While anger at racism — perceived or real — is understandable, this particular “scandal” shows just how ridiculous Twitter and other social-media protests can be. A look at three important facts makes this clear.
1. Neither Stephen Colbert nor “The Colbert Report” tweeted the joke.
The controversial tweet came from an official “Colbert Report” Twitter handle, but it seems to be one run by Colbert’s network, Comedy Central. So there’s no point blaming Colbert for the post.
2. The origin of the joke made sense in context.
Some have argued that, no matter what the origin of the tweet, Colbert is to blame because it quotes him. The problem with that is a lack of context. During Colbert’s show, he made the joke as part of a mockery of Washington Redskins coach Dan Snyder’s apparent inability to see how some might find that team’s name racist. With context returned, Colbert’s part is obvious satire.
3. This is a joke meant to highlight the foolishness of racism, not promote it.
Following on number 2 above, Colbert was, in his original joke, mocking a man who didn’t see that lip service didn’t cover up blatant racial language. So he used blatant racial language to make it clearer. This wasn’t meant to offend people of another race — it was meant to show how such offenses were as stupid as they were hateful.
But Twitter doesn’t have room to discuss these important points in its 140-character world. Thus, someone sees a seemingly offensive joke and passes it on. Context disappears more and more, leaving behind little but an angry hashtag.
Nothing is helped by this — all we get is a group of angry people and another misplaced controversy that makes it harder to spot the real problems of our society.