Colbert’s misunderstood joke proves a point

A couple of weeks ago, late-night talk show satirist Stephen Colbert faced a massive social media firestorm for a tweet sent out by his show’s Twitter account, which is run by the network that hosts his show, Comedy Central.

The tweet was taken from a bit Colbert did on his show,attacking Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder over his refusal to change his team’s name. Snyder had recently started a foundation called the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation” to help Native Americans. While good-intentioned, the name of the foundation still includes a racial slur, and Snyder’s motives were not necessarily to help Native Americans, but to dodge controversy of his refusal to change his team’s offensive name.

Colbert pounced on this and in his bit announced he would start a foundation in honor of a “character” on his show and call it the “Ching-Chong-Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity Towards Orientals or Whatever.”

Comedy Central then made the mistake of tweeting out that one line, with no context or no link to a video of his sketch. The tweet was then picked up by activists on Twitter, and blew it up into a huge affair, with noted (mostly conservative) commentators, including Michelle Malkin, joining a campaign to “#CancelColbert.”

Stephen Colbert’s TV character, a spoof of
conservative pundits, is known for lampooning many different groups of people. He has won awards, like a Peabody (pictured), and Colbert is known for pushing the envelope with his satire.
(Photo by Flickr user Peabody Awards)

At face value, the tweet was offensive. However, people who are truly offended by this either did not think to, or were too lazy to look into the actual context of the tweet. The reaction to the tweet was certainly an irony worthy of being attached to the Colbert Report. People got so offended over Colbert’s fake foundation, they forgot about the reason this all happened in the first place; that is because of a real foundation, that is bogus only in its intention to allow a team with a horribly racist name to retain said name.

Points about context aside, Colbert is a satirist. It is his job to wake up each morning and think of new people to make fun of, and ways to make fun of them. On his show, he  makes jokes at the expense of whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Jews, the elderly, the young, men and women. So why has the wild world of the internet chosen to focus on this one instance?

Another huge irony of this case comes from Asian-American conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, who outspokenly joined the #CancelColbert movement early on. Malkin, who is usually a columnist, has written four books. One of these books is titled, “In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror.” The book defends the U.S. government’s internment of Japanese civilians during WWII, and argues that the same methods should be used on Arab and Muslim Americans in the war on terror today.

Someone who wrote an entire book dedicated to the support of racial profiling has absolutely no business criticizing a satirist, who used a racist joke to bring to light a case of real racism. Colbert noted this and included it in the response to the criticism on his show. A notable quote from the response on his show seemed to sum up the situation well. “[The Washington Redskins foundation] which Twitter seems to be fine with, because I haven’t seen sh*t about that!”