good grief, he just aired a cartoon parody featuring President Obama appealing to the Ku Klux Klan for their help against alien invaders during Black History Month.

Colbert doesn't make fun of Asian Americans because he thinks they are an easy target that is safe to mock. He pokes fun at his own uber-conservative rich white guy persona by repeatedly demonstrating how clueless he is about any and all marginalized people. In this case, he used the offensive stereotype of Ching Chong because it was so obviously over-the-top. He was drawing a clear parallel to the equally clueless Redskins owner failing to appreciate how his team's name might be offensive to Native Americans.

People arguing against the Twitter activist outrage in this thread recognize that these kind of stereotypes are potentially hurtful. No one is saying they (or you) have no right to feel offended by the stereotype! Of course you can! In fact, everyone should feel that way! That's the intention behind the skit.

What doesn't make sense is also being disappointed and hurt with Colbert for propagating a hurtful stereotype. He is so clearly doing the opposite! Saying he screwed up and calling for him to apologize misses the mark completely.

UrsulaHitler is right; Suey Park ought to be thanking him, not calling for his show's cancellation. It's actually really annoying how she is painting herself as the activist crusader for good in this case, when Colbert is the one who is, and has been, calling attention to this kind of ugly racist crap since day one of The Colbert Report.
posted by misha at 8:25 PM on March 29 [14 favorites]


Just to clarify, using the racial insults in satire is bad, but in education is acceptable?

I'm saying that it's at least very uncomfortable and possibly still hurtful in both cases, for the same reason.

This is, and always has been, Colbert's schtick.

So would I be correct if you'd defend Colbert if he used blackface and said the n-word in alignment with that schtick?
posted by suedehead at 8:29 PM on March 29


UrsulaHitler is right; Suey Park ought to be thanking him, not calling for his show's cancellation

What? Wow, no.
posted by sweetkid at 8:33 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


"I mean I know blackface is super hurtful and has a long history, and I know that the n-word is really offensive, but that's the point! People should be offended! After all, he's offending FOR GOOD! I think it's an excellent way to call out other offensive and hurtful behavior because it shows how being offensive is bad, by being offensive himself! So I think people should NOT be offended by such offensive things, even though he's TRYING to be offensive and the point is to be offended, because ultimately people being offended just proves how wrong the original target of his critique is."
posted by suedehead at 8:35 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Suey Park definitely using "It was satire! You are dumb if you didn't get it!" defense now. . Didn't you know she was a creative writer?? she's been saying it all the time throughout her career ! you must be dumb!

But if you didn't get the satire and reacted by criticizing her, that still means you're probably imperialist/racist/sexist/colonialist/oppressive etc. etc. etc.
Also she preemptively states that if people, especially white people, criticize her for being a clever "satirist" then they must be mocked

Essay on Park's cleverness by Park out soon!!

Meanwhile, she and her supporters are calling out and personally attacking prominent male Asians who defended Colbert (Park changed her Twitter identity to "Stewy Park", a new male alter ego to led this, uh, new phase of her campaigning) They're even circulating a list of names. (note that this list includes people who I know for sure didn't attack her in obscene or vulgar ways, they just criticized her politely or used moderate humor)
posted by Bwithh at 8:38 PM on March 29 [13 favorites]




So would I be correct if you'd defend Colbert if he used blackface and said the n-word in alignment with that schtick?

Would I be correct if I read that as a slippery slope hypothetical argument?

How about you give me some context where Colbert wearing blackface and using the N word would be satirical of, well, anything? Is there someone in American sports making the argument that no one has the right to find face paint offensive, that their players have a history of wearing face paint and they are going to continue to do so whenever they play? If so, I am unaware of that.

Recently, a black comic dressed up in whiteface to satirically mock racial stereotypes. Are you offended by that? Should he have to apologize for it?
posted by misha at 8:42 PM on March 29




Hypothetical scenario:

An American politician dresses up in blackface for a party and gets lambasted for it. Colbert acts the part of the politician and himself dresses up in blackface to make fun of that politician. Outrage ensues. People say, "well hey, he was just making fun of the original guy, don't you know satire when you see it?"
posted by suedehead at 8:48 PM on March 29


straight: I think the most important test of "ironic" humor satirizing racism is whether it makes the target wince or laugh. I can't imagine many supporters of keeping the "Redskins" name wincing at this joke, so I think it's a failure.

They aren't the "target", they're the butt of the joke. The target are people who aren't racist but shrug their shoulders at the Redskins name dispute with and sort of go "what's the big deal?".

Colbert's joke only works if he likens the Redskins to more readily and widely understood forms of racism. Where Colbert might have erred was in whether that hit too close for home with the general Asian-American community regardless of its parody. But he certainly wasn't "punching down"; which seems to be what Park at least pretended her issue was.
posted by spaltavian at 8:52 PM on March 29 [6 favorites]


I'm just going to hope that she's just saying she was being satirical and now she's actually being satirical to make a point about satire. Like a double secret satire. Otherwise this now all seems like trolling.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:10 PM on March 29 [8 favorites]


Goddamn do I hate Twitter. It's like the Youtube comments section without the videos.
posted by eagles123 at 9:19 PM on March 29 [10 favorites]


Otherwise this now all seems like trolling.

you're too generous. I think this is shameless secret backpedalling on her part
posted by Bwithh at 9:21 PM on March 29 [5 favorites]


Park's "it was satire stupid" tweet reminds me of Chapelle's response to his audience wanting to hear "I'm Rick James bitch:"
You  know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you're not smart enough to get what I'm doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:22 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


I really hope Colbert invites her to be a guest on her show and has a long in-depth discussion with her. Maybe we should get together and organize a petition.
posted by Bwithh at 9:23 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Park's "it was satire stupid" tweet reminds me of Chapelle's response

Yeah, but Chapelle has earned the right to say that many times over. Park... nope.
posted by Bwithh at 9:25 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


I hope flipping the switch on the white liberal rage machine won't result in double secret probation.
posted by valkane at 9:28 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I still feel like the discussion about the effects of racist language in satire is a decent one to have and am still going to police myself when I perform. If there's funny ways I can make the same point without needlessly hurting anyone then why not use those ways instead? Bah. I feel like this is a good decision on my part but now I have a bad taste in my mouth about it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:30 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


I'm extremely confused by the events that have transpired since Suey Park's original tweet in response to the Colbert Show tweet that was a decontextualized reference to a gag on the previous day's show. Her tweet sparked a "shitstorm" and a counter shitstorm, and a counter counter shitstorm, and every kind of response in between, including people gently disagreeing with her and Michelle Malking taking her side. Now she's saying she was being satirical, supposedly, and the people that didn't recognize her satire of someone not recognizing satire have revealed themselves for what they are: terrible people. But there were also people who were her allies and are now saying they didn't know she was being satirical, so that makes them poor dupes, and it kinda makes her look mean for stringing them along, if she really was being satirical, which is kind of doubtful at this point considering her television appearance and Twitter exchanges.
posted by ChuckRamone at 9:35 PM on March 29 [8 favorites]


Well of course this was a chance for Malkin to take her side. This will be a "see liberals are the real racists" FOX talking point forever.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:43 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Park's definition of terrible people who have revealed themselves seems to be include people gently disagreeing with her, unfortunately .

Her supporters who she duped - at least some of them are taking the "Wow, Suey Park is so smart!! It is an honor to be duped!!!" line. I believe Lenin had a catchy phrase for this kind of thing.
posted by Bwithh at 9:57 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


What was she supposedly satirizing?
posted by Flunkie at 10:05 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Perhaps she was satirizing Twitter's weakness as a platform for nuanced discussion of complicated issues.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:10 PM on March 29 [7 favorites]


She's saying whatever she needs to say to land her book deal and/or recurring cable news spot.
posted by SakuraK at 11:24 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


Since it seems to be the consensus that nobody in this thread wants to #cancelcolbert, why is it so hard to believe that Suey Park doesn't really want to either?
posted by pascal at 11:38 PM on March 29


Her words?
posted by benito.strauss at 11:52 PM on March 29 [10 favorites]


Maybe I'm off-base, but it seems pretty clear to me that she's taking the position, "You guys think that saying 'it's satire' means other people can't get angry? Well then, I'm gonna call what I did 'satire'. Now, according to your logic, you can't get angry about what I said!" Which is pretty juvenile, so hopefully I'm just reading her wrong.
posted by Bugbread at 12:05 AM on March 30 [7 favorites]


Whether or not ironic racism causes actual racism always seemed like an open question, very similar to the question of how media violence affects real life violence. I'm pretty ashamed that I used to do the mock racism schtick around friends when I was much younger, but then I realized that a bystander would have no freaking idea if I was play acting to mock racists or being an actual racist. So I stopped.

I feel like we have a pretty clear answer to this question with regards to the South Park effect in creating a real gingerhate movement in the US where virtually none had existed before. It turns out that a huge proportion of the population from kids who don't know any better to adult dumbasses who don't know any better just don't understand satire. Since dumbasses are copycats at heart, gingerhate went from being a running gag on South Park to being a real thing.
posted by Skwirl at 1:13 AM on March 30 [8 favorites]


oooh, Park & supporters now turning on former female allies and friends on Twitter who dared politely criticize her #CancelColbert campaign too
*popcorn*
oh wait, I thought it was all satire. Park & co seem to be very serious though
posted by Bwithh at 1:17 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


Be polite, take it, and listen patiently rather than talking because you assume you are Always Right and Very Smart Indeed about All Things. You might just learn something worthwhile.

This is absolutely true. At the same time, sometimes I hear someone out regarding their claims/grievances and decide, "Hm. I don't acknowledge the claimed validity or seriousness of the complaint." (See: Randa Jarrar on western belly dancers)

Tell me, "That tweet by @ColbertReport was massively idiotic," and I am with you. Then explain that these hashtags are "decolonial projects with radical origins" and you've lost me.
posted by deanc at 2:06 AM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Wow. I've been following this whole
Thing closely for the past day or two and I have no idea where the #cancelcolbert campaign has gone now. Up its own asshole I think.
Colbert needs to get Suey Park on the show.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 3:53 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


So Park is now frantically back-peddling/CYA-ing/dissembling.../lying...about her actual intention/meaning, and claiming that her former position was satire all along...

So...this only makes sense if her new position is that her old position is so crazy that no reasonable person could accept it/take it seriously...right?

But her followers apparently didn't/don't think that her old position was crazy at all... And it seems that a fairly large number of commenters here didn't/don't think that Park's old position was crazy...

So...are those the people who Park is trying to (in Tumblrspeak) "educate"? If those people don't agree that they need to be "educated," then they should now view Park as the enemy, no?

But, honestly, there's no reason to take Suey Park seriously, and there never was...

Back to the more interesting question of TCR's original satirical tweet:

My gf says that the tweet ought to be treated like a conditional, such that the antecedent has something to do with Snyder's foundation for American Indians and TCR's tweet is like a consequent. So TCR is really saying some thing like "If starting a foundation for American Indians can clean your moral slate for using a putative racial slur, then this tweet would be ok." (Another way to look at it: the tweet itself is the last line of a reductio argument against the target position.) This makes sense because, of course, TCR is not actually asserting the content of the tweet, but only pretending to in a very transparent way.

This seems to highlight the point that one of the questions here is whether or not it is the content or just the words that are being objected to. Since TCR is really saying something like "Well, it wouldn't be ok to say [the tweet]", the objections would have to be to just uttering the words, even in a context that makes it painfully clear--as clear as it could possibly be--that the utterance is not an assertion of their content.

That seems a little nutty, but it is how we treat some curse words. There are some words that you don't get to say in polite contexts/around kids/whatever, even when you are merely mentioning them and not using them...

I'm not saying this is right, but it's plausible.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:56 AM on March 30 [7 favorites]


I like that Fists. This makes me want to assign Colbert segments and Twitter fights for argument analysis.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:44 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


There actually is a concrete historical example of ironic racism--or, to be more precise, ironic antisemitism--completely backfiring: Marcus Eli Ravage's two satirical articles, "The Real Case against the Jews" and "Commissary to the Gentiles," both of which appeared in the Century Magazine in 1928. And this is a case of in-group satire, even! Ravage's joke depends on a reductio ad absurdum: the logical position for an antisemite to take is that Christianity itself has been the world's biggest Jewish conspiracy. "Why talk about Marx and Trotski when you have Jesus of Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus to confront us with?" he snarks. Ergo, the Reformation? Jewish values! 20th c. "Fundamentalism" vs. "Modernism"? Jewish values! Puritans? Jewish values! American Revolution? Jewish values! So of course the Jews are at the base of everything...because all authentically Christian values are Jewish. And of course the goyim hate the Jews, because thanks to Christianity, the Jews stole all their fun.

Now, never mind that the articles mock all the other classic antisemitic conspiracy theories; that Ravage casually points out that this reading of history requires some...minor adjustments to the available evidence...to make it work; that he explicitly says at the end of "Commissary to the Gentiles" that he's imagining this position from the antisemite's point of view. Or that Ravage's publication record otherwise indicates that reading these articles literally would be stupid. Or that Ravage himself was Jewish, and that most conspirators do not cheerfully announce that they have taken over the world in a mainstream periodical. Guess what happened? Since the 30s, the articles have become touchstones...for Nazis, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, antisemites in general, and, now, the ickier variety of anti-Zionist. If you do a Google search, you'll find that outside scholarly literature, Ravage appears nowhere except on some pretty horrifying websites. A lot of pretty horrifying websites. Because Ravage assumed that his audience had enough intelligence to decode irony when it was directed at them. And he appears to have been wrong.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:46 AM on March 30 [16 favorites]


It seems Park's point was to reveal racism among liberals, especially white liberals. She wanted to show how much racist and sexist vitriol would be thrown at her for criticizing a whitle liberal icon.

She failed because there's no particular reason to believe the people that were racist or threatening to her were "liberals", representative of liberals or even Colbert fans.

Same with the more crude sexist garbage. She's also pointing to sexism in the condescension she says she received (such as the Huffington Post interview). However, that's completely undermined by her acknowledgement that her campaign itself was not face-value. If you intentionally come up with a campaign that's tone-deaf and ridiculous, people aren't going to take you seriously for those reasons, there's way to isolate it to you being a woman of color.

She was not interested in engaging with any of the bought up critiques of what she was doing (and is now pubically shaming those who made them). One of her more ardent supporters is even throwing around "race traitor" at other Asian Americans who criticized the campaign.

It was clear that Park's views were far more radical than her new fans realized (look at the company she keeps on Twitter and her repeated criticisms directed at "Whites"). So the campaign makes sense in that context. Radicals hate nothing more than Liberals.
posted by spaltavian at 5:51 AM on March 30 [5 favorites]


When I see "leftists" or "radicals" yelling at "liberals" in this fashion I view it much like sticking a sign on one's forehead that says "I have no power and will never have any."
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:02 AM on March 30


Yeah, like when MLK was railing against white liberals in the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Totally ineffective, powerless bullshit, right? What ever happened to that guy?
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:44 AM on March 30 [5 favorites]


MLK had power at that point.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:52 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I agree with your basic point that internecine battles on the left or right tend to cannibilize the solidarity needed for efficacy. But MLK's point then was that the liberals were part of the problem because their approach was basically conservative while making radical noises. I have no real opinion on whether Colbert fits into that mode, but as a practice, calling putative allies to account for themselves is certainly legitimate.

I don't think demanding that moderates with radical rhetoric walk the walk rather than just talk the talk is inherently self-defeating. Why win the battles you can win with solidarity if the result is no better than a loss? Generations of radicals have asked that question and concluded that liberals are at best fair-weather allies.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:21 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


In satire, you use disingenuousness in a useful way, with a specific aim—social commentary. Unlike, say sarcasm or sardonic cynicism. While satire should be cleverly and ironically delivered, it should also be obvious, or at least apparent to the keen observer. The disingenuousness should be a tool to deliver something you believe is true. Otherwise, your goal of delivering social commentary will have failed.

It’s not just finding disingenuousness useful, when needed. Park’s new satire claim can now be adjusted at any moment for a new use, as needed, which is rhetorically tricky and impressive, but unsettling. People previously supportive of her initial face-value claim now accepting her new ‘it was satire all along’ one and saying they’re impressed that they didn't get it, but oh yeah, now they do, and you better believe they would’ve supported it originally too – if only they were smart enough to get it initially – is unsettling as well.

Sure she could be telling the truth that the intent was satire all along, but there’s no way to know, as it wasn’t incisive or clear. The wall of retweets and her shift to a new campaign (“Stewy Park”) are part of the fast-paced, ephemeral, multi-threaded nature of Twitter, but they also sort of work like a smokescreen, intentionally or not. You’re still dwelling on that old claim? We’re way over here now, get with it!

At this point it’s hard to know what her intentions were and are surrounding her initial claim and the new ‘it was satire all along’ one, unlike with Colbert’s satiric bit. Regardless of Colbert’s intentions, the bit was offensive to many. It would be hard to argue the bit wasn't satiric, though, offensive or not.

Park’s initial face-value issue makes sense, and judging by most of this thread, it’s a conversation worth having. But was that issue not something she genuinely believed should be discussed? Was that claim disingenuous? Could it be that she means the idea of “canceling” the show wasn't literal, but rather a tool to get the conversation going on the unintended, collateral trauma caused by satire? That’d be hyperbole, not satire, as she’d still believe the thrust of her initial face-value claim, as presented.

So if it is satire, what’s being satirized? Is it, as spaltavian wrote, “to reveal racism among liberals, especially white liberals”? I’m not sure I get that.

Is it satirizing Twitter activism? That’s hard to buy too, as it seems evident that Park believes it’s something that works, something that’s important.

It could be that she’s claiming she’s satirizing satire, which is certainly tricky, but also self-defeating. Also, I don't know if I’d understand the point of it.

We could raise these questions all day, and it’s actually pretty interesting. But each new one I think of, the further I feel from the initial face-value debate, one that many in this very thread feel strongly about. The problem with the new ‘it was satire all along’ claim, is that unlike Colbert’s bit, offensive or not, the initial intent wasn’t obvious. The next claim could be that the satire claim was satire. And on and on. And what would be the point of that?

I haven't chimed into the broader conversation previously because I’m trying to learn and understand other’s viewpoints. With Park’s new ‘it was satire all along’ claim, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.

I want to make it clear that I don’t know Park’s intentions, so I hope it hasn't come off like I’m mind-reading or assigning them to her. I’m only raising possibilities, questions. Not knowing her intentions at this point is at the heart of my comment, actually.

And if on the odd chance that that’s the goal of her satire, that it’s satirizing satire, I’d only see it as satirizing ineffective satire.
posted by context adventure at 7:22 AM on March 30 [4 favorites]


She wanted to show how much racist and sexist vitriol would be thrown at her for criticizing a whitle liberal icon.

The thing is that women are targetted for a lot of sexist vitriol online all the time for any and all reasons. Instead of making it about the online tolerance and acceptance of sexist and violent language directed at women online, she makes it all about liberal sympathies for Colbert supposedly causing these attacks against her. Much like instead of this issue being about the racially inflammatory name of a football team, it becomes about whether the Colbert Report is sufficiently careful with language.
posted by deanc at 7:27 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


deanc: The thing is that women are targeted for a lot of sexist vitriol online all the time for any and all reasons

Certainly, like I said above, there was no particular reason to tie the racist/sexist push back she got to liberals generally or Colbert fans specifically. But as a radical, she wants to indict liberalism in general. Critiques from her vantage point are rarely subtle; in part because it rejects the legitimacy of almost any process. Note her use of "decolonial" and several of her Twitter allies referring to white people as "settlers" with their "settler government". There's little room for nuance when you're a freedom fighter in occupied territory.

Of course, I also believe there was more than a little opportunism there; she never failed to bring up how she's a serious writer or how highly #cancelcolbert was trending.
posted by spaltavian at 8:39 AM on March 30 [3 favorites]


At this point, you know what Stephen Colbert could do that would disappoint me? Reward Suey Park by putting her on his show and giving her his signature Colbert bump. Her blatantly hypocritical Twitter outrage performance art is sincerely offensive to me.

I don't know which is sadder: how eagerly Suey Park turned on her fans given the slightest opportunity to profit from the faux outrage she created, or the way those same fans are now humbly praising Park for riling them up with her totally manufactured Twitter hate campaign.
posted by misha at 11:03 AM on March 30 [13 favorites]


the way those same fans are now humbly praising Park for riling them up with her totally manufactured Twitter hate campaign.

