I know one voice that keeps getting lost is Suey Park, who keeps get spoken about without being interviewed or asked to explain herself. For those who might not know, she is the person who first started the hashtag #cancelcolbert in response to a tweet from the Colbert Camp (for lack of a better term). And b/c of the nature of twitter, it is easy to oversimplify her anger at Colbert. Whether you agree or disagree, it's important to give her the floor and hear her out because people's anger can be seen as legitimate, even if you don't share the same feelings.
We are proud to be what Sara Ahmed defines as Feminist Killjoys — meaning we "Will not laugh at jokes designed to cause offense." We refuse to believe we have created racism by pointing to it and naming it. As Dave Zirin tweeted in our defense: "if Suey Park pointed at a burning building, then she must be an arsonist." We don't accept such silly logic.
They go on to explain the problem with Colbert's satire and why it doesn't really hit the mark:
We have some tips of our own that we'd like to share:
- Satire Lesson 1: If you need to explain whatever it is that you were trying to do, it's not working. Your audience is telling you that it's broken, it's old. It needs to be reworked.
- Satire Lesson 2: Tone is not a shield. "Tone" is one element in a larger construction.
- Satire Lesson 3: If the only people who "get" your satire are racists — might we suggest some soul searching on your end?
Finally they talk about the crux of their argument—something that I think is relevant to consider:
Satire is not making props and metaphors of the history (is it history?) of oppression. The problem isn't that we can't take a joke. The problem is that white comedians and their fans believe they are above reproach. The standard at ColbertNation for comedy is apparently the throwaway caricature for cheap laughs. We see no reason why this standard must be honored or protected.
My personal feeling—and for what it's worth, I know I'm no arbiter on how people should see this situation—is that whether you disagree or not with Park, her anger and her POV should be respected. This could be a real opportunity to talk about the nature of satire. It's complicated—I think that satire around real painful social issues is hard and Park's own POV should not so easily be dismissed. Just throwing out the name of Jonathan Swift doesn't really defend Colbert's use of satire—that's a really empty and clumsy type of defense that ultimately means nothing. I think it takes a lot more to consider the nature of power and how that intersects with how ironic critiques will be received.