Shame on you, Comedy Central!

Note to Comedy Central: Mocking Redskins fans who defend the team name is fine. Deception, not so much.

1. I don’t think there should be a sports team called the “Redskins” anymore than there should be one called the “Kikes” or the “Micks” or the “Dagos.” This isn’t rocket science.

2. I think Jon Stewart is not only a very funny man but the most incisive political analyst currently on the scene, except when Stephen Colbert is really on his game.

3. Making fun of Redskins fans who don’t want to give up the name, and who pretend or actually believe that it’s not racially offensive, is entirely justified, and if some of them were foolish enough to agree to appear on the show, it’s their lookout if Stewart & Co. make them look silly as long as there’s no deceptive editing involved.

4. But – you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you? – if the producers promised the guests that they would not be confronted with Native American activists when in fact they had such a confrontation planned – as the guests assert, and the producers don’t deny – then they, especially producer Jason Jones, behaved shamefully: not quite at the O’Keefe level, but in that direction. Apparently some of the Redskins fans were reduced to tears by the verbal abuse they took from the activists. Promises are to be kept, and people are not to be wantonly damaged just for laughs.

5. If the guests’ consent to appear based on the assurance of non-confrontation, then I wonder whether consent based on a false pretense is legally binding. I hope the Comedy Central team gets to find out the hard way.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

12 thoughts on “Shame on you, Comedy Central!”

  1. Eh. I can live with some deceit entrapping a bunch of outspoken bigots into confronting the reality of their professed, preferred identity. These people volunteered to step up and proclaim how important it was to them that they continue to enjoy the commercial use of a racial slur about other people for entertainment purposes. Maybe they should ask themselves why they're so unwilling to encounter the targets of the racial slur they so dearly love using.

    1. "Eh. I can live with some deceit entrapping a bunch of outspoken bigots into confronting the reality of their professed, preferred identity. "

      Good to know that lying and cheating people is fine as long as you do it for a goodthink reason.

  2. I think it’s weird that you’re so offended by the Daily Show’s apparent bad faith that you made it the subject of your post. Personally, I’m a thousand times more offended by these people’s beliefs and their support of a racially offensive mascot. They deserved to have their racism and hypocrisy exposed, and I’m not going to complain too much about how it was done.

  3. What's unfair is pitting regular people against media-trained advocates with talking points. Regardless of the issue, and of who's right and wrong, the people with talking points will win out. I think if you pulled five anti-Redskinners off the street and pit them against NFL flack or certain legal experts, they'd look dumb too. I don't like the idea of capturing the first few minutes of those interactions on camera and then claiming that to be some form of therapy or dispute resolution.

  4. If the show had had a group of young gay people ambushed by that creepy pastor and his family who used to protest funerals with "Thank God for AIDS" signs, many of the people who are saying the Redskins episode was okay would be up in arms. And there would be a different group of people saying "They deserved it, all tactics are acceptable in the name of the cause". What I admire is Mark's willingness to hold his ideological teammates to the same ethical standards that he would demand of his opponents.

    1. Exactly so, Keith. The ends don't justify the means just because your cause is right. Leading random, regular people like this into an ambush is pretty vile.

    2. Probably a bad example, because AFAIK, literally everyone except Fred Phelps and his family were appalled by their behavior and spent years heaping scorn on their heads. So I doubt that particular ambush would have either perpetrators, or defenders, except maybe shock jocks. But the point stands–it's not okay to do to anyone, whether or not you think they're wrong.

  5. A dialogue between Native American activists and fans fond of the name "Redskins" might be constructive. I think the name should be changed, but a true dialogue probably shouldn't assume that in advance – in theory, at least, the Native Americans should be willing to treat the fans in good faith, as we would expect the fans to treat the Native Americans in good faith, maintaining a reasonably open mind. I'd like to think that the endpoint of a good faith dialogue would be the fans admitting that the name truly is offensive. If not, an open-minded observer of the dialogue would still be much more likely to side with the Native Americans than the fans. When you have the moral high ground, you can afford to treat your opponents with respect; indeed treating them with respect is mandatory to maintain the high ground. If the opponents engage on the low ground, they've discredited themselves.

