Opinion: #CancelColbert a parody of its own cause, not activism

March 30, 2014
Stephen Colbert speaks to the crowd at Rock Me Like a Herman Cain: South Cain-Olina Primary Rally, an event Colbert held with Rep. Herman Cain at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., Jan. 20, 2012.Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Stephen Colbert speaks to the crowd at Rock Me Like a Herman Cain: South Cain-Olina Primary Rally, an event Colbert held with Rep. Herman Cain at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., Jan. 20, 2012.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Should we cancel Stephen Colbert’s show? In a word, no.

On Thursday, the account for Colbert’s show, “The Colbert Report,” tweeted what has, when removed from the context of the fully developed joke it punchlined, become a rather incendiary remark.

“I am willing to show the #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever,” the now-deleted tweet read from the show’s account, @ColbertReport.

In context, it was part of a bit satirizing efforts of Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, to eliminate criticism of his team’s name by starting a foundation for Native Americans.

To paraphrase James Poniewozik of “Time,” there are two ways to react to this sort of tweet: We can say, “That was a bad tweet, but surely there’s some sort of explanation. I should investigate further before lighting my torch and sharpening my pitchfork;” or we can say “OFF WITH HIS HEAD, COLBERT IS LITERALLY THE WORST.”

I would hope we’d all aspire to the former, but ours is not an ideal world.

Rather, there was a lot of the second option. Of notable mention is Suey Park, who is credited with beginning the now-notorious hashtag, #CancelColbert.

For a time, I hoped her nonsensical vendetta was an elaborate satire of the ridiculous culture of “OMG someone should be fired for that!!” knee-jerk reactions that the update-often ethos of social media has fostered.

And the entire affair wouldn’t be out of place on Colbert’s show: Park seems more a single-note caricature of an overzealous women’s studies major than a serious activist.

Unfortunately, however, it is my understanding that Park is actually as self-serious as she seems.

Thus: Shame on you, Suey Park.

And not just on her, but on all who have behaved as she has

Some have called Park’s tweeting “hashtag activism.” Instead, I’ll call it what it is: masturbatory contrarianism.

Prejudice and racism are still salient topics in America. Racists still exist, and discrimination is not dead.

And there is good to be done in campaigning against that sort of bigotry.

But what Park is doing is not helpful. By crying foul at anything that can be construed as remotely against her beliefs, she is parodying her own supposed cause and making a mockery of an ongoing effort to improve our country.

Toddlers have thrown more thoughtful tantrums.

There is a thoughtful dialogue to be had about race and its place in humor, but Park and her hashtag have done nothing to contribute to it.

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Comments (6)

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  1. asdfdf says:

    the only thing ‘masturbatory’ is calling it ‘masturbatory contrarianism’. jeez..

  2. Jones says:

    Great point. By attacking Colbert she’s further diluting any serious claims she tries to make in he future. More knee jerk reactions by those combing through the internet for something to feel offended by.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just a misunderstanding on Park’s part. She didn’t understand the context. Whatever. If I heard that outside the context I would have a strong reaction too, since, as you said, racism does actually happen. It does need to be punished.

  4. Emma says:

    Kind of a click bait headline, dontcha think?

  5. Matt says:

    Changing a witty headline with a powerful phrase like “masturbatory contrarianism” to something inane like this seems to counter the sentiment expressed in the piece. The Lantern should be bold instead of “politically correct.” Don’t let Chop Suey win.

  6. As an Asian American, I wasn’t offended at first because I knew the context. However I did start getting offended when I saw how people reacted and then watched the bit Colbert did again. Funny everyone’s reaction compounded by the sketch made it offensive to me. I don’t think Suey was entirely right but I get a better idea now. Here’s my take as an Asian American:

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