Sasha Baron Cohen did have his moments as Ali G. It could be funny when he managed to trick establishment figures. His playing stupid act could be amusing and similtaneously clever. Having said that though, I was never a big fan.
Cohen always has walked a fine line between satire and reaction, but with his latest 'Borat' incarnation the scales seem to weigh on the balance of the latter. His
'Ali G' character may have been a rather cruel satire on poverty and ignorance (along with a crude racial stereotype) but at least people in Britain have heard of Staines. Likewise most white people here know some Black people, or at least know something about the Black community in Britain. Cohen's spoof did not bring the existence of this particular group to the attention of a public, or create any new prejudices. It's also worthwhile adding that 'Ali G' was not even supposed to be Black, but rather a white person ripping off that culture (i.e. a 'wigga' or a 'chav').
'Borat'(see link), on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish.
How many people in the West (especially the United States) had even heard of Kazakhstan prior to it being an object for Cohen's ridicule, let alone know anything about it? What Cohen is doing is simply trading on racial stereotypes that he imagines people will have about Kazakhstan or countries like it (Impoverished Muslim nations that were part of the former Soviet Union). Kazakhs are portrayed as a group of anti Semitic, incestuous misogynists.
I especially love this piece of 'comedy':
"When Mr Nazarbayev marked the start of his three-day state visit by dedicating a statue in front of his Washington embassy, along with a four-page advertisement for the country in the New York Times, Borat denounced the publicity as "disgusting fabrications" planted by the Uzbeks, "who as we all know are a very nosy people, with a bone in the middle of their brain"."
As 'we all know'? Really?
Cohen can say what the hell he likes, however abhorrent. I would be the last one to favour any State imposed censorship. Defending his right to express himself doesn't equate with having any support for what he says, or giving it any credibility. I can quite understand while the Kazakh government take offense at his movie. It is not a question of them needing to 'lighten up' or gain a 'sense of humour' at all (as the former Tory MP Neil Hamilton seems to think). Nor is it political correctness gone mad. There is very little that is either funny or true in Cohen's portrayal of Kazakhs. As the more discerning people noted in the comments of the 'This is London' article , if Cohen (or, even worse, a non Jew) decided to satirise the Jews of Israel the anti defamation league would have pulled the plug long ago. Or, at the very least, it would not be viewed as being acceptable. If anti semitism is not acceptable than neither should be any other type of racism.
Bernard Manning, who is openly racist, homophobic and sexist, is no longer thought of as being funny in liberal society. But Cohen acts under a different persona, and that seems to make all the difference.