How Stephen Colbert Angered Twitter, Sparked A #CancelColbert Campaign

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ColbertTweetPhoto: Courtesy of Comedy Central.
By now you've probably seen the #CancelColbert detritus floating around the Internet. And, if not, here's a quick breakdown of what went down:

On Monday, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder announced the launch of a new organization called the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. In a letter to fans, Snyder said he was starting the foundation "to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities," but really, OAF was created in response to growing concern over the fact that he is at the helm of a franchise carrying a hateful and racist name.

On Wednesday night's The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert took on the issue, firing off a series of jokes that parodied the ridiculous foundation. On Thursday night, one of those jokes made it to Twitter.

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Yikes. This is the foot-in-mouth Twitter equivalent of someone coming up behind you just as you conclude a story about packing your suitcase with, "and it was so big, I couldn't fit it in!" A classic that's-what-she-said moment. Except, you know, racist.

Next: Stephen Colbert's fans respond
The tweet exploded, Colbert's followers were enraged, and then Suey Park, whom you might remember from her year-old hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick, tweeted the following:

Colbert's tweet was taken down, but not before the #CancelColbert campaign began ricocheting around Twitter like an errant racquetball at your dad's lunchtime game. Check out #CancelColbert for yourselves. It's worth a look.

So, now you're caught up. A couple questions we should consider: Is the rage warranted? Does context matter when you're talking about race? Is Stephen Colbert, the person, racist? Should the show be canceled?

The answers to these are probably somewhere along the lines of sure, yes, no, and definitely not. In the carefully word-counted digital mediums of today, subtlety, nuance, and context are totally lost. It's irresponsible to expect audiences to assume anything, let alone context for a complicated race joke. Does this mean that satire then needs to become politically correct? More importantly, is there such a thing?

For Colbert's part, he immediately responded by tweeting: To be clear here, we don't think Colbert made these jokes out of a deep-seated hatred for Asian people. The reality is that there is probably no world in which a white man joking about race will get it right. Context or not, a racist joke will immediately demand that he "check his priv." That's just the way it is, for better or for worse.

Personally, the most offensive part is that, taken alone, it's just not that funny a joke.