Tag Archives: colbert

#KeepColbert Because A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Reality Go Down

As you may have heard, comedian Stephen Colbert has come under fire in the past week after making what was perceived as a racist remark towards the Asian community. But what was the nature of the comment? Let us investigate.

It appears that this is all based on a tweet released by the official twitter account of the television show, “The Colbert Report.” The tweets, as we learned, were  not written by Colbert himself. The tweet was made in response to the Washington Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder’s Original Americans Foundation established to support Native Americans. This situation is rife with absurdity in regards to names; the name of the MLB foundation intensifies the political incorrectness of the team name, both of which are less-than-respectful ways to name Native Americans.

Comedy Central, the real administrators of the Twitter account, wanted to call attention to this, and used Colbert’s character “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” as a base for their fictional and comical “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”. The tweet itself — “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” — is evidently a mockery of Snyder’s unfortunate naming, but the question remains: is it at all ok that Asian Americans still bear the brunt of humor?

Yes, it is true that Asian Americans bore the expense of this jab, but that is what the satirical tweet aimed to highlight: even when you are trying to “help” and support someone, they somehow seem to suffer thanks to racist undertones. That is how deeply rooted the issue is; by reaching out to support people, the supporters are inherently claiming superiority over those they are attempting to help. For if they were truly trying to establish equality, this hierarchical dynamic would not exist.

The thing is, these jokes remind people like me, who do not really experience overt racism or even an unwelcomed awareness of my race, that there are mindsets of ignorance, hatred, and simple stupidity. But I wonder if this became a conversation, or if the #CancelColbert movement was more about silencing people than letting them marinate in and discuss ideas.

For people who consistently experience racism and ignorance, this joke is a frustration or even a nightmare, projected onto the world’s big screen for all to join in on. It is also a chance to call out the greater problem publicly, to try to catch racism and ignorance by the horns and halt them before they fester any more than they already have.

But silencing comedians will not make the problem go away, because comedians are not the source of hatred. I truly believe that they bring the less palatable truths of society to light, and even if we ask them not to do so, the ideas will still exist. We should not be cancelling Colbert — we should be questioning the ideas he sheds light on. Sure, there are other, less entertaining ways to discuss these issues, but if we cancel comedy, we will effectively cancel many important conversations surrounding race and its reality. We need the spoonful of sugar to make the oftentimes sour medicine of reality go down, for these issues are anything but savory.

Satire Proves Egypt’s Revolution didn’t Fail

Whether or not the Egyptian Revolution can be deemed successful is not clear, but the demands of the revolution were clear from the beginning: A’ash, Horeya weh A’adala Egtema’aya, meaning “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice” — a three word mission reminiscent of the French Revolution’s “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”.

Many would say that Egypt’s only achievement since January 25, 2011 was the removal of former-President Hosni Mubarak. Still, Egypt is not the same Egypt that existed before January 2011. I am not simply writing about the intermittent violence in the streets, but about those genuinely participating, still calling for the basic rights they deserve.

Take the example of Bassem Youssef,  a former cardiothoracic surgeon. He found his calling in the most provocative occupation one could take on in the Middle East — a political satire comedian in the style of Jon Stewart, the first ever in the region. Before this, Egyptian state television and newspapers were routinely censored out of fear of the government’s reaction to controversial media statements. There was always a tacit line that could never be crossed, and many newscasters and journalists were imprisoned and made an example of for speaking out against the regime.

Youssef’s show “El Bernameg” (literally translating as “The Show”) is representative of the dam of oppression that broke with the fall of Mubarak’s administration. His humor and satirical responses to the political contradictions of the current government under President Mohammed Morsi educates people on the recent constitutional referendums and other national issues. Always pushing the boundaries, he goes all out in making fun of the president and other major politicians. His empowered viewers believe that the program speaks to the government on their behalf.

Social and political criticism is still not accepted easily in Egypt, even as so many have fought for the right to dish it out. Even prominent interview host, Emad Adeeb, found cause to sue “El Bernameg” for comparing his pre-revolution and post-revolution political stances, calling it “insult and defamation” — and in the process highlighting that no one, no matter one’s title or status, is above being targeted on the show. Youssef drew up a contract with the channel’s owner to make sure that no topic would be off limits for him, and despite all the controversy it sparks.  His YouTube channel continues to be the most subscribed-to channel in Egypt.

Egyptians know that they have not attained the complete democracy they have been fighting for these past two years, but at least now, Egyptians can speak their mind without fear; they know that for every inadmissible move the new President or government makes, they can grab their openly-furious signs and chant in the streets for change. Youssef’s “El Bernameg” represents the charged spirit of the country and its people. But, of course, this newborn freedom of speech, press and general expression is only one step in the direction of fulfilling the three demands of el thawra (the revolution).