CBS announced today that Stephen Colbert is going to take over the show Late Night when David Letterman retires next year. This is great news for comedy fans, but bad news for other late-night comedians who lost out including Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, and Chelsea Handler (if you think she's funny, that is). Still, Colbert is what CBS needs to beat Jimmy Fallon of NBC's Tonight Show in the ratings war, and David Letterman had mentioned Colbert last week as a possible successor.
But for Twitter users, what's so satisfying about Colbert going on to a more high-profile job with an even bigger audience is that just a week or so ago a misunderstood joke about a minority group led to a controversial hashtag #CancelColbert. The hashtag caused a twitterstorm for days, and has even been immortalized at Know Your Meme and pages on Storify Here and Here and those are just two of many. (My blog was like Storify before it was cool, LOL)
More background on that below - scroll down.
Today when CBS announced that Colbert would take over Late Night, much Schadenfreude was had by tweeps poking fun at the fact that the hashtag did indeed work - his show on Comedy Central will be cancelled, but not because they tweeted, only because he is getting a plum-job. Oh, and Colbert was never a bigot in the first place but only playing one on TV.
First the announcement about Late Night:
From CBS News
CBS President and CEO Les Moonves said after seriously considering about a dozen candidates, it became obvious that Colbert was the best choice.
“We said, ‘my God, there’s one guy who just stands out to replace David who is original, who’s smart, who’s funny, who fits with who we are, and it was Stephen Colbert,’” Moonves told CBS Radio national correspondent Dan Raviv.
Colbert said he never dreamed he would follow in Letterman’s footsteps.
“I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me,” he said in a statement. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to grind a gap in my front teeth.”
From David Letterman:
Letterman released this statement: “Stephen has always been a real friend to me. I’m very excited for him, and I’m flattered that CBS chose him. I also happen to know they wanted another guy with glasses.”
What some people have apparently missed over the years is that Colbert isn't himself on Comedy Central, but playing a parody of a Conservative Pundit straight off of Fox News. Chris Hayes referred to it on MSNBC as Colbert's "O'Reilly Act" referring to conservative Bill O'Reilly of Fox. That's why he has sometimes confused the lesser-light Republicans who have been on his show as he seemed to agree with them even while mocking the GOP. But this isn't rocket science, and most people who have a sense of humor got the joke to begin with, even on the Right.
The Colbert Persona, described by New York Times in 2012 when Colbert was making a fake run in the Republican Primary (yes, that was part of the schtick):
The Colbert character, whose taped descent, godlike, from the empyrean while clutching an American flag begins every show, was originally intended as a takeoff on Fox News figures like Sean Hannity and especially Bill O’Reilly. Though Colbert doesn’t much resemble O’Reilly physically, the persona has mastered some of O’Reilly’s pen-wielding, hand-stabbing gestures, and his credentials as a right-wing blowhard are beyond doubt. He thinks that gays will go to hell, that a flaming moat should be built around America to keep out immigrants and that Christianity is, or ought to be, the official national religion. He believes not in truth but in “truthiness,” a term of his own invention.
. . . The Colbert on-screen persona is actually less rigid than it used to be, and Colbert can dial it up or down as he chooses. There is now more of a winking quality to the act, a sense that we’re all in on the joke.
Okay, so that last part has been lost on some self-absorbed people, including Anti-Bigot Suey Park, an Asian-American woman living in Chicago.
Here's that part of the saga, which started as Colbert made a joke about Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. To make his point, Colbert made a joke about Asian-Americans, using one of the trigger words "Oriental" which can drive many Asian activists right out of their minds (and it worked!)
From Dave Weigel on Slate:
Stephen Colbert made sport of Washington football team owner Dan Snyder and his plan to undercut criticism of the team name by founding an organization for the uplift of "original Americans." Colbert ran though all the reasons why this was funny, then called back to a skit from one of the show's first episodes, way back from the fall of 2005—a joke about the host being caught on a "live feed" playing a racist Asian stereotype (Ching Chong Ding Dong, from Guanduong), then not understanding why it was racist. Colbert would make amends with his new "Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever."
. . . the official Twitter account of The Colbert Report tweeted a short version of the joke: "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." Bad move. This attracted the ire of a 23-year-old freelance writer and hashtag activist named Suey Park, who gained prominence last year with the #NotYourAsianSidekick micromovement.
As he says, Suey Park is a "hashtag activist" so she invented one, and sent the Twitterverse into a frenzy:
The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals has decided to call for #CancelColbert. Trend it.
