Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, made a keynote speech today at ADL’s 2019 Never is Now summit, in which he viciously chided the Silicon Valley tech giants for their irresponsible approach to censorship (or rather the lack of it thereof) on their terrifyingly influential social media platforms.
Cohen was at the summit to receive the ADL International Leadership Award, and began by making it clear that throughout his career, the aim of his comedy has been to uncover the insidiously passive acceptance of racism and bigotry that lurks within our society. I have to confess that up until now, I had found his characters Borat and Ali G completely unacceptable because they fall into the socially problematic category of cultural appropriation, but now I know that Cohen is woke as fuck, I shall endeavor to watch his work and make damn well sure I laugh my socks off.
During his 25-minute long speech, Cohen told his enthusiastic audience that he found Mark Zuckerberg’s excuse of defending of free expression when refusing to censor his platform ‘utter nonsense’. Finally, a mainstream comedian who understands that social media must be regulated. Many people, or as I like to call them ‘bigots’, argue that the internet is the primary form of communication for many people these days and that to censor it would be morally wrong. Like a doll with a pull-string, Mark Zuckerberg often spouts shallow platitudes in defense of his multi-billion dollar corporation like: ‘giving more people a voice’, and: ‘bringing people together’. Incredibly naive and perhaps even sinister phrases considering that a lot of people out there harbor fascistic tendencies and should not be allowed a voice.
Well, on that matter Sacha Baron Cohen had this to say:
‘The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law” abridging freedom of speech, however, this does not apply to private businesses like Facebook.’
Haha! Take THAT, Nazis! Thanks to a loophole in the Bill or Rights due to James Madison’s careless disregard of social media platforms when it was written in 1787, we totally CAN regulate and censor Facebook and Twitter.
After watching Cohen’s speech I watched a couple of his movies and instead of sitting there with my arms folded, getting ready to jab the off button on my remote the moment anything remotely offensive occurred, I found myself actually enjoying them. Knowing that the man who made them shares my views on free speech and how dangerous it is gave me a new found appreciation of his work. I cannot say that I found his films particularly amusing because humor tends to be something that happens to other people. I did however find myself chuckling at the delicious absurdity of a man who recently called for censorship now appearing on my television screen as a Kazakh journalist encouraging his audience to laugh at the idea that people in Kazakhstan have sex their sisters.
Watching Cohen mercilessly stereotype a character from a little-known country with the knowledge that his entire reason for portraying his most well-known character in this way was to draw attention to the fact that people often stereotype people from little-known countries completely blew my mind. This is Inception-level satire, and his dedication to keeping up this ruse for the best part of two decades has to be admired.
Anyway, now that the man who played Borat has endorsed online regulation and censorship, hopefully more people will get on board with this idea and maybe one day, hate speech on the internet will be a thing of the past. I have to say, his ‘throw the Jew down the well’ song was delightfully entertaining, I’ve been humming it to myself all day!