Somebody's gotta say it: "Give us hell, Quimby!"
posted by Etrigan at 11:12 AM on March 30 [3 favorites]


It seems Park's point was to reveal racism among liberals, especially white liberals. She wanted to show how much racist and sexist vitriol would be thrown at her for criticizing a white liberal icon.

Except, to be clear: this was not actually her point. That latter bit is a post hoc attempt to make up a cover story so she can now pretend that she was only pretending to say stupid things.

Sure she could be telling the truth that the intent was satire all along, but there’s no way to know, as it wasn’t incisive or clear.

One way to know is that she has no history of satire--TCR is all about satire. If you watched the Huffington Post thing, you can tell that she was serious.

The wall of retweets and her shift to a new campaign (“Stewy Park”) are part of the fast-paced, ephemeral, multi-threaded nature of Twitter, but they also sort of work like a smokescreen, intentionally or not. You’re still dwelling on that old claim? We’re way over here now, get with it!

"Intentionally or not?" Seriously? (Hint: it's intentional. It's all about the smokescreen at this point.)

Twitter has made American public discourse even dumber, which, a priori, I would have thought impossible...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 11:16 AM on March 30 [8 favorites]


I still don't understand what she was supposedly satirizing. I get that her current claim is that her goal was something along the lines of "go over the top and get people to yell at me" rather than "get Colbert cancelled", but even taking her word on that being her original goal rather than a retrofit, what is it satirizing?

It does not seem similar to Colbert posing as an over the top conservative to satirize conservatives. It seems more along the lines as if Colbert posed as an over the top liberal rather than an over the top conservative, yelled at conservatives that "Conservatives are stupid!", and then later yelled at them because "Conservatives are so stupid that they don't even understand that when I yelled 'Conservatives are stupid!' at them I was being satirical!" Which doesn't really even seem to make sense in and of itself, but in any case, that's not Colbert satirizing conservatives; that's Colbert trolling conservatives.

If satirizing anything in that situation, Colbert would be satirizing liberals, not conservatives. But I really don't get the impression that Park thinks she is satirizing people who believe things like "Colbert should be cancelled".
posted by Flunkie at 11:24 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]


I get that her current claim is that her goal was something along the lines of "go over the top and get people to yell at me" rather than "get Colbert cancelled", but even taking her word on that being her original goal rather than a retrofit, what is it satirizing?

This falls under the same category as what Tom Tomorrow once said about conservatives: they write like they've heard of satire, but never experienced it firsthand.

A similar phenomenon occurred with the case of the conservative dystopian comic Liberality where the author appeared in the MeFi thread to say, "oh, it was satire that you libs weren't able to understand."
posted by deanc at 11:36 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Satire aside, here is a conundrum that I have been thinking about lately, and for which I have no good answers.

If you want to draw attention to something online, and start a large conversation, the easiest way to do it is to say something provocative—specifically, something that will inspire an emotional reaction in people. For better or worse, provocation gets people to click links and to share stories and to respond and comment.

If you want to, say, start a conversation about a racial caricature on a beloved show, you can go one of two ways. One way involves using provocation as a tool to propagate your message and spark a dialogue—in this case, a hashtag asking for the beloved show to be cancelled. Suddenly, a number of people who might have passed over the conversation feel personally invested and participate.

There are two major downsides to this approach. First, there's a good chance that the conversation about race will be derailed and overshadowed by a conversation about canceling the show, or about the tone of the critique—i.e., that the provocation will dominate the discussion. Second, although you've gotten people's attention, you've also put their hackles up; people come to the discussion feeling defensive and pissed and in no way prepared to listen or learn or act in good faith.

Pretty crappy, right? So what about that alternative?

Well, the alternative seems to be starting a carefully thought out and unoffensive conversation that's glossed over by everybody except a few sympathetic people. Little ventured, little to nothing gained. Without provocation, you're unlikely to reach people from different ideological and social backgrounds. Worse, despite your careful self-policing and tact, a handful of assholes will still emerge from the woodwork to tell you to fuck off, and that you're crazy, and that you should die in a ditch for criticizing a thing that they like.

It would be great if Park had inspired a more productive but equally widespread conversation on the topic. But for the life of me, I can't figure out how that conversation would have begun.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:42 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]


It would be great if Park had inspired a more productive but equally widespread conversation on the topic. But for the life of me, I can't figure out how that conversation would have begun.

Well, if it's the conversation you want and feel should happen, maybe it could begin with you.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:53 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Perhaps she's 23 years old and in over her head. I'm glad I didn't have millions of followers to listen to the righteous condemnation I threw out into the world when I was all hyped up from college courses and excited about the words "power differential" and "privilege" -- and thought that the world could be reduced to such a simple narrative!
posted by iamck at 12:55 PM on March 30 [12 favorites]


It would be great if Park had inspired a more productive but equally widespread conversation on the topic. But for the life of me, I can't figure out how that conversation would have begun.

Park could also have inspired a more productive but less widespread conversation on the topic. I don't see the merits of a widespread unproductive conversation.

There are a lot of people in the world with thoughtful opinions. Most of them can't trace their intellectual development back to blowhards trying to drum up as much controversy as possible.

Quite frankly, it can't be that hard to convince a Colbert fan interested in the Washington Redskins story that there's something problematic about using anti-Asian slurs. It's not exactly like trying to convince a Rush Limbaugh fan that Obama is a good President.

But whee, "#cancelcolbert" really stirred up quite a storm! Good for Suey Park. I'd never heard of her before.
posted by leopard at 12:59 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Fists O'Fury:

I was approaching it as charitably as I could, to think the whole thing through. Like, how could people just immediately buy the ‘it's satire, stupid’ thing, just because she said it was? I seriously saw responses that were to the effect of ‘omg, brillz satire, you so won twitter!’ I wanted to communicate why the turn of events didn’t make sense to me.

I do agree with you that it appears to be backpedalling and revisionism, which if true, is very cynical.
posted by context adventure at 1:03 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


It would be great if Park had inspired a more productive but equally widespread conversation on the topic. But for the life of me, I can't figure out how that conversation would have begun.

Well, if it's the conversation you want and feel should happen, maybe it could begin with you.


It seems evident that evidenceofabsence wishes she or he knew an effective strategy for getting a real conversation to actually happen, rather than just wishing she or he knew how to attempt to start one.

Or do you mean it in a Care Bears the-power-was-inside-you-the-whole-time! sort of way, Bunny Ultramod?
posted by context adventure at 1:22 PM on March 30 [7 favorites]


Well, arguably we were having the conversation requested; there certainly was plenty of talk in this thread about ironic racism, its uses, and its effects. But then it turned out that Park may not have been entirely forthright in her motives, and that became the topic.

We could return to the earlier discussion, rather than make it all about Park. I don't know if that requires Care Bears.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:01 PM on March 30 [6 favorites]


i don't know, i'm certainly tired of annoying shitstirrers of that variety on the internet who when called out on not really making logical sense whip out the fig leaf of "Oh it was just satire, you just don't get it! now you can't criticize anything i say!"

It's a bit disappointing the thread got derailed into that, but she absolutely deserves the roasting she's getting here.
posted by emptythought at 2:05 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Oh here we go, a public intellectual media star is anointed: Suey Park interviewed for the New Yorker website on her "satire". Interviewer says that if we accept Park's satire claims are "good faith" (um.... That's like a huge if) then the campaign was a "rousing success" and Park is a "master provocateur", even if her #CancelColbert campaign is silly and wrong. The reporter even suggests that Sue Park and her supporters may be the new Merry Pranksters which makes my Top 10 Dumbest New Yorker Lines.
posted by Bwithh at 4:27 PM on March 30 [6 favorites]


Pretty low bar for "master provocateur" status, these days.
posted by ipe at 4:31 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


All of a sudden I want to watch an Adam Curtis film on the far-reaching effects of performance art on media and discourse.

yes I know his work is problematic in its own way
posted by context adventure at 4:48 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


Park is a "master provocateur"

A troll by any other name...
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:06 PM on March 30 [11 favorites]


Oh here we go, a public intellectual media star is anointed: Suey Park interviewed for the New Yorker website on her "satire". Interviewer says that if we accept Park's satire claims are "good faith" (um.... That's like a huge if) then the campaign was a "rousing success" and Park is a "master provocateur", even if her #CancelColbert campaign is silly and wrong. The reporter even suggests that Sue Park and her supporters may be the new Merry Pranksters which makes my Top 10 Dumbest New Yorker Lines.

I urge everyone to read the article that Bwithh linked to above. It is the best, most thoughtful piece I have read so far on this. It is an essay, not an interview, but Jay Caspian Kang, who wrote the article, did interview Park as part of his research.

The piece is nuanced and not really about Park so much as about the writer's (who is Asian American) somewhat conflicted feelings and reactions to the story as it unfolded. It is very good.

That Bwithh comes away from reading the article exasperated and annoyed is... curious. (Actually, on preview, Bwithh seems more concerned with Park than with any of other aspect of this whole thing, so that explains it. But seriously, Kang's piece is well worth reading).
posted by AceRock at 6:52 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Whatever Park's intentions, it did result in me looking remarkably close at a joke from Colbert and deciding to be more critical at racially-charged humor. Obviously I've long found more explicitly racist humor offensive (and thus avoid it) but as is pointed out by the author of the article linked to by Bwithh, racial stereotypes of Asians or Asian-Americans is often a "safe" place to do racial humor. Perhaps sometimes it's acceptable and for good, but also it may not be. It's also pretty important to ask why is that kind of humor about Asians safe while similar bits using black people would not be (or, contrariwise, perhaps similar bits about black people should be acceptable but isn't for other cultural reasons). I don't have a straightforward answer but at least she got me thinking (and has for a while -- I'd known about her before this.)
posted by R343L at 6:59 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


All told, I think it's been a useful exercise. We've clearly established that "white liberals" present a greater threat to POC via entrenched racism than Dan Snyder or Michelle Malkin, and now we can get to the business of ensuring they are marginalized enough that their arguments and social policies aren't at risk of being institutionalized in any way.
posted by 99_ at 7:40 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


(I'll second the Jay Caspian Kang essay, btw--thoughtful)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:48 PM on March 30


Oh, a second thought regarding JFK imprisoned - it is my personal opinion if you are doing politics and you're not afraid of getting locked up for a long time or other dirty tricks , you're doing it wrong. Either ineffectual or in service to existing power.

I don't think Suey Park will ever write a letter from prison.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:25 PM on March 30


I found the New Yorker article interesting but also containing numerous grand assumptions. I mean, that the whole Twitter explosion effectively obscured the objections to Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins is only acknowledged in a bracketed aside, dismissed as being of any concern.

Similarly, he concludes by worrying that we don't know the intentions of hashtag activists as much as we might presume, that "#CancelColbert may have been silly and dumb and wrong in spirit" but this activism is more "compelling" for its "freaking out the squares". He suggests we should truly understand and grant Park all the context, recontextualising and agency in the world while at the same time being told that for what she's protesting we should ignore context and dismiss intent because offence was taken and that's all that matters.

I, personally, don't believe that the person who tweeted "I used to respect and enjoy your work, @ColbertReport. Fuck you." meant that as a work of satire, and that claiming otherwise is an attempt to reposition herself in a narrative she no longer has much control over, as opposed to when she tried to start another successful hashtag trend. I also think that while she has valid points, mostly to do with the treatment of Asians in popular culture, they were very soft-pedaled in this instance and they are not supported by many of the arguments made around them.

But I especially dislike the move to remove context for words, no matter that they are in the voice of a character or part of satire. If slurs shouldn't be used no matter what, then there can be no minorities reclaiming insults, because the word still offends even if it's someone using it to describe themselves. There is no use telling people the words are wrong, because repeating them is on par with using them seriously. And there are certain things that are being marked as never being funny or not ever being talked about, because it doesn't matter what you intend, it only matters how it was received, no matter how much meaning has been warped or broken.

The message becomes 'some things can only be said in certain ways by certain people, while also being offensive no matter the context.' There's a clear paradox there that the internet and anonymity only amplifies.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:35 PM on March 30 [10 favorites]


That Bwithh comes away from reading the article exasperated and annoyed is... curious. (Actually, on preview, Bwithh seems more concerned with Park than with any of other aspect of this whole thing, so that explains it. But seriously, Kang's piece is well worth reading).

um... Thank you for your commentary on me. Park and her supporters repeatedly emphasize on Twitter that their movement is a brainchild of Park's ( the Park persona appearing in mainstream media interviews ( like the New Yorker piece) is much much more modest than the Park on Twitter. Nothing wrong with that. )and they criticize media accounts and other Tweeters who don't highlight that. OK, so she's the ringmaster, she has my attention. I also blame her for wasting my time.

As for the Kang piece, I was inflamed mostly by the casual Merry Pranksters comparison at the end, which I maintain is totally ridiculous . And this is an amazing publicity attainment for Park; that is actually the main point of the article from her and her movement's perspective.
posted by Bwithh at 10:51 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


If slurs shouldn't be used no matter what, etc

i personally don't want a ruling as to whether slurs are either ok or not ok with nothing in between and nothing complicated and no context.

i just want some room for the possibility to exist that maybe even the best-intended use of slurs will always be somewhat iffy somewhere for someone. it doesn't confuse me that for the same slur someone can reappropriate it for themselves, someone else shouldn't use the word because they only know how to use it in the dimwitted bigot way, and some satire genius might still be doing more harm than they realize. not even more harm than good! just more harm than they realize. (i feel like a lot of people in the This Is Only Satire camp won't give me even that small amount of breathing room for feeling bad and talking about it respectfully and being heard except in the most dismissive yeah-sure-ok way.)

a good example on metafilter of precisely this in action-- comments that are ironic bigotry can get deleted. there are lines past which satire is seen as unhelpful on this site and that doesn't mean there's no satire on metafilter. it doesn't mean we don't understand it. i'm sure there are those who chafe under that guideline, but i think it's nice that there are fewer out-of-the-blue and unnecessary rape analogies and screaming all caps use of the n-word to really, you know, drive home your Very Important point.

how to successfully discuss difficult topics is an issue that comes up on metafilter a lot and i've learned from the meta discussions. it absolutely sounds boring and dry when you lay it all out-- be respectful, paraphrase accurately without condescending reinterpretation, don't read other people's minds, don't be flip when someone is being serious, take a walk if you feel you can't comment without flipping shit. and your brilliant satire at the wrong time could completely derail a thread so maybe rethink it. which kinda ties in nicely with this i guess:

I mean, that the whole Twitter explosion effectively obscured the objections to Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins is only acknowledged in a bracketed aside, dismissed as being of any concern.

first, if you wanted to talk about that you could've. thread'll be open for weeks. and second, it's not an example for banning satire, but it sure does show how things can go off on a tangent, just like they do in the microcosm of metafilter. with the best intentions, with people who have known and trusted posting histories, with articulate people who like to have fun and turn a phrase or two, with moderation-- things still get fucked.

and let's not blame it all on the asians though hey? it's hard enough getting heard you don't need to be like we took something away from native americans. if it weren't for that pesky Park and her twitter followers we... totally still would not have solved racism against native americans by now.

so she's the ringmaster, she has my attention. I also blame her for wasting my time.

really? you, the person who's been breathlessly recapping all her comings and goings? choose to attend to more worthwhile things in the future i guess. i don't know how to properly use a care bears reference here so i'll just say it is within all our powers not to uselessly engage.
posted by twist my arm at 11:58 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]


so she's the ringmaster, she has my attention. I also blame her for wasting my time.

really? you, the person who's been breathlessly recapping all her comings and goings? choose to attend to more worthwhile things in the future i guess. i don't know how to properly use a care bears reference here so i'll just say it is within all our powers not to uselessly engage.
posted by twist my arm at 11:58 PM on March 30 [+] [!]


I date my "waste of time" conclusion about my initial interest in this whole thing from the point where she announced it was a satire. Anything after that was venting my annoyance.

I guess it's time for me to stop engaging with this thread.
posted by Bwithh at 12:15 AM on March 31


a good example on metafilter of precisely this in action-- comments that are ironic bigotry can get deleted.

Sure. sweetkid linked her MeTa from awhile back earlier in the thread, and it was one I agreed with - still do. But then, that's MetaFilter, where we're a series of pseudonyms on the internet, not, say, a satirical news show hosted by someone in character, even if that character shares his actual name. Again, context.

and let's not blame it all on the asians though hey?

Posters weren't doing that, but much as you don't think your wiggle room of doubt is being ignored, I think this defence of the right to racism is being exaggerated when not outright manufactured, at least here in this instance. But no, pointing out the distraction is implied to be a racist response.

So forgive me if I don't eagerly embrace conversations with people suggesting only bad faith in others in a rather hypocritical fashion.
posted by gadge emeritus at 1:00 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]


#ifcolbertapologizesiquit
posted by judson at 8:42 AM on March 31


racial stereotypes of Asians or Asian-Americans is often a "safe" place to do racial humor. Perhaps sometimes it's acceptable and for good, but also it may not be.

No it is never acceptable or for good. It saddens me that people might think this is up for debate (not attacking R343L for what I thought was overall a good comment).
posted by sweetkid at 8:48 AM on March 31 [4 favorites]


I'd been trying to think of an example of ironic racism in service of criticizing liberal racism. I can't believe it's taken me days to recall Rednecks by Randy Newman. Newman makes a powerful point about Northern vs Southern racism and, being Randy Newman, he doesn't pull any linguistic punches. Would this song be as powerful a statement without the language? Does it get a pass for being 40 years old?
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:51 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


I meant to add, the first time I heard that song was in the 80's and I cringed at the end of every verse. I'm still profoundly uncomfortable listening to it and, if I'm listening to my Newman songs and that one pops up, I will skip over it almost every time, especially if somebody else is in the room. I appreciate the point he's making (and my grandparents were old Hyde Park racist who believed that they weren't anything like "those awful Southern racists" so I knew of what Newman sang) but the language continues to be too much for me.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:56 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


But then, that's MetaFilter, where we're a series of pseudonyms on the internet, not, say, a satirical news show hosted by someone in character, even if that character shares his actual name. Again, context.

i actually addressed the context on metafilter-- there are personalities on here who are known liberals from their posting histories who are clearly using satire, but people still get their backs up and ask them to stop and reconsider the effect of slurs on mefi. it doesn't have to be a direct correlation with the colbert report to show that satire can rub (non-trolly, non-outrage-manufacturing) people the wrong way. chappelle is a great analogy here and i'm not sure why he's only been brought up a couple times. he was both the one doing the satire and the one having second thoughts about its effectiveness to communicate ideas.

some folks have said that colbert is doing this because his intent is to show that racism is wrong so his intent is clearly anti-racist. i feel like this interview segment is relevant and is something that you hear from so many comedians which is that their biggest responsibility is to be funny, and everything else serves that.
i go, i don't have any influence. he goes you don't intend any influence. he said, if people say that you influence them, you do influence them and that's not your call to make. so i can't speak, other people can say, but i really don't know, for 2 reasons. one is, i, this sounds callous, but i really don't care, it's not my goal, i wanna stay funny and i wanna keep moving ahead of what i perceive where the ball is in the straight culture and move ahead, you know, stay in the funny culture ahead of it.
on why he's playing a right winger instead of left or moderate:
it's an avenging angel kind of anchor. it's broken up into little feifdoms of different people's shows, but it's all a cult of personality. a cult of personality requires megolomania, and megolomania requires this sort of monolilthic tone, and a shamelessness. and one thing that liberals aren't is unified generally in their thought. they're disparate and they keep a lot of balls in the air and something that the right does very well is maintain, or at least they did until this recent election, maintain a consistent front. so it's easier for me to be a larger than life megomaniacal figure if i'm doing it passionately from the right. because first of all flags and crowds and a mob mentality goes better with the right than it does with the left.
i do think he's probably left-center in his personal life but i think people sometimes overestimate how obvious and easy it is to tease out an artist's beliefs from their art. some come out in interviews and say directly how they feel and others clearly don't like to be pidgeonholed and prefer to talk about the art.

as a liberal i definitely take away from TCR that the show is generally "on my side" but when i watch his interviews i get the feeling that he's good at his job because everything is a deliberate choice in the service of comedy, not because he's a liberal and believes strongly in anything specifically. i don't know if he's being coy but he's talented enough that if there were more laughs being a straw-liberal, he could make that entertaining too and maybe would've gone in that direction. and it wouldn't make him any less of a liberal if he had.

pointing out the distraction is implied to be a racist response

pointing out a distraction is fine. focusing on the distraction as if nobody can help themselves and to the exclusion of the more important conversation general-you thinks we should be having, that is a thing that kept happening in this thread. so i'm in turn pointing out that the distraction doesn't have to be as distracting as the distracted people say it is.

as to why i feel like talking about Park being a distraction is like talking about me and every other asian person being a distraction, well there's been a lumping together in this thread and i have no idea if it is deliberate or not. in your very comment i have no idea whether Park is doing the manufacturing and distracting or if you mean people in this thread.

either way, both american indians and asians have the same issue of slurs against us sounding not as bad, definitely to others, but also to ourselves. i don't think either group needs to be the focus or cede talking time or anything like that, rather that both were relevant in this instance. i would've welcomed voices from other groups (including black people, because we were constantly using the n-word as the perfect analogy--on both sides!-- and i don't know if that was shitty or understandable or both? are apologies in order?) but there is something about calling her a distraction while you're responding only to her that strikes me as disingenuous or blind or something. easily avoided at least.
posted by twist my arm at 10:53 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]


i do think he's probably left-center in his personal life

This isn't a mystery. Colbert is without a doubt well into the American left-of-center. His parody isn't an elaborate ploy to express his real beliefs.

i don't know if he's being coy but he's talented enough that if there were more laughs being a straw-liberal

This seems to miss that the Colbert's persona is a direct reaction to the Bush years and the post-9/11 Republican Party. Of course he's trying to be funny but, like art, it's a reaction to the world with a pretty obvious message. One can argue whether it's ever okay to use insensitive language in service of a goal, but it's pretty clear what he's trying to do. I know the mantra is "intent doesn't matter", but I think it does. I would say "intent isn't the only thing that matters".