— Angry Asian Woman (@suey_park) March 27, 2014
About half of Twitter got behind Suey Park, cheering her on as a hero taking on a bully, and confused people from both the Right and the Left jumped on the Angry Asian train with vitriol directed at Colbert. The Conservatives and Libertarians who use hashtag #tcot jumped on the bandwagon because they hate his biting satire towards the GOP - they get the joke! They twisted Park's hashtag to attack the Left, thanks to Suey Park's overreaction.
Kinda fun to see unfunny leftie Dem court jester punk #Colbert get the treatment usually reserved 4 Conservatives. #tcot #p2 #cancelcolbert
— Deetz (@Dootster) March 28, 2014
If Colbert wasn't a left wing shill liberals would be shouting "racist" from the rooftops. #CancelColbert #tcot
— Polaris (@polaris01usa) March 29, 2014
Liberal racism is more insidious and more vile because it hides behind a veil of altruism. #CancelColbert #blacktwitter #tcot
— Ξ BLACK REPUBLICAN Ξ (@blackrepublican) March 29, 2014
#CancelColbert PROVES that all #Liberals are hypocrites; if a conservative made that comment, there would be congressional hearings #tcot
— Winston Smith (@WinstonS6079W) March 28, 2014
Suey Park was so naive she allied herself with Queen of Hate Michelle Malkin, also Asian-American but a rabid Fox News contributor who hates every other group on the planet. Malkin was more than happy to help Park lead the charge against Colbert.
Co-sign! RT @suey_park I'm sick of liberals hiding behind assumed "progressiveness" #CancelColbert
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) March 28, 2014
@3ambarbie @suey_park Well #CancelColbert is really #ExposeColbert & it's working very effectively. Luv the smell of hypocrisy toast.
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) March 28, 2014
Some people missed the point of both the Hashtag and the Uproar:
@scootey @MissFyeRed_ @Forever_Dusk @michellemalkin @suey_park Stephen Colbert is not a conservative
— Homer Sansom (@HomerSansom) March 28, 2014
Meanwhile, the rest of Twitter
mocked the nonsense of it all:
#CancelColbert - created by people that don't watch Colbert to begin with.
— Anomaly (@Anomaly100) March 28, 2014
Michelle Malkin wrote an entire book defending Japanese internment, but she's mad Colbert used a funny voice to mock racism? #CancelColbert
— YeaYouRite (@YeaYouRite) March 28, 2014
Republicans who call lazy people black, poor people latino and muslims terrorists tell us we need to #CancelColbert? pic.twitter.com/RCnT8NUz2P
— Christopher Zullo (@ChrisJZullo) March 29, 2014
#CancelColbert Here are the real RACIST: pic.twitter.com/wEKUXGqPNN
— crazylarry (@Madcap62Larry) March 29, 2014
WHY DON'T WE CANCEL MY COUSIN'S BIRTHDAY PARTY I DON'T WANT TO GO #CancelColbert #CancelSNL
— VERSACE TARGARYEN (@AntDiPalma) March 30, 2014
Bob Cesca of The Daily Banter summed up what happened in "When Hashtag Activism Totally Lost Its Narrative" :
In a recent interview, Colbert stated quite clearly that his role isn’t to prescribe solutions to problems, but instead to mock through exaggeration and caricaturization the people who are responsible for the problems. It’s difficult to think of another performer working in television today who’s been more effective at this task.
Now, sure, I concede that the name “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” is in and of itself offensive. But here’s the thing: it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be shocking in order to underscore how shocking it is, in Colbert’s view (the man’s, not the character’s), that “Redskins” is seriously the name of a professional football team in 2014. In other words, it was a spot-on comment about the shocking offensiveness of the word “redskins.” If his satirical charity wasn’t at all offensive, how could it ever adequately comment upon the offensiveness of “Redskins?”
Suey Park tried to explain that she sees Colbert as "The White Oppressor":
An interview the next day with Salon:
A lot of white America and so-called liberal people of color, along with conservatives, ask, “Do I understand context?” And that’s part of wanting to completely humanize the oppressor.
To see the white man as always reasonable, always pure, always deliberate, always complex and always innocent. And to see the woman of color as literal. Both my intent behind the hashtag and in my [unintelligible] distance, is always about forcing an apology on me for not understanding their context when, in reality, they misunderstood us when they made us a punch line again. So it’s always this logic of how can we understand whiteness better, and that’s never been my politics. I’ve always been about occupying the margins and strengthening the margins and what that means is that, for a long time, whiteness has also occupied the margins. Like, people of color get in circles with no white people in the room and we see that whiteness still operates. So I think it’s kind of a shock for America that whiteness has dominant society already, it also seeps into the margins. What happens the one time when the margins seep into the whiteness and we encroach on their space? It’s like the sky is falling.
