No, it’s not ironic sexism.

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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126 Responses

  1. Vikram Bath says:

    I showed the clip to my Chinese wife

    To be clear, I just have the one wife, and she happens to be Chinese.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:


    • Mike Schilling in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Yeah, like you can only pull one communications theory expert out of your pocket, and it just happens to be Marshal McLuhan.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Have you ever seen that thing that happens when a kid asks his mom for something, and she says no, so then he goes and asks dad, who says yes? Right, you’ve seen that?

      Minorities and women are not uniform in their opinions. Thus anytime there is some controversy like this, there will be some number of the target group who are not offended at all, who totally don’t get the offense, and in fact are happy to take the side of the privileged group. Unsurprisingly, the privileged people very much seem to favor these permissive folks over those who get upset. They see the permissive minorities as rational and the critical minorities as irrational and thin skinned.

      Obviously this is kinda messed up. I don’t see a solution.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        Also note that complaining comes at a cost to minorities, who are often further marginalized by the broad society, where contrastingly “good” minorities are often given rewards. Thus playing along becomes reinforced.

        Note, however, this often leads to the “false consciousness” discourse, which has its own dangers, since who gets to say that some particular person has “false consciousness” or a “colonized mind”? I am certainly not eager to tell any particular person that they have “false consciousness.” That way lies badness.Report

  2. Glyph says:

    Vikram, the butt of the original joke is the character “Stephen Colbert” getting caught on tape doing something racist. The butt is not Chinese people. It’s a general parody of any of the “hot mike” or unflattering photo incidents, or the later Paula Deen scandal.

    The later callbacks to this running joke all depend on the understanding by the viewer that the original Chinese impersonation *was* racist (on the *character’s* part), and each callback to that bit is another layer of self-deception/rationalization by *the character*, attempting to justify his original transgression.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

      IOW, you appear to be focusing on the bit’s caramel center, and ignoring the chocolate coating around it: the ‘frame’ with “Stephen Colbert” brazenly insisting that despite what bloggers might try to tell you, there’s nothing racist about the clip you are about to see. It’s a “who are you going to believe, liberal bloggers or your own lying eyes?” joke.Report

      • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        It is certainly true that the more you try to analyze comedy the less funny it becomes.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Glyph says:

        Insert E.B> White line about humor and dissecting frogs here.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Well, if I am being tedious I will just recuse myself from these threads.

        Full disclosure: I think Colbert’s pretty much a comic genius, a quick mind and good actor/performer and brilliant improviser, who LITERALLY spoke truth to power (the WH Correspondents Dinner), who is also by all accounts a regular family guy in his personal life. I think he’s more than earned the benefit of the doubt on these things.

        I probably should just skip these threads, because seeing what I consider comedy’s mechanics and purpose so consistently and thoroughly misunderstood, attempting to force that imp which revels in anarchy and transgression into one tidy social justice system or another, kinda frustrates me.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Glyph says:

        If that’s what came across in my comment, it was poorly delivered on my part. I was actually trying to agree with you.Report

      • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        I agree with you about Colbert but i’d add that his ben and jerry’s ice cream flavor is very good. If someone doesn’t “get” satire i’m not sure how you can explain it to them. I’ve tried, it never seemed to work well. I think the push back against Colbert either doesn’t get the obvious joke ( whcih you have spelled out) or is more concerned about ginning up rage. I’d say he has earned some, well a lot, of lee way also.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Sorry, I knew you guys pretty much were on the same page as me w/r/t the meat of it, it’s just that your comments made me think I was maybe being tedious in explaining it all. Over and over and over again. ;-). Maybe it just feels that way because it seems so obvious to me. The character, then and now, is all about “whitesplaining”. It’s what he is. It’s what he does.Report

      • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph Are you familiar with literally unbelievable ?

        What seems so obvious to some is completely undecipherable to others.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Glyph says:

        It’s a general parody of any of the “hot mike” or unflattering photo incidents, or the later Paula Deen scandal.

        @glyph , That didn’t occur to me. In my defense, I read the 60+ comments on Tod’s thread and a number of articles in a number of other places and nowhere did I see that point made, perhaps because everyone was focused on defending the tweeted joke rather than discussing the segment as a whole and its history.

        I admit that that interpretation does cause me to significantly revise my conclusion, especially in view of Trizzlor’s Rush Limbaugh link below. If I had found that one myself, I probably wouldn’t have written the second half of this post.

        I haven’t computed how much of my argument needs revision, but I do think I need to retract at least 90% of my criticism of Colbert himself.Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Glyph says:

        It took me a little bit to remember it, but the “Stephen’s Racial Slurs” bit you linked to is actually a direct reference to Don Imus’ commenting that black basketball players were “nappy-headed ho’s”; including a splice of Colbert into the Imus/Lauer interview.

        I guess this is in part confusion arising with any daily, topical parody show. Where a character that pops-up every few years in direct response to an egregious event which happened that day, appears very different when played back-to-back and without any of the relevant context. Not being a frequent Colbert viewer I hadn’t noticed this at first, but each of the bits (including the Redskins one) is also primarily about the speaker’s tone-deaf non-apology rather than the racist statement itself. Which reinforces the point Glyph was making above, that the target of the joke is intended to be the complete lack of self-awareness of the speaker and not the racist trope (lack of self-awareness also being Colbert’s defining characteristic).Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @vikram-bath – of course, to make the bit even more meta, part of “Stephen Colbert”‘s proffered defense against charges of racism in the original bit is that Ching-Chong is a character (played by “Stephen Colbert”), and that those were the Ching-Chong character’s words, not “Stephen Colbert”‘s (who happens to be played by Stephen Colbert).

        That is, he’s additionally poking fun at the “it’s not the creator being racist, it’s just a fictional character’s views” defense.

        Which, for those who often wish to treat unpleasant fictional characters as definitively indicative of their creators’ views, should theoretically be manna.

        Brilliant, really. He’s having it all ways.

        It’s all funhouse mirrors, even leaving aside the fact that it may have a specific real-world precedent in Limbaugh.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Glyph says:

        Oooh. I missed that as well. Thank you for not giving up on the comments, Glyph!Report

  3. greginak says:

    I’m searching through my How to Be a Liberal Manual which i must memorize and pray with. I’m not actually seeing the liberals can’t be sexist, racist. Are you sure you aren’t reading that out of the cartoon version?

    But more seriously many to most liberals, when not adjusting our hipster clothing we must wear, would say we live in society suffused with racism, sexism so we all have some level of it. No one is perfect or free of the nasty bilge of the society we swim in. What matters is trying to work at being better and starting to see today what we couldn’t see yesterday.

    I’ll admit to being shocked, shocked i say, that other members of my tribe have been clueless, dense, sexist, racist, etc. Someday i’ll have to find a political grouping with people who don’t actually share any of the bad qualities that people have.

