Yes, Sacha Baron Cohen Is Being Deceptive. Who cares?
Last night, on the second episode of Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Sunday night show, Who Is America?, Jason Spencer, a Republican State Rep. from Georgia, exposed himself and repeatedly shouted the N-word for what he thought was an Israeli self-defense class. Shortly after this episode aired, disdain and calls for his resignation began to pour in.
Governor Nathan Deal (R-GA)
The actions and language used by Jason Spencer are appalling and offensive. There is no excuse for this type of behavior, ever, and I am saddened and disgusted by it.
— Governor Nathan Deal (@GovernorDeal) July 23, 2018
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle (R-GA)
Jason Spencer is a disgrace to Georgia and should resign his elected office immediately. While I’m glad he never supported our campaign and actually actively opposed us, I think it speaks to the judgment of our voters that he was overwhelmingly defeated earlier this year.
— Casey Cagle (@CaseyCagle) July 23, 2018
Spencer, who recently lost his primary bid for re-election, provided a Razzie-worthy explanation for why he agreed to participate in the interview:
“Sacha Baron Cohen and his associates took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked. In posing as an Israeli Agent, he pretended to offer self-defense exercises.”
To my knowledge, roaring racial epithets at a would-be attacker is not a self-defense exercise. In fact, I think anyone who possesses the ability to think critically, let alone a State Representative, would say that that would serve to further antagonize your attacker.
Since the airing of its shocking first episode, where prominent Republican figures, including congressmen, called for the arming of toddlers, Who Is America? has been met with a mix of both criticism and praise. Most recently, Sopan Deb, of The New York Times, wrote an article comparing him to his political provocateur predecessor on the right, James O’Keefe. Although, it’s important to note that Deb does highlight the very real differences between the two men and how they’ve gone about “duping” people.
There is little debate as to whether or not Baron Cohen has succeeded in exposing the subjects of his deception. However, some in the media, and of course on the right, are calling into question the ethics behind Cohen’s methods of getting these individuals to express their views candidly, or, in some cases, read carefully crafted copy explaining the rationale behind arming children. I think the first thing we have to address is that Cohen is not a journalist, he’s a comedian. That distinction alone should put an end to the debate of whether or not what he’s doing is subject to the same standards of journalistic integrity we’ve come to expect from most major news outlets. Second, when a person says that they support the arming of young children, is your energy really being better utilized by questioning the method that prompted the person to willingly say that?