Also, I'm still not seeing the value in comparing MetaFilter to a parody television program. One is a moderated shared space for discussion, the other a creative vehicle for one man and his team to deliver a one-way point, that you can reckon with or ignore on your own.
posted by spaltavian at 11:33 AM on March 31 [6 favorites]




Also, I'm still not seeing the value in comparing MetaFilter to a parody television program. One is a moderated shared space for discussion, the other a creative vehicle for one man and his team to deliver a one-way point, that you can reckon with or ignore on your own.

This started on Twitter, where one-way messaging is not the basic way the medium works. Once a TV show has a Twitter account, the exchange of ideas stops going just one way by default.
posted by kewb at 11:58 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]


I've seen something like this Colbert Twitter thing coming for years. It's just way too easy to get people riled up in a kneejerk fashion on both Twitter and Facebook. I've bought into it myself at times, and it's one of the reasons I, for the most part, stay away from those places.

When it's used for a cause we agree with we overlook it, but it's just as easy to wield wrongly, and once it's established as something that can get people riled up without thinking it through, it's only a matter of time before the Karl Roves of our world figure out its animating principle and put it to work in their service.
posted by JHarris at 12:06 PM on March 31


When it's used for a cause we agree with we overlook it, but it's just as easy to wield wrongly, and once it's established as something that can get people riled up without thinking it through, it's only a matter of time before the Karl Roves of our world figure out its animating principle and put it to work in their service.

Except that the most these Twitter outrage campaigns usually achieve is an apology on Twitter. They're quite a bit less effective than, say, the Parents' Television Council directing members to send letters of complaint to the FCC, organizing showy marches in Washington every couple of years, or creating a news network to advocate your partisan causes. Why would someone like Rove waste his time with them when most of the real levers of power are elsewhere?

Twitter and social media technologies are very useful for exchanging ideas, and they work as substitutes for real microphones and cameras, but outside of awareness campaigns and provocations to discussion I see little to indicate that they sway elections or get TV shows cancelled. The change they promote is slow, sometimes chaotic in its execution, and most effective around particular discursive events.
posted by kewb at 12:19 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


You know, I actually don't agree that all this twitter outrage is a bad thing, or that it isn't useful.

I think there's a very strong limit to it's utility, but in the case of #cancelcolbert, I actually think this is the one place where not only is twitter the proper forum, it's also the forum that is most likely to be seen by the relevant people.

Because The Colbert Report is a TV show. #cancelcolbert isn't a hashtag about improving access to healthcare or ending the NYPD's Stop And Frisk policy. Twitter is where TV and other big media marketing happens, nowadays. If you want to tell Comedy Central that, as a fan, you don't like the approach this one show is taking, getting a Twitter hashtag to go viral is exactly how to communicate that. It amounts to a free focus group Comedy Central didn't even have to organize, weighing in: "Don't lean on Asian-American slurs in your racial satire!"

The problem, of course, is in what the chosen hashtag was, and what the campaign's goal was. Obviously there's no way in hell The Colbert Report is going to be canceled over this. And on the flip side, this is not something that is going to be solved by an apology, whether it happens on the air or in another venue.

The real goal is for the writers at Colbert, and probably comedy writers and comedians in general, to stop using ironic racism in satire. #cancelcolbert probably doesn't accomplish this, because the target of the protest hears "cancel" and tunes you out. Additionally, after talking to a couple of people about the whole kerfuffle (some of them comedy folks, some of them Colbert fans), my takeaway is that most people who aren't specifically interested in racial issues within comedy aren't thinking any further about this than rolling their eyes and insisting that the complainers don't get it.

If the goal is to convince the wider culture that ironic racism isn't OK, #cancelcolbert fails, because it doesn't succeed at engaging with the people who need convincing. This is part of the reason why the "tone policing" stuff and insistence on being confrontational and aggressive is a terrible direction to be going in. Yes, actually you do need to be polite, engage in discussion rather than screaming matches, and argue in good faith. Because right now, the straight white comedy bros are either unaware of the issues or haven't been persuaded of your case. You can't really start from a place of FIRE EVERYONE and CANCEL THE SHOW and I DON'T HAVE TO BE POLITE TO YOU, FUCKER. That's the perfect way to never get what you want, if what you want is to make people aware of an issue they hadn't considered before.
posted by Sara C. at 12:48 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


kewb: This started on Twitter, where

...Park repeatedly said it wasn't just the tweet but the bit itself she had a problem with. The tweet was pretty stupid since it lacked the context, but Park and her allies were pretty clear that the context doesn't matter. (Complete with drawings of white bro-dudes sputtering "but, but... satire").

But ignoring that, the Twitter analogy doesn't work either. The no ironic racism rule on MetaFilter is to foster a shared community and discussion. Twitter isn't a discussion or a community. Applying lessons of MetaFilter to Twitter only makes marginally more sense than applying them to the Colbert Report.

Again, I'm not arguing for anyone to use ironic racism, and it makes total sense to never allow it here. But I'm also not prepared to say that artisic work can never find value there, or that art (including comedy) is best thought of a discussion where everyone should feel comfortable enough to contribute.
posted by spaltavian at 12:49 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


But I'm also not prepared to say that artisic work can never find value there, and that art (including comedy) is best thought of a discussion where everyone should feel comfortable enough to contribute.

whew thank god we agree
posted by twist my arm at 12:51 PM on March 31


Great. I guess you now no longer see the value in comparing MetaFilter to a parody television program.
posted by spaltavian at 12:55 PM on March 31


(wait, "art is best thought of, etc..." you are NOT prepared to say that? i may have read that wrong)
posted by twist my arm at 12:57 PM on March 31


I'm saying that whether I agree with a work of art's use of offensive material or not, I wouldn't liken the situation to a discussion site that only works if everyone is comfortable.
posted by spaltavian at 1:26 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]


That article was a good read, homunculus. The headline and deck make it sound like ‘fighting’ over Colbert or Lena Dunham on Twitter is a good—or at least neutral—thing, though. The article seems to be saying it’s emblematic and part and parcel of the larger issue that is our broken politics:
Getting into a comments-thread battle or a Twitter-lather about Colbert’s bad joke or Lena Dunham’s fashion-magazine shoot or whatever other outrage du jour conveys a temporary feeling of pseudo-power, much as watching MSNBC (or Fox News) crow about the idiocy of the other side is pseudo-participation in a pseudo-democracy.
posted by context adventure at 1:35 PM on March 31


Actually that’s not all it says! I made it sound like it was. Oops.

It has a lot to say about platforms like Twitter giving voices (at the level mass media once had a corner on) to people/communities that didn’t previously have one. I agree, and I think that’s a good thing, generally speaking.
posted by context adventure at 1:40 PM on March 31


OK, I know I'm staying out of this thread now, but I have to make an exception for the animated view from my Taiwanese sisters and brothers
posted by Bwithh at 2:06 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


The problem, of course, is in what the chosen hashtag was, and what the campaign's goal was. Obviously there's no way in hell The Colbert Report is going to be canceled over this. And on the flip side, this is not something that is going to be solved by an apology, whether it happens on the air or in another venue.

The real goal is for the writers at Colbert, and probably comedy writers and comedians in general, to stop using ironic racism in satire. #cancelcolbert probably doesn't accomplish this, because the target of the protest hears "cancel" and tunes you out.


Now to preface what i'm about to say, i am firmly on the side that this was a stupid internet hyperbolic "GO FOR THE THROAT" thing as far as using that tag.

However, i think "they'll just tune you out" isn't one of, or at least the primary reason why it sucks. Some people might, but "they're angry enough about this that they're calling to cancel the show" comes off as they're pretty fucking serious.

Would there be better ways to get that point across? yea. Is this way of getting the point across completely useless at getting comedy central to listen? I'm not so sure.

It's mostly shit because it takes it to that fucking stupid "JAIL ALL WALL STREET BANKERS NOW" hyperbolic level that gets retweets and reblogs. But in this specific context i could see sympathetic voices at comedy central supporting their arguments in meetings with "This is how offended people were by this, they want the show cancelled".

Then again, it's also comedy central. And they were happy to weather the brunt of all the criticism of south park with "If you don't like it don't watch it, fuck you" pretty consistently. So their response might just be to ignore it or flip the bird in a really reddit bro-y way.

But, if that's the case then wording this campaign more eloquently wouldn't have mattered anyways.
posted by emptythought at 2:30 PM on March 31


Would there be better ways to get that point across? yea. Is this way of getting the point across completely useless at getting comedy central to listen? I'm not so sure.

I guess it depends whether the goal is to get Comedy Central to "listen", e.g. something like "step in and stop Colbert from being so racist" or "make him apologize" or "cancel the show", vs. a goal of generally raising awareness of the problems inherent in ironic/satirical racism, not so much with Comedy Central but among potential white liberal allies.

That said, I did shift my goalposts in my above comment, sliding from "this is a great forum for addressing Comedy Central" to "and thus white male comedy writers are a land of contrasts".

I suppose I think that it's worth being as angry as you want if you're trying to get Comedy Central's attention, but important to soft-shoe a little if you're trying to start a dialogue with comedy fans in general. Sorry for not being clear.
posted by Sara C. at 2:45 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


We're both saying the same thing then, cool.

I think another thing worth noting though, is that the soft-shoe method doesn't really lend itself to a trending hashtag either.

The takeaway from this should really just be goddamn twitter is a terrible place to have these conversations.
posted by emptythought at 2:51 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


the soft-shoe method doesn't really lend itself to a trending hashtag either.

I don't know, I think it's definitely possible to at least try to be civil and argue in good faith and be heard, on twitter. #ColbertFacepalm could have been just as successful (in accomplishing a "create dialogue" goal) as #CancelColbert was.
posted by Sara C. at 2:54 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


I don't know, I thought #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag was interesting, even if I don't totally agree with it.

I have a tendency to support minority voices even if the message isn't perfect or the tone is weird or it's juvenile in some way etc. Thinking about this, it's really less that I have a formal education or stance on race issues and more that I'm just sort of delightedly amazed that we get to talk about this.

As an Indian American kid growing up in affluent Northern Virginia, I got the message that racism wasn't happening any more and was really only about people not getting a job or a house because of their skin color. Also, people didn't see color and all that. But I just felt certain things were...wrong...and I didn't really know how to articulate it because I had been told so consistently that racism wasn't a thing. Even when I joined Amnesty International and got into activism, most of the focus in terms of minorities was on black people and the institutional racism brought on by the legacy of slavery.

I got into a special "minority achievement" summer camp and it was cool and all, but we had speakers come in and talk very specifically about African American culture only. There were other non black minorities in the camp but it's like they hadn't even thought about that when they planned activities. I felt out of place in a different way than when I was the only non white person in a class, or one of just a few.

That's why I'm still just so utterly pleased and still a bit surprised that there are people talking about Indian American and Asian American issues and concepts of identity, because a lot of the things that come up, like jokes, questions about where you're "really from," sexuality, stereotypes about family, are all those things that I instinctively felt were wrong when I was a kid but was told weren't an issue. But they come up again and again. We still have people in this thread and other threads and everywhere who say that these things aren't "real" racism and can be explained by x and y instead and jokes about Asians/Asian Americans are no big deal and whatever but it's not a thing that's quiet and there's obviously something to it if so many people are saying it. Also, I don't think people are always speaking out to convince white people of something. They're speaking out because they have something to say, and other people who identify with those things feel like they're not alone.

It's an amazing thing, and I'm really happy to see it.
posted by sweetkid at 3:15 PM on March 31 [12 favorites]


Oh, god yeah. I think everything going on is a net positive, even when I disagree with a specific point being made or the tone of a particular tweet or something.

I don't think people are always speaking out to convince white people of something.

I don't think that, at all.

But I think that, OK, so you (the general you) think X thing is shitty and racist. The great unwashed masses of people who get a pass to never think about race are oblivious to it. If you want it to stop happening, being super mad at everyone isn't going to do anything.

Outside of this thread, I haven't talked to a single white person who saw the Colbert bit and cringed at the ironic racism. Over and over, I keep hearing, "But it was satire!" and some variation on the idea that Suey Park has no sense of humor, has never seen the show before, or misunderstood the joke. That's a problem.

I don't think it's a problem I'd necessarily charge All Non-White People with solving, but on the other hand my take on the entire #cancelcolbert phenomenon is that it wasn't done with an eye towards, like, Suey Park just "having something to say" on twitter. Clearly there was some goal. The goal doesn't have to be "convince white people this is a problem", but considering that the majority of Comedy Central executives, Colbert Report writers, People Who Are Stephen Colbert, and opinionmakers in American comedy are white, presumably some convincing of certain white people was Park's goal. In that sense, I think she failed spectacularly.

If her goal was just "bitch about a thing online", yay, 100% success!
posted by Sara C. at 3:38 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


Also, apropos of very little -- I watched SNL's Black Jeopardy sketch with this conversation still strongly on my mind, and I'm curious about others' thoughts.
posted by Sara C. at 3:50 PM on March 31


Also, apropos of very little -- I watched SNL's Black Jeopardy sketch with this conversation still strongly on my mind, and I'm curious about others' thoughts.

I kinda cringed when it became apparent where they were going with it, too, but I figure that it was almost certainly written by some combination of Thompson, Pharoah and Zamata (who are rarely at a loss for sketches these days, so it's not like they felt like that was the only way they'd get on air tonight), and they seemed okay with it.

But that is at least two shows in a row with "Look, white people are uncomfortable about race!" sketches. Sure, their audience is more the former than the latter, but geez, guys.
posted by Etrigan at 4:07 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


There are a few things that redeemed it in my eyes:

1. A lot of the material in this week's episode seemed really Louis C.K. driven. My guess is that he was a particularly hands-on host, and "white people are uncomfortable about race" is his bread and butter.

2. Not only does SNL have enough African-American cast members to pull this off, there are also African-American writers. It's easy to think of SNL as a "white show", and thus coming with all the same baggage that The Colbert Report does. But if African-Americans write a sketch, and African-Americans act in a sketch, where does it fall on the "acceptable satire" scale?

3. I really liked the underlying premise that knowing a lot of academic stuff about the African-American experience is not the same thing as fundamentally understanding Black culture.

But overall I thought a lot of it was "punching down".
posted by Sara C. at 4:16 PM on March 31


I'm super-late to be giving my basic opinion on this, but there are a few things that I keep typing, then deleting, then typing, then deleting, for days, so I'm gonna go ahead and post them to keep from going nuts. They're not even inflammatory, I just haven't wanted to wade in. It's mostly prompted by why it seems everyone here is totally cool with a Modest Proposal, yet are so divided by this particular issue.

First, I think if one accepts that satire like a Modest Proposal is valid, then there needs to be more nuance to this discussion beyond just "it's racist and insensitive". Because a Modest Proposal looked like it was punching the Irish and children, when in fact it was punching the English. So just saying "yeah, a Modest Proposal is fine, but this is bad because it's racist" doesn't make sense. I suspect a lot of folks actually think a Modest Proposal isn't fine, but are giving it lip service because everyone else thinks it's fine. But if everyone really thinks Swift is ok, despite looking like punching down, why isn't this satire OK? I think one reason is that it's looking like punching diagonally down. That is, unlike Swift, it isn't punching at the sports guy by running overtime with his position about Native Americans, but by paralleling it with a whole other group, Asian Americans.

I'm sure that some people would say it would have been just as bad if he'd made a different satirical joke that used Native Americans instead of Asian Americans. Sure, maybe, I dunno. I don't really have an opinion about whether satire is good or bad, and whether satire makes fake-punching-down acceptable. But at least if he were fake-punching-down at Native Americans instead of Asian Americans, the situation would be closer to the Modest Proposal situation, and therefore discussions using that common analogy would be more on-the-mark.

The other thing is that until yesterday I was thinking "satire is about exaggeratedly punching one way in order to punch another way (punching Irish children in order to punch the English)", so any satire that punches up must necessarily include punching down, and then, for some reason, when I wasn't even thinking about this topic, I remembered "God Hates Shrimp", which satirized Fred Phelps by pretending to be a Bible literalist movement which used Leviticus as its basis for deciding that anyone who ate shrimp was going to hell. That punched Phelps, but it didn't punch gays, transsexuals, or any other of the likely down targets. So I think my original idea, that satire punches up by punching down, is not necessarily true, it's just a very common form of satire, and the type used by Swift.

Okay, thanks, needed to get that out of my system.
posted by Bugbread at 4:25 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


His position was that he doesn't want to confront small-time everyday ignorance from casual or even good friends - the unfunny "what's for dinner - dog?" jokes and the like. And that he felt it was tactically a bad decision for Asian Americans to make a lot of public noise about small-time racism against them that springs from ignorance rather than outright malice. ... And, in his view, AAs are close to escape velocity from racism, to be launched into the Irish-jokes, and Italian-jokes, but at bottom "our guys" orbit... as long as they don't screw it up by hooking up with the "other" hopeless minority cargos.

Makes perfect sense to me. Kind of an aspirational aspect of the "punching up"/"punching down" distinction used to determine which jokes are acceptable. Symbolic insults with no practical harm are absorbed without displays of rage or upset, or even made self-deprecatingly. In the "punching up" framework, this signals higher/"up" status. And I ain't ripping on the guy particularly, I think a great deal of everything everyone does is status signalling.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:40 PM on March 31


Oh, god yeah. I think everything going on is a net positive, even when I disagree with a specific point being made or the tone of a particular tweet or something.

I don't think people are always speaking out to convince white people of something.

I don't think that, at all.


My comment wasn't directed at you, Sara C, it was just sort of a collection of thoughts about this thing and discussion of ironic racism and racism against Asian Americans, and what "counts" and what doesn't.

It's not that I approve of Suey Park's strategy here, such that I even understand it or think any strategy exists, I just meant "I support minority voices" as just that - someone does a thing and I find it interesting and follow along. I think some of what she wrote before the "it was all satire" bit, which I don't really get or want to get, resonated with me. Overall yea "Cancel Colbert" was an overreach, and I have no idea what the goal was though I agree there was one.

I just see often in these types of threads (again not a reference to your specific comment) that there seems to be a theme of "this is what you need to do to get white people's attention on this" or "this will never get white people to listen because" and sometimes the narrative can get bent that way. Maybe it should, maybe to a lot of people that's what speaking out about racism, discrimination, etc is about.

I'm just offering the perspective that often when I see things like this come up, articles about discrimination, Asian Americans talking about experience, I'm often more like "Hey! I recognize that thing! I totally relate to this thing and understand it" and less "I really hope white people listen to this and change life in x and y ways." Like I said though, I'm not an activist so I probably have different goals. But sometimes when I have a shared gripe with other Indian Americans about some identity issue I usually feel a sense of relief.
posted by sweetkid at 8:11 PM on March 31 [6 favorites]


I suspect a lot of folks actually think a Modest Proposal isn't fine, but are giving it lip service because everyone else thinks it's fine.

