Colbert's satire misfire

If you missed today’s Internet kerfuffle, it surrounded a “joke” made in extremely poor taste by Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, delivered via Twitter, and now deleted: “I am willing to show the Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Cong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

You might think the “I” means this is coming from Stephen Colbert, the eponymous host of the Colbert Report, but he made a big deal about tucking his tail between his legs and running for the hills, with howls of “racist!” and demands for the cancellation of his long-in-the-tooth show ringing in his ears.  No, no, says Colbert, it wasn’t me, even though the personal pronoun was used, and the message originated from a show named after him.  Oh, and a humanoid entity who bears a very strong resemblance to Stephen Colbert made the same “joke” on TV a couple of days ago.  But don’t let any of that distract you from his complete innocence in the matter of this hate-Tweet!

Colbert apologists are laboring mightily to explain that he shouldn’t be boiled in sensitivity oil because he’s a satirist, see, and he was just doing a riff on something said by a person who does not have impeccable leftist credentials.  One reason the joke fell flat is that most of America has no idea what he was trying to satirize, since they’re not up on the latest shake-and-bake culture war crusade.  

Colbert, or the liquid metal assassin from the future that was copying him on TV, was supposed to be making fun of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who committed the unforgivable sin of setting up a foundation to benefit Native Americans, following a twenty-state tour of tribal lands and reservations.  He’s already arranged for winter clothing to be sent to tribal lands during the frigid winter, provided shoes for kids’ basketball teams, and helped the Omaha Tribe purchase a backhoe.  Snyder’s official announcement of the foundation said there are forty more such projects in the works.  

What a monster!  You can see why it was important for Stephen Colbert to insult Snyder as a racist, using a vicious “satire” that childishly insulted an entirely different ethnic group, in terms that do not even vaguely resemble the name Snyder chose for his Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.  I guess if you’re a hate-filled leftist moron, you can get from “Original Americans Foundation” to “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever,” but frankly I have too many functioning brain cells to make the journey.

What this is really all about, of course, is Snyder’s refusal to knuckle under to a small group of noisy activists and change the name of his football team.  They couldn’t care less how many winter coats he provides to elderly people and small children while winter winds are howling across the Plains.  What matters is obedience to today’s fashionable left-wing cause, which didn’t exist at all the day before yesterday.  It’s supposed to be self-evident that Snyder only invested his time in a long tour of tribal reservations, and his money in a charitable foundation, because he’s a closet racist who just loves tricking sports fans into saying the word “Redskins.”

There’s scant evidence that any great number of actual Native Americans has a big problem with the Redskins’ name.  The last reliable polling on the topic was performed a decade ago, and showed 80 to 90 percent support for the team, from tribes across the land.  (It should tell you something that nobody’s been able to produce a more recent survey on the topic in poll-crazed America.)  Certainly some people say “Redskins” is an insulting term; many others say it is not.  Who gets to decide the issue and force a storied billion-dollar franchise to change?  The Native Americans who regard the name as an honor don’t count, is that how it works?  Will we be treated to the activists shrieking that nobody who disagrees with them is a “real” Native American?

This is a struggle, not merely for control of language, but control of meaning.  Obviously, no one would name a sports team after a group of people they held in contempt.  No fan of the Redskins believes themselves to be making fun of Native Americans when they say the name, or tug on a shirt bearing the logo.  It’s literally the furthest thing from their minds.  

But a group of activists claims the power to restructure the franchise because they insist on taking offense, even when clearly none is given.  They’re insulting everyone else – from the people they insist on believing are secret racists, to the tribe members who support the Redskins’ name, who they must regard as hapless dupes.  I would submit that insult is far worse than anything that could conceivably be imputed to the name “Redskins” in modern America.  I offer Stephen Colbert’s “humor” as evidence.