To catch you up on things: Dan Snyder, owner of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, has been under fire by some Native American groups for keeping his team named with the purportedly racist term. Recently, Snyder created the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, which will benefit Tribal communities. Stephen Colbert, in his nightly Comedy Central news-spoof program The Colbert Report, got into hot water himself for employing racist hyperbole to satirize Dan Snyder’s actions. Colbert created the “Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”
Aaaand… suddenly the angry internet is coming after Colbert like the team of assassins looking to say goodnight to the bad guy in Scarface with their #CancelColbert hashtags.
At first, my view on this was that people need to learn to take a joke. Back home in Hawaii where I grew up, ethnic humor was a staple of the culture. We all made jokes about each other, giving as much as we got. Hell, it wasn’t until I left the islands as an adult that someone told me I was supposed to be offended by the word, “Oriental.”
It’s comedy, right? And words only have the power we give to them. Let’s give Mr. Colbert some room to shame Mr. Snyder about the latter’s racist actions with harmless humor, and have the angry villagers lay down their pitchforks and torches and return to their homes.
Normally, that’s where I would have stopped proselytizing.
Then I thought, why is it okay to say Oriental instead of “the O-word”?
Why is a word which enough people have said enough times for enough years is offensive to them, still in use on national television, especially “as a joke”?
Surely Comedy Central has equal comedy integrity, unafraid to pull punches, when it is time to make fun of other people, don’t they?
In 2006, Comedy Central aired the South Park two-part Cartoon Wars episodes. Near the end of part-two, the Muslim prophet Muhammad was to be shown in the episode, but the network instead opted to black out the screen during his scene. Four years later, South Park’s landmark 200th episode aired, with self-censored depictions of Muhammad, but also this time the mention of his name was bleeped out by the network.
Seems the network has double standards for who they are willing to offend. Fittingly, South Park’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker wanted to use episode 200/201 to deliver a message about fear and censorship. Ironically, this message was censored as well. In addition to mentions of Muhammad’s name, this entire section of dialog was bleeped out during broadcast:
KYLE: You see, I learned something today. Throughout this whole ordeal we’ve all wanted to show things that we weren’t allowed to show. But it wasn’t because of some magic goo, it was because of the magical power of threatening people with violence. That’s obviously the only true power. If there’s anything we’ve all learned, it’s that terrorizing people works.
JESUS: That’s right. Don’t you see, gingers? If you don’t want to be made fun of anymore, all you need are guns and bombs to get people to stop.
SANTA: That’s right friends. all you need to do is instill fear and be willing to hurt people and you can get whatever you want. The only true power is violence.
The network that has taken up the mantle of comedy, Comedy Central, has decided that only some things can be made fun of. If we are to believe the network’s actions, Asians are acceptable targets for ridicule, and Comedy Central is not afraid of offending this group of people.
Nor should they be afraid.
It’s comedy, for crying out loud. You’re going to ruffle someone’s feathers because that’s the nature of the beast.
The fight we should all be taking up right now is not to #CancelColbert, but instead to #TellComedyCentralToStopBeingHypocrites. I want them to stand for comedy. I want them to continue to throw punches. I want them to say, “We’re sorry for being pussies about censoring those South Park episodes and for having double standards.” What I don’t want them to do is kowtow to the Asian community and say they won’t make fun of Asians anymore. Once you vow to stop making fun of religion and stop saying “ching chong ding dong” or “Orientals”, it is a slippery slope.
Pun intended. The minute you say that comedians cannot make fun of one group, it opens the door to a further list of things you cannot make fun of and pretty soon everything is off limits.
Anyway, let’s hope at the end of this, Stephen Colbert is still standing, you cockroaches.