Down this road, lies only madness.

No but seriously if one of the pillars of your argument is "people are only agreeing with this to seem cool or fit in because everyone else is" then you should probably shore up your foundation a bit.

I'm sure that some people would say it would have been just as bad if he'd made a different satirical joke that used Native Americans instead of Asian Americans.

Actually i bet no one would have at all because no one ever gives a crap about that. (no but, seriously)

One of the main reasons i think it's defensible, actually, is that by making a parallel comparison to stuff targeted at another race he can pull a "Why do people care about this, but not that? they're just as racist" sort of maneuver. This is an expert level combo, and even when it appears to work wont always jive with everyone.

That's something i think has been relatively lightly touched on in here. That native americans have kinda always been invisible even more than asian americans in this sort of thing as a group to crap on. this is verboten, but redskins isn't, despite it being a recognized thing that a lot of asian american targeted racism is still cool. I realize i'm getting close to another road to madness here with oppression olympics type stuff, but i think this colbert skit was a bit more clever than some people are giving it credit for.

i like your post and your thoughts though. not trying to be a weinerdog.
posted by emptythought at 8:22 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


One of the main reasons i think it's defensible, actually, is that by making a parallel comparison to stuff targeted at another race he can pull a "Why do people care about this, but not that? they're just as racist" sort of maneuver. This is an expert level combo, and even when it appears to work wont always jive with everyone.


How is that an "expert level combo"? It just seems like standard "you wouldn't say that about X group but it's OK with y?" type of thing that's so common, like all minority groups are just interchangeable things to be used as examples of concepts and not recognized as real people.

That's something i think has been relatively lightly touched on in here. That native americans have kinda always been invisible even more than asian americans in this sort of thing as a group to crap on.


Maybe it's been lightly touched on here because it's not fair to be like, "well, Asian Americans get more outrage when publicly discriminated against than Native Americans, so we should really be talking about Native Americans and this is just a diversion."

It's like damned if you do, damned if you don't. Asians talking about not wanting to be mocked like this get a sort of "at least you GET some outrage, be happy with that" sort of thing.
posted by sweetkid at 8:32 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


emptythought: "No but seriously if one of the pillars of your argument is "people are only agreeing with this to seem cool or fit in because everyone else is" then you should probably shore up your foundation a bit."

It's not a pillar of my argument (I would've said "I'm certain" or something, not "I suspect"), and to express that thought in a bit more detail, I don't think people are agreeing with it to fit in, but because they haven't given it much thought, and just assume that it must be fine. I'm not putting them down, or at least I don't mean to. I think everyone has had the experience where they take something as a given, because it's presented that way, and upon really looking closely at it, realize they don't agree with it. And when I say "a lot of folks", I don't mean the majority, by any means. But, like I say, it's not really a pillar of my argument.
posted by Bugbread at 8:34 PM on March 31






Outside of this thread, I haven't talked to a single white person who saw the Colbert bit and cringed at the ironic racism. Over and over, I keep hearing, "But it was satire!" and some variation on the idea that Suey Park has no sense of humor, has never seen the show before, or misunderstood the joke. That's a problem.

Do I even need to bring up confirmation bias and how it might be in play here? If you spoke with any Asian Americans who said those things, would you still feel it was a problem? Or is it just because they are white that it is not okay for those people to react the way they did? Did you even speak with anyone who wasn't white, come to that? Isn't it a bit simplistic to group people this way, anyway? Do we really want to assume Asian Americans all share one opinion on this issue, and white people all share the other? Just clicking on the various perspectives linked in this thread belie that assumption.

Context matters. I can cringe at the Ching Chong bit while ALSO realizing why Colbert made that comedic choice. That's not because I am white, it's because I understand and appreciate social and political satire (which did not begin and end with A Modest Proposal, for heaven's sake!) and I have more than a passing familiarity with Colbert's body of work, too.

Hence, I am confident this was satire in the classic sense, firmly believe Park didn't get the joke and is back-pedaling like whoa rather than come out and admit it, and feel reasonably certain that either Park is not familiar with Colbert's act or she mistakenly attributes the views of his on-air persona to Stephen Colbert himself.
posted by misha at 10:50 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


Whether or not you think it's ok that Colbert made the joke, I think that cringing is going to happen to anyone who even gets the joke. If you didn't cringe, and were like "Yeah, there's nothing cringeworthy in that joke", then you wouldn't understand it, right? Like, it would read the same as if Colbert's joke was "I established a foundation called the Albert Hoxby Foundation for Sensitivity to Blacksmiths or Whatever". You'd go "huh?" and maybe chuckle at the "or whatever", but you wouldn't understand the joke. You wouldn't even defend it as satire, because it wouldn't make any sense. The whole joke is that it's super cringey.

The debate seems to be about how much cringe there was ("It was only a little racist" "No, it was super racist"), and whether it's ok to use that much cringe in a joke, and in what situations, and by whom, and things like that.
posted by Bugbread at 11:13 PM on March 31 [12 favorites]


sweetkid: I don't think people are always speaking out to convince white people of something.

But Park was (or at least had been pretending to be). One of her inital tweets was along the lines of "White people, do something about this". Further tweets were directed at "white people". So, unless her point was to scold "white people", it seems worthwhile to talk about how effective maximum hostility works. It's not really a "tone argument" in this case.
posted by spaltavian at 6:24 AM on April 1 [3 favorites]


Bugbread, favorited. i denounce your lack of participation earlier. (because in general, whatever i feel of your positions, you seem to always present them cogently and without animus)

(actually thanks to Joey Michaels and R343L as well for the "this made me rethink [foo]" comments. i know it's selfish because i would really really like people to reconsider various aspects of this conversation in the direction of doing less-racist things overall, but it's also that i find rethinking things the more interesting reaction. i don't know why i rethink things either, what arguments are convincing and why did they convince me in that moment and not before? why does it take some things years of percolating before i come around, and other things i understand the first time i encounter it?)

homunculus-- that was masterful. "i am not a racist. i don't even see race, not even my own. people tell me i'm white and i believe them because i just devoted 6 minutes to explaining how i'm not a racist. and that is about the whitest thing you can do." the whole bit is in character of course, but it was really interesting the amount of barely-not-breaking-the-4th-wall this specific kerfuffle allowed for.

he takes a second to address Park's death threats--"now all of this was started by a hashtag activist, or hashtivist, who has been viciously attacked on twitter. and if anyone is doing that for me i want you to stop right now. she's just speaking her mind and that's what twitter is for-- as well as for ruining every show i haven't seen yet." maybe it's just me but i thought it was genuinely kind and he seems to drop the character for a split second.
posted by twist my arm at 6:47 AM on April 1 [3 favorites]




jbickers: "Cringe-worthy interview with Park on HuffPo "

Last time that was linked I was too scared of potential cringe to watch it. (I have a really low cringe threshold. Stuff like the UK version of the Office is nigh unwatchable for me). This time...I only managed to get through the first question. The first question!

Interviewer: "Thanks for being with us, Suey!"
Park: "Of course, thanks for asking me!"
Interviewer: "Why #CancelColbert? What did you hope to achieve with that?"
Park: "Well, that's a loaded question."

Wait...what?! "That's a loaded question?" That's a loaded question?

We've had some interesting discussion about satire, about the position of Asian-Americans, about parallelism, etc., but the more I see, the more I'm convinced that this was in spite of Park, not because of her.
posted by Bugbread at 7:26 AM on April 1 [11 favorites]


Yeah, for all of Park's claims of being "silenced" in that interview, she came into it swinging. I agree his next question was condescending, (he asked her if she understood satire), but that's ignoring how she primed the adversarial tone. In light of what Park said about her campaign subsequently, it seems that was intentional.
posted by spaltavian at 8:04 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


Do I even need to bring up confirmation bias and how it might be in play here? If you spoke with any Asian Americans who said those things, would you still feel it was a problem? Or is it just because they are white that it is not okay for those people to react the way they did?

I deliberately asked two or three white friends what they thought about "the whole Cancel Colbert thing". It wasn't a scientific investigation.

You, yourself, seem to be in the "it's OK because it was satire" camp. So I'm confused why you think there's something disingenuous about suggesting that a lot of white people think it was OK because it was satire.
posted by Sara C. at 9:20 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


I definitely cringed. (Whitey here.) And I think Park and any other person of Asian descent had a right to be offended if they were.

I do think the piece had value, though. I don't know if "OK" is the word I'd use, since that seems to me to imply that there's no pain or darkness involved. It's definitely dark humor, and it forces us to look at the ugly side of the casual racism many of us tend to brush off or overlook on a daily basis.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:35 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


For me, it doesn't rise above the level of a failed joke. Jokes fail. It sucks that this joke failed because it offended people, because people having their feelings hurt is no good. It's not a no-harm-no-foul sort of failed joke. It's more like a "dropping a brick on your improv partner's foot" sort of failed joke.

But I don't think anyone ought to be fired. I think an apology is neither here nor there. Instead I would like to see a more diverse and socially aware writer's room, or at the very least a writer's room that tries harder and works to be better than this sort of thing.
posted by Sara C. at 9:42 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


Instead I would like to see a more diverse and socially aware writer's room, or at the very least a writer's room that tries harder and works to be better than this sort of thing.

I wonder whether TDS/TCR has gone after any of the former staff from Totally Biased.
posted by Etrigan at 9:51 AM on April 1


re: HuffPo.

That was painful to watch.

I was on the fence about this issue until that interview. Suey was polite, objective, and intelligent. The host and the other guest, both white men who didn't attempt to conceal their disdain for Suey, came off as pushy, arrogant, and a prime example of privilege. They were mocking and didn't even attempt to understand her. It was framed as "why don't you understand satire?" putting the blame on her, rather then looking at themselves and saying, "are we being racist?" Privilege does not like to be called out, and this was a very good example.

What really made me angry the most was the host's statement "your opinion is stupid" and the guest's "I've been told my opinion doesn't matter". The irony killed me. Here they are telling her that her opinion doesn't matter, but then they were offended at the possibility of their opinion not mattering, and she never even hinted at that, not once. It was an awful, awful segment that gave me clarity on the issue, and also made me realize HuffPo isn't a liberal site, it is a white liberal site that lacks introspection.

All this talk of "context this" and "context that" completely misses the implicit racism. Fortunately there are a large number of objective discussions on this thread. MetaFilter is SO much better than reddit. With a few exceptions of rudeness / dudeness, this has been an enlightening, relatively polite forum. How is that even possible on the internet these days???
posted by peter.j.torelli at 10:01 AM on April 1 [5 favorites]


it forces us to look at the ugly side of the casual racism many of us tend to brush off or overlook on a daily basis.

The thing is, "us" in this case seems to be white people or at least people who are not directly affected by the comparisons in the joke. It's like what I said earlier, it's like all minority groups are just interchangeable things to be used as examples of concepts and not recognized as real people.
posted by sweetkid at 10:03 AM on April 1 [5 favorites]


-it forces us to look at the ugly side of the casual racism many of us tend to brush off or overlook on a daily basis.

--The thing is, "us" in this case seems to be white people or at least people who are not directly affected by the comparisons in the joke.


Well, that isn't exactly what I meant, but you're absolutely right that the particular people affected by the joke already see it and don't need to be reminded of it. I was kind of hoping that we had reached a point where we could all examine that together, but that's no doubt pretty naïve on my part.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:18 AM on April 1


I deliberately asked two or three white friends what they thought about "the whole Cancel Colbert thing". It wasn't a scientific investigation.

You, yourself, seem to be in the "it's OK because it was satire" camp. So I'm confused why you think there's something disingenuous about suggesting that a lot of white people think it was OK because it was satire.


Hey, Sara C., you're right.

Sorry if I came off as sounding like I was attacking you. I felt you were suggesting that only privileged white people who never concerned themselves with racism were okay with this bit, and their, "It's satire!" response came from that place, rather than possibly coming from an informed perspective. Semed like you wee saying that anyone who felt the satire justified the bit was just not sensitive to racism. That's why I responded as I did.

If that's not what you meant and I misunderstood your position, though, I apologize.
posted by misha at 10:55 AM on April 1


I think you're having trouble because you're seeing racism as a Thing that people Have or Don't Have. And any attempt to talk about white people being unaware of stuff or holding unexamined opinions amounts to tarring people with the Racism brush.

That's not really how the world works.

I'm a white person. I grew up in the south. I am a leftist, and I like to think of myself as an ally on social justice issues. Having been an anthropology major at a very liberal university, I am used to thinking and talking about race. I have spent a lot of time "unpacking my privilege". I don't like thinking of myself as a racist person. But, like everyone, I have blind spots. I talk more than I listen, I bristle at hashtags like #solidarityisforwhitewomen, and I used to be WAY WORSE about this stuff, in a cringeworthy sort of way. (Dear undergrad classmates, sorry I was such a chump when we talked about bell hooks.) I'm not an Un-Racist Good White Person living in opposition to Totally Racist Bad White People. I'm just a person. And my mom who thinks inner-city welfare queens exist is just a person. And my dad who Hates Rap is just a person. My friends who don't see that racism in service of a joke is still racist aren't evil klan members or anything. They're also just people.

There should be nothing scary or upsetting about realizing you haven't examined all sides of a race-tinged issue. Nobody is trying to tar and feather anybody. There are no cookies to hand out. There's no Good White Person/Bad White Person dichotomy. It's just a conversation.
posted by Sara C. at 11:11 AM on April 1 [3 favorites]


While that is the received wisdom on how to talk about racism; I don't think it's the full story nor do I think it's how these things usually go in practice. "Racist" is a thing that people can be. Of course, it's also possible that people can do offensive things that come from an unexamined place, privilege, or callousness, so I'm not saying you can go "I voted for Obama I can never do anything racist". But racism is both a process and a belief, and I don't understand the utility of ignoring the belief part in service of some humbling "we're all a little racist" point.

For example, two of your examples are totally incongruous: "my mom who thinks inner-city welfare queens exist is just a person. And my dad who Hates Rap is just a person". These aren't remotely the same, and a lot of people are going to bristle at that. But my objection isn't just that "the world isn't a college consciousness seminar". These two beliefs also have vastly different affects on the world: one is a major driver of social policy, one doesn't affect anyone else. There are actual racist things; like our policy towards inner cities. Not liking rap, no matter how darkly imply what it really means, is not one of those things.
posted by spaltavian at 12:03 PM on April 1 [3 favorites]


One way to determine if a joke aimed at a particular identity is across the line: Alter it so it's about other identities and see if it feels like it is more or less offensive.

Just like if you and your friends make ethnic jokes at each other all the time, this is completely different from you making ethnic jokes at complete strangers.

The thing is, "us" in this case seems to be white people or at least people who are not directly affected by the comparisons in the joke.

Outside of this thread, I haven't talked to a single white person who saw the Colbert bit and cringed at the ironic racism. Over and over, I keep hearing, "But it was satire!" and some variation on the idea that Suey Park has no sense of humor, has never seen the show before, or misunderstood the joke. That's a problem.


People still seem to misunderstand who the butt of this joke was meant to be.

The difference between teasing and satire is important. If you tease someone and then say "hey, relax, it's just a joke", you are making that person or their ethnicity/ group/ whatever the thing that is funny. Then you are saying they just shouldn't care about it.

But that is not what Colbert does or did here - he is making fun of the guy who would say things like that. So while the words may seem similar, the context is the opposite. He is specifically trying to go too far to make a point. In this case, he was making fun of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. He was making the point that having a foundation with a name like that is offensive.

By naming something the "Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Orientals or Whatever", he obviously went over the top - there's no way an actual foundation would be named something like that, and it both made me cringe and laugh at the same time, because it was awful and ridiculous. And that is exactly what satire does - it gives you that feeling of "oh no" in order to point something out, in this case that real Native Americans would feel that way seeing a "Redskins" Foundation, and it does it in a way which lets you laugh because it's just too much.

Not everyone has to like satire, but to suggest it's just veiled racism is bonkers. It's making fun of the racist. It is trying to show that what you think is perhaps acceptable, socially normal (or in this case, conservatively normal) or anyway "not racist" is in fact yeah, totally racist actually.

I mean, things like racism are out there. Options include, ignore it and hope it'll go away, passive-aggressively shake your head but try to sort of act polite, try to argue with everyone you disagree with, or try to hold a mirror up to the insanity of some of it. It's not like you have to choose one method for all cases or anything, but I think satire is a great part of the toolbox and without it I'd be a lot more frustrated.
posted by mdn at 2:15 PM on April 1 [6 favorites]


who the butt of this joke was meant to be.

The operative word there being "meant".

Once a word is out of your mouth, "meant" is irrelevant. The Colbert Report's intent with the joke is meaningless in the face of actual real Asian-Americans' hurt.

This is why I prefer to frame it in the context of a joke that failed. Jokes bomb all the time. Comedians know better than anybody that what you were trying to do is irrelevant in the face of what actually happened.
posted by Sara C. at 2:20 PM on April 1 [5 favorites]


Once a word is out of your mouth, "meant" is irrelevant. The Colbert Report's intent with the joke is meaningless

Saying it's meaningless, is just that, saying it. I don't think it's meaningless. Every individual is going to choose how much they care about intent, but I'm going to land in "intent and perception both matter" where context, intensity of feeling and practical effect all going into how I evaluate both in any given case. I get you're stating the preferred way to look at it, but you're stating as if it's a fact. I can understand saying "in this case Colbert's intent is not as important as other people's hurt", but to say it's meaningless? And it's always meaningless once anyone else hears it? That's bonkers to me. And since people very much do tar and feather people as racists (often deservedly so!), it seems intent should matter very much in practice, if not in the academic way the left would prefer we use.
posted by spaltavian at 2:35 PM on April 1 [4 favorites]


People still seem to misunderstand who the butt of this joke was meant to be.

They get it. The complaints aren't because people don't understand satire and need the form explained to them. The complaint is, in part, that this satire decided the best way to make the point is to parallel it with anti-Asian sentiments, and that this is a sampling of a problematic sort of comedy where racist comments are expected to get a pass because they are offered ironically, by people who don't mean them, in service of mocking people who do. Further, that this is a sample of anti-Asian comedy --understanding that it was meant ironically -- as a sort of "soft racism" that we aren't meant to take seriously because it 's not as bad as "real" racism.

That's a good discussion to have. And it starts from the presumption that others in the discussion understand satire but may have a different experience if it or different sense of how it plays out. And that's an especially useful position to take if you happen to be a white person talking to Asian Americans about this.

Because the assumption that they are humorless scolds who just don't get comedy, which has been articulated in this thread, is a poor way to have a conversation, especially one that can provide a perspective we wouldn't get elsewhere.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:57 PM on April 1 [7 favorites]


Once a word is out of your mouth, "meant" is irrelevant. The Colbert Report's intent with the joke is meaningless in the face of actual real Asian-Americans' hurt.

But those words you just said mean "EARTH IS RIPE FOR DESTRUCTION COME ON DOWN" in alienese. You have doomed us all, shame on you!

That is to say -- words are only symbols. They are completely null without someone to interpret them, and that process of interpretation is inherently uncertain. What about all those conservatives who don't know Colbert's playing a character, does this mean we get to treat him like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly?

Neither pole is useful: you cannot say intent absolutely doesn't matter, or that intent is the only thing that matters. Communication is necessarily imperfect, a place where theory tends to break down in the face of boring practicality. This is what makes it easy to use it for comedy, but it also makes it easy to use it to mislead, like by removing context.
posted by JHarris at 3:06 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]




Further, that this is a sample of anti-Asian comedy --understanding that it was meant ironically -- as a sort of "soft racism" that we aren't meant to take seriously because it 's not as bad as "real" racism.

I'm not sure I understand this - can you elaborate?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:25 PM on April 1


But those words you just said mean "EARTH IS RIPE FOR DESTRUCTION COME ON DOWN" in alienese. You have doomed us all, shame on you!

Sure. If that were actually true, not having "meant it" wouldn't negate us getting nuked from orbit.

That's about how much "meant" matters. If The Colbert Report premiered, and none of the target audience got it, but it was instead really popular with right-wingers, it wouldn't matter if the show were "meant" as satire. The fanbase would mostly be the same fanbase as Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.