    I want to make clear that I'm criticizing TDS producers, not the Native American activists; I haven't seen the segment, and I don't know how they perceived their role in it. What I am saying is that if "Redskins" is bigoted, as I think it is, it's very hard to make comedy out of it, except the low comedy of seeing someone humiliated. We laugh at their ignorance instead of doing them the courtesy of trying to dispel their ignorance. It treats the fans as irredeemable bigots, which seems more likely to make them more stubborn in their beliefs than to lead them to positive introspection.

    Finally, there's the concept that comedy shouldn't punch down. Now, in the ordinary scheme of things, taking the side of Native Americans against bigots is punching up. But in the context of TDS, where the audience is assumed to be in sympathy with the Native Americans, and where the studio audience is sure to laugh at the bigots, the purpose is simple humiliation.

  6. I'm on the fence here. That the participants "INSISTED" in advance that there be no Native Americans involved is rather culpatory — what they were saying is "sure, I'll come on the show and spout my offensive beliefs so long as there's not a single person willing to take the other side; unopposed bigotry is the only bigotry I'm willing to display publicly". Why did they need all of these "assurances" in advance? It's kinda creepy, and it at the very least speaks to their recognition, in advance, that they were going to be saying really loaded things about a loaded subject, and wanted to get away with it scot-free, as opposed to having to defend any of their vitriol and bile. If they got sand-bagged by the producers, that was probably a dirty trick, but the whole "we were assured, AGAIN AND AGAIN" handwringing, shows that they fully expected to be saying asshole-ish stuff and wanted to get away with it. Also, that they demanded "no Native Americans" be present, as opposed to "no critics", is again, highly suspicious, and creepy.

    As for the woman who fled in tears, well gosh, she probably has a gig at Fox News all lined up. The only thing a Libertarian hates worse than N****rs and Ki**s and Fa***ts and Wetb***s is being called a bigot.

  7. I also feel the name should be changed, mostly because the stigma with the name is too emotional.

    That said, I don’t think the supporters of the Redskins name is inherently doing so for racist purposes. I think they sincerely believe it’s honoring them.

    Being told after 40 years that this team name you cheered for is a racial term I is hard to grasp. It’s like finding out Oreo and Twinkie are racial terms and you can never use those words again because it’s offensive to black people and Asians. And i know the argument: those are also delicious snacks…. to Redskins fans, a Redskin is an NFL team they cheered every Sunday for 3 months every year with their family as far back as their memories go. It’s like acknowledging the Yankees is a racial term and forcing them to change it.

    The argument that it’s regarding them as animals is already bunk. …. half the teams’ names in the NFL are groups of people (49ers, Patriots, Cowboys, Vikings, Raiders, Bucs, Texans, Saints) mythical people (giants, titans…. previously the Oilers) aircraft (jets) or other mysterious names (I don’t know how to classify Browns, packers, Bills, chargers) I don’t see how an Indian inspired team is considered derogatory in itself.

    Again, I actually support changing the name. There’s so much stigma and the team is so bad, a rebrand and rebuild would help them.

    As for the daily show. …. that was disgusting. I could forgive the duplicity, the manipulation and fact it wasn’t a funny sketch…. it was their introduction to it. They said if they felt they accurately projected the perception of the issue and that they wouldn’t play it if they thought it was duplicitous….. they issued court defamation papers, called the cops and cried storming out in the middle of the interview. …. All while springing into a political abuse session with these people going to a sports game (maybe with a few beers) against political activists educated on the subject for years preparing arguments along the lines of “you’re a a racist bigot making children cry”. Nothing about that was accurately representing their view. If they introduced it saying: “we saw these people as bigots and don’t deserve respect” I’d see it as an unfortunate hit piece it was and move on. Even hinting this was supposed to represent them is an outright lie.

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