    Hipster? sigh. Hipster only exists now as a lazy cultural stereotype for everybody to hate based mostly on fashion choices.Report

    • zic in reply to greginak says:

      From the ‘hip’ at the beginning, I presume ‘hipster punching’ is the new hippie punching.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to zic says:


        Pretty much only more so because hipsters are seen as lacking in earnestness.

        Everyone hates hipsters including hipsters. I wasn’t alive during the 60s so I can’t say if the statement everyone hates hippies including hippies was also true.

        Hipsters seem to be hated on for the classic reason of “trying too hard” and coming off with varying degrees of silliness and absurdity while doing so. It doesn’t help that Normal Mailer originally coined the term hipster to be an insult and used it to describe upper-middle class white young people who embraced the jazz/bebop culture of the early to mid-50s. This was the pre-rock era.

        I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone self-describe themselves as hipster even people who live in hipster central neighborhoods like the Mission and Williamsburg/Greenepoint and dress in a completely hipster fashion.

        Yet hipsters seem to spur semi-serious to serious intellectual inquiries:

      • greginak in reply to zic says:

        Hipster is a nebulous term defined mostly to find someone to dislike. Is it fashion? Who cares about flannel and t-shirts. Irony? Its been around for a long time and use by far more people then those wearing hipster clothes. Because its a label everybody hates and is supposed to hate that really suggests its a played out, lazy label to throw out some bad bunch of people somewhere out there.Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:


        If Bill Evans and Chet Baker were hipsters, then all I can say is I’ll give up being a hippie for being a hipster any day.

        Mostly, though, I’ve seen it as a way to look on Gen Y, who we’ve pretty much screwed, economically, with disdain. (Said as a baby boomer, a member of the ultimate moocher generation.)Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

        Hipsters may dress as badly as hippies, but at least they don’t wear patchouli. That should earn them some restraint from our fists.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to zic says:

        I like hipsters. The girls do that cool retro-femme thing, which sends my girlish heart into a tizzy, and the dudes almost always gender me correctly. (A few even flirt. Which, yay!)Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:


        Pretty much only more so because hipsters are seen as lacking in earnestness.

        Says who? Are they lacking in earnestness? Or are they so often the victim of hippie punching that they don’t even bother revealing their earnestness? If some of the stuff I read here is any indication, purchasing fair-trade coffee can’t be done earnestly; it’s all about the signaling, not about actual concern for the health and well being of people who own or work on coffee farms. And this kind of rude trash talk is pretty common in association with anyone perceived as a hipster.

        So you’ll excuse me for thinking that most of the hipster-punching that goes down is more revealing about the person throwing the punches then it is about the folks getting punched.

        And @jm3z-aitch as an aging hippie chick, I’m 100% with you on the patchouli. Musk, and incense, too.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:


        I actually kind of like hippie chicks if they shower, don’t wear patchouli, and refrain from saying “don’t hate us because we’re beautiful.”Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        Treating the preferences of others that we do not share as insincere is pretty much a human universal. That it is disproportionately aimed at people whose preferences display social consciousness is an excellent way to discourage social consciousness.

        Of course, any libertarians who assume that people who buy fair trade coffee are just signaling should remember how many people believe their preferences are insincere expressions of FYIGM.Report

      • Glyph in reply to zic says:

        Aw come on. Dressing up like a cross between an olde-tyme carnival barker and “Where’s Waldo” can’t possibly be earnest.Report

      • greginak in reply to zic says:

        Having david lee roth as an avatar can’t possibly be earnest.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to zic says:

        @glyph — I think you’re joking, but it is kind of a messed-up, broken sort of joke.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        What Chris said. It is– apparently – a part of human nature. But self-awareness is also a part of human nature.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to zic says:

        @stillwater +1

        (And can I steal that?)Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        Speaking of irony, our level of self-awareness has an often ironic relationship with our strong tendency to see others through the lens of our own self-perception.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        I can see why you’d think that.Report

      • Glyph in reply to zic says:

        it is kind of a messed-up, broken sort of joke.

        I’ll try to do better next time. Unfortunately, the three-volume Comedy as Oppression: Knock-Knock Theory and Praxis (Derrida, 1967, 975 pages) hasn’t yet come in on my inter-library loan request, and The Big Pamphlet of Social Justice Humor (Shroomsky, 1995, 1.5 pages) sadly wasn’t much help.

        @greginak Having david lee roth as an avatar can’t possibly be earnest.

        You’re damn right! I chose the avatar because A. it entertains me and B. I hope it might entertain others.

        But if it doesn’t – if people think it’s stupid, or annoying, or whatever – I can live with that. That’s just part and parcel of intentionally choosing a goofy representation.

        Bear in mind that my gentle poking fun at (one type of) hipster fashion (not “ethics”, whatever that is) is rooted in both love and shame – for better or worse, they’s my people, however much I might try to deny it.

        I may have mentioned that I spent some time as a teenage goth.

        In the South.

        In the 1980s.

        There’s a picture somewhere of me in full Robt. Smith mode – makeup, smeared lipstick, frightwig hair, the whole nine yards – exiting a closet.*

        Now, in that scene, there were those who dressed like that because costumes and finery and dressing up is just plain fun – you know, ‘every day is Halloween’; while some ostensibly dressed that way because ‘black is how they felt on the inside, man’.

        But no matter their professed motivation, it was always annoying when they’d take offense to being ogled by the passerby. “Why are they staring?!”

        Well, they are staring because it’s 95 degrees in the shade, and you’re dressed like a bat on the sidewalk in front of the Baskin-Robbins.

        If you choose to wear unusual fashion, you can’t complain when you draw attention for it (especially when attention is what you are seeking – like, say, with a silly Star of DLR), nor expect all reviews to be positive.

        Hell, I STILL have my “Tommy Stinson” jacket (stripey zoot suit type jacket) and used to wear it into the (very fashion-conservative) office in fall sometimes, as an adult. Some people loved it and thought it stylish. Some people thought it ridiculous and hideous, and that I must be joking.

        Either way, ain’t no skin off my nose.

        *This picture probably caused some trepidation in my conservative family at the time; has provided some comedic value since; and could provide blackmail material to my enemies, if it is ever located.Report

      • greginak in reply to zic says:

        @glyph Just to be clear, the DLR comment was a gentle fun type poke. I’m not a fan of his but i also don’t care about him either. I was a college radio guy in teh 80’s so i knew a lot of people who dressed funky. Going to see bands in NY was another world.Report

      • Kim in reply to zic says:

        You ain’t trolled a hipster until you’ve designed (and convincingly aged) a fake 1950’s movie poster (to a movie that doesn’t exist) — and then had the hipster wax lyrical about the movie, and pay exhorbitant amounts of money for said “rare” poster.

