Anti-fascism is not mutually exclusive from homophobia

1. It’s homophobic and deserving of criticism.

2. Those calling for a boycott are doing it cynically from the right, and don’t actually care about LGBTQ rights.

3. Those sincerely critical of it are not calling for a boycott or Stephen Colbert to be fired.

4. Colbert has consistent homophobic and transphobic sensibilities and has often used gay and trans people as punchlines. The reason (sincere) criticism of this sort of humor is important is not to censor it but to make the comedians involved aware of it, question their own reasons and biases, and hopefully correct it in the future.

5. This isn’t the left ‘tearing itself apart’. This is the right upset that Trump and Putin were targets of criticism and trying to use progressive language for an incredibly narrow purpose, and, short of that, to try to use their own facetious overreactions as evidence of something the matter with people whose ideas and values they disdain. This is the equivalent of a 4chan prank where all of the prank posts and twitter accounts are retroactively taken at face value and pointed to as evidence Justin Bieber fans are stupid or feminists widely support free bleeding.


Now, I don’t think the insult is directly homophobic because it relies on the assumed heterosexuality of two men to work.

Replace Trump with Teresa May or Marie Le Pen and it comes across unacceptably harsh, and sexist. Replace Trump (or Putin) with a gay man and it likewise moves into a realm of imagined plausibility that’s not humorous. It’s understood here to be entirely figurative.

But, what’s important is the pejorative intended is referencing how our society looks at sucking cock as a degrading act.

The reaction is more people on the right sock-puppet’ing a few social progressives and their reasoning, but it isn’t wrong. I just don’t think most of the people willing to use this as an excuse to be critical of Colbert care to go any deeper or more fundamental with their criticism. It’s shallow, cynical ‘whataboutism’ from people who say Colbert should be fired for making this comment about two of the most powerful people in the world but a coworker or supervisor doing it to a typical employee shouldn’t be fired and that employee shouldn’t have any legal protections in the workplace if they’re the ones fired for being gay.

For what it’s worth, I think the joke would have been better swapping out ‘cockholster’ for something like ‘asshole polisher’. But that’s only because analingus isn’t gendered the same way, and there’s general agreement that dirty buttholes are gross to tongue, even among sex-positive people.

HUMAN 1:
While you might be right, comedy doesn’t deserve this level of scrutiny imo

The reason I disagree is that comedy is one of the most effective tools at getting people’s regular defenses down and a look into their mindset. ‘It’s just a joke’ or ‘Come on, it’s funny’ isn’t an effective defense of something because the humor is always related to reality in some way. Racist jokes aren’t arbitrary or divorced from real, meaningful shared perceptions and expectations. You can’t really tell Scottish jokes in the United States and expect a laugh because there’s no cultural expectation that Scots are cheap, for example. In England, you can.

George Orwell did an analysis of the difference between Jewish cheapness and Scottish cheapness in humor, and it’s revealing of underlying attitudes what people find funny:

It is interesting to compare the “Jew joke” with that other stand-by of the music halls, the “Scotch joke”, which superficially it resembles. Occasionally a story is told (e.g. the Jew and the Scotsman who went into a pub together and both died of thirst) which puts both races on an equality, but in general the Jew is credited merely with cunning and avarice while the Scotsman is credited with physical hardihood as well. This is seen, for example, in the story of the Jew and the Scotsman who go together to a meeting which has been advertised as free. Unexpectedly there is a collection, and to avoid this the Jew faints and the Scotsman carries him out. Here the Scotsman performs the athletic feat of carrying the other. It would seem vaguely wrong if it were the other way about.

You can look at the tropes of homophobic jokes and find similar common threads, typically relating to slur-based puns, HIV/AIDS, and sucking cock or being fucked in the ass with exaggerated promiscuity. ‘Who cares? It’s just for a laugh.’ Yeah, and the thing people are laughing at is almost always not even slightly witty and built on derogatory assumptions people would deny if asked outright but admit they believe in when they laugh.

HUMAN 2:
“Lets attack the anti-fascist comment instead of the fascist.”

This is why Trump won, you stupid fucking Americans.

Criticism isn’t the same thing as attacking. You criticize the things you expect better of and hope to see improve. A few years back, Colbert’s anti-Asian tweet, and character, deserved to be criticized, especially in its presentation. Anti-Asian racism shouldn’t be considered safe or acceptable just because some Asian-American groups are socioeconomic status than some other minority groups that also are targets of racism. You can’t be given a free pass for bad things because you largely do good things.

But what happens is all of the voices of evenhandedness and propriety are ignored in favor of the most extreme elements, some of which are genuine and taken out of their moderating context, some that are stated pithily in order to get attention, and some that are agent provocateurs using the problem as a shield to go after a political/cultural enemy from the flank of their supporters.

It has nothing to do with why Trump won, except for people looking to use dramatic outliers to create a narrative in both cases.

HUMAN 3:
Man you’re really dense if you think Colbert is a homophobe, it’s a joke about Trump being Putin’s lapdog. It’s really important to Trump to come off as a big macho billionaire so the idea that he would suck a dick is simply making fun of his image, it is not putting down gay people or degrading gay sex. It’s all about how Trump sees himself and painting an opposite picture

Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, though, is the point.

The joke isn’t about Trump being Putin’s lapdog; the joke is something akin to Trump being Putin’s lapdog.

