On Thursday, March 27th, the following 137 character tweet was posted to the @colbertreport Twitter account:
The tweet angered many people, who felt that @colbertreport was making a racist joke. One woman named Suey Park, a Twitter hashtag activist, started #CancelColbert tweeting:
Shortly after, the hashtag went viral, many demanding that Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report apologize for what they had said on Twitter, which made a racist joke at the expense of the Asian community. Shortly after the hashtag started trending, the tweet was taken down and Stephen Colbert responded from his personal account @StephenAtHome:
Now, before this #CancelColbert movement, I was fairly certain that most people were aware that Stephen Colbert is a comedian, but I’ll admit, taken out of context the tweet can be viewed as offensive. As I mentioned earlier, it was 137 characters long, so while there wasn’t much room for context, it needed it.
The context for the tweet was that during a segment of his show the evening before called “Sport Report”, Colbert discussed Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s attempt to smooth over controversy surrounding his team’s name and mascot by creating “The Washington Redskins Original American Foundation.” To illustrate that this foundation was in no way a solution to the offensive name for Snyder’s team name, Colbert came up with his own foundation “The Ching-Ching Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” He used satire to show how offensive name the Redskins is to Native American people, but was he successful?
Now, I hate to quote from Merriam-Webster, as we all know that publication has gone downhill over the past decade adding such low brow words to their repetoir as “bestie” and “wackadoodle,” but they define satire as “a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad etc.: humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc.” That being said, I think that the backlash the tweet received demonstrates the success of Colbert’s satire. People should be offended by his made up foundation; it’s racist and that was the point. If a joke, a fictional group, can have that type of impact, why should an actual team in the NFL be named Redskins?
Is it time to #CancelColbert? I don’t think so. The Colbert Report and The Daily Show have become many people’s main source of news because of their ability to use satire to discuss a variety of serious issues. I’m typically more offended by what I hear on the networks, but then again people are still entitled to feel the way they did about the tweet. I want Colbert to keep pushing the envelope, I think his use of satire helps illuminate so many issues in our society, like racism and helps address them. I worry about the day that Colbert stops joking and becomes a serious journalist because just remember, Colbert was a transfer student at Northwestern University and a THEATER major. He knows nothing about journalism.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Featured image via Comedy Central