Have the rugged insurgents of the New Republic thrown Marty Peretz down the well? No way could he have approved this editorial defending Sacha Baron Cohen's "Borat" against the slanders of—I'm quoting TNR, remember—a "dirty Jew."
[The Anti-Defamation League] is still fretting about Cohen's forthcoming film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The reason? The ADL, according to a statement it released last week, is "concerned … that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke."
The Kazakh Embassy in Washington has already denounced the forthcoming Borat film, and a foreign ministry spokesman has said that Nazarbayev's government will do everything in its considerable power to stop it from playing in Kazakhstan. Indeed, there were even reports–later denied–that Nazarbayev planned to ask President Bush to do something about Borat during their meeting at the White House last week.
All of which has only served to illustrate the true character of Nazarbayev. Long accustomed to ruling his country with relative impunity–earlier this year, the State Department rated his government's human rights record as "poor," citing its encroachments on political rights, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion–Nazarbayev refuses to tolerate even a fictional character like Borat. And, in that refusal, Cohen has revealed Nazarbayev's intolerance in a way that no State Department report ever will. Here's hoping the ADL's plea to keep audiences away from Borat's film works as well as it did for The Passion of the Christ.
Here's a reason why TNR still rules—it's such a predictable fount of outrage against any perceieved anti-Semitism (like, say, not thinking that unconditional support of Israel is the best idea since Sam Phillips signed Elvis). But the point the editors are making isn't really counterintuitive. The "Borat" character is such a moron that he only gets real anti-Semites to agree with him, and to expose themselves in the process. The classic example (although it might be outdrawn by something from the new movie) is his song "In My Country There Is Problem," which starts out funny and gets creepier and creepier as an audience, their necks five shades redder than a fire truck, sing along with the vicious Jew-bashing. It's such a good expose of bigotry that the pro-Israel website inhonor.net dubbed a copy and uploaded it to YouTube.