        [Yes, this may be a bit much effort — but at least you get some dinero for it.]Report

      • veronica dire in reply to zic says:

        @glyph says,

        If you choose to wear unusual fashion, you can’t complain when you draw attention for it

        Can I complain when people gawk at me? And what precisely does “complain” mean in this context?Report

      • Glyph in reply to zic says:

        @veronica-dire – In my comment, I provided plenty of context for what I was discussing/making lighthearted fun of – a particular style of ‘hipster’ fashion, compared with my own fashion sense and history. My comment is an attempt to reflect my own experiences, viewpoint and history, not yours.

        If you want to draw a parallel between me making some lighthearted fun of hipster fashion and your own life, feel free – but to me it’s pretty clear that these are entirely different things. Hipsters aren’t some persecuted minority in need of someone’s defense (LGBTQIAH?). They are just some people wearing some (to me, subjectively, and sometimes) goofy fashions. Nobody’s oppressing them, or refusing to rent them an apartment because they are wearing high-waisted pants accessorized with a Gentle Ben beard, waxed mustache and horn-rimmed glasses. They’ll be just fine, and can take some gentle ribbing I’m sure. Lord knows I did.

        I’m sure you never negatively comment on anyone’s fashion sense or style, right? How do you feel about baseball caps on ‘bro-dudes’? Those pass without comment from you?Report

      • veronica dire in reply to zic says:

        @glyph — Oh, and allow me to add: your point applies to this entire conversation. For certainly if you make you career out of saying racist things, even if they are “satire,” can you really complain when a certain number of minorities get pissed?

        You get that right? The “What did you expect?” argument works far and wide.

        If a woman wears a short skirt… (I don’t need to complete that thought.)

        So, yeah, if you dress goth in suburbia, you get looked at. If you stand out anywhere, you get looked at.

        (I recall once I saw a dude in a “Who is John Galt?” tee shirt in a bar in Cambridge, MA. I must confess, I gawked a bit.)

        And teenagers are exploring identities, thus pointing out the fact their viewpoints lack nuance is like pointing out grass is green.

        But then again, “freaking the mundanes” can be a useful activity, but it can also get tiring on those days when the mundanes get a bit too freaked. And it goes round and round.

        None of us are above it.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to zic says:

        @glyph — Well, thing is, can you expect to act smugly superior to my friends and not have me call you on it.

        What did you expect? You can’t complain! Right?Report

      • Kim in reply to zic says:

        I think comedians may say waht they like. People may get upset. But a comedian wears a bowtie for a reason, if you know what I mean. Comedians have a responsibility to Make Good Jokes that Make People Laugh. If you’re going to touch a sensitive subject, better work harder on the joke.

        Anytime a comedian touches a sensitive subject, you better believe they’ve worked hard on the joke. are they still going to offend someone? Yup!

        Laughter is a tool to free us from fear and pain.Report

      • Kim in reply to zic says:

        Complains are fine. Just please don’t kill the Comedians!Report

      • Glyph in reply to zic says:

        FWIW, I think it’s obvious from my comment that I meant no harm to ‘hipsters’ (won’t someone PLEASE think of the hipsters!) and in fact feel much solidarity with them, having been accused of hipsterishness and other variants myself on more than one occasion; nor would anyone sensibly argue that any harm accrued to hipsters as a result of my jape.

        I will leave this exchange now, and let others make their own judgements w/r/t my ‘smug superiority’ from the thread and my commenting history.

        The American Hipster Association monitored this comment. No hipster was harmed in the posting of this comment.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to greginak says:

      Are you sure you aren’t reading that out of the cartoon version?

      Not actually a caricature!

      From the bitchmagazine link,

      This includes women posing for the male gaze (but ironically!) in ads, creepy sexual predators continuing to amass cultural capital even though they’re awful, popular tv shows that normalize calling your sister a “skank,” and basically any time someone has sexually harassed you or told you to get back in the kitchen BUT AS A JOKE.

      Over at Racialicious, we have plenty of people participating in Kill Whitie parties and Blackface Jesus.

      • Glenn Gould in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        My Alchemy professor always said, “We all have three distinct selves. 1–who others think we are. 2–who we think we are. 3–who we really are.”

        When you think of it, sort of like the cosmic background wave radiation that’s getting all the raves lately.Report

      • I think another more recent example of would be the Deadspin article titled “Gooks Don’t Get Redskins Joke”.

        Is that title satire?Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        As the two authors of that post are themselves Korean-Americans, I’m gonna say yeah.Report

      • I’d need a step-through on that. I do understand it to be a joke. But for it to be satire, that humor needs to expose some other truth. Glyph was able to explain that to me for Colbert when I didn’t see it before, so I recognize the possibility that I am again being dense.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Does satire need to expose greater truth? Sincere question. I have always thought it as being something you use to expose absurdity or stupidity. Which can expose a greater truth (Colbert’s WH Correspondents Dinner) but doesn’t necessarily have to (most of Monty Python’s satire).

        There’s an interesting interview with Park where she makes the argument that in order for something to by funny, it has to mock something “above” it. So, like, a straight woman can’t mock a white gay man, but a black gay man can let loose — but that white gay man can’t make jokes back, but can absolutely be as cruel as he wants with the white woman.

        I get where this comes from, and if I’m being honest I tend to do that to some extent. I have an easier time mocking a rich celebrity talking head on Fox than I do some young kid who’s blogging on politics, and I have an easier time mocking that kid tun I do a homeless advocate. I can’t even comprehend under what circumstances I would mock someone who is developmentally disabled.

        Still, the absolutist position punch-up/punch-down feels wrong to me, and the constant jockeying of position of who is and isn’t “above” someone else in society seems problematic and icky for all kinds of reasons.

        I wish there were a way we could breed conservatives’ stated desire to just treat all people as people with liberals’ understanding that we don’t actually do that right now, and try to speed up the whole “can’t we all just get along” thing.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        in order for something to be funny, it has to mock something “above” it.

        So someone at the bottom can mock anyone at all, which is one hell of a privilege. Is it OK to mock him for that?Report

      • Does satire need to expose greater truth? Sincere question. I have always thought it as being something you use to expose absurdity or stupidity.

        I think it needs to expose a truth about *something*. Otherwise it’s just a joke. And the distinction is important because when a truth is being exposed, I think we should give the deliverer a wider birth than we otherwise would. That’s why I don’t think I’ve ever been offended by people like George Carlin or Louis CK. The points they make serve as justification for the horribleness of what they are saying. If they were just joke-tellers, I might be offended by some of their stuff.

        There’s an interesting interview with Park where she makes the argument that in order for something to by funny, it has to mock something “above” it.

        That strikes me as mostly wrong if it is intended to be taken as a maxim. It is true that there are more situations in which a white gay man can mock a straight white woman than vice versa, but I think it’s more a result of practically speaking what is likely to be funny rather than a moral principle as I assume Park would have been suggesting.

        I do think she is right that those “lower” on the scale have more latitude with what they say that can be funny, but that doesn’t make everything they say OK nor does it mean that someone “higher” can never make a joke about them.