If you're a standup comedian, and you "meant" to do a set that was hilarious and totally killed, just left everybody rolling in the aisles, but nobody laughed at all, your set would still not be funny, no matter what your intentions were.

If you make a joke that's not intended to be racist, but people get offended nonetheless, what you meant doesn't matter.
posted by Sara C. at 3:34 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]


Noted Chicago improviser and comedian Jason Chin (creator of the satirical improvised news show Whirled News Tonight) on the issue.

Side Note: He'd be a great writer for TCR.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:06 PM on April 1 [3 favorites]


Thanks for posting that, Joey Michaels. I found myself nodding along with quite a bit of it, especially:

I admire Suey Park for leading the charge for #CancelColbert. Do I agree with it? No. The full story of the tweet was not looked in to and was the worst kind of internet knee-jerk reaction. Take the speed of Twitter, the 24-hour news cycle and a slow news weekend, it all added up for a Perfect Twit Storm.

I like that she did it. I admire how she’s been handling this insane coverage and I hope she continues tweeting as an “Angry Asian Woman.” Her call to #CancelColbert had no traction, no hope to ever succeed but it got national coverage as a minority voice protesting. How often does that happen for a 23 year old twitterer?

For daring to create a hashtag about a TV show she has been threatened with murder, rape and worse. It’s sickening and wrong and not in spirit of Twitter, Stephen Colbert or even just plain being a fucking human being.


I agree that it's bad that Colbert's point about Snyder's racist insensitivity and stupid charity name got drowned out here, but I think that's more a problem with Colbert's joke. He wanted to put a highlight on another racist caricature, and people reacted poorly to it, doubly so when tweeted out of context.

Personally I like Colbert and Jon Stewart, but I think their reaction to this has been unsettlingly smarmy. That said, not really sure what Colbert could have appropriately done, given that he really can't break character on the show. Making a commitment to hiring a more diverse writing staff would be great though.
posted by sweetkid at 4:16 PM on April 1 [6 favorites]


Sure. If that were actually true, not having "meant it" wouldn't negate us getting nuked from orbit.

You miss my point, which is that, by your argument, it is your fault in my scenario that Earth is destroyed. By your reasoning no one should ever say anything, because someone can misinterpret what you say as racism, although they may have to go to ridiculous extremes to do it.

Yes, I'm exaggerating, but the same reasoning is valid, it's just a matter of degree. Thus it is that you cannot determine racism solely by people's reactions, intent does matter.
posted by JHarris at 4:36 PM on April 1


You're ascribing a prescriptive angle to all this that just isn't there.

I'm not saying Colbert should never say any more jokes on TV lest someone be offended.

I'm saying this joke failed because it offended people way out of proportion to its funniness.
posted by Sara C. at 4:38 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


That's about how much "meant" matters. If The Colbert Report premiered, and none of the target audience got it, but it was instead really popular with right-wingers, it wouldn't matter if the show were "meant" as satire. The fanbase would mostly be the same fanbase as Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.

well, this was why Dave Chappelle quit comedy and disappeared for years and is still kind of sensitive about it. And that totally sucked. I truly hope we don't do the same thing to another genius comedian.

If you make a joke that's not intended to be racist, but people get offended nonetheless, what you meant doesn't matter.

Does this apply if people only hear the second half of something? Or don't see the race of a person talking? This is the problem with people seeming to miss the context and therefore misunderstand the joke. It would be sad to endorse the idea that people can chase someone out of town for good comedy because they didn't understand it.
posted by mdn at 4:47 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


It would be sad to endorse the idea that people can chase someone out of town for good comedy because they didn't understand it.

This happens every day, and twice on days UCB has multiple shows.
posted by Sara C. at 4:59 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying Colbert should never say any more jokes on TV lest someone be offended.
I'm saying this joke failed because it offended people way out of proportion to its funniness.


Well, this fits in with John Cleese's dictum that comedy is incredibly fragile, and you're correct on that. We always blame the comedian, regardless of the reason the joke failed.

However, it's not the first time he used the bit. We should be clear, the reason the joke failed isn't Stephen Colbert, it's Suey Park and a horde of uncritical Twitters. Basically, they are anti-comedians.
posted by JHarris at 5:03 PM on April 1 [4 favorites]


The joke didn't work for me, and I am not Suey Park or her twitter followers. There have been a lot of perspectives in this thread from people who said the joke didn't work for them and why, and not because they're too stupid to understand satire.

Are we all wrong? All "anti comedians"? Is comedy such an objective thing?
posted by sweetkid at 5:10 PM on April 1 [3 favorites]




Basically, they are anti-comedians.

Comments like this always smack to me of "Q. How Many [Insert Group Here] Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb? A. That's Not Funny!" as a method of shutting down discussion of humor. It's very much about who gets to decide what's funny. I'm not willing to be told I don't get to decide what's funny for myself, particularly not when the joke is about me. I'm not Asian-American, but I don't see why it's any different for jokes when Asian-Americans are a reference point for the humor.
posted by immlass at 5:27 PM on April 1 [5 favorites]


From Mia McKenzie:

I reject the idea that we “need” white racial satire. That it’s helping us somehow. That it’s so powerful a tool against oppression that without it we can never end racism. That POC should be grateful for it, because these white people making “ching chong” jokes, in the case of Colbert, and jokes about black men’s penises, in the case of Chelsea Handler, are on our side and somehow making our lives better with their humor.

That's really good, thanks for posting that Kitteh.
posted by sweetkid at 5:28 PM on April 1 [4 favorites]


Because the assumption that they are humorless scolds who just don't get comedy, which has been articulated in this thread, is a poor way to have a conversation, especially one that can provide a perspective we wouldn't get elsewhere.

well, that was why I provided quotes from some of the comments that still seem to show a weird confusion about how Colbert's joke worked. I don't think anyone's a "humorless scold" but it does seem like some people think satire as a form is actually veiled (offensiveness) because it mimics (offensiveness). To me that seems to misunderstand the point of the mimicry. Sometimes a person is mimicked to tease them - to say "we like you so will exaggerate your personality to enjoy it" - and sometimes they are satirized - more like, "we dislike you or think you are offensive, so will exaggerate that to make a point"

And it starts from the presumption that others in the discussion understand satire but may have a different experience if it or different sense of how it plays out. And that's an especially useful position to take if you happen to be a white person talking to Asian Americans about this.

Not being a fan of satire is not a good reason to accuse the comedian of veiled racism. You can dislike dark comedy, which satire generally is, without suggesting that it is depressing or should be understood as depressing if we have "the right conversation". Comedy is a method of pointing towards things. Here, it is pointing towards racism and racists. (Look at the Colbert in a Redskins jersey piece). I'd think the name of the foundation was ridiculous enough that it wouldn't be likely to set off triggers, but even if it did it was clearly performed by a character who has been saying and doing completely offensive things for almost a decade. Like, constantly.

You can personally draw the conclusion that you dislike satire because you don't like that kind of humor - that doesn't mean you're "humorless" but does mean you're differently humored than I am, which fine, who cares, don't watch the show... But to accuse the host of "soft racism" for this is problematic to me. And I am of the opinion that in a way we're all racists, we're all saturated in a racist culture and carry elements of racism whether we want to or not - but satire at least is making the effort to point toward it instead of act like there's no such thing.

This happens every day, and twice on days UCB has multiple shows.

I guess I think that's sad, and that I would rather not endorse it.
posted by mdn at 5:35 PM on April 1 [3 favorites]


So you think that everybody who stands on a stage at Jimbobs Comedy Warehouse deserves to be a famous comedian, because How Dare We silence them by not laughing? Or is it just people who are "silenced" when their racist jokes bomb, who should get a pass?
posted by Sara C. at 5:37 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


Colbert responds.
posted by emptythought at 6:32 PM on April 1


So you think that everybody who stands on a stage at Jimbobs Comedy Warehouse deserves to be a famous comedian, because How Dare We silence them by not laughing? Or is it just people who are "silenced" when their racist jokes bomb, who should get a pass?

I think that, as Cleese said, comedy is incredibly brittle, and anything can break it: the comedian, the audience, the funeral they were all just at, anesthetic gas in the air. If you would have thought that Colbert's joke was funny until you heard about it from Twitter, then that killed the joke. If you wouldn't have, then you killed it, but that's an internal source. This is not applying a moral justification to that breakage, but saying things that cause other things not to be funny is inherently anti-comedy, thus, they were "anti-comedians."

That's just a statement of fact, by itself. But while I think this thing is overblown, that was just intended to be a garden-variety (slightly) funny remark, not itself an accusation. Whatever it was that broke that one, well, I'll leave it for you decide. It was Garfield the Cat that said funny is in the eye of the beholder.
posted by JHarris at 6:45 PM on April 1


Colbert's response is typical Colbert; funny and biting.
posted by Justinian at 6:49 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


I love how people are so assured that Colbert's joke and response and everything are the exact right thing to do about racism but the voices of minorities saying ironic racism is ineffective, reductive and offensive are just stupid, humorless hordes who can't even take a joke and should be thanking Colbert instead of criticizing him.
posted by sweetkid at 6:59 PM on April 1 [7 favorites]


As has been pointed out in this thread perhaps the most iconic and revered piece of satire in history, A Modest Proposal, is pretty much exactly that; ironic and brutal racism. Which can be done very well or very badly, and this tweet was certainly done poorly since the entire context was removed, but that's a problem with the execution not the entire idea of satire.

The whole concept of satire is to point out how awful or ridiculous something is. If the thing you are satirizing isn't awful or ridiculous why would you bother satirizing it in the first place?
posted by Justinian at 7:19 PM on April 1


things that cause other things not to be funny is inherently anti-comedy, thus, they were "anti-comedians."

Or maybe the people who are upset by it just... didn't think it was funny.

There's no need to label anyone "anti-comedy".
posted by Sara C. at 7:22 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]


Not being a fan of satire is not a good reason to accuse the comedian of veiled racism.

you dislike satire because you don't like that kind of humor

mdn you are making this a matter of personal preference and it's not. none of this is because i dislike satire. please read Kitteh or Joey Michael's links. good overview of what i feel are the major points, also brought up in this thread.

there seems to be a basic disagreement that hinges on "i get satire, but" and "no you don't get satire" and it seems to me the latter group is not even paraphrasing the former group accurately. i feel so defensive trotting this out periodically but i generally am cool with racial satire as long as it's well-written. you will probably get a laugh out of me. that doesn't mean it has no ill effects, basically by way of repeating racism (mimicking, as you called it) and increasing the overall amount of racist language or ideas even if it takes the shape of DON'T DO THIS RACIST THING I'M SAYING RIGHT NOW. I'M SAYING IT RIGHT NOW. DON'T DO IT. IT'S SO UGLY.

and right now it's not even the satire itself that makes me feel the potential harm, it's the... ah fuck it, just read the links. it's the kneejerk and sometimes over the top defense of satire. it's the people in here saying over and over that we don't get it. watching colbert was fun. daily show is the one i keep up with, but it's always nice to get in some colbert. this thread wasn't all fun. watching this crosstalking and wondering if at the end of it i'm actually the insane one, way less fun than colbert.

but one more thing about increasing the overall amount of racist language. you know the last time i got "ching chong" to my face IRL? i don't remember. years at least. you know where i do hear it the most though? comedy.
posted by twist my arm at 7:47 PM on April 1 [8 favorites]


I love how people are so assured that Colbert's joke and response and everything are the exact right thing to do about racism but the voices of minorities saying ironic racism is ineffective, reductive and offensive are just stupid, humorless hordes who can't even take a joke and should be thanking Colbert instead of criticizing him.

On the Twitters and internet articles there was a wave of Asians criticizing Suey Park, generally politely. Her responses were not so gracious. I took no measurements to gauge numbers though I noted supporters of either "side" seemed well-represented.

I mentioned to a couple IRL Asians, they were not for #Cancelling.

Now no one appointed them the boss of Asians, but the same goes for Suey Park.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:48 PM on April 1


I don't even know how that's a response to my comment. There has been a lot of discussion right here in this thread about what people think is wrong with Colbert's approach here, and it's not even all about Suey Park or canceling Colbert. I still haven't seen one comment in this thread that thinks the show should be cancelled.

I've seen plenty of people commenting that minorities should be thanking Colbert and that people don't understand or like satire as a device if they don't like this joke.

It's the whole "Colbert is anti racist as a person so stop talking about how you perceive this, it doesn't matter, this man is helping you." Gross.

The article Kitteh posted by Mia McKenzie upthread says this better than I just did.
posted by sweetkid at 8:09 PM on April 1 [6 favorites]


I am sorry perhaps I am just responding to a general sentiment I perceive that questioning her, or, frankly, thinking as I do that she's pretty much just trolling and full of shit, is taking a side against Asians.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:29 PM on April 1


save alive nothing that breatheth: "I am sorry perhaps I am just responding to a general sentiment I perceive that questioning her, or, frankly, thinking as I do that she's pretty much just trolling and full of shit, is taking a side against Asians."

While I got that vibe pretty early on in the conversation, the feeling I'm getting now (looking, for example, at which commenters are favoriting which comments) is that there are a good number of people who think that Colbert's shtick was problematic, while at the same time not really thinking too much of Park's approach.
posted by Bugbread at 10:35 PM on April 1


I love how people are so assured that Colbert's joke and response and everything are the exact right thing to do about racism but the voices of minorities saying ironic racism is ineffective, reductive and offensive are just stupid, humorless hordes who can't even take a joke and should be thanking Colbert instead of criticizing him.

Okay, first, "the voices of minorities" is vague. It's the voice of a person who is of a minority, Suey Park. Don't put your words into all their mouths. And no one here has said anyone should thank Colbert. Sheesh.

It's the whole "Colbert is anti racist as a person so stop talking about how you perceive this, it doesn't matter, this man is helping you." Gross.

Talk all you want, but don't expect everyone to agree with you.

things that cause other things not to be funny is inherently anti-comedy, thus, they were "anti-comedians."
Or maybe the people who are upset by it just... didn't think it was funny.
There's no need to label anyone "anti-comedy".


I didn't. I described them as anti-comedians, in the sense that their words made something people saw as funny as not. If comedy is entirely in the reaction of the viewer, then something which negates that reaction is anti- comedy, and a person who causes that negation is an anti-comedian. That doesn't mean they're against all comedy, just as being a comedian doesn't mean someone is for all comedy.

I made the statement lightly anyway, as a throwaway joke. I'm starting to think this thread is anti-comedy.
posted by JHarris at 10:38 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


(That is, in the sense of being the negation of comedy, not of being against comedy. In the sense of anti-matter.)
posted by JHarris at 10:39 PM on April 1


> And no one here has said anyone should thank Colbert. Sheesh.

Um, one person did.

I know, right? You think "there's no way someone actually said that here!" but if you search, well, there it is.

What I think happens is that one or two people make extreme and flip comments, and people who disagree with them fixate on those comments and start to talk like (and I think feel like) everyone who disagrees with them holds that same extreme opinion. It helps make the discussions here crappier and I wish there was a way to recognize it and stop it from spreading.

I've described it before, and in my ideal world we would have a way to point out when people are helping to drive the grar-cycle, as opposed to slowing it down. But I don't see any way to do it without it becoming just another general tool used to dismiss other people's opinions.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:03 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]


Okay, first, "the voices of minorities" is vague. It's the voice of a person who is of a minority, Suey Park

have you been reading this thread? i ask because sweetkid specifically has been saying (and i did a few times, and i know others did too) that people in this thread, "voices of minorities," have been yadda yadda. also, other minorities linked in here (let me know if you want me to point some out). not park. others ones of us-es. and i note "humorless" and "hordes" you correctly did not call out because, yes! in this thread.

And no one here has said anyone should thank Colbert. Sheesh.

>Suey Park ought to be thanking him, not calling for his show's cancellation

now it's been a long thread and while i've been keeping up, i don't pretend to have read every single comment and definitely don't remember all the ones i've read.

but this

Talk all you want, but don't expect everyone to agree with you.

is just plain unhelpful. (is it my anti-comedy matter molecule particles?)
posted by twist my arm at 11:03 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


damn you benito.strauss, i wanted to be the bearer of good tidings.
posted by twist my arm at 11:04 PM on April 1


I don't think the fact that it was actually said was particularly good news.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:06 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


oh it was absolutely unfortunate, i totally agree. i'll try to be more helpful myself.
posted by twist my arm at 11:11 PM on April 1


(Just so there's no confusion, it's not the "damn you" that I dislike. It's obvious that it's said with good humor and I like that kind of joking around. It's the fact that someone made that comment I didn't like, and JHarris' being disappointed in his expectation that such a comment wouldn't appear here — I also didn't think that was a good thing.)

On preview - no worries, twist my arm, we're cool.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:15 PM on April 1


That article kitteh posted is great. I almost feel like it should be required reading for anyone saddling up to discuss this.

I'm still amazed at how violent people get on twitter though, jesus. And i'm talking about the threats and stuff, to be clear.

I didn't. I described them as anti-comedians, in the sense that their words made something people saw as funny as not. If comedy is entirely in the reaction of the viewer, then something which negates that reaction is anti- comedy, and a person who causes that negation is an anti-comedian. That doesn't mean they're against all comedy, just as being a comedian doesn't mean someone is for all comedy.

I made the statement lightly anyway, as a throwaway joke. I'm starting to think this thread is anti-comedy.


This is an incredibly confusing term you've come up with here that really didn't help the discussion travel through a good place. It's almost a talk show crank line in and of itself.

Because like, regardless of if that's how you meant it(and i believe you! i say weird stuff like this sometimes too that comes off a different way to everyone else) the first and second glance interpretation of many people is well, what you got responded too with. It really does come off as some gross "jeeze, you can't take a joke?" type of stuff which is like, the A button default first strike of people who go "I'm just kidding!" and then usually launch into "jeeze, women/minorities can't take jokes".

Trying my hardest not to get too MeTa-y here, but yea. I had the same read as others did who had a problem with that line.
posted by emptythought at 12:41 AM on April 2


Please do not quote me out of context, benito.strauss. That's how the whole Kerfuffle on Twitter started.

Here's what I actually wrote:
UrsulaHitler is right; Suey Park ought to be thanking him, not calling for his show's cancellation. It's actually really annoying how she is painting herself as the activist crusader for good in this case, when Colbert is the one who is, and has been, calling attention to this kind of ugly racist crap since day one of The Colbert Report.

I said that Suey Park should be thankful to Colbert because it was his name being attached to this that brought Suey Park the recognition and attention she so obviously craves. More importantly, hopefully Suey Park will leverage this moment in the spotlight to draw more attention to actual activism efforts.

Thing is, like it or not, without Colbert this discussion never happens.

I feel that you and sweetkid continue to believe that this bit on the show singled out Asian Americans to mock because they were an easy target. If you are a fan of The Colbert Report, though, you already know that just isn't the case. The Colbert Report has a policy of not punching down. They try to stand by that ideal. They expose intolerance and bigotry in all its ugly forms to draw attention to those issues. Colbert points his finger at the chauvinists, the racists, the partisans, pedants and demagogues. His humor is biting, whether he is taking on politicians, book banning religious fundamentalists or CNN's fluff pieces masquerading as news journalism.

And, in taking on those groups, Colbert regularly uses mimicry and mockery as the tools of his trade. This is something the show has done for years. Why is Suey Park, who claims to be a fan of the show, only feeling offended NOW?
posted by misha at 1:49 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


misha: "I feel that you and sweetkid continue to believe that this bit on the show singled out Asian Americans to mock because they were an easy target. If you are a fan of The Colbert Report, though, you already know that just isn't the case. The Colbert Report has a policy of not punching down. They try to stand by that ideal. They expose intolerance and bigotry in all its ugly forms to draw attention to those issues."

I think you're seeing this as too black and white, misha, if you think that anyone who was opposed to the joke thinks that Colbert was just punching down. I mean, I don't think anyone in this thread has said "Hey, no, that wasn't satire, it was just a straightforward racist joke." Everyone (in this thread) gets that he was satirizing the racism of sports guy by using ironic racism. The issues seem to be:
* Whether you can use straight math to determine if the joke was ok. "It did 5 points of racism damage, but it buffed 10 points of racism damage, so it did a net 5 points of good, therefore it was good" "No, you can't just add numbers like that."
* Whether it's ok to use racism against one group to counter racism against another group. "It did 5 points of racism damage to Asian Americans, but buffed 10 points of racism damage against Native Americans, so it was a net good" "What? Asian Americans took a net hit, that's no good."
* Whether Asian Americans were selected specifically because racism against them is more permissible. (Writer A: "Hey, I wrote this great satirical joke skewering sports guy. We have Colbert say 'I created a foundation for the advancement of n*****rs.'" Writer B: "Are you crazy?! We can't air that. Change it to Asian Americans or something, that would be ok.")