In the same way, if Colbert were to say, ‘How often to do you think Trump says, “Yessa Massa Vlad” on the phone with Putin?’, then the joke would be something akin to a lapdog, but the imagery and source of humor would be racism. That joke would be inappropriate and worthy of criticism because although you’re still punching up, you’re stepping on marginalized, disempowered people like a stool in order to get up there and earn a cheap laugh.

Again, for Redhats to pretend they give a shit now, when they’ve never bothered to before, is disingenuous and a nakedly expedient way to go after someone for making fun of the source of their personality cult. They wouldn’t care if it was about George Soros or I really don’t know what other leftist boogeyman. But the criticism from people who do care about and work against homophobia is entirely valid and worthy of being listened to.

HUMAN 4:
Sarcastic ebonics would be racist, I agree, but because they’re stereotyping and making fun of how black people speak. You can’t separate the joke there. An equivalent to Colbert’s ‘cock socket’ joke would be if he made a slavery joke without ebonics: inverting Trump’s self-image as a sort of king by comparing him to a slave.

Do you think jokes like Colbert’s hurt the LGBTQ community?

Do I think that Colbert is hurting the LGBTQ community at large? No, but I don’t think doing that sort of thing is helping, just like being a ‘feminist ally’ doesn’t give you a pass to tell misogynistic jokes. You shouldn’t have to worry that your allies are going to stab you in the back.

But yeah, humor is supposed to bump up against taboos and test them. I don’t have a problem with comedians doing a set and trying things out that they later realize doesn’t work or doesn’t accomplish their goal. But part of that process is the people expressing displeasure and comedians having to come up with reasons to justify their humor. The tension is crucial to the result, and a good comedian responds to the boundaries established by their audience.

So let’s say you take the ebonics out, but instead use the animated Trump and put him on an antebellum-style Southern plantation. That might be possible to pull off, but I doubt Stephen Colbert is the one who’s going to have the relevant skill and experience to navigate that sort of thing. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but Colbert is much better at joking about Catholicism because he knows it, believes in it sincerely, and inherently thinks about where he’s going with Catholic bits in a way he’s almost certainly not going to do with the black American experience and legacy of slavery in the United States.

You could make Trump a jester with Putin the king, and that would be a funny bit, right? And why not make him a tiny dwarf jester? It’s just funny and the dwarf part isn’t at all making fun of little people. And yet you can imagine they would not go that route if they were having Peter Dinklage on as a guest later that show.

Seth Myers has that ‘Jokes Seth Can’t Tell‘ bit where he has a two of his women writers on with him, one a white lesbian, the other black, and they tell the offensive punchlines to jokes it would be awkward for him to tell.

Honestly, in-group versus out-group matters. If Jerry Seinfeld were to do Jeff Foxworthy’s stand-up routine, the exact same material would be perceived as an out-of-touch, elitist attack rather than ‘Haw haw, I do know people like that and sometimes resemble that’.

HUMAN 5:
The joke is like your friend getting a really stupid haircut and you pointing and saying, “That’s so gay”.

Your friend is only hurt and the insult only works because the implication of being gay is a bad thing.

The same thing here.

The insult/joke only works if the idea of one man putting his penis in another mans mouth is considered a bad thing.

I cannot make it any more specific than this.

HUMAN 6:
No you fuck. The same concept could be applied to a woman and a man saying she sucks his cock, as in she’s going out of her way to appease him. It has nothing to do with the actual homosexual act of a man sucking another mans cock and that it’s gay and being gay is bad.

Think some more about that example you just used: a woman sucking a dick is also used as a pejorative.

Like in Greek or Roman cultures, being a ‘receptive’ partner is considered a lower, shameful thing. The homophobic part of the joke is obvious in that Putin isn’t really being insulted at all, despite apparently finding sexual pleasure from having a fat old man’s mouth on his dick. The insult is aimed at Trump for taking another man’s cock in his mouth—like a woman would.

Similarly, every homophobic joke you’ll ever hear falls into two categories: HIV/AIDS and slur-based puns on the one hand, and punchlines that involve a man sucking dick or getting fucked in the ass on the other. The joke about prison is that you’ll ‘drop the soap’ and your asshole will be used like you’re a woman. It’s not that in the absence of a woman, you’ll find romantic intimacy and attraction to other men. The joke is that gay people are dick receptacles, just like women are. To be gay, in this understanding, is to be sissy, to too closely embody feminine qualities or roles, especially in sexual acts.

This understanding is not one people typically hold consciously or even intend with any malice. But it’s like Romance language grammar: the fact that there is a suffix for men and another for women—and a group with one man and the entirety of the female population still uses a male suffix—tells you a lot about the assumptions and values of the culture that developed those grammatical rules.

The things you find funny are built on assumptions, including many prejudices. In a society where you benefit from power structures, you’re not going to bother to think about the other side of those prejudices except in very specific circumstances. Even people who claim to tell racist jokes with their totally cool black friend would not feel very comfortable telling those sorts of jokes to a group of black acquaintances or strangers.

The joke is that sucking a cock is an act worthy of disdain and those who do it deserve derision. That is literally the source of the insult and the humor, and if someone is punching up at a bully, it’s appropriate to criticize them for doing it with the boxing glove of marginalized people who can still legally be fired in most states if their employer doesn’t like the fact that they suck another man’s dick.

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