        At any rate, the Deadspin headlines calls Asians that they don’t like and pan in the article “gooks”. That they got two Koreans to say it doesn’t really impress me, and I’m surprised it would impress you.

        Again, I recognize it to be a joke. It is meant to be ironic racism and therefore not actually count. But I linked to the article as evidence that there are people who think liberals can’t be racist. At a minimum, this seems to be evidence that there are people (including you) who think Koreans can’t be racist (at least not toward other Asians).

        Of course, my critique goes away if you can point the satire out to me.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @vikram-bath Oh, it doesn’t impress me; it seems really troll-y and page-hitty.

        But it does show up on my radar as a different kind of troll-y and page-bitty than if it had been two white guys.Report

      • Kim in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        What greater truth is being shown by running a blatantly anti-Semitic character on a comedy show?Report

      • Kim,
        I assume you’re referring to Louis CK. The reason his anti-Semitic humor works for me as satire is that he presents it in such a way as to highlight the baselessness of anti-Semitism. “No Jews allowed” for him is indistinguishable from “Nobody wearing green hats allowed.” The focus of a lot of his work is him exploring why things are and where our beliefs come from, and he does a better job than most at showing that anti-Semitism is a belief that is bizarre and seems to have arisen out of virtually nothing.

        Let me say also that this is very different than if he were to simply make an anti-Semitic joke with the joke simply being to shock people while seeking refuge in the belief that everyone should know that he isn’t really being serious. That would be ironic humor rather than satire and would incur all the problems I wrote about above about not being funny enough to justify what he would be doing.Report

  4. Tod Kelly says:

    @vikram-bath , I suspect that our disagreement about humor can be pinpointed to this quote from the OP:

    “What point of liberalism is being advanced here? “

    I get that this is part of the process you go through to decide whether or not something’s funny, and that’s cool. But I confess I find it bizarre.

    I wonder, now, is the light bulb joke in Raising Arizona held up to this same standard? I can’t find a clip of it, and it may not make sense unless you have seen the movie at one point — but if you have seen it, here is the transcript. (Note: Glen is H.I.’s obnoxious boss):

    Glen: Hey, how many Polacks it take to screw up a lightbulb?
    H.I.: I don’t know, Glen. One?
    Glen: Nope, it takes three.
    [Glen laughs at his own joke. H.I. doesn’t. There is a long pause.]
    Glen: Wait a minute, I told it wrong. Here, I’m startin’ over: How come it takes three Polacks to screw up a lightbulb?
    H.I.: I don’t know, Glen.
    Glen: [Glen pauses, having clearly forgotten the punch line. Then:] ‘Cause they’re so darn stupid!
    [Glen laughs again. H.I. doesn’t]

    Leaving aside the question of whether or not one found this bit funny in the movie (and ftr, I did), you will note a lack of demand that the Cohen brothers not be allowed to continue making motion pictures — nor to my knowledge has there ever been, and I would bet a lot of money that neither Vikram nor anyone else would demand it now, having been shown the transcript, nor would they condemn it in the same way they do the Colbert bit. This despite the fact that it is actually the exact same joke as Colbert’s, stolen and repackaged.

    But let’s zoom out a bit further.

    What, exactly, is the objection of the Colbert joke? The stated reason is that it may/does offend people. But that’s actually somewhat disingenuous. No one, as far as I can tell, has said anything about how the bit makes fun of conservatives, or rednecks — indeed, pretty much everyone I have seen object on this site is actually ok with those groups being mocked, and most join in when they can. So I call foul, and submit it really isn’t about whether or not a joke might offend someone.

    I would argue that the real objection here circles back to the quote I started this comment off with:

    “What point of liberalism is being advanced here? ”

    Which is to say that the objection isn’t really about either humor or politeness at all. It’s being used as a signaling device, and a way to paint what kinds of people are and are not acceptable to a particular tribe. Asians — like African Americans, as Vikram pointed out — are a politically protected group of people within a certain sphere; conservatives and poor white trash are not. Of course, another group (paging Ms. Palin and Mr. Beck!) might do the reverse: making fun of poor white trash for them is a reason to call a press conference and demand rolling heads, while objecting to jokes about African Americans is “playing the race card.”

    At the end of the day, these type of “but it offends” arguments are arguments against satrire itself — because satire doesn’t exist in vacuums, it exists to poke at things. There is no such thing as satire that does or doesn’t offend, there is only satire that does or doesn’t offend people you are happy enough to offend. Declaring who should have to put up with being offended and who should be declared privileged and never have to face potential offense has nothing to do with humor, or for that matter politeness; it has to do with power and control.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      The signaling theory is an intriguing one.

      I would counter that Asians–particularly the Asians in the segment–are not symmetric with conservatives, or liberals actually. I think we all can understand that making fun of someone with a disability should not be treated in polite discourse the same way as making fun of someone who is unusually tall. It is actually possible to be funny doing both, but the circumstances under which the former is considered acceptable are much more limited than the latter. And that isn’t just because of signaling but because jokes require that emotional distance.

      I do find the joke you quote funny as do I find plenty of humor in Louis CK’s Jew-bashing. And now with Glyph’s and Trizzlor’s comments, I do see how Colbert’s joke is equivalent. But I didn’t see that when I saw the clips linked, and I didn’t understand what he was doing in the 2005 clip. Maybe that makes me an unusually dense person. I have to admit that it’s a possibility because I haven’t seen anyone anywhere bring up the same concern I did.Report

  5. trizzlor says:

    Colbert’s character is based on Bill O’Reilly. Does Bill O’Reilly do racist impersonations on his show? Even if he did, are you sure you’re laughing at Colbert impersonating O’Reilly impersonating a stereotypical Asian? Is that meaningfully different than Colbert directly impersonating a stereotypical Asian if Colbert makes no reference to O’Reilly?

    I think the Rush Limbaugh Speaks Chinese bit offers some context here. I can’t say what everyone will find funny about the bit – lots of people though Borat was an incisive take-down of the Jewish people – but it seems like Colbert does indeed use the Ching-Chong character only in instances where it is parodying actual racist bits done by conservative pundits.Report

    • FridayNext in reply to trizzlor says:

      Also, while his bit is based on making fun of conservative pundits (not just Bill O’Reilly, but also Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, etc, but primarily Billo) not every single joke is aimed at them and only them. Last I heard, for example and as I note below, Mickey Rooney and Blake Edwards, while regretting they portrayed Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s the way they did, neither one has truly owned up to what they did to Japanese Americans with that portrayal and Rooney specifically has “forgiven” those who take offense. (Mighty nice of him)

      So even if you cannot find an exact instance of a conservative pundit in general or O’Reilly in particular making precisely this type of point but in seriousness, there are plenty of other examples in our culture to draw from that do.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to trizzlor says:

      @trizzlor , that was very helpful. Thank you.Report

  6. Even though I agree with much of the pushback Vikram has received, I think he has a point. (full disclosure: I haven’t watched any of the clips since this whole controversy started, and that includes the ones embedded in the OP.)