All of these discussions accept that the Colbert Report was not just making a straight-up racist joke, but still involve trying to figure out if the way Colbert's punched up was ok or not.
posted by Bugbread at 2:10 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


Also, I think it's important to divorce the opinions of people here who find problems with the Colbert bit from the opinions of Suey Park herself.
posted by Bugbread at 2:12 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Writer A: "Hey, I wrote this great satirical joke skewering sports guy. We have Colbert say 'I created a foundation for the advancement of n*****rs.'" Writer B: "Are you crazy?! We can't air that. Change it to Asian Americans or something, that would be ok."

I think you make some good points but this isn't at all the same. The equivalent for Asian Americans is African Americans.
posted by Justinian at 2:42 AM on April 2


Well, it is a long thread. I have been reading it, but it's reached a point where it's difficult to keep up with, so it's hard to keep track of all of it.

> Talk all you want, but don't expect everyone to agree with you.
is just plain unhelpful. (is it my anti-comedy matter molecule particles?)


I will admit, it may be just that. Honestly, the thread's gotten to a point where people seem to be talking just to fight, myself included. And if I've reached a point where I feel that I have to clarify that when I said anti-comedian it wasn't someone who was against all comedy, but someone who was producing anti-comedy (in the sense of destroying comedic potential), it's probably time for me to leave the thread, regardless of why.

* Whether you can use straight math to determine if the joke was ok. "It did 5 points of racism damage, but it buffed 10 points of racism damage, so it did a net 5 points of good, therefore it was good" "No, you can't just add numbers like that."

🎵♫ I think I know something that's going into a role-playing game if I ever decide to design one.... ♫♩
posted by JHarris at 2:56 AM on April 2


It has been mentioned that Park's tweet would likely not have been noticed if the hash tag had been something less inflammatory. People responded to the #cancelcorbert hashbomb specifically because it was a strong, angry statement.

Similarly, when we discuss things here at Mefi, we often respond most loudly and frequently to angry things or things that provoke us. There have been several thoughtful responses by mefites and shared links that made excellent points but those don't get quite the vocal response that grar posts usually get.

To whit, we have met the anti-comedians and they is us.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:08 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Justinian: "I think you make some good points but this isn't at all the same. The equivalent for Asian Americans is African Americans."

Yeah, uncharacteristically, I wrote that in a rush (had to go pick the kids up from karate). I should've written it as "Writer A: "Hey, I wrote this great satirical joke skewering sports guy. We have Colbert say he created a foundation for African Americans, called the "***** ****** Foundation for Sensitivity to N*****rs or Whatever" Writer B: "Are you crazy?! We can't air that. Change it from African Americans to Asian Americans or something, that would be ok."

(I'll let you fill in whatever you think the writer would choose as the African American equivalent of "Ching-Chong Ding-Dong")
posted by Bugbread at 3:26 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


The reason I’m not sure if the “What if you substituted African-Americans?” thing works is this: American society seems to feel that Asian-Americans and native Americans are roughly equally acceptable targets of bigotry, with bigotry toward Native Americans falling a bit more on the acceptable side (because, hey! All white people have mysterious Indian woman somewhere in our family tree, right?) To me, that’s the reason the analogy functions. Colbert’ taking Snyder’s gross behavior and saying, “What if it was gross in this roughly similar but a bit less acceptable way?” Some people, like Park, will immediately see that it’s just as awful, and will be outraged, and rightly so. For some people, it will take a minute to sink in, and they may have that, “Hey, wait a minute,” moment.

I think a moment like that can provoke BOTH justifiable anger AND valuable thought and conversation. And without the original segment, I'm not sure it's a conversation we'd be having in the first place.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:00 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Fredrick de Boer has a characteristically 1/2 wrong and 1/2 fascinating take on both the tweetstorm and the Kang article:

Kang seems simultaneously to want to access the question of efficacy and yet to shield Park from those questions herself. Kang says that he spoke “to Park about what she hoped to accomplish with all this (a paternalistic question if there ever was one).” This is a profoundly strange definition of paternalism. I ask my Congressmen what they are hoping to accomplish with a piece of legislation, my political allies what they hope to accomplish in a particular protest or action, myself whether a particular political utterance might be of some use. Listening to what someone says politically and then asking her what she hopes to accomplish, or if she thinks she can accomplish it, strikes me as the opposite of paternalism. Talking to someone about politics but writing in such a way as to prevent those nasty questions– that, on the other hand, seems to me to be the behavior of a parent, briefly patronizing the political pretenses of a child.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:32 AM on April 2


I said that Suey Park should be thankful to Colbert because it was his name being attached to this that brought Suey Park the recognition and attention she so obviously craves

Can I ask that we not do this? Impugning the motives of the person who started a discussion does nothing to forward the discussion. I don't know what Park's motives were, and neither do you, and they have little to do with whether the discussion it engendered is valid.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:29 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


Uhhh, she started a whole campaign that took over Twitter for a week and then went "psych!". Her motives are extremely germane to a thread on her campaign.

Can I ask you not try to moderate the thread?
posted by spaltavian at 7:46 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


It was a request, not a command. I have every right to make a request.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:48 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


A lot of the comments have moved on from Suey Park, or have talked about this topic in a much more nuanced way than examining her motives.
posted by sweetkid at 7:52 AM on April 2


I think that more nuanced way needs to take into account her motives.

I actually don't agree with some of the other claims that Park's actions were out of not realizing it was satire until later or that it was just out a desire for attention (though I think the self-promotion involved was both obvious and inevitable).

What appears to be Park's actual motives are really relevant to both what actually happened and what she appears to want to get across. Racism and ironic racism are pretty well-trod ground, but a general indictment of liberalism and Park's more radical politics poses a much more fundamental conversation within liberalism (in my view).

What is a conversation that stipulates Colbert and Park's motives are meaningless actually about? That seems such an academic abstraction that it's bound to be at sea.
posted by spaltavian at 8:05 AM on April 2


And let me explain further why I think discussions of Park are orthogonal to the larger discussion:

-- Firstly, radicals often have different agendas and different tactics than non-radicals. Their tactics are often terrifically effective at achieving their agendas, but, because they are not the goal we seek, nor the tactics we would use, the reasoning behind them may seem obscure.

As an example, years ago I participated in a protest against Operation Rescue in Minnesota. The protest took place outside the church that was housing the organization and resulted in what we term a "police riot" -- that is, the police decided to shut it down with maximum force.

It got a lot of attention, and much of it negative, including aspersions on the motivations of the protesters. But it was effective in two ways. Firstly, there had already been a schism in the church regarding Operation Rescue, and this incident gave church members who were opposed to the organization the ammo to say they didn't want them back.

Secondly, and most importantly, Operation Rescue represented the radical right of antiabortion protests, but they were becoming increasingly mainstreamed. They were moving the Overton window in such a way that radical antiabortion politics and activism was seen as being part of the mainstream conversation. We engaged in something called vanguard versus vanguard politics, and while lefties might not like this idea, one of the services we provide is a corrective, by identifying outlier positions. By opposing Operation Rescue and using tactics similar to theirs, we positioned the organization as being part of the radical right. These were just two motives and results of the protest, but they were obscure to mainstream viewers, and didn't need to be clear to them.

-- It is common to derail useful discussions by highlighting the most problematic participant in that discussion. Park simply focused a larger discussion in one particular way. The discussion itself is not effected by her, she's just one participant in it. But by making her somehow the spokesperson for the discussion, and impugning her motivations, it effectively casts the larger discussion into question. This may not be deliberate, but it happens often enough that it doesn't matter whether it is intended or not.

-- Ad hominem arguments are a logical fallacy, and impugning motivations is, by definition, an ad hominem argument.

-- Lastly, if you're going to toss off an accusation of "she just wants attention," it is worth asking if that same accusation can't be leveled against Colbert. I mean, the show is named after him, he plays a satiric character that shares his name, he has made a fortune off the show, it has brought him international attention, etc. Certainly some of it must have been about seeking attention. And if we forgive that from him -- and I know I do, as I don't really care if anyone seeks attention or not -- why don't we forgive it of Park. Unless the argument is that she was "only seeking attention," and we can't know that. She has made a forceful enough case, however we may dislike how she made it, that it's fair to assume that at least some of her motivation was to draw attention to two issues, the first is the soft anti-Asian racism that appears in the media, and the second to demonstrate that liberals are sometimes allies right up until the moment you challenge something they think you oughtn't.

You may disagree with these points, but disagreeing has nothing to do with what Park's motivations were in making them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:14 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


Suey Park started a hashtag campaign (1) ostensibly (2) to cancel Colbert (3) because the Colbert account twittered (4) something he said on a satirical segment (5) that she considered racist (6).

I'm counting 6 pretty valid topics of discussion:
1) Is hashtag activism effective? Smart? Ridiculous? The wave of the future?
2) Was that really her goal? Was it satire? Was it something else?
3) Should the show be cancelled? Could this campaign cancel it?
4) Does it matter that it was twittered without surrounding context?
5) Does satire make it OK?
6) Was it racist?

I don't think it's out of line if someone wants to discuss any of these topics, even if you don't think that's the important topic. And I don't think that calling someone who wants to talk about one of these topics "derailing". Now, until she said her own bit was satire, I would have agreed with you that focusing on Park was a derail, because until she said "I'm doing satire", a run-down of this post wouldn't have included "ostensibly". But when she dropped the "I'm doing satire" bomb, it added a wrinkle, just as it would have if, for example, it turned out halfway through the thread that the Colbert twitter was not a reposting of something on the show, but a twitter-only comment, or the Twitter account was hacked, or the like.
posted by Bugbread at 9:06 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Absolutely nothing you just listed has anything to do with Park's personal motivation in the hashtag campaign she started, or a presumption that she was just seeking attention, so I presume you are not responding to me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:16 AM on April 2


I was all ready to be like "SUEY PARK IS A STRIDENT ATTENTION SEEKING WHINER!" and then I watched the HuffPo interview and she came off as totally normal.

Reluctant to actually talk to the media, which is silly, because ummmm what did you think twitter was for, but she is like 23, and I was once a dumbass 23 year old activist who got in over my head, so I think I can give her a pass.

Whatever monster you have built in your head representing Suey Park likely bears no resemblance to reality.

The whole "lol no it was all satire" was silly, though.
posted by Sara C. at 9:22 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Absolutely nothing you just listed has anything to do with Park's personal motivation in the hashtag campaign she started, or a presumption that she was just seeking attention...

Not that I necessarily agree with the psychoanalysis of Park going on here, but Bugbread's point 2 -- "Was that really her goal? Was it satire? Was it something else?" -- is pretty clearly about her personal motivation.
posted by Etrigan at 9:24 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


>like it or not, without Colbert this discussion never happens.

>I think a moment like that can provoke BOTH justifiable anger AND valuable thought and conversation. And without the original segment, I'm not sure it's a conversation we'd be having in the first place.

again, mia mckenzie:
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? Do we really think folks who defend that team’s name despite of all the harm it’s caused to Native people are sensitive to the stereotyping of Asian people? You’re telling me these folks exist?

And, you know what, even if they did, why is their "education-in-the-form-of-racist-jokes-that-are-satirical-so-it’s-okay" more important than the people we know for sure exist who are harmed by these jokes?
you can believe these people exist all you want, it's not an issue of science to me. but as a PoC she punched me in the gut with her piece. what does white racial satire bring me? all these white folks and asian americans falling all over themselves to defend it no matter what. i'm a lot more moderate in how i express myself than mckenzie, and i'll be chewing on this. i don't even want to write "white racial satire" because i hear the clicks of white folks tuning out when they see shit like that. but she punched me in the fucking gut.

are native americans on the horn saying this was some very great accurate thought provoking satire? i'm picturing a cartoon of an asian american and a native american sitting next to each other watching a group of white people patting each other enthusiastically on the back. one of them says to the other "you feel any better about anything?" "nnnnnnope." "they seem really pleased with themselves though." "yyyyyyyup."

and The Underpants Monster, let me be clear, i really do get what you're saying about asians and native americans being close to 2 peas in a pod in some of the details. but again-- what does white satire really bring me, in the long run? i don't think it's clear and... god McKenzie really got to me. we shouldn't be forced to be clowns forever.

this bit on the show singled out Asian Americans to mock because they were an easy target. If you are a fan of The Colbert Report, though, you already know that just isn't the case.

no, asian americans are an easy target period. for all american comedians everywhere all the time. for all americans (even ourselves!) everywhere all the time. the colbert people are not special in this regard. whatever was in their hearts and minds when they wrote that bit, it exists in a context where asian americans aren't taken seriously to the point where even our slurs aren't taken seriously (even by ourselves!). "ching chong" isn't the n-word and will never be. hell, white folks have been trying to "take back" the n-word since "nigga" started being ok amongst some black folks.

so because of this bit, ctrl+f tells me "ching chong" has appeared in this thread 20 times (22 after my comment). that's 22 times i wouldn't've seen it were it not for colbert. thanks colbama. (and i like and respect his work, so that's sarcasm, and just pointing out an unintentional but obvious effect of "talking about it.")
posted by twist my arm at 9:30 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Not that I necessarily agree with the psychoanalysis of Park going on here, but Bugbread's point 2 -- "Was that really her goal? Was it satire? Was it something else?" -- is pretty clearly about her personal motivation.

I see it differently. She has stated her goal -- or two goals, really, that I doin't think are mutually incompatible:

1. To bring attention to the Colbert show's use of racist language regarding Asian-Americans in the service of ironic comedy;
2. To demonstrate that supposed allies can turn hostile the moment their allegiance demands something outside their comfort level.

These are clear goals. "She is seeking attention for spurious reasons" is perhaps true, but speculation, but beside the point. And that is how I am defining motivation here. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

It's the dismissal of the discussion, and the person, not based on their actions, but a presumption about the reason for their actions, that I take issue with.

But, also, I think that the larger question of whether race-based humor is a net good is a useful one, and whether Park is obnoxious is a less useful one. Certainly people can have the latter discussion, but it strikes me as a useful distraction from the other one, in that it provides us with something to talk about besides race.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:33 AM on April 2


Sara C.: "I was all ready to be like "SUEY PARK IS A STRIDENT ATTENTION SEEKING WHINER!" and then I watched the HuffPo interview and she came off as totally normal.

Whatever monster you have built in your head representing Suey Park likely bears no resemblance to reality.
"

Oh man, I so wish that was true. I never thought she was an attention seeking whiner. I had a very different, but fairly negative, assumption about her, and now, after having made it through the whole video, my assumptions were so on-the-money I could sneeze. It's a shame, because so many other people who have talked about the issue (on her general side of the issue) have made such great points, and really gotten me to reevaluate some things. I just wish she was as effective a communicator and convincer as some of the folks in this thread, and the folks writing articles people are linking to.

Bunny Ultramod: "I see it differently. She has stated her goal[s] These are clear goals."

I agree, and that's why I say that until she brought up satire, that would have been all there was to it. But once she brought up satire, it indicates that one or more of those goals were not actually her goals. So I can understand why people would want to discuss what her actual goals are. You can't take her word for it, because she said herself that she was being satirical, and you can't take satire at face value. (Personally, I think you can take what she initially said at face value, but that's because my conclusion from analyzing her motivation is that her first comments were the true ones, and the "this is satire" was the lie).

Bunny Ultramod: "Certainly people can have the latter discussion, but it strikes me as a useful distraction from the other one, in that it provides us with something to talk about besides race."

It's a long thread, discussions wander. If this "Park's motivations are suspect!!" were an overriding theme from the start, drowning out other conversation, I'd agree, but I think there's enough room here people can talk about various different subjects, as long as it doesn't turn into Westphalia or recipe time.
posted by Bugbread at 9:46 AM on April 2


misha, I did not quote you out of context. If you want to pursue that claim, memail me because I think it'd be a diversion to this conversation.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:47 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Oh, I 100% agree with "not an effective communicator", but you know, so few of us are. I don't really have to demonize Suey Park to think that she went about this all wrong.

There are reasons that activist orgs have entire departments dedicated to media relations and PR.
posted by Sara C. at 9:54 AM on April 2


I think there's enough room here people can talk about various different subjects, as long as it doesn't turn into Westphalia or recipe time.

Perhaps so. I am still uncomfortable with the focus on Park. I suppose it comes down to "how does this impact me?"

Whether Park is credible or not does not impact me.

If I should be cautious about ironic racist humor does impact me.

And I suppose my feeling about this has been influenced by the behavior of people outside of MetaFilter. We're just part of a large discussion, and while there has been a pretty decent effort to discuss ironic racism in this thread, I'm overwhelmed by the amount of negativity in general that has been thrown Park's way.

I actually now think that if she was being satiric -- and I never thought she actually wanted Colbert canceled, but was simply using that hashtag as a tactic -- she has made a hell of a point. Because what people have communicated in the world outside is this: Sure, be upset with ironic racism. But if powerless you starts a twitter campaign against a teevee show I like, I will smear you, and I may even threaten to kill you.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:56 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: or a presumption that she was just seeking attention

You recently complained about people only focusing on the most problematic participants/aspects of a conversation.

You have repeated the "just seeking attention" issue several times just then, as if:

1) that's the only reason anyone would want to look at Park's motivations
2) the conversation has been derailed by the "attention" claim.

Niether are true as I see it. As far as I can tell, the last people to advance this argument was misha, who was in that comment trying to clarify something she said dozens (hundreds?) of comments earlier. Nor, as far as I remember, was there a particular large contingent making the "attention" claim upthread.

As I said above, I don't think she was just seeking attention (nor do I think she misunderstood the satire and is now backpedalling). I still think her motivations are important to understand what she did, and is, in fact, the only way to understand her "it was satire claim".

So, I ask, are you just focusing on the most problematic participants?
posted by spaltavian at 9:56 AM on April 2


So, I ask, are you just focusing on the most problematic participants?

Er, no?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:59 AM on April 2


Julia Carrie Wong's column from The Nation.

I think one of my biggest problems with this whole kerfuffle, inside this thread and out, has been the dismissal of "hashtag activism." Mostly because I don't think white people understand how powerful a platform it has been for marginalized POC. Aside from Melissa Harris-Perry at MSNBC or Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic, the majority of mainstream media presents as white and often uses POC either a bogeyman or humorless scolds or just plain ignores them altogether. People like Mikki Kendall, Suey Park, Lauren Chief Elk and others have utilized the Twitter platform to get their voices heard. No one is offering them jobs in mainstream media to provide a balance, a viewpoint. No one seems to be offering any POC very many jobs in the mainstream media. I'm not saying it's as effective as actually being able to be more visible but at least they have someplace to talk about the issues oppressing and frustrating them. And if they can get people to listen, or at least learn a little bit about the ugly racial stuff they deal with on the daily, then it's probably worth it.

Also, like their white feminist counterparts, they get death and rape threats on a constant basis. Just for having their own opinions and speaking their minds.
posted by Kitteh at 10:12 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: So, I ask, are you just focusing on the most problematic participants?

Er, no?


So, in contrast to several of your previous comments, you're willing to entertain that looking at Park's motivations could be more than just dismissing her as an attention seeker? And that they are valid things to discuss?

I hope so, because we now apparently agree not only on her motivaton, but on the fact that understanding her actual motivations, as opposed to stated goals, may be how to understand her point:

Bunny Ultramod: I actually now think that if she was being satiric -- and I never thought she actually wanted Colbert canceled, but was simply using that hashtag as a tactic -- she has made a hell of a point. Because what people have communicated in the world outside is this: Sure, be upset with ironic racism. But if powerless you starts a twitter campaign against a teevee show I like, I will smear you, and I may even threaten to kill you.

spaltavian: It seems Park's point was to reveal racism among liberals, especially white liberals. She wanted to show how much racist and sexist vitriol would be thrown at her for criticizing a whitle [sic] liberal icon.

We simply disagree on how successful she was.
posted by spaltavian at 10:12 AM on April 2




So, in contrast to several of your previous comments, you're willing to entertain that looking at Park's motivations could be more than just dismissing her as an attention seeker? And that they are valid things to discuss?

