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#CancelColbert, @sueypark and a letter to Twitter

Dear Twitter,

My old friend. Have you put on a little weight? It seems that way with all the amateur hams that comprise your membership. I’m sorry, that was a little harsh. I really do love your 140 character straightforwardness, pithy one-liners, and unparalleled power to ruin political and corporate careers through retweets. In all honesty, they sincerely make me smile. You should publish a Twitter Greatest Hits (call it Twitter Gold (I hold a copyright on that one)). You can start with this gem.

You’re usually super funny but, something about you has been irking me as of late. It seems that some of your amateur hams can’t take a joke, particularly satire. Your platform has made it a lot easier to: miss the point of a joke and give credence to opportunists.

Last week on March 28 one of your close friends, Twitter activist (Hashtivist? This is a real thing now) @sueypark went off the rails and accused my hero, Mr. Colbert, of racism. Racism! Incredible! He must have said something incredibly racist to be accused of racism. First, let’s take a moment to reflect on the rich history of racism. Quite the horrendous accusation yes? So what did he do you might ask?

I guess the evidence is pretty clear, Colbert is a racist. But maybe, just maybe, this Tweet made by @ColbertReport was taken out of context. You see Twitter, sometimes your messages get taken out of context. Weird I know, who would have thought that the full meaning of an idea can’t be conveyed in a 140 characters. If I were to see The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation or in my case, The Speedy González Foundation for Sensitivity to Wetback’s or Whatever, I would tell Mr. Colbert to “fuddle duddle, dat’s rassist”. It’s a perfectly legitimate response…to the untrained eye, or in this case, someone who has never experienced humour in their lives. Satire is sometimes hard to comprehend when you read a tweet so I’ve taken the liberty of showing you the original segment (American IP address needed, sorry Canada).

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/b6cwb3/sport-report—professional-soccer-toddler–golf-innovations—washington-redskins-charm-offensive

The @ColbertReport tweet was taken from a 5min 09 second bit on his March 28 show regarding the absurdity of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s continued resistance to changing an 82 year old racist team name by making a concession to Native Americans in the form of a foundation, while still keeping the name “Redskin”, a racial slur that has withstood the test of time and reason. It reminded me of the Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too except more racist. The point Colbert was making with his recurring Ching-Chong character* was to put the owners outlandish Foundation into perspective by giving an even more absurd simile. The term Redskins isn’t acceptable and neither is Ching Chong Ding Dong nor orientals.

The craziest thing happened after this tweet made your sphere, certain people misunderstood the point. In particular, one of your most vocal activists @sueypark, got incredibly offended:

And I get it. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between a real person and a well-known character based on a conservative out-of-touch-with-reality pundit that’s been on air for 9 years, it happens to the best of us. Especially when @StephenColbert is not the actual Twitter handle of the real Stephen Colbert.

But that didn’t deter @sueypark and her ragtag group of ardent supporters to suck the living life-force of a joke designed to point out a racist.

Yet, it would be irresponsible of me to bust your chops and completely ignore the actual influence of what your infinite wisdom (us mere mortals call it trending) distills to us from your most loyal and vocal prophets. I mean of course, activists like @sueypark. For better or worse, your eminence allows the thoughts of a select few to migrate to the wider interwebs, to television and eventually to the collective culture. There is value in the Arab Spring and I’ll even throw in #Kony2012 for good measure because for all my irritation for Hactivism, it would be incorrect to associate everyone one of your users as practitioners of Slacktivism.

But man, you did something special. You facilitated laziness in a way no one person could do. #CancelColbert demonstrated your uncanny ability to streamline our sense of context since we no longer have to be bothered with taking the time to conduct research; we can just see what’s trending and assume. But the really cool thing you do is that you made it easier for strange bedfellows to hop on a bandwagon. #CancelColbert became a powerful banner for Colbert’s bigoted conservative detractors like Michelle Malkin (author of In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror) can get behind

and the bigoted “defenders” of Colbert to spew their own racist vitriol and misogynistic sentiments towards @sueypark.

I worry about you sometimes Twitter. You harbor some instances of really high blood-pressure and extreme mood swings that spiral out of control. Those versed in environmentalism would call my concerns for you as a positive feedback loop. More crass, some (such as myself and fellow redditors) would call it an r/circlejerk. Academics that study our primate cousins would call it G-G rubbing. I don’t want to question the motives of activists who want to get their message out and share it with their own network of followers using your platform but, the level of opportunism of your selective outrage machine is almost inseparable. You allow for this behaviour. It becomes a sort of opportunism for ignorance to spread on remedial Satire 101, for others to make outlandish claims in order to make a self-serving splash and, for anonymous bigots to direct their bigotry at those who try to share their opinion.

I also understand from the point of view @sueypark in questioning the right of a non-minority like Stephen Colbert to use racial constructions to make a joke about racism. It’s a legitimate opinion to have because it bears repeating, I’m also a minority; I empathize. However, we of course have to take this to it’s logical conclusion by which nobody can partake in satire. Because why stop at a white-man or women from using racial constructions to make a point about racism, nobody else but those of Asian descent truly understands the plight of bigotry against Asians. This is probably why we take intent, history and the person performing satire into account. There is such a thing as poor satire but, expanding the logic of Dan Snyder to point out his hypocritical Foundation with another outrageous construction as Colbert has done is not poor satire.

Twitter, you’re starting to become a reason as to why we can’t have nice things. The way you operate allows for the meta-narrative of a brilliant satirist who made a brilliant satire against the actual racism of whitewashing, to be discussed for all the wrong reasons. You make it easy for the politically correct and thought police to amp up the aggression on a person who specializes in diffusing sensitive topics with such surgical precision by turning it into YHWH; something forbidden to be discussed. You allowed us to be distracted from asking ourselves “Wait, there’s a team called the Redskins?”. You let someone like Dan Snyder win by allowing his Foundation and Native American solidarity #Not4Sale to be consumed by the ether of Tyler, the Creator and Lady Gaga tweets.

Anyways, take care. I look forward to your trending topics such as the Venezuelan and Turkish protests.

Sincerely,

Louis Reyes

 

P.S. Here’s Colbert’s rebuttal and @sueypark’s interview with the Huffington Post regarding #CancelColbert. You’ll quickly learn that the most direct question you can ask someone is also apparently a loaded question.

P.P.S. What’s a #ZainMalikIsPerfect?

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