Wednesday's episode of the Colbert Report, a satirical television program in which Stephen Colbert satirically plays a conservative buffoon, featured a segment on actual buffoon Dan Snyder's Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, which was announced this week amid renewed protest against the team's nickname. The organization, according to the team's press release, will "offer genuine opportunities for Tribal communities." Of course, if Snyder had had the courage of his convictions, he would've called the group the Washington Redskins Foundation for Redskins. But in any case he came off as nothing so much as a man buying an indulgence for sexual deviancy with a check signed by his penis. It was pretty funny.
Anyway, during the segment, Colbert made a callback to a 2005 episode of the show, in which Colbert, in character as a satirical conservative talk-show buffoon, was "caught" making racist jokes about Asians. After the callback, Colbert, in character, said he would atone for his racism by establishing the Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever. The satirical buffoon would make like the actual buffoon. He would try to buy an indulgence, and in so doing he would sin anew. The joke worked because the comedian had chosen a slur of similar pitch and degree to "Redskins"—or "gooks," for that matter—whose absurdity would be plain to any viewer, racist and non-racist alike, one whose earnest usage nowadays elicits no more than sigh of pity. It was pretty funny.
After the show, the official Colbert Report Twitter account—which is always in character and not controlled by Colbert himself—sent out a now-deleted tweet that read: "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." That's when this happened:
I used to respect and enjoy your work, @ColbertReport. Fuck you.
— Suey Park (@suey_park) March 27, 2014
The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals has decided to call for #CancelColbert. Trend it.
— Suey Park (@suey_park) March 27, 2014
Suey Park is, for lack of a better term, a Twitter activist. So it matters, to whatever extent things like this matter, when she starts a hashtag. Whether Park didn't get the target of the joke, failed to understand the basic premise of the show (unlikely, since she considered herself a fan at one point), or was just bent on manufacturing outrage isn't clear. But the root of Park's issue with the Colbert Report doesn't really matter, because her tweet riled up the perpetually riled-up segment of Twitter, and the #CancelColbert hashtag was soon flooded with a mind-warping mix of left-wingers and Asian activists refusing to understand satire and right-wing zealots who jumped on the opportunity to funnel as much false outrage as possible in Colbert's direction, all of this awfulness culminating in Dave Zirin showing his ass on Twitter. It was pretty stupid.
We will bet all the money in our pockets against all the money in Dan Snyder's that there was no one happier last night than Snyder himself, who saw the lampooning of his half-a-loaf measures to atone for his team's nickname give way to the willful misapprehensions of a single Korean-American shit-stirrer. Snyder had hired Lanny Davis to launch a PR campaign that would somehow take the stink off his doomed defense of a racist name, but now he had a friend in Suey Park, too, who in focusing on her own claim of racial grievance—what happened to intersectionality?—moved the debate away from the issue of Native American nicknames and onto the question of whether Snyder's critics are taking an appropriate tone. That is exactly where Davis and Snyder want to see it go.
The two authors of this post happen to be Korean-American—one of them, like Suey Park, is a Korean-American from Illinois. We find Suey Park's reading of the joke to be, as the activists like to say, incredibly problematic; it flattens out all meaning and pretends, in effect, that there is no ironic distance between Jonathan Swift's satire and actual cannibalism, not to mention that it's tighter-assed than life itself, as a funny white man once said. We find it even more problematic that she has created the misdirection that Snyder usually pays good money to Lanny Davis to provide.
If Suey Park wants somebody to get pissed at, she should consult Dave McKenna's indispensable "Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder." There, she'll find the following:
"Emulate Charlie Chan": What Asian actors trying out for a mascot job at Snyder-run Six Flags were allegedly told during 2008 auditions. After the 2006 firing of Mr. Six, the longtime mascot Snyder deemed "creepy," the theme park chain's marketing team hired a Japanese actor to scream "More flags! More fun!" in a vaguely Asian accent in TV commercials. The Chicago chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, which publicized the "Charlie Chan" angle, was among the advocacy groups critical of the effort. The campaign was canceled very shortly after its debut.
#CancelSnyder. Trend it.