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The Danger that Sacha Baron Cohen's 'Who Is America?' Poses

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 23, 2018 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 23, 2018 |


In last week’s episode of Showtime’s Who Is America?, Sacha Baron Cohen revealed just how far conservative politicians, pundits, and lobbyists were willing to go in support of gun rights in America. A number of current and former Congressmen advocated, on camera, for a Kindgerguardians program, which would put guns in the hands of kids as young as four years old.

No one lost their job over it.

At best, it might hurt California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who is in a tough race in California, and may cost him a point or two in the polls (although, his appearance on Who Is America? may not hurt him as badly as the fact that he led a congressional delegation to Moscow in 2015 at the behest of Maria Butina).

In this week’s episode, Cohen — posing as an ultra-liberal nutjob — offered the citizens of a small town in Arizona a “financial opportunity” to build a mosque, which was quickly rejected by the townsfolks, who didn’t want either Muslims or black people in their town. He tried to dupe Ted Koppel, but like his interview with Bernie Sanders, it went nowhere. He got Dick Cheney to sign his “waterboarding kit” (a milk jug), and he targeted an alum of The Bachelor, convincing her to lie about spending time in Africa helping child soldiers (he also convinced her to film a PSA asking for donations to help arm the child soldiers).

But the segment everyone is talking about this morning? This one, where a Georgia State Representative sputtered a lot of racist shit, including screaming the N-word, calling terrorist sand n——ers, and pulling down his pants.

That’s the kind of segment that should cost Jason Spencer his job. And maybe it will! Georgia lawmakers — including the Governor — are condemning Spencer.

My concern, however, is if it doesn’t cost him his job. What if the goalposts are moved yet again, to “yeah, he spouted a lot of offensive, racist shit on camera but it was because he was duped by a liberal,” which may then become a new line of defense for every motherfucker looking for even the slightest justification for their abhorrent actions? As we’ve seen time and again with Trump, it doesn’t have to be a strong justification, an intelligent justification, or even a coherent one. There just has to be something there on which supporters can hang their support. That’s all it takes, and within six weeks (after Who Is America? completes its run), everyone becomes completely inured to what should be shocking behaviors by the participants on Who Is America?.

It’s not that Cohen brought a knife to a Trump-era gunfight; it’s that he brought a gun, and no one cares anymore about who gets shot, because when an elected official whips out his pistol and murders a passerby, he can just blame it on the liberals and his supporters will stand by the murderer to own the libs.

To wit: Here is Josh Hader, who received a standing ovation by the home crowd in Milwaukee in his first appearance after tweets surfaced showing that he was a gleeful and enthusiastic racist and homophobe when he was 18 (six years ago).

Here’s how Deadspin’s Chris Thompson put it:

Do you stand and enthusiastically applaud someone for merely apologizing for prior bad acts? Or do you stand and enthusiastically applaud someone as a show of defiance towards an oppressive force that targeted one of your own? Probably Brewers fans were just drunk and dumb. Their enthusiasm for welcoming and embracing Hader in this particular moment, though—while the ugliness of what he said is still ringing in the minds of exactly the people and groups it was meant to offend, and while those people are still justifiably skeptical of Hader’s self-professed and undeniably self-serving evolution—says an awful lot about who might not be welcome among them. And it’s hard not to believe that’s exactly the intended message.

It is the worst timeline, one where every action and reaction is not weighed and processed on the merits, but by how it makes the other side look.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.