#CancelColbert Undermines Satire as a Weapon Against Racism

Suey Park, the Twitter denizen who started the “Cancel Colbert” hashtag doesn’t think white men have the right to say anything about this topic. But I don’t care.

Those of you who’ve read my articles over the years know that I have a fairly well-tuned racism barometer. I’ve spent countless column-inches dissecting it, historically contextualizing it and generally doing my level best to shred it — whether it appears in the form of public remarks or attempts to exploit racial hatred in order to stir up white votes or all points in between.

But this “Cancel Colbert” hashtag campaign is utterly tone deaf in just about every way.

Stephen Colbert — the character and the man — has been satirizing right-wing Fox News hosts since 2005. It’s astonishing to me that there are people who still don’t get it. Actually, you know what? It’s not at all astonishing. Indeed, our exceedingly incurable addiction to outrage porn and social media pseudo-celebrity supersedes everything, especially satire.

Yes, there are a lot of people who aren’t wired to understand satire. It’s a shame because satire is really one of the best weapons against hatred and racism. Colbert, who’s responsible for some of the most consistently pointed satire in the history of television, is proof of the efficacy of this weapon.

In so many cases, the only way to truly illustrate ignorance is to exaggerate its absurdity. That’s precisely what Colbert is doing to conservative talkers, and it’s exactly what he did to Dan Snyder using the “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” joke, which, by the way, he’s used multiple times on the show for similar purposes, mainly at the expense of the outrageous character he’s playing. Without getting into the weeds of the Redskins controversy, if I was Snyder I’d feel pretty burned by Colbert’s joke right about now. Then again, Snyder’s incapable of normal human emotions, so all the more reason to pull no punches when satirizing him.

Stripping satire out of the hands of satirists will only hurt Ms. Park’s anti-racism cause, especially when it comes to Colbert whose use of satire is legendarily important. Likewise, taking aim at satirists in lieu of obvious and deliberate racists to focus upon also hurts her cause.

At the end of the day, I can’t help but to think of this as another example of how the hyperspeed nature of social media is hurting the discourse, encouraging both journalists and commenters to abandon reason for expedience and clicks. Honestly, it’s difficult to know whether Ms. Park is being deliberately obtuse for the sake of augmenting her social media status, or whether she really didn’t bother to understand the joke before she launched her ill-conceived campaign. Either option is equally egregious. Clearly she doesn’t appear to grasp the truism that satire of racism isn’t racism — in fact, it’s the enemy of racism.

Then again, there are Twitter followers to accumulate and attention to be had, so reality be damned.

Bob Cesca is the host of the Bob Cesca Show podcast, a twice weekly political talk show. He’s also a contributor to Salon.com. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.