. . . anything I say as a joke or in all seriousness gets dismissed. I must apologize, I must X, Y, Z. I will get rape and death threats for not thinking Colbert is funny, or for trying to crack my own jokes about race. And I think that’s unfair, cause in the same way he thinks Orientalism is backward and old, but he still uses it to make a point. For every time he does that, it should be more than justifiable for me to actually target the system of structural advantage that is whiteness and to be able to make jokes about white supremacists, which I do all the time in my work. I always paint my white characters to be singular, to be ignorant...
. . . Colbert did when he chose to ruin an opportunity to make a point about racism in America by using more racism. So he’s the one that destroyed an opportunity to shed light on Dan Snyder and the Redskins the moment that he chose to use Orientalism and a foreign accent to make his point. And so, I think in that sense, it’s Colbert that lacks context. It’s Colbert that doesn’t realize how he’s using racism as a vehicle to end racism, which is really just circular logic and doesn’t lead to an end destination of liberation, so I think if you are going to do it, you can’t draw parallels. Orientalism and genocide are actually not relative or comparable in social location.
Suey Park's revolution. This is so magical and perfect. http://t.co/GFKa3Rid8E pic.twitter.com/7z9Wwbh5GR
— Tom Gara (@tomgara) April 3, 2014
Suey Park also did an interview on HuffPost Live, and that turned out badly too, via WaPo:
Fireworks entered the picture when Park found problems with how Zepps was framing the issue of satire and racism: “I feel like it’s incredibly patronizing for you to paint these questions this way, especially as a white man. I don’t expect you to be able to understand what people of color are actually seeing with regard to #CancelColbert. He has a history of making jokes…”
Interrupting a touch, Zepps responded that being a white man doesn’t keep him from “being able to think.”
This wasn’t headed in a good direction. “Well, white men definitely feel like they’re entitled to talk over me,” said Park. “They definitely feel like they’re entitled to kind of minimalize my experiences…”
Zepps: “No one’s minimalizing your experiences, no one’s minimalizing your right to have an opinion,” he said, before amping up the scorn: “It’s just a stupid opinion.”
Park: “You just called my opinion stupid, you just called my opinion stupid. That’s incredibly unproductive. And I don’t think I’m going to enact the labor of explaining to you why it’s incredibly offensive and patronizing.”
In case anyone thought I was censoring Colbert, please know I was just talked down to, muted, and silenced by @joshzepps and @huffpostlive.
— Angry Asian Woman (@suey_park) March 28, 2014
Ahh, the righteousness of professional umbrage-takers. @suey_park wasn't muted or silenced. I invited her to explain herself & she declined.
— Josh Zepps (@joshzepps) March 28, 2014
You are so pathetic, @joshzepps.
— Angry Asian Woman (@suey_park) March 28, 2014
Colbert’s response to the #cancelcolbert thing is wonderful, as you’d expect. http://t.co/gnMNWguSHu
— Josh Taylor (@joshgnosis) April 1, 2014
Now, here's the "Revenge is Sweet" part of the saga that happened today as Colbert was being named the heir apparent to Letterman, and people rushed to point out the irony to Suey Park and other #CancelColbert aficionados in case they didn't get the joke again, LOL:
Now's the perfect moment to admit the #CancelColbert debate was the most hilarious controversy of all time: http://t.co/Rk6GR7AArG
— VICE (@VICE) April 4, 2014
Maybe on Stephen Colbert's new version of Letterman's Late Show, Suey Park can be the new "Larry Bud Melman".
— psychedelicatessen (@MentalRiot) April 10, 2014
The #CancelColbert people must have made a wish with one one those genies that takes things too literal. #StephenColbert
— Anthony Atencio (@Anthony_Marc_) April 10, 2014
Stephen Colbert is a BOSS ! <= Hey Teabags DO NOT Mess With This Man... Again ! LMFAO #CancelColbert <= PWNED #UniteBlue #LibCrib #tcot
— ElmObamaCarez (@lordxmen2k) April 10, 2014
EVERYONE QUICKLY FORM AN OPINION ON COLBERT FOR LATE SHOW AND BEGIN ARGUING ABOUT IT.
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) April 10, 2014
I really hope @suey_park launches a humorless, dimwitted campaign against me. I need a raise, and she's got the Midas touch #CancelColbert
— Kyle (@kylechristo4) April 10, 2014