    I do think that, for example, the modest proposal that Britons might just as well eat Irish babies because they (the Britons) are already treating the Irish so horribly anyway is good satire and if it’s offensive at all that’s because what the British were doing was offensive. Fair point. But I don’t think the offensivenvess is completely reducible to that. I think it is possible to be one in whose interests the satire is stated and one who groks the satire, and yet to find the satire offensive.

    I think almost any comedy has a sharp edge that’s going to cut along some line, and that cut hurts. I sometimes adopt the hipster-ironic-satirical tone in some of the jokes I tell (and I almost never tell them online because the internet doesn’t convey the tone very well), but to be frank, I know my own heart enough to know that those jokes aren’t wholly ironic.

    Now, that’s just me, and since I’m not going to give you any concrete examples to illustrate you’ll have to take my word for it that it applies to me. Alsotoo, just because it applies to me doesn’t mean it applies to others or to Colbert, and I realize that Vikram is critical of the “we can know the intentions behind the speaker” critique of the ironist.

    But, but, but…..something’s there that’s not entirely good and that’s cruel to the marginalized even if the meta-argument of the humor is to challenge or mock the system that does the marginalizing. So even if I don’t fully agree with Vikram, I think his argument and his OP are necessary reminders of one cost of the irony that’s not always fully acknowledged.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      I guess the question is, when is an imitation of a representation (in this case, racist caricature) equivalent to the representation itself?

      The whole running joke of “Colbert” going to increasingly ludicrous lengths to justify/deny his clueless racism, depends on having something that looks a lot like racism at its base (in this case, the supposed “leaked satellite feed footage”). Without it, the joke doesn’t work. Like the irritating grain of sand at the center of a pearl, if considered on its own it just looks like dirt.Report

      • Pierre Corneille in reply to Glyph says:

        I agree, but here’s an answer to your “when” question to ponder: the movie “Blazing Saddles.”

        To me, the main character, who is black, is performing a style of minstrelsy. And I think we’d agree that minstrelsy, in itself, is racist because of its history and because it involves racist caricature.

        In the movie, however, I think it’s pretty clear that the joke is on the white characters who are taken in by the minstrelsy. Like the character who tries to make a Polish joke in Tod’s example, most of the white characters in Blazing Saddles are dumber than the protagonist, except maybe Gene Wilder’s character, who is an ally of the protagonist (and even then, he’s not really “smarter” but “just as smart” as the protagonist).

        In my view, then, the movie is an attempt to scour racists. But I wouldn’t give it a pass on that score and I wouldn’t blame someone for being offended. Perhaps I feel this way because using black minstrelsy to counteract black racism is something a lot harder to do than using Asian minstrelsy to counter anti-Asian racism. Another reason I feel this way: The movie seems to enjoy it a little too much. In my opinion it’s a takedown of racism, but it’s not completely one and it’s drawing on racist caricatures for laughs

        Yet another possible (and related to the last) reason I feel this way: Brooks’s movies tend not to be quite so meta that it’s easy to see how a racist moviegoer who just doesn’t get the joke might enjoy the movie because of the racist caricatures. Maybe then the joke is on the moviegoer, but Brooks gets the profit nonetheless and something untoward is reproduced, at least from the perspective of some.

        You could counter that people oughtn’t go to a Mel Brooks movie and expect to be free of satire. And you’d be right. You could also argue that a producer/director/comedian oughtn’t be held responsible for every type of (mis)interpretation one might get from one’s work. And you’d be right again.

        And finally, you could argue that even if what I say about Brooks is true of him, then the analogy doesn’t hold for Colbert. And mark three: you’re right again. I haven’t watched Colbert in years (no cable TV), but I used to and I loved it, and one of the reasons I loved it was that he was good at his satire. And I have little doubt that this instance is just a continuation of that.Report

      • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        I don’t think it’s black minstrelsy. I think it’s just Richard Pryor doing his brand of humor. Reminding people that all that happy-do westerns meant a whole hell of a lot of racism, that folks were just sorta ignoring.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      I sometimes adopt the hipster-ironic-satirical tone in some of the jokes I tell (and I almost never tell them online because the internet doesn’t convey the tone very well), but to be frank, I know my own heart enough to know that those jokes aren’t wholly ironic.



      This kind of honesty is priceless.

      And I so wish that the folks who enjoy this style humor would admit that the racist elements are central, that this is functioning to some degree as forbidden fruit, things that are bad when those bad-hearted conservatives do them, but somehow magically good when we good-hearted liberals do them.

      And yay being a liberal ’cause we can ironically use the n-word and no one can complain!

      And if anyone does complain, we’ll just empower the shit out of them until they shut up.

      Somehow this elevates the discourse or something.Report

  7. Mike Schilling says:

    Part of what makes Colbert-the-character imitating a “stereotypical Asian” funny is that the stereotype is decades out of date, so Colbert-the-character is clueless even when he’s being racist. (Nowadays, the stereotype would be something like a nerdy CS major who’s miserable because all the girls he likes are dating white guys. ) This is pointed, because it makes him the same kind of douchebag as Dan Snyder.

    Random observations:

    My kids are half-Asian, and they love this stuff the same way Vikram’s wife does. One of their favorite YouTube comedians is a young Asian guy who imitates a heavily accented tiger-mom type.

    Colbert’s Asian accent is a lot like that of Michael Scott’s character Ping. Colbert and Carrell are friends who used to appear together on the Daily Show, so I don’t know whether that’s coincidence or not.Report

    • greginak in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Good point i hadn’t thought of. Colbert’s stereotype is as outdated as a Charlie Chan movie.Report

      • FridayNext in reply to greginak says:

        Or Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffanies. And last I read, Rooney thinks people who are offended by his portrayal of Yunioshi are the victims of a big misunderstanding.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        You’re exactly right — it’s a Charlie Chan accent. Colbert-the-character is actually imitating a Swedish actor imitating a Chinese guy. (The same way that Mayor Quimby on the Simpsons isn’t really a JFK imitation, it’s a Vaughn Meader imitation.)Report

  8. Mike Schilling says:

    Notice that this definition forces us to make assumptions about the psychology of the actor. The person making the derogatory comments believes that the comments would be wrong if they were not said ironically.

    That’s true of anything said ironically or sarcastically. For instance, in a comment to Jason’s post about the state and the clan, I said:

    I’m wondering now about the relationship between the love of exit rights and the belief that (trivia like slavery aside) the Confederates were the good guys.

    I don’t think that by using the word “trivia” sarcastically to voice my disgust with the moral obtuseness of Confederate apologists, I expressed any sneakily disguised sympathy with them.Report

  9. Shazbot9 says:

    Sorry I didn’t read the whole post.

    Isn’t Colbert making fun of racists who try to defend themselves with absurd rationalizations by pretending to be such a racist himself and heighten the absurdity?

