Who is America: Initial Thoughts
Sacha Baron Cohen is back with a mini-series shot over the last few months in which he took on several new personas which, at the time of writing, will be airing on Showtime. Also at the time of writing, we got to see a ten-minute clip of the show, here, in which he pretends to be Col. Erran Morad; an anti-terror expert from Israel. News of this show sparked a lot of talk and then, after the clip was released, we got a lot of people sharing it around and even Joe Walsh coming forward and laughing at how he got pranked.
Well, that's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to answer the question of the title. Who is America? Evidently, fundamentally broken.
You see, there is a little bit of a problem when it comes to comedy. I love comedy, and as I've gotten older I've come to really adore the ability that comedy gives individuals to talk truth to power and to highlight the oddities and problems within our society. The problem with comedy is that it builds tension about the real world, and then dispels that tension with a laugh. It fixes nothing but gives people a mild sense of relief. What Sacha Baron Cohen has done here is not given that relief. Instead, he took an insane proposition, took it to people in positions of power and influence, and saw what they would do with it. As it turns out, many of them gleefully would like to arm toddlers.
I want to be perfectly clear about something. Everyone they showcased in this clip was unaware that any of this was a joke, or was made up. They all took Cohen at his word, knew they were being recorded and their reactions are legitimately their own. They aren't doing a gag, they are giving their earnest response to an anti-terrorism expert. They think it's real and so their responses are real.
Let's run through the people appearing in this clip:
Philip Van Cleave: President of Virginia's Citizen's Defence League
-When told in Israel there is a program to train and arm kids from ages 16 down to 3 he admits his organization has been pushing for something similar for years though not to as young an age.
-When told by Cohen that his son died in the program, Cleave's first response isn't to offer condolences, it's to remark on how children haven't developed a conscious feeling of guilt over right and wrong actions and that makes them effective soldiers.
I could actually stop here. We have a man, on camera, who knows he's on camera, advocating child soldiers. Sadly this just scratches the surface.
-Boasts about killing a state bill that would have made it illegal for children between the ages of 4 to 12 to have access to a gun.
-Taking part in a video meant to make firearms attractive to three-year-olds and teaching them in rhyme to shoot for a person's center mass.
Keep in mind he is doing this AFTER stating that children do not have a developed consciously. That they don't properly know right from wrong or to feel guilty.
Larry Pratt: Executive Director Emeritus, Gun Owners of America
-Remarks that the proposal would make heads exposed because people are prejudice against children having firearms
-after hearing "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good boy with a gun" he remarks "Or a good toddler"
-Openly Islamaphobic first with a remark about children instinctively going for weapons when hearing "Allah Hu Ackbar" and then laughing while saying "Pray in secret" when told of what he thinks is a true story of a Muslim gardener being shot while praying.
-Laughing openly and heartedly at the phrase "It's not rape if it's your wife"
-Offers to introduce Cohen to members of Congress who would be receptive to a message about arming children as young as 4 years old
Matt Gaetz: Florida Congressman
-Hears the proposal and then says typically members of Congress don't support a program after such meetings.
Trent Lott: Former Senate Majority Leader
Dana Rohrabacher: California Congressman
Joe Wilson: South Carolina Congressman
Joe Walsh: Former Illinois Congressman and Radio Host
-All agree to be recorded reading a transcript where they encourage arming preschool children through a program that will train them with handguns, rifles, semi-automatics, and mortars. The script in at least one case includes the words "uncorrupted by fake news or homosexuality".
Of the names I've bolded only Joe Walsh has thus far come forward trying to provide some amount of context and damage control. His defense consists of claiming he was "tricked into reading off a teleprompter" essentially playing it off as a gag. There's a few problems with that defence. As I stated above, everyone featured thought what was happening and what was being requested was real. They were asked to help put together and put their name and face onto a video to push for a program to train and arm children with firearms. This is what they agreed to do. I won't go into the horrifying lack of even basic science literacy that leads to someone saying "Four-year-olds process images eighty percent faster than an adult. Meaning that essentially, like owls, they can see in slow motion" because that would be a whole other article. What matters is that they think this is a real program and are willing to record themselves giving it their support.
Another issue with this "I was pranked" defence can be showcased with a simple experiment. Read the bolded sentence out loud to yourself on your first read through. I hereby decree that mango is the greatest of all fruits and that any who disagree with this self-evident fact are worthy of neither respect nor personhood and should be forced to attend mandatory taste-training camps.
Notice something, your eyes and brain were ahead of what you were saying out loud. We naturally do this so that we speak at a constant speed. It allows us to work on difficult or unfamiliar words before we have to say them out loud. Now, at what point did you hesitate in your reading? At what point did your brain hit the brakes and go 'hold up, what am I saying?'. Was it the part where the reaction to disagreement was a total expulsion of personal worth? Was it the part about concentration camps? The point is, you know what you are about to say before you say it when you are doing a cold read. I know this because I was professionally trained to do, and have done, live radio and speech work. Anyone practiced in prepared statements and teleprompters, literally everyone interviewed, would be well versed in this. They are reading ahead and KNOW what they are saying before they say it.
Sacha Baron Cohen just showed us that the halls of power feature these people. That the lobbyists and congressmen currently deciding how Americans should live to hold these views. This isn't a case of the powerful being duped, it's a case of their moral bankruptcy being laid out. No one in America should be laughing along, they should be utterly horrified. Who is America isn't a comedy program. It's a litmus test upon America's ruling class and needs to be seen as such.