I'm not sure if you are participating in good faith or just playing an elaborate game of gotcha. I will not, however, speculate on Park's motivations and have articulated why above.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:16 AM on April 2


I don't know what a "gotcha" looks like here, but you have in fact speculated on Park's motivations when you at least raised the possibility of agreeing with me that Park's real purpose was less outrage over ironic racism and more exposing racist/sexist elements among, if not liberalism, at least Colbert fans and society in general.
posted by spaltavian at 10:18 AM on April 2


I think linking Michelle Malkin here is not really a great idea.
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I think linking Michelle Malkin here is not really a great idea.

I think it is germane.
posted by josher71 at 10:22 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


you have in fact speculated on Park's motivations

All right. You seem to want to have a discussion with me exclusively, and that's probably best done via MeMail.

But what do I know, Mr. Colbert? Me so stupid. You so funny.

As loathe as I am to ever agree with Michelle Malkin on anything, and I think the entire premise of her piece is suspect (assuming I am reading it right, that "liberal Hollywood" is somehow more racist than conservatives), she does say this:

Or that former Secretary of State and leading 2016 Democrat presidential contender Hillary Clinton has repeatedly employed a degrading Southern accent to pander to black voters (Google Hillary and “I ain’t noways tired.”)

Or that Democrat Bob Beckel made fun of Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal’s State of the Union response address by likening it to a “call center ad in Mumbai.”

Or that mainstream Hollywood productions from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Mickey Rooney’s “I.Y. Yunioshi”) to Sixteen Candles (“Long Duk Dong”) to the sitcoms “How I Met Your Mother” (an entire show in yellowface) and “2 Broke Girls” (“Han Lee”) have done more to disseminate and profit off of cheap, vulgar, buck-toothed Asian stereotypes than Rush Limbaugh ever did.


This is precisely the race-based comedy regarding Asians I have heard, and there is too much of it, and it does seem like it is not even thought about before it is expressed.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:24 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


I will not, however, speculate on Park's motivations and have articulated why above.

Also, apologies if I missed, but I only see you articulating that you won't do so because calling her an attention seeker is dismissive and misses the point. I actually agree with that! But I don't think that's the only reason to look at her motivations, and that seems to be an idea that you have repeatedly refused to entertain.
posted by spaltavian at 10:26 AM on April 2


All right. You seem to want to have a discussion with me exclusively

I've simply engaged you as a participant in this thread, but I will not address you further if that is your wish.
posted by spaltavian at 10:26 AM on April 2


I think it is germane.

You know Michelle Malkin is a right wing troll, right?

Unless you think it's germane because you think Suey Park is a wolf in sheep's clothing, herself?
posted by Sara C. at 10:31 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Do you think Malkin's piece is disingenuous?
posted by josher71 at 10:33 AM on April 2


Yes. I think it's weird that other people could think anything out of her mouth was not disingenuous.

Her entire purpose is to say that Democrats are all racists. This accomplishes a few different things:

1. Attempts to get non-white voters to the Republican party. The Democrats are seen in the wider public as being on the side of Civil Rights. Which is as it should be -- historically Democrats have been champions of anti-racist public policy, and Republicans have actively worked against these policies. It is right and correct that non-white voters should vote Democratic, and stupid for non-white* voters to vote Republican.

2. Enables the "yeah but look everybody is racist deep down" argument, which erases the specific and pervasive racism of the Right.

3. Puts forth the tacit understanding that racism is the natural state of things, and any white person working against racism is being disingenuous.

*Well, stupid for most voters to vote Republican, but let's stay germane to the topic at hand.
posted by Sara C. at 10:45 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Malkin defended Japanese internment and not even in a "times were different" way, so yeah, I think she's disingenuous when talking about "I.Y. Yunioshi".
posted by spaltavian at 10:50 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Oh, I think Malkin is terrible. A strange bedfellow is really all I was going for.
posted by josher71 at 10:55 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


But I really don't think this is a case of "strange bedfellows". Malkin is a troll. This is trolling. There is really no reason for anyone to even remotely consider her opinion on this issue.
posted by Sara C. at 11:05 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


I don't think Park thinks Malkin is being disingenuous fwiw.
posted by josher71 at 12:22 PM on April 2


If that's the case, I go back on any credit I gave her.
posted by Sara C. at 12:28 PM on April 2


I got that from some tweets I saw here, FYI.
posted by josher71 at 12:30 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I read that tweet ("Believe it or not @originalspin--@michellemalkin has been a better friend than you.") as acknowledging that Malkin isn't a person that Park would normally want in her corner, but that Malkin (regardless of whether she's being disingenuous) is at least not being as openly contemptuous (or some other negative behavior) toward Park as is @originalspin (Jeff Yang, WSJ columnist).
posted by Etrigan at 12:40 PM on April 2


I read it as at least validating Malkin. Hard to see this tweet happening if she thinks Malkin is, in fact, being disingenuous.
posted by josher71 at 12:45 PM on April 2


"Issue is not critique of skit but disproportional outrage vis a vis Actual racist foundation -- Snyder wins." How 'CancelColbert' Drowned Out the Native Voice
posted by jbickers at 1:57 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Well, that's one possible read, and one that holds Asian Americans as responsible for distracting from the issue of the Redskins.

Another read is that Colbert, by choosing to illustrate his point with casual ironic racism, distracted from the subject.

And the former presumes that the true subject, the subject we should be concerned about, is the racism of using the term Redskins, while casual ironic racism directed at Asians is negligible and a distraction.

That's not a viewpoint I share.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:48 PM on April 2 [7 favorites]


Totally agreed, Bunny Ultramod.
posted by sweetkid at 2:53 PM on April 2


i'm sure any mefites who have twitter accounts who would like to unsteal that thunder will update their feeds accordingly #Not4Sale.
posted by twist my arm at 3:01 PM on April 2


To revisit the mechanics of satire part of this argument, I noticed one thing and wondered about another:

1. At the end of his follow up bit, Colbert makes specifically Anti-Semitic and racist (against African-Americans) jokes. I wonder if anyone else took that specifically as a comment on the fact that Asian-Americans weren't picked for the previous bit as being the softest/safest targets (that is, no group is 'off-limits').

2. And in thinking about this I wondered (if there are more knowledgeable TCR fans around, please pipe in) if in the library of call backs, the selected (Asian-American) target was used because it was a character/bit that specifically had a derogatory name (to match 'Redskin'). And since the derivation of that bit was primarily linguistic (other people using racist gibberish when discussing Asian/Asian-American topics) if makes a sensible parallelism. I don't know anything about the Latino character others have referred to, but if that bit didn't have a specifically racist term attached, then it wouldn't have structured the joke as well.

This is not presuming to answer the idea of whether or not satire is effective for combating racism, but I do think it more directly addresses if Asian-Americans were used because there was a sense on the part of the staff that it would get less push back.

To be upfront about prejudices, I think satire is effective -- it shouldn't be the only or primary weapon, but if everyone has a duty to combat injustice, I think the role of TCR is a fair one. Even though I've left behind any sympathy for Kundera years ago, I still think of his line (likely a misquote) there is a time when 'people are condemned to playact' -- he was talking about action far more tepid than satire, but as a white person whose identity is unfortunately yoked without choice to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, most times I feel like Colbert is an essential antidote.
posted by 99_ at 3:13 PM on April 2


"Issue is not critique of skit but disproportional outrage vis a vis Actual racist foundation -- Snyder wins."

Dan Snyder’s Anti-Public Relations and #CancelColbert
posted by homunculus at 3:57 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


by choosing to illustrate his point with casual ironic racism

I'm curious about what makes it "casual."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:07 PM on April 2


I don't think Park is saying that Malkin is actually a valid ally. Instead, I think she's saying, "Hey, @originalspin, even Michelle Fucking Malkin is better than you." Like saying "You're worse than Hitler!" doesn't mean "Because Hitler wasn't so bad!", it means "Hitler's terrible, and you're worse!"
posted by Bugbread at 4:27 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Casual racism is all the stuff that's outside of "sundown towns," "No Irish Need Apply," Internment camps, Speak American, overt racism stuff. All the jokes, all the "I'm just curious about your ethnicity," all the "you're pretty for a black girl," all the "you speak English so well." A lot of the stuff that people don't even consider problematic. The microaggressions for the most part.
posted by sweetkid at 4:34 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Except it wasn't ironic racism it was satirical racism. That's a different thing. Words have important meanings.
posted by Justinian at 8:09 PM on April 2 [7 favorites]




To go back to Bunny Ultramod's comments on Suey Park's motivations upthread:

She has stated her goal -- or two goals, really, that I doin't think are mutually incompatible:

1. To bring attention to the Colbert show's use of racist language regarding Asian-Americans in the service of ironic comedy;
2. To demonstrate that supposed allies can turn hostile the moment their allegiance demands something outside their comfort level.


I have to say that she demonstrated both of these points rather well. Especially #2 -it's felt very clear to me that people who previously have thought of Colbert as an anti racist hero (again, I like the show, I like him, but anti racist hero I think he is not) absolutely will not listen to any criticism or any opposing point of view of his joke or his reaction to the tweet scandal or anything.

A lot of what I've seen from mainstream, mostly white liberal voices is a lumping together of all "POC" issues as one mass thing, which Asian Americans often don't identify with (incarceration, poverty, stop and frisk) and the specific things that Asian Americans do identify with (identity issues, stereotypes in media) are dismissed as not important enough.

It's not one mass thing. It does feel like if you don't meet some low-income requirement or can be pitied for this or that reason then you don't get a seat to speak at the "POC" table, but you certainly don't really get a seat at the "white" table, either, because "what country are you from? where can I get your "authentic" food?" will be asked as soon as you sit down.
posted by sweetkid at 8:35 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Except it wasn't ironic racism it was satirical racism. That's a different thing. Words have important meanings.

I'd be curious to have you delineate the difference. Satire is a form of irony.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:39 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Ironic racism is a hipster going to a party in blackface. Satiric racism is Swift's A Modest Proposal.
posted by Justinian at 8:54 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


If you tell me I'm being "No True Scotsman" I will be sad.
posted by Justinian at 8:55 PM on April 2


you don't get a seat to speak at the "POC" table,

just want to add to this comment that I meant that you don't get a seat to speak at the "POC" table from a white liberal point of view, I don't feel like it's coming from other nonwhite people. I've seen some excellent criticism of the Colbert joke from black writers on Twitter and linked in this thread.
posted by sweetkid at 8:55 PM on April 2


If you tell me I'm being "No True Scotsman" I will be sad.

No, if that's an important distinction for you, I won't argue the point. It is satiric racism. It calls to mind a discussion that The Onion had years ago about the risks of satire -- they had a piece for the post-911 issue referencing the Pentagon as the Quadragon, or something, and decided not to use it, as they were concerned people might think they thought there was something funny about the Pentagon getting hit by a plane. They explained that the risk of satire is that it is easy to get confused about who the target of the satire is.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:01 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Douglas Hofstadter (writing as "William Satire") wrote "A Person Paper on Purity in Language," a scathing satire of lame defenses of sexist language (esp. those of William Safire), in which he performed many paradgmatic substitutions, the most significant of which is imagining an America in which pronouns and titles are based on race rather than gender. In his Post Scriptum, he writes:
Perhaps this piece shocks you. It is meant to. The entire point of it is to use something that we find shocking as leverage to illustrate the fact that something that we usually close our eyes to is also very shocking. The most effective way I know to do so is to develop an extended analogy with something known as shocking and reprehensible. Racism is that thing, in this case. I am happy with this piece, despite-but also because of-its shock value. I think it makes its point better than any factual article could. As a friend of mine said, "It makes you so uncomfortable that you can't ignore it." I admit that rereading it makes even me, the author, uncomfortable! Numerous friends have warned me that in publishing this piece I am taking a serious risk of earning myself a reputation as a terrible racist. I guess I cannot truly believe that anyone would see this piece that way. To misperceive it this way would be like calling someone a vicious racist for telling other people "The word 'nigger' is extremely offensive." If allusions to racism, especially for the purpose of satirizing racism and its cousins, are confused with racism itself, then I think it is time to stop writing.
I have to see this as relevant here.

(Worth noting that in her "Why Sexist Language Matters," Sherryl Kleinman credits the Hofstadter essay as "an article that made a difference in my own understanding of sexist language.")
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:19 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Also, "I Withdrew From A Panel With Suey Park," by Vanessa Teck.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:22 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


JG's link wasn't working for me, but here's a mirror.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:56 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


But… what does it mean when there are individuals like myself (and many others) who no longer feel as though they can even have a voice because they may slightly disagree with a tactic or approach? What does it mean when I feel as though I need to justify myself with the above stories/credibility to even write a reflection and critique?

How recently was there that great comment about this sort of thing on here? About this "you're either with me 100% or fuck you" culture that's been brewing in these twitter/tumblr social justice communities?

Because this is some real shit, and the comments about gaslighting and sheisty debate tactics are spot on in Vanessa's blog post.

Everything I've seen about Suey Park throughout this situation makes me feel like she only cares about winning fights and being Internet famous. And burning whoever doesn't align with her 100% along the way to whatever she's trying to do this second. The satire thing was lowbrow, but the entire package is just several kinds of awful.

She's sort of just an example of a specific type of person, and currently popular way of approaching this kind of thing though. Those who instantly dismiss someone for calling something "tumblry" or someone a social justice warrior as just being the euphemism treadmill ignore-worthy evolution of "politically correct" should take a long look at this kind of behavior. Those terms may be overused, but it's absolutely A Thing and a pretty toxic way to approach these issues.

So yea, regardless of what your opinion is on the Colbert thing, take a step back and ponder this for a bit.
posted by emptythought at 4:38 AM on April 3 [14 favorites]


The entire point of it is to use something that we find shocking as leverage to illustrate the fact that something that we usually close our eyes to is also very shocking.

Yeah, I think the reason Colbert's bit fails is that it isn't shocking enough. Too many people are comfortable just laughing with it.
posted by straight at 8:03 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Justinian: Except it wasn't ironic racism it was satirical racism. That's a different thing. Words have important meanings.

Bunny Ultramod: I'd be curious to have you delineate the difference. Satire is a form of irony.

Satire is a form of social commentary that uses irony as a tool. To reduce satire to merely a form of irony, rather than something that employs irony for a specific purpose, removes from its definition the very thing that makes it satire—the intent of social commentary.

Whether satire that uses ironic racism as a means for social commentary is effective, acceptable, or worth it, is definitely worth discussing and considering. But, I’m very wary of winnowing down the meaning of words and concepts in the process. In my opinion, it serves no one.
posted by context adventure at 8:32 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]


Yes, I am familiar with satire. I was simply looking to see how Justinian distinguished the two to try to make sense of what his complaint was.

I would hardly call identifying satire as a form of irony to be "reducing" it, unless you are using reducing in the cooking sense, as a sort of distillation. Satire is a form of irony. So is sarcasm. Neither becomes limited by identified as such.

I wonder if in future threads about comedy we could start from the presumption that people understand comedy and don't need to have it explained to them? And if they have questions about comedy, they will ask?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:10 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]


Animal sacrifice is a form of religious ritual. So is communion. Delineating the two involves discussing and noting their differences. I feel most would agree simplifying both of them to religious rituals in a nuanced conversation, where their differences are integral, is unhelpful. Calling attention to that isn’t making an assumption about anyone’s knowledge of religious rituals. (I’m sure I could think of a better, or less loaded analogy, but I think it works.)

When you’re being satiric, you’re aiming at putting forth social commentary, unlike when you’re being sarcastic or sardonic. That’s what makes it satire. That’s why there’s a distinction between them—why there's different words for each practice.

Reducing satire to merely a form of irony in your rhetoric is similar to reducing animal sacrifice to merely a form of religious ritual. Sure it’s true, but it's lacking distinction, and makes having a conversation where that distinction is important a more difficult endeavor.
posted by context adventure at 9:34 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]


You seem to be having a discussion with someone who has said that satire is just irony, there are no distinctions. Further, you seem to think that person must be educated because they are wrong.

I get the feeling you think that person is me. I have said nothing of the sort, and I am not sure that requesting clarification from one users about how they are making the distinction requires that we push our glasses back, presume ignorance, and take it upon ourselves to be the educators.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:51 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]




The little asides in the Salon article about Park being distracted by a bird or returning in a couple of minutes concerns me. Do they make those kind of comments for their other interviews (particularly with more "mainstream" folk) or do they edit it out? Why are they noting that Park got distracted by a bird - some sort of effort to show that she's flighty?
posted by divabat at 2:03 PM on April 3


Do you think white people can joke about other races?

Yeah, there is definitely a way to do that and I’ve seen it done well. The difference is that I didn’t take away attention from Dan Snyder or the Redskins. Colbert did when he chose to ruin an opportunity to make a point about racism in America by using more racism.


No, you did. Regardless of the larger questions about race representation, you did.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:39 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


Ooh, divabat—I can answer that! It's because Salon is terrible.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:09 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


They didn't note that she got distracted by a bird, those were her words:

Wait, can you ask that question again, I got distracted real quick, there was a bird outside my window.
posted by Big_B at 3:15 PM on April 3 [6 favorites]


But does that line need to be there? I've done plenty of interviews (on either side of the mic) where not all lines were published.
posted by divabat at 3:18 PM on April 3


Yes, but I think it is relevant, and maybe worth knowing, if someone asks the interviewer to repeat a question.

Maybe the interviewer felt that Park was using the bird distraction as a stalling tactic? Making the interviewer repeat the question so that she has more time to come up with an appropriate answer.

Honestly, I would rather have the questions and answers taken down verbatim than for the reporter to just write, "Park seemed distracted" or whatever.
posted by misha at 3:38 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


I think there are more legitimate reasons to include something she directly said, which is not some bizarre slagging on her by them of trying to make her look stupid, than there are to not say it because "they only put it in to make her look ditzy, conspiracy!" or whatever people will say.

It's a pretty flippant response to a serious interview by a fairly major rag. If i was the interviewer, i would think it was pretty disrespectful.

Not including her own words because you think they paint her in a negative light is bizarre pr spin shit, unless someone is quoting her out of context(and you can prove that) which does not seem to be the case.
posted by emptythought at 3:43 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


Hm, I'm conflicted about it because there's already been a lot of media efforts to discredit her (see HuffPo) and this just seems like yet another way to subtly say "you shouldn't take her seriously because she gets distracted" - as if nobody else ever does!
posted by divabat at 3:44 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


i think it's hard to separate "efforts to discredit her" from legitimate complaints about her behavior or inconsistencies in her statements and intellectually dishonest "Oh that's never what i meant! it was all satire!" kind of stuff. I think it all depends on what your personal opinion is on her, of how much you want to assign to each category. A lot of people seem to see her as some force than can essentially do no wrong... which is amusing, since many people said the same about colbert even on here.

In my opinion, no one needs to be trying all that hard to make her look bad, she does it to herself fine enough. I will openly admit my bias that she reminds me of the worst activist-y people i met in alternative high school and hanging out with people at a super liberal college friends went to though. So i may be projecting a bit.

I think the whole thing is super freighted though, and that on the flip side a lot of people are dropping her into this idealistic box of the awesome brave grrrl power POC woman fighting the shitty, snarky white man they've all encountered on or offline making racist jokes and going "It's just a joke, see, it's satire, it can't be racist" who have fluffed up both sides into this godzilla Vs mechagodzilla battle with both sides being the absolute extreme of good and evil when they're... not. Because nothing in real life is like that.

The entire thing got off on the false start that colbert himself tweeted that. The resulting discussion of is it ok for a white dude to make jokes like that even in context and considering that he didn't make that tweet himself was worthwhile, but a lot of it got lost in the initial attention grabbing noise(Mostly stoked by Suey) operating under the assumption that he did. That was the big story. It was a pretty classic case of "A lie goes around the world before the truth can get it's pants on" that flew so hard because it was such a perfect soundbite.

And yet it's pretty hard to have a reasonable discussion when it started off from something that didn't happen, or at least didn't happen in the way in which it was the foundation of your argument, and you're trying to pivot. It sort of happened, but the entire thing was pretty bungled in a lot of places.
posted by emptythought at 3:57 PM on April 3 [6 favorites]


The bird stuff is irrelevant and stupid, but she still has interesting things to say:

So what do you want from this conversation?

I wanted to hit the irony and inability of the left to deal with their own racism. I think as a result of the white ally industrial complex, for too long people of color have been asked to censor whiteness, they have been asked to educate their oppressor, they have been asked to use the right tone, and appease their politics in order to be heard. And in an effort to just contribute to the self-improvement of white allies that are often times just racist. So I think it’s kind of like pulling a blanket off the façade of progressivism. It forces people to deal with those conversations about race that go beyond micro-aggression and that go beyond being politically correct, to what it means to uproot racism in its entirety.


