Ethics Hero: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert

Laser Klan

Putting the jester’s privilege to great use, Comedy Central comic Stephen Colbert not only defied his corporate masters, communications giant Viacom, but mocked them in the process. He was officially warned of the corporation’s “concern” about “Laser Klan,” his planned animated riff involving the Klu Klux Klan during Black History Month. Colbert aired it anyway.

I have to wonder if he would have done the same if Viacom had been concerned about offending Muslims, rather than, hmmmm, let’s see, being worried that some racial victim-mongers would decide that making fun of the Klan, sworn enemies of blacks, Jews, and, oh, so many others, was somehow disrespectful to  blacks in February because only they could…oh, I don’t know what the complaint would be. I can’t blame the suits at Viacom…I bet someone at MSNBC and the NAACP are working up a political correctness offense theory right now, so Colbert will have to humble himself and beg for forgiveness.

Before that happens, though, let’s give Colbert his due. What he did takes principles and guts…and high ratings. Just be careful your numbers don’t fall off, Stephen.

And remember the Smothers Brothers.


Graphic: YouTube

16 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert

  1. Love him or hate him, Stephen Colbert is not known to retreat from “controversy” — remember, he was the man who transformed his appearance at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner into a drop-the-gloves roast of President Bush.

    • Yes, although that was both gutsy and wrong. And not really all that gutsy, because he was playing to his audience, not the audience there. That was boorish and obnoxious, in fact. In FACT, I’m still ticked at him over it, and I’m sorry you reminded me…

  2. It take guts to make fun of the Klan? Come on, Tom Lehrer did this in 1953 with “I wanna go back to dixie” mocking southern culture and the Klan when they were a real threat.

  3. We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for ethics heroes these days. I can’t find a definition of ethics or hero that justifies this. But, it has the virtue of being mildly funny.

    • You are jaded. Any performer these days with the courage to to make a joke that the Contrived Offense Brigade is likely to make a stink about….especially after a warning to do otherwise from the boss…is a hero and a much needed role model. You see, it’s oh so disrespectful to make light of the KKK this month of all months.

      Actually, I though I made it pretty clear the first time.

  4. And from the cynical files ….

    I have no doubt that this was a bit. Sure, Colbert got the email but then they spoke with in-house counsel and they decided to turn it into a joke on the show. This way, Viacom gets fewer angry emails and they can say publicly that they objected. Clever.

    • Oh, I’m sure it went down that way. But at least he pushed back (and had already spent the dough on the animation.) When Comedy Central caved to Muslim extortion and pulled the South Park episode, it’s creators fell in line.

      • Yeah, but the Klan is more of a joke than Colbert is. Muslim extremists get mad at you, they’ll track you down and shoot you.

  5. There’s really no need to wonder what kind of politically correct offense theory will be dreamed up, I’ll tell you right now- The Klan did/does so much harm to black people that they are too bad to joke about and if you joke about them (even at their expense) you are mocking all their victims past present and future. Done.

      • Oh I’m ever so good at that. You can stop a jokester cold with “Don’t tell Nazi Jokes. My grandfather died in a concentration camp.”

        Nothing beats the reaction shot when you let conversation die for one horrified moment, then follow up with “Fell out of a guard tower.”

        (NOTHING is too sacred to laugh at).

  6. Viacom’s politics are unclear as are the politics of its CEO. For certain they are an absolutely ruthless corporation but compared to other media conglomerates they seem relatively liberal. Indeed right wing blogs tend to portray Viacom and its CEO Mr. Redstone as evil liberals. According to open secrets there campaign contributions are split relatively even. In 2008 and 2010 they even gave more money to the democrats. I don’t consider them to be saints, far from it, but there only rule in regards to Comedy Central appears to be: “as long as you bring in sponsors and don’t criticize us directly we don’t care what you do.” Is there not money in that? I say this because I have seen the sentiment displayed by its CEO Mr. Redstone in my own relatives, who as Jews descended from socialists cannot fathom the idea of voting for a Republican or donating to one even though they work on Wall Street and know that it would be beneficial for them to do so. According to Open Secrets Mr. Redstone despite having endorsed a George W. Bush in the 2004 donates to a PAC which overwhelmingly supports Democrats. While I can only assume that many Bloggers who are members of an earlier generation than the one I am from are be furious at Viacom for having destroyed the TV station of their childhood (MTV) I would nevertheless encourage them to be rational in their assessment.

  7. I should add one more thing, I am a partisan minded person. I DO believe it is better to vote for the Democrats than the Republicans. Declaring that the Democrats and Republicans are the really the same and about how the corporations control both parties is irrelevant as far as am concerned. The person who says such things ought to Google the name Ted Cruz, and perhaps than they will be motivated rethink their nihilism. It is one thing to be owned by corporations, it is an entirely different thing to be batsh#t crazy the current Republican party falls into the latter category and as such I encourage solidarity with those who stand up to crazy even if they are corporate backed.

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