    That strikes me as different from a car company (or beer company) that create a hyperbolically sexist ad that doesn’t clearly make fun of a sexist.

    There is nothing wrong with parodying racists and sexists if the joke is clearly on them. If the joke is “look at how silly racism or sexism is when it is exaggerated” the person making the joke might think that non-exaggerated racism or sexism is fine. And given that car and beer companies use subtle (or not super exaggerated anyway) sexism all the time, it isn’t implausible that this is true.

    Indeed, if it isn’t clear that you are making fun of the racist or the sexist -as it was in Colbert’s case- then you might very well be trying to make light of the people who believe that subtler sexism is a real and serious problem. “Oh those feminists think all beer and car commercials are like this silly over-the-top sexist one. They are really crazy those feminists. Ahahahaha.”Report

  10. NobAkimoto says:

    How would Colbert’s clip been received if Colbert founded the Coon Foundation for African Advancement or Whatever and then played a clip of him speaking ebonics, eating fried chicken washed down with grape soda, and drowning because someone left a watermelon too close to the swimming pool?

    Probably pretty well if the point of the clip was (like this one) to parody say, Donald Rumsfeld claiming he wasn’t being racist when he called President Obama an ape.Report

    • NobAkimoto in reply to NobAkimoto says:

      More specifically, I think part of the point of this whole thing is that the Colbert character is racist despite the claims to the contrary, and part of the joke is mocking people who do/say racist things then make up absurd excuses for their behavior.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to NobAkimoto says:

        I don’t think it can be used as a foolproof blanket, but I acknowledge that it provides quite a bit of cover. Part of why the Rush Limbaugh link helped so much was because it showed that Colbert’s impression was if anything a more subtle version of the people he was satirizing. (Of course, the chronology is reversed for that example, but it is good enough for me to be happy with Colbert once more.Report

  11. NewDealer says:


    Re: Hipsters lacking in earnestness

    Says almost everyone but I admit that this is highly subjective and impossible to prove.

    Hipsters became known for liking things “ironically” and these were usually things that previous generations of young city-dwellers fled from.

    A lot of this ironic liking is the appropriation of what would have normally been called white-working class fashions and likes. This includes stuff like trucker’s hats, more tattoos, PBR, t-shirts from the 1970s that say Wheatonville Wisconsin Highschool Softball Team (the wearer is too young, potentially didn’t grow up anywhere near Wheatonville Wisconsin and never played softball)

    The above is a link to a bar in San Francisco. Obviously the bar is called Buckshot. The decor is like a working class bar from a semi-rural town in the 1970s midwest plus the videogame buckshot which is a hunting simulation. The posters on the walls are stuff like velvet portraits of nude women from the 1970s. Basically everything we consider to be kitschy and campy and in bad taste about the 1970s but now appreciated from an “ironic” distance. Or is it? Maybe most of these San Francisco hipsters grew up in the working class midwest and have a liking for their hometown kitsch. I don’t know it is tough to tell.

    I do know that people have often told me that the differences they see between me and hipsters is that they think I sincerely and enthusiastically like my high brow and artsy/avant-garde culture but many hipsters only say they like it in order to seem cool. In other words, hipsters are posers. I’ve been told this independently and by many people.

    Re: Norman Mailer

    I don’t think he was talking about Chet Baker or Bill Evans by non-musician white kids who would go to jazz clubs and try to be tough and urban during after work hours or on the weekend and then flee to safety and their corporate lives or college lives.Report

    • greginak in reply to NewDealer says:

      ND- What is the difference between nostalgia and ironic liking? How do you tell the difference between someone liking something ironically vs. honestly? Haven’t people been enjoying things from previous generations for, well, generations?Report

      • NewDealer in reply to greginak says:

        Can you have nostalgia for a time period before you were born?

        I suppose you can but the 1970s random high school t-shirts have always been perplexing to me.

        I think the ironic liking is done as a distancing of some sort. They don’t really want to turn back the clock or think that things were better in the 1970s. It is a form of having your cake and eating it as well.

        The nostalgist wants to turn back the clock or does think that things were really better/cooler back during X. This is the kid in high school who listens to rock from the 1960s exclusively. As far as I can tell, almost every high school has a group of people who would prefer to have been teenagers or young adults during a different generation.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Part of the media environment we’ve lived in for pretty much all our lives is that we have tons of videos, music, pix, etc from past generations. Even for times as distant as ww2 and the 50’s we have not just hwood movies and tv shows but home movies, memoirs, pix, magazines among other things. Just last night i was watching a couple of collections of tv show intros from the 70’s and part of a tv sci fi movie from 1971 all on youtube. The past is always distant and different from us, but we have so much access to parts of the past now it can still be very present.Report

    • zic in reply to NewDealer says:

      Okay. So all those cowgirls down south (who’ve never worked a cattle drive, let alone milked a cow, but wear cowboy boots, western shirts, and cowboy hats), are hipsters, too? Are the posers? What about prairie style? After Big Love, one of my favorite fashions came back — prairie style, with long, full skirts, and fitted blouses. I dressed like that in the ’70’s, and still do. Does that mean I’m a Mormon poser, even though I firmly believe women have every bit as much a right to commit adultery as men do?

      And those kids in the 50’s, going to hear cool jazz, could not have possibly actually been in to one of the great art forms to originate in this country?

      At some level, these reflections become so recursive that they lose definition. PBR became popular again because it was both cheap and tastier then other cheap beers; PBR launched a pretty successful marketing campaign and greatly expanded their distribution network in such a way that they were delivering relatively fresh product, which matters when it comes to beer in a can. That’s a business success story; and it wasn’t (and isn’t) just hipsters drinking PBR.

      So again, much of what I see as critique of ‘hipster’ is no different then ‘dirty hippie,’ an othering that denies any meaning an individual might imbue on their choices as a way to dismiss their social consciousness. For most ‘hipsters’ I know, they’re expressing fashion choices within the budget, because, you know, we sort of screwed them over (that’s my generation screwed yours over).

      But there is this: if people are not going to give you agency for your choices, if you’re going to be dissed as a poser, you might as well ironically embrace the dis as a way of reflecting it back, a sort of “I know you are, but what am I?” response.

      (And wasn’t PeeWee Herman the original hipster?)Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to NewDealer says:


      It’s not the case that because there is a Madison, NJ and there is a Madison, WI, therefore because there is a Wheatonville, NJ there is a Wheatonville, WI. In fact, there is no Wheatonville, WI.

      Nice try, though. 😉Report

  12. veronica dire says:

    I have some thoughts.

    First, I don’t want Colbert’s show to be cancelled. But then, the thing about Colbert is he is so darn good at his job that it masks the problems with what he does. Which is to say, he is good enough to get away with it, but the it is still problematic.

    Second, I see privileged liberals get very defensive in these conversations, and the rationalizations come out, long arguments about how this is okay, but how criticizing it is not. These arguments miss the context.

