Hilarious Racism is, in Fact, Not Hilarious

In other news, water is wet.

On Monday, The O’Reilly Factor ran a “satirical” segment known as Watters’ World, in which Jesse Watters conducts Man on the Street interviews in New York’s Chinatown to ask residents what they think of Donald Trump. Fox Nation, the opinion branch of Fox News called the segment “hilarious”, hilarious because Asians can’t speak Engrish good.

Jenn Fang of Reappropriate wrote,

In a matter of a few minutes, Watters manages to invoke a breath-taking array of anti-Asian stereotypes. There are gongs, and bows, and chop suey fonts. There are jokes about massage parlours, and herbal medicines, and illegal activity. There is inexplicable karate (which isn’t even Chinese). There is street harassment. Watters accosts Chinatown residents who are clearly English-language limited, and portrays their language difficulties as political ignorance. There’s probably more racist, stereotypical crap that I’m forgetting to list.

If you haven’t seen it yet, see for yourself. In the five minutes you can never get back, I’m going to go bleach my eyes.

Did you survive the constant cringe-inducing stereotypes? While this entire piece has way too many problematic components, I’ll address my personal grievances:

-Man on the Street interviews are easy to do, but they’re known as convenience sampling because they are literally a method of ease and frankly, lazy. If you are attempting to get a feel for what the population thinks of an issue, MOS isn’t reliable because it’s subject to bias (from both the interviewer and the subject). If you want to brush up on population sampling, UT Austin has a pretty simple guide–and states that inferences from MOS aren’t that trustworthy.

-Watters and his production team–don’t forget, he’s not the only one behind this recurring segment–consciously put together a 5 minute story in which the main point of the video is to mock Asian folks. O’Reilly claims it was to find out what Chinese Americans think of Trump, but as I mentioned above, MOS isn’t reliable so I call BS on that excuse.

-Despite writing this piece off as “good fun”, Watters recycled stereotypes that plague the Asian American community, ranging from idiotic Karate Kid references and massage parlor jokes to asking elderly Chinese people to answer questions that they may not have understood and invoking the Model Minority Myth in a Q&A with O’Reilly to excuse the interviews. (I’ll likely dedicate another entire piece to the Model Minority and how that gets covered, but another day.)

-Watters finally acknowledged that the piece was found offensive by some (read: people are too sensitive) which is a classic non-apology for racists.

-To tie this back to my slight obsession with language, I’ll let the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple sum this nit-picky grammar piece:

The beneficiary of a strict Catholic grammar-school education, O’Reilly can surely spot the misplaced modifier here: Watters is essentially saying that the “Chinatown segment” is a “political humorist.” An improvement might read, “As a political humorist, I intended the Chinatown to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are.”

Minus the grammatical infirmity, it’s still a weak-kneed embarrassment of a sentence.

Thankfully, folks showed up today to protest outside of Fox News Headquarters (right next to my old stomping grounds at 30 Rock!) How’s that for Asians being apolitical and insulated, Jesse?


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