The official Twitter account for the Comedy Central program “The Colbert Report” initiated a firestorm of social media responses after tweeting a joke on March 27 reading “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”
The joke, since deleted, aired on the previous day’s show and was intended to satirize the use of racial epithet in the name of an actual organization, the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, created by the team’s owner Dan Snyder.
As the joke was not posted in context, its publication on Twitter produced thousands of angry tweets boasting the hashtag #CancelColbert. This incidence of “hashtag activism” was started by Suey Park, a writer and activist who has previously participated in Twitter campaigns such as #NotYourAsianSidekick. Park started the crusade against “The Colbert Report” by tweeting “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals has decided to call for #CancelColbert. Trend it.” The tweet has since been deleted.
Park’s call to action prompted thousands of people to come to Colbert’s defense, many who understood the joke and were irritated by the widespread outrage. The culmination of responses on both sides of the issue has created a heated discussion about both the use of race in media and the propriety of online protests.
While Park did begin this campaign, she stated that she was a fan of the show and did not want it to be cancelled. She remarked that the purpose of the hashtag was to criticize the backhanded method of using racial humor to poke fun at more obvious forms of racism. “Well-intentioned racial humor doesn’t actually do anything to end racism or the Redskins mascot,” Park commented in an article in The New Yorker. “That sort of racial humor just makes people who hide under the title of progressivism more comfortable.”
The twitter account that published the tweet, @ColbertReport, is not Stephen Colbert’s personal account, and is run instead as a promotional tool for the program. Stephen Colbert responded to the #CancelColbert controversy March 31 with a sketch showing Comedy Central shutting down, only to be revealed as a nightmare from which Colbert woke up.
Colbert is also attempting to have the @ColbertReport account permanently removed, saying, “I understand how people were offended.” He also defended Park, demanding those threatening or harassing her to stop.