    Look, there is no authority who can say, “This bit of comedy over here is acceptable and this is not.” And while we might wish for some objective standard we can point to and say, “There it is. This is why it is okay for me to do this!” while at the same time we say, “Look at those angry, irrational folks over there; they’re totally wrong for these reasons that no one can argue with,” it doesn’t work that way.

    Third, Rush Limbaugh’s audience has defended his hateful crap as “comedy” and “satire,” such as when he calls some woman a “slut.” So does the satire defense always work? Should it always work?

    So my final point: if it doesn’t always work, and there is no objective standard, how do we decide what people can get away with?

    I don’t know. I don’t know how to figure that out. However, we can ask questions like these: Who in fact makes these decisions? When they make them, whose interests are being represented? What kind of power do women and minorities have to shape this discourse? Whose voices dominate the discussion?

    These questions have empirical answers.Report

    • I agree that the cancel in CancelColbert is overly dramatic.

      I have also noticed defensiveness on some threads, but I do want to note that Glyph’s clarifications were perfect and not defensive despite his seeming to admit his frustration with those of us who didn’t get it.

      there is no authority who can say, “This bit of comedy over here is acceptable and this is not.”

      True. We can express what is acceptable for us though and try to avoid things that large numbers of other people find unacceptable. I don’t know that we can do better than that.

      So does the satire defense always work?

      I just commented above to Tod that I think comedy and satire are two different things. Comedy is just a joke. Your job is only to be funny. If you want to claim that your work is satire, then your joke needs to both be funny as well as communicate some other point indirectly through your humor. Colbert’s work works because it is both a joke as well as a critique. The reason I wrote this post was that I saw two racist jokes and only one thing being critiqued. Once the second thing being critiqued was pointed out, I acknowledged it as satire.

      So, I would say the satire defense should work if you can point to what exactly you are satirizing. Going through this process does kill the humor of your joke, but if someone calls you out, you ought to be able to explain the mechanics of how your satire works. I don’t know that Rush’s defenders have done that, but I think it’s required for a defense to be valid.

      Who in fact makes these decisions? When they make them, whose interests are being represented? What kind of power do women and minorities have to shape this discourse? Whose voices dominate the discussion?

      I know this isn’t what you are talking about, but I do wish I hadn’t added my voice to the discussion. I can think of at least one post that I’ve written for OT that was worse than this one, but this is the post I’d most like to take back. I am frustrated with it. (Let me stress that I don’t think anyone is to blame for this other than myself. I am very much thankful for each commenter here.)

      I’m actually going back and revising the next post I had already written and scheduled and removing references to race because I don’t want to be wrong in a similar way twice in a row.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to veronica dire says:


      I’ve criticized hippies for being naive and unrealistic and spacey in their politics and have referred to my politics as being “not hippie left*”

      Does that make me a hippie-puncher?

      *I prefer Clement Attlee to Timothy Leary. Clement Attlee did more for the greater number of people.Report

  13. Jaybird says:

    My own, personal, issue is that I am more than happy enough to go to the “Would you like me to call the burn unit?” well when someone is complaining about having been offended by something that someone said to someone else entirely on the internet.

    So when someone claims to be offended by Stephen Colbert who is *OBVIOUSLY* making fun of people who are not Asian when he’s doing his bit here, I am every inch inclined to go back to the whole “Perhaps you should look into purchasing some aloe vera. It will also help with the appearance of scars!”

    From what I’ve gleaned above, that is the proper response in this particular case.

    I’ve received enough feedback previously, however, to tell me that “LIFE SUCKS, BUY A FUCKING HELMET” isn’t a proper response to someone being offended.

    I’m down with the fact that there aren’t hard and fast rules to whether I should be in the “hey, lighten up!” vs. “hey, you’re absolutely right!” camp when someone claims to be offended on the internet but I do hope that, if a pattern emerges, it’s not “you should understand that people on our side aren’t the enemy here” isn’t the rule that explains the most exceptions to the need to resort to the argument that helmets are available for purchase.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:


      I think you’re doing it wrong.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      Though I also see a significant difference between “I’m offended” and “I’m offended on behalf of other people.”

      The former seems to me to deserve a seat at the table that the latter doesn’t.

      And then I start thinking about the differences between saying “you shouldn’t be offended” and “you shouldn’t be offended on behalf of other people” and I’m off down the rabbit hole.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        Though I also see a significant difference between “I’m offended” and “I’m offended on behalf of other people.”

        The former seems to me to deserve a seat at the table that the latter doesn’t.

        Because if something hurts people who are not you, that’s their problem to live with?Report

      • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        So if someone slurs gay people i can’t be offended because i’m not gay? Can i be offended if i take it personally when someone attacks friends of mine, i mean who could argue with someone standing up for friends…right? So if someone attacks friends of mine based on the fact they are gay i’m allowed to offended i guess.

        Were white civil rights workers in the 60’s missing the boat since it wasn’t “their” battle?Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        It’s like Martin Niemöller said, you’re not supposed to speak up until they come for you.Report

      • Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

        @vikram-bath @mike-schilling @greginak

        Because it feels kinda patronising when people act all outraged on your behalf abut things that don’t actually offend you.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        You know that applies to Colbert too then, right?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Because if something hurts people who are not you, that’s their problem to live with?

        I don’t know whether it offends people who are not me. I just know that it doesn’t offend me.

        It’s like Martin Niemöller said, you’re not supposed to speak up until they come for you.

        So #CancelColbert is the proper response?Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Jaybird says:

        @vikram-bath — And the crowd goes wild!

        But yeah, the conversation about exactly what role allies should play is still ongoing, and right now the SJ-sphere is kinda in an “allies are irritating and they should shut up” mode, which is obviously counterproductive.

        That said, I will assert that allies do best when they amplify the voices of marginalized people, and when they use their social position to directly lift up those they claim to help.

        And not just tokenism, not only the minorities who tell we privileged folks how great we are. Obviously.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        You might not have definitive knowledge that it hurts people who are not you, but that doesn’t mean you have no knowledge in any given situation.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Jaybird says:


        So #CancelColbert is the proper response?

        I see it this way: there is no likelihood that Colbert is going to be cancelled over this. So for all of its anger, the actual effect of #cancelcolbert will not be that. Personally I like to stay focused on what will actually happen, the real world stuff.

        So to question whether it is proper seems entirely pointless to me. I don’t fucking know. No one elected me to the “decide what is a proper form of social activism” role. I wouldn’t want that role. (In fact, I wouldn’t want anyone to have that role.)

        So what are the actual effects of #cancelcolbert? For sure they aren’t “nothing,” since they at least created this conversation.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        You might not have definitive knowledge that it hurts people who are not you, but that doesn’t mean you have no knowledge in any given situation.

        I suppose it depends on what? Knowledge of The Asian-American Experience Of Racism?

