Posted on March 31, 2014
The Campaign to “Cancel” Colbert
This article bothers me for a number of reasons that I feel obligated to point out. If I am missing something, then I guess that’s my problem. Click the link. Read the article. But this entire response from Park seems to be centered around a misperception of the intent of Colbert’s tweet (or the Comedy Central corporate account) while ignoring the fact that it is satire. This is what Colbert does.
The biggest misconception, to me, is the decision for Park to create two different types of racism out of this. One is the “worse racism” that was exhibited by Daniel Snyder. He made comments that were clearly racist. Colbert’s tweet, in Park’s eyes, was still racist, but less so because “we’re both on the same side, right?”.
This is where I believe Park went wrong. Colbert’s tweet was satire. Satire, by definition, is “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices”. Just in case people didn’t realize the absurdity of Snyder’s remarks, Colbert exaggerated it to point out his incredible stupidity. This kind of satire is not the same as using some sort of lesser racism to make fun of worse racism. That’s the thing about satire. People who use it are completely disagreeing this the perspective they are satirizing.
But Park watches the show. She knows how Colbert works. According to this article, Park “does not make any claim to objectivity or fairness”. Instead, she spread a hashtag in order to make a statement about something other that Colbert’s tweet. I personally think the statement she wants to make is valuable, but she chose the wrong approach. When she campaigns against something that she inherently agrees with – and she seems intelligent enough to know the difference – she lessens the impact of her statement. The focus goes from racism to “well, what did Colbert say?” to “wait a minute, that’s satire, not racism” to complete devaluation of your cause no matter how noble it was. The point is lost.
This article, written by a Korean-American, presents the real situation: “#CancelColbert may have been silly and dumb and wrong in spirit, but it’s worth asking if those of us who find it distasteful know as much about the intentions of the hashtag activists as we think we do. ” Personally, I find the intention irrelevant when the person attacked is inappropriate. That is what I find distasteful. I don’t believe that Colbert’s humor is above bringing a real issue to the attention of the public, but when you imply that he meant something that he clearly didn’t, is becomes silly and dumb and wrong in spirit. Instead, why not start #BoycottRedskins or something similar that draws attention to real racist. I mean, why choose Colbert as the target over Snyder? Seriously. Instead, it appears Park took Colbert’s tweet out of context (in fact, maybe she did), and recklessly campaigned against the wrong person.
To the final and biggest point: I recently heard a conversation about sexism. The speakers were afraid to talk about sexism because they didn’t want to be attacked by the very people they were trying to defend due to an unintended interpretation of the words they used. And that is the kind of society we live in right now. Everyone is so worried about the words they use and the unintended consequences that they just keep their mouth shut about important flaws and inequalities in our societies. But racism and sexism (and others) are things we should be talking about or else they will never go away. I think this is what Park intends too, but her execution was poor. In fact, her execution stifles the voice of those speaking to her cause. It perpetuates the idea that you had better not talk about this subject at all, joke or not, if you are not going to use perfectly unoffensive speech in every word you use. That doesn’t mean we all can’t gain more awareness of our biases and prejudices in these areas (we *all* have them), but we will never have them brought to our attention if the intent of every speaker is disregarded and attacked.
But you know what? If that intent is racist, attack away. Otherwise, think twice. You might be hurting your own cause.