That's right on. It's just a sad fact that just being a progressive, regardless of color, doesn't mean that you're an ally, especially if you are digging in on the 'just satire' element of the joke and 'this distracts from the "real racism" and Suey Park totally gave Dan Snyder a win.
posted by sweetkid at 3:57 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


Wait, can you ask that question again, I got distracted real quick, there was a bird outside my window.

I might respect being distracted by birds more than most of the substantial conversation that's happened on the topic.
posted by weston at 4:06 PM on April 3


Like many radical activists, she has some valid stuff to say, and some ridiculous stuff to say.

I have to strenuously disagree with the "for too long people of color have been asked...to educate their oppressor" part, though. Not the rest of the sentence, just that part. As someone in a similar situation (I live in a country in which I am a minority, but considered a model minority), I totally understand how annoying it is to be expected to explain why certain comments or jokes are racist. But the thing is, the reason I have to explain it is because folks aren't learning it on their own. Saying "I'm not going to enact the labor of explaining anymore!" doesn't magically make the majority 'enact the labor' on their own, it just lets them stay ignorant. It's like saying "For too long people who are against racism have been asked to fight racism". Well, yeah. If you're against racism, that's what you've gotta do. I mean, unless her position is "We should just shoot white people instead of educating them" (which I really doubt), then the alternative to "educating your oppressor" is "letting your oppressor stay ignorant", and I don't see how that's going to help.

(Note: in my case, I don't really consider folks like my wife, my friends, my neighbors, my business colleagues, and the like "my oppressors", but that's why I'm not a radical activist.)
posted by Bugbread at 4:58 PM on April 3 [6 favorites]


Bugbread: I have sympathy to that position, given the countless number of times I've been asked to "educate me!!!" only to have the other party not listen. They're not really interested in changing their mind, but if you don't try to do so it's proof that you Don't Care, or something.
posted by divabat at 5:06 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but the problem then isn't being asked to educate, but being ignored. Like, if I pay for groceries and the store shortchanges me, the problem isn't "I was asked to pay for groceries" but "I haven't been given the groceries I've paid for".

And maybe that's what she meant, in which case I agree with what she meant, but strongly disagree with what she said. An impression I'm getting of Park is that she has a good five dollar activist-word vocabulary, but doesn't express herself so well in situations with little or no editing (tweeting, live interviews).

(And I'm not saying that's exclusive to her. I've never been interviewed, but considering how often I go over and rewrite my comments on MeFi, I'm sure that when put in a position where I couldn't edit and revise, I'd make all kinds of mistakes).
posted by Bugbread at 5:24 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


That Salon piece is terrible. I have done transcripts before for interviews and in a legit piece, a lot of her "likes" and "ums" would have been omitted because everyone does that when they are being interviewed. If you leave it in, it makes everyone sound dumb and idiotic. But I guess that's what Salon was going for: a way for her to be discredited and dismissed by the white progressives that read them so they can go back to worrying about whether their rich talk show host will still have a job. (Don't worry, y'all, he'll be just fine.)
posted by Kitteh at 5:30 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


>Bugbread: I have sympathy to that position, given the countless number of times I've been asked to "educate me!!!" only to have the other party not listen. They're not really interested in changing their mind, but if you don't try to do so it's proof that you Don't Care, or something.

If this is your genuine position--that people can't/won't change--then activism probably isn't for you. Activism must be hopeful, must be optimistic.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:35 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


There's a theoretical problem with the labor of education if you get into the weeds of discursive practices around power and the right to speak -- it's a nifty bit of rhetoric to argue the oppressor needs to develop an understanding of the negative outcomes engendered by their oppression while saying it's not an obligation of the oppressed to articulate what that may be.

In practice this shouldn't be that hard (there are plenty of primary texts to fill one's day), but if one considers themselves an ally to communities that are closer to the fringe, it can be an issue (and Park very clearly puts herself very close to the edge of the fringe).

I'm doing probably about average for someone who self-identifies as a progressive in terms of trying to educate myself about trans issues, but when I start seeing comments that 'trans*' is falling out of favor in some quarters, I literally have no idea where to turn for more detail. I can make my own assessment about what seems like canon or an authoritative voice (and aren't those loaded terms) - or can I? When the ground is shifting within a community (and pretty quickly) about things as elemental as basic terms of identification, how one educates oneself becomes its own fraught process.
posted by 99_ at 5:36 PM on April 3


>how one educates oneself becomes its own fraught process

Which is why I have a hard time with Suey Park's hostility towards those who would be allies rather than the (many! vocal! easy to find!) overtly bigoted. Not that Colbert and "white progressives" shouldn't be held accountable or criticized, but that alienating them is easy and discouraging.

On the other hand, the voices of many in this thread who are sympathetic to her views (or at least critical of the same things she's hostile about) are wonderful and frequently enlightening.

I learn so much here.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:46 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


the alternative to "educating your oppressor" is "letting your oppressor stay ignorant", and I don't see how that's going to help

I think that's a fair point, but I also think that sometimes, the alternative is "having a non-intro-course version of the conversation" or "having a conversation with your friend group or within your community that addresses your own feelings or needs, rather than the behavior or needs of people outside that group."

After all, while Twitter is a public platform, it often hosts dialogue between people who know each other personally, or conversations within specific communities. Users should be able to say something like, "Man, this thing happened, and it sucked" and commiserate with one another without then being responsible for leaving that conversation aside to educate a bunch of strangers, even if those strangers would benefit from the interaction.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:55 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Oh, god, I finally read the Salon piece, and I have to say that any positive things I thought about Park are out the window.

She doesn't want white people on her side. It's going to be a revolution, but not an apocalyptic revolution, a series of shifts of consciousness. Ok, fine. So how could that work? I mean, if they're never on her side, the series of shifts of consciousness must be exclusively on the POC side. But if the white people remain on the other side, then post-revolution there will still be white oppression by the majority...Unless she means that in the future, whites will no longer be the majority. Ok, that makes sense...until you reach the comment "Whiteness will always be the enemy". So in her ideal world, whites would be a powerless minority, who would nonetheless always be the enemy? That's kinda fucked up.

Her mental outlook is reading to me less like "racism is fucked up and needs to be eliminated" and more like the "I am in ethnic group A, and ethnic group B has treated my ethnic group horribly when they had power, so I want to gain power so I can treat them horribly" shit that has happened around the world through history.
posted by Bugbread at 6:02 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


Joseph Gurl: If this is your genuine position--that people can't/won't change--then activism probably isn't for you. Activism must be hopeful, must be optimistic.

Yeah...no.

There are people who are disingenuous about their claims of wanting to change or learn. Those people are a drain on activists and take attention and energy away from their work with people who do genuinely want to learn.

Once you face that countless times you learn who's worth your attention and energy and focus there. And if that means refusing to deal with, say, White people because they're too busy trying to defend racist satire rather than actually listening to you - well so be it.
posted by divabat at 7:51 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


>There are people who are disingenuous about their claims of wanting to change or learn. Those people are a drain on activists and take attention and energy away from their work with people who do genuinely want to learn.

Once you face that countless times you learn who's worth your attention and energy and focus there. And if that means refusing to deal with, say, White people because they're too busy trying to defend racist satire rather than actually listening to you - well so be it.


I get what you're saying and totally sympathize--that's a seriously dispiriting part of activism or advocacy of any kind--but if it means you no longer believe in changing minds, well, "so be it" is the opposite of the activist impulse.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:08 PM on April 3


(Perhaps we're misunderstanding each other, talking at cross-purposes--maybe I need to specify that I don't think activists are in any way beholden to expend that energy on everyone. I'm really just saying that completely giving up on that is sad and orthogonal to activism.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:10 PM on April 3


Nobody said anything about completely giving up. I'm saying that this is a common and understandable frustration.
posted by divabat at 8:12 PM on April 3


Oh, then you basically agreed with Bugbread's comment. And with me. Cool. Kerfuffle in a bedpan :)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:15 PM on April 3


(That said, Suey Park seems to have "completely given up" on educating/working with/not hating white people...)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:16 PM on April 3


So she's decided to focus her energies on other PoC, is that such a bad thing?
posted by divabat at 8:17 PM on April 3


I more or less agree with this on that.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:19 PM on April 3


Her mental outlook is reading to me less like "racism is fucked up and needs to be eliminated" and more like the "I am in ethnic group A, and ethnic group B has treated my ethnic group horribly when they had power, so I want to gain power so I can treat them horribly" shit that has happened around the world through history.

I don't think activists in this area (and I count myself as being somewhere in there) want to gain power to treat anyone horribly. I see it (and similar sentiments from others) as coming more from a sense of resignation - they've tried to work with White people, but it's not generating much difference between of entrenched social structures, so for some activists they've decided "fuck it, I'll work with my own kind instead".

What I see this as is "if you want to be on our side, you need to do the work, not expect us to do all the work for you".
posted by divabat at 8:22 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's a bad thing, but I don't really get the point. She's focusing her energies on raising awareness among people who are already aware? There are certain activist activities that work really well with absolutely no involvement of the majority. Improving conditions in poverty-stricken areas, for example. But the area of "eliminating racism" doesn't work well if you decide you're not going to try to change the opinions of actual racists anymore.
posted by Bugbread at 8:24 PM on April 3


divabat: "What I see this as is "if you want to be on our side, you need to do the work, not expect us to do all the work for you"."

I would also understand the idea of "I'm just going to focus on conservatives. If you're a liberal, don't expect me to spend my time helping you help me. I'd rather spend that time on my primary focus. If you want to help me, put in the leg work yourself." But that's not what she appears to be saying.
posted by Bugbread at 8:27 PM on April 3


She's focusing her energies on raising awareness among people who are already aware?

I wouldn't assume people are already aware just by the nature of being PoC (say in the case of racism). It was actually surprising to me to be at a panel by QPOC and all of them talking about how they didn't gain any sort of racial political consciousness till they were in college - whereas for me I had to start really early on because I didn't have the mini enclaves of community that they had.

Also there are many ways to eliminate racism that don't need to involve interaction with racists (and this is making the assumption that "racists" only look or act a certain way, rather than acknowledging that racism is entrenched in society), such as efforts that aim to empower marginalised communities to speak for themselves, highlight each other's efforts, support each other on areas that they wouldn't get access to, etc.
posted by divabat at 8:27 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


I guess I remain unconvinced that any of what I've seen from Suey Park is included among those worthy activities. Shouting down dissenters certainly doesn't...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:29 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


(I wish it were you, divabat, not Suey Park, who's being interviewed by Salon, for instance!)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:30 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


(that was confusing. re the panel: most of the panellists were sheltered from racism to some extent because they had grown up in communities of their own race, and racism was somewhat abstract for them until they were in larger situations where they were more obviously the minority. I never had that sort of community, so I had to deal with institutionalized racism head-on from an early age.)
posted by divabat at 8:30 PM on April 3


Well Suey Park is just one person too, and what I'm sort of seeing here is some sense that if Suey Park isn't doing what we all wished activists would do, then activists in general are failing.
posted by divabat at 8:31 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


I agree with Joseph Gurl here. I think what you're saying, Divabat, makes total sense. I just don't think it's what Park is saying.

divabat: "what I'm sort of seeing here is some sense that if Suey Park isn't doing what we all wished activists would do, then activists in general are failing."

I hope you're not getting that impression from me. I don't see Park's failures as saying anything about other activists.
posted by Bugbread at 8:40 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


(That said, I do relate to Vanessa Teck's article a lot about the shouty bridge-burning nature of a lot of online activism. I can understand Suey Park's frustration about so-called allies too. All the multitudes!)
posted by divabat at 8:40 PM on April 3


Oh, I absolutely don't think that! Here's to the activists!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:41 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]




Good stuff, divabat.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:02 PM on April 3


And a quote from the Shen piece:
Let’s call this what it is: cyberbullying. I’m not saying it’s Suey, but I am saying that it’s her followers. There is a large group of people who have created an echo chamber that repeatedly enables and reinforces bad behavior. Harassment. Stalking. Name-calling. Character assassination. Misinformation. Emotional manipulation. Propaganda. This isn’t calling people out for racist, sexist, homophobic behavior — it’s using these terms so freely that we lose sight of the actual racists and sexists and bigots. It’s hurling the term gaslighting so often at other people and inaccurately while actually gaslighting the same people. I think that there are a lot of people who follow Suey for her politics while not knowing her tactics. I’d probably do the same if I wasn’t aware of the way she treated people.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:05 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


I think it was just an opportunity to use hyperbole in a way to make social commentary ... to me it was never a literal hashtag.

Wasn't that obvious? I think it is kind of amusing how the same people calling Suey and others dumb and bonkers for objecting to Colbert's satirical racial slurs went on to respond to #CancelCobert as an actual, literal campaign to cancel TCR - missing any nuance, irony, hyperbole, or simple awareness-raising in what she was doing. Or maybe this is just part of the way satire can be used to completely dismiss someone. I think this made Colbert's response where he joyfully sings out the same offending material yet again - something I have a hard time believing he would do with other ethnic or gendered slurs - fall flat. I'm not sure I agree with Suey that she was seemingly taken completely literally by the world's greatest satire experts and explainers because she is a person of color (but perhaps I just don't see it because I am white), I suspect it is more like blind allegiance to Colbert, similar to that of Rush Limbaugh ditto-heads.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:46 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Golden Eternity: "Wasn't that obvious?"

Not to me. Radical activists are radical. There was no reason for me to believe that a radical demand from a radical activist was actual a hyperbolic non-radical statement.
posted by Bugbread at 9:51 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


Where's that quote from, Golden Eternity? It's not elsewhere in this thread unless my Find is bustordzed.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:53 PM on April 3


(to add to Bugbread: Colbert is very famous for satire. Suey Park, afaik, isn't. In fact, she's well known for being provocative and "radical.")
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:54 PM on April 3


It's from the Salon interview. Sorry I didn't make that more clear.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:57 PM on April 3


Joseph Gurl, I think you misunderstood Golden Eternity's quote because you didn't know where it came from, so you misunderstood my response.

It's from the Salon interview with Park, and Park is saying that what she was doing was just an opportunity to use hyperbole in a way to make social commentary, and she didn't mean the hashtag literally. Golden Eternity was saying that was obvious. Given that, as you say, Park's known for being radical, I was saying that it wasn't obvious to me that a radical saying something radical was actually a radical saying something non-radical, but using hyperbole to make it sound radical.
posted by Bugbread at 9:59 PM on April 3


Yeah, I understood and wasn't disagreeing with you, just adding some of my own reasoning.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:03 PM on April 3


... missing any nuance, irony, hyperbole, or simple awareness-raising in what she [Park] was doing.

The original tweet was:
I used to respect and enjoy your work, @ColbertReport. Fuck you.
— Suey Park (@suey_park) March 27, 2014

I'm not at all surprised that people didn't see the nuance or the irony in that. And based on the two experiences I've read from people who have worked with Park, people who share her goals and world, Park seems to lash out more often than most. I don't think people are missing any subtle irony lying behind what she says.

[For the record, I am not saying that these facts invalidate the experiences and feelings AA people are reporting in this thread and elsewhere. Best to be explicit in a tumultuous thread like this.]
posted by benito.strauss at 10:20 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


No, I don't think her anger and outrage was ironic, I think the #CancelColbert hashtag was not a literal desire to cancel the show, but sort of a way to use social media to bring awareness to what she saw as a problem. Sort of a 'hey, what the fuck?.' So the following discussion about "do you or do you not support canceling TCR" kind of missed the point. Whatever, maybe I'm wrong.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:48 PM on April 3


GE, are you saying that, as with irony, she did not intend the manifest meaning of her statements? I could see that, though instead of nuance, or irony, I would say that her tweets were a performance. A performance draws attention / raises awareness through hyperbolic words and actions, and has a similar distance between what the performer wants to effect and what they say.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:14 PM on April 3


GE, are you saying that, as with irony, she did not intend the manifest meaning of her statements?

Yeah, perhaps sardonic hyperbole is more of what I'm trying to say. I think "fuck you" was an expression of anger, and #CancelColbert was an effort to raise awareness. She says this about it:
But then #CancelColbert was never literal, but it was a way to say, “Hey, improve Colbert,” knowing that trying to improve Colbert would never trend, knowing that it would never get heard. And I made #CancelColbert knowing that it wouldn’t even hurt him, knowing it would make him just a little bit more aware of how that satire isn’t actually even very funny.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:35 PM on April 3


I'm not sure how hyperbole and radical politics are somehow mutually exclusive?

Someone else on this thd saw Suey Park's use of "it's satire!" as commentary on the claim that because Colbert is satire what he says is OK - i haven't seen anyone else pick up on that but I wanted to echo that sentiment.

And even though I posted one of the "here's my issue with Sue" links, I'm not sure those stories are helping in the long run. They both warn of the dangers of celebrity culture in radical activism, but by focusing on the history and habits of one activist they're just supporting that same celebrity culture. And in the meantime, all the other voices on this issue are being overshadowed by people pontificating on Suey's activist skills.
posted by divabat at 11:44 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure how hyperbole and radical politics are somehow mutually exclusive?

I don't think anyone said they were, or should be. But I may have missed it.

And in the meantime, all the other voices on this issue are being overshadowed by people pontificating on Suey's activist skills.

Some people find that to be an interesting thing to discuss within this post. I've seen MetaFilter's format support more than one thread of discussion on a given subject.

I am not intending to overshadow other voices on these issues and hope that I am not. I don't have much to say about the other issues that others haven't already said so I'm just reading and listening to those comments.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:58 PM on April 3


Well Suey Park is just one person too, and what I'm sort of seeing here is some sense that if Suey Park isn't doing what we all wished activists would do, then activists in general are failing

I just want to say that this was not the thesis of my post(s), and i got the feeling from somewhere between very few to no other posts that was a sentiment that was flying around in here.

"I have encountered/she reminds me of other activists whose attitudes and approach i disagree with" is not the same as "she is proof that all activists in general are failing".

Jesus though, that second article you posted just kinda makes it even darker. holy crap. I feel like everyone in here should be reading the Vanessa Teck and Juliet Shen articles linked above.
posted by emptythought at 3:09 AM on April 4 [3 favorites]


Radical activists are radical. There was no reason for me to believe that a radical demand from a radical activist was actual a hyperbolic non-radical statement.

This kind of read to me as "any demand a radical makes must therefore be radical and also literal".

And I take your point about the perspectives re activists, emptythought. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by divabat at 2:58 PM on April 4


divabat: "This kind of read to me as "any demand a radical makes must therefore be radical and also literal"."

It was meant to read "radicals do make literal radical demands, so a demand just being radical is not sufficient to make it obvious that it's not literal". If she'd said "#KillColbert" then yeah, I'd agree with Golden Eternity that it was obviously not literal. But calling for a show to be cancelled because you think it should be cancelled is not out of character for a radical activist, so there was no reason for it to be obvious that her hashtag wasn't literal.
posted by Bugbread at 4:35 PM on April 4 [6 favorites]




Bitcoin Activism: How Michelle Malkin And Suey Park Found Common Cause In Hashtag Movements

Cancel Colbert rapidly went stratospheric. At 10:33 p.m. Park tweeted, "Fun! We are the #1 trending hashtag in the US right now ... Keep it up! Park's mood understandably soured a few hours later as Twitter interactions hit 200 per minute, many of them oozing racist and sexist vitriol, including rape and death threats.

The next morning [Malkin-founded right-wing Twitter curation and aggregation website] Twitchy published another post defending Park that made it seem as if she and Malkin were united on the issue. At no point did Park publicly distance herself from Malkin, reject her politics, or at least express concern that Malkin's vicious real-world racism might harm the campaign to address racism in the fictional world. Park's only comment the night of March 27 to Malkin was to declare, "I'm Christian, too," at 8:56 p.m.

While Malkin and Twitchy supported Park, Park concluded that Colbert fans were behind the torrent of abuse directed at her. Park tweeted that night to Colbert's personal account, "Dear @StephenAtHome--your years of satire have failed when your fans send rape/death threats to an asian woman for critiquing your work." From the Twitter feeds of abusers calling her "chink" and "rice nigger," nearly all look to be right-wing trolls.

posted by Bwithh at 5:46 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


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