        I’ve got little enough knowledge to say that #CancelColbert is the proper response. Not because it will result in cancellation, but because he and his writers will say “wait, hold on a second”, the next time a joke like this one is mentioned in the writer’s room and it’ll be tossed to the garbage can and, whether it goes in or out, then they can make Jeremy Lin jokes for the next five minutes.

        And then get back to jokes for the show which will be pointed, if pointed at all, elsewhere.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        @veronica-dire , I think we might need to add a dimension to the framework we haven’t mentioned yet. Are we talking about all discourse or just public discourse?

        I have a friend who says he works in an environment with two redneck-style racists (along with a much larger number of “allies”). The two don’t use epithets, but they say things in large meetings that make everyone uncomfortably squirm in their chairs. And the race these two target is the race my friend belongs to. My friend doesn’t think it even occurs to these two that he might be offended because the are talking about customers that share his race, and he is not a customer.

        My friend asked me what I thought he should do, and I said he should say and do absolutely nothing. I care about my friend’s job status much much more than encouraging minority voices in his workplace. I told him that if he speaks up about this, he will be identified as the person who is causing the trouble because once he complains, it will be his complaint that is the proximate cause of something needing to be done. They will look at the two people making the comments and realize that things were going just fine before my friend got there.

        My friend does have “allies”. They are senior members, and they give my friend uncomfortable glances when one of the two says something particularly horrible in a meeting, but they never actually contest it. I think that is partly because it doesn’t affect them directly but mostly because they don’t think it’s their responsibility since they aren’t part of the demographic being maligned and they can always tell themselves that if what was saying really were problematic my friend would have said something.

        I realize that here on the Internet it is a different thing. Unlike in an office environment with a limited number of people, so you are more likely to count on a member of the targeted group saying something. On the other hand, you will also almost always be able to find a member of the targeted group insisting nothing is wrong. (I’m guess Rush Limbaugh has at least one member of each group he has offended who still supports him.)

        My point is that you can’t take the fact that no member of the targeted group is complaining as definitive evidence that nothing is wrong. Sure, it does point in that direction, but there may be reasons they aren’t speaking up.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        That is the sort of situation that calls for a Christmas Party!
        (seriously. If your friend is really bothered by it, get good and drunk,
        and have a good rant at the folks who are perpetrating it. Admit To
        Nothing afterwards — “I don’t remember a thing I said”).Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        Knowledge of The Asian-American Experience Of Racism?

        Surely you have *some* such knowledge, even if it is a third-hand written account. Do you really claim that you have literally no clue of what things might be offensive until the subject of the joke tells you that it is?

        This thread as a whole seems to be a contrary evidence. People who are not among the targeted group have been able to explain to me, also not of the targeted group, that Colbert’s joke was not offensive and why it was not.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Of course I have some. And I also said that I have little enough to say that #CancelColbert is (or, I should have said, “would seem to me to be”) the proper response.

        Except, of course… it’s not?Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Jaybird says:

        Let me add, personally I would kind of prefer it if folks were not offended by Colbert.

        For example, this happened recently when he had Janet Mock on his show. I thought it was great and personally I understood his satire and that his transphobic comments were meant to mock transphobia, not me, not Janet.

        But many on Twitter got very upset. And I let it ride, because I don’t have authority over them or their activism, nor should I. I like to let that conversation unfold, let everyone have their say.

        Then I like to shift the spotlight to how the media power structures actually work.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        Has anyone at all *here* said to cancel Colbert? I am addressing to the implication that you shouldn’t worry about things that might offend other people.

        I mentioned it above to Murali, but I want to state this more explicitly. If you actually think this, they you aren’t really helping Colbert’s cause as much as you might think. Unless he’s related to Elizabeth Warren, I don’t think he’s Native American, but he aired a segment attacking the name of a charity that is donating money to Native Americans. Did he call around to check whether Native American groups were upset with the name or found the dollar amounts too small before running the segment?Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

        @kim ,
        I relayed your suggestion. He says their Christmas party is a cake in the conference room during their lunch break. If he showed up sloshed for that…Report

      • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        @murali Yeah i can see that could be patronizing. Or not standing up when a person in a different group in slandered could be seen as not giving a crap about them or tacitly supporting the slander. There is no action or inaction that can’t be a mistake in someway. Certainly if i’m not in the targeted group i should take my cues from other people in the targeted group. But racism, sexism, etc are wrong. They are wrong whether it is aimed at me or not. My choice is how to react knowing i’m gonna irk someone no matter what i do and that i screw up sometimes.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        yeah, that would be hilarious. and uncool.
        Only other suggestion I got is: Take the bozo out to a bar for some drinks. Raise the issue informally and privately. if he’s not a total asshole, he’ll probably listen…

        This way, it’s not a “work issue” but a “politeness and don’t be a jerk” issue. (also, the bozo gets to back down on his own terms).Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I make a distinction between “They should cancel Colbert!” and #CancelColbert. The former is a completely stupid response.

        The latter is a response that will, as I said earlier, make “he and his writers will say “wait, hold on a second”, the next time a joke like this one is mentioned in the writer’s room and it’ll be tossed to the garbage can”.

        What’s your goal? To cause enough pain to get Colbert to never pull something this edgy ever again? #CancelColbert seems a suitable tool.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well, let’s seek out another exampe: Ru-fucking-Paul.

        You might not be aware, but a fairly large cross section of trans women are very critical of his TV show. The reason we are critical is he insists on diminishing the difference between trans and drag, and has made comments that explicitly erase the difference. Also, he seems to feel it is okay to use transphobic slurs on his show, such as “shemale” and “tranny,” which are more commonly targeted at trans women and not so much against drag queens. (Since a drag queen can take off her costume after the show. But my clothes are not a costume. They’re just my clothes.)

        Anyway, until now his response has mostly been to ignore us, or else to say something catty and mean. And we yelled and yelled, but nothing.

        Until recently, following his recent “Female or Shemale” segment, which perhaps became a tranny-joke-too-far, and even Glaad took our side this time.

        (Well, sorta. Glaad’s response has not been quite as enthusiastic as we would hope. But then, they are torn between the interests of trans women and the much larger population of gay men, who seem to like calling us “tranny.” Here is Parker on the topic:

        (Gay men can be fucking terrible.)

        But here is the thing: how does Glaad find out that trans women are pissed? How about RuPaul’s producers, his advertisers, other queers, allies, the public? How do our voices get heard?

        Fucking Twitter, that’s how.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Jaybird says:

        @vikram-bath — On your friend’s problems at work, I have no advice, except to offer my sympathy. These situations are just totally fucking broken, and that is all.

        (I think people give pointless, pat advice to deflect the issue, to tidy it up, so they don’t have to face the full magnitude of the problem.)Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        v dire,
        a lot of my advice tends towards the outlandish. I find it provides folks a decent stress relief, if nothing else — picturing The Look On Their Faces….Report