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Can Kazakhstan sue Ali G?

Sacha Baron Cohen, star of the "Da Ali G Show," is doing his part to put Howard Stern's FCC battles into perspective. Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry is threatening to sue him for portraying the central Asian state in a "derogatory way." The 34-year-old British comic is under attack for "Borat Sagdiyev," a faux Kazakh TV personality he plays, who gleefully describes his countrymen as drunken sexual deviants.

Here is the link and story, thanks to Alina Stefanescu for the pointer.

Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Under American law, I'm pretty sure Ali G's parody would be protected by the First Amendment.
11.16.2005 10:36pm
NYU Jew (mail):
Of course Kazakstan can sue Ali G. But they wouldn't make it past summary judgment.
11.16.2005 10:38pm
Nobody Special:
"'We do not rule out that Mr. Cohen is serving someone's political order designed to present Kazakhstan and its people in a derogatory way,' Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev said Monday in a press conference."

I've got $5 that he thinks the Joooooooz are behind it.
11.16.2005 11:02pm
Argle (mail) (www):
The Kazakh government should hire Paul Deignan as their legal advisor.
11.16.2005 11:26pm
Scotty:
It's hilarious that anti-semitism is part of the Borat schtick while the real Kazakh government is making a possible reference to jews being behind it.
11.17.2005 12:16am
Visitor Again:
Kazakhstan may not have a leg to stand on in suing Cohen, but I wonder about the prospects of those who are duped into giving him interviews and who become the foils in his put-ons. Cohen is hilarious. But he does take advantage of his interviewees. For one thing, he gains access to them through duplicity, then takes advantage of their courtesy by making fun of them and subjecting them to offensive comments. He defrauds them out of their time and effort. And then subjects them to ridicule and public embarassment.

Not every annoyance or inconvenience is an actionable tort, of course, but it seems to me Cohen may cross the line. Still, it would be a shame if he were prevented from doing this kind of thing; we'd be the losers instead of the poor schmucks he picks on.
11.17.2005 2:33am
Anonymous coward:
As the old song says, 'throw the Jews down the well.'
11.17.2005 8:05am
anonymous coward:
Actually, I think Ali G is less mean-spirited (towards the victims, not Kazakhstan or wiggers) than most hidden camera shows. Excepting a few skits (usually Bruno), the humor is mostly that Cohen's characters are outrageous and put the subjects in awkward situations, not anything that reflects poorly on the victims.
11.17.2005 8:22am
Cornellian (mail):
well they certainly won't sue him in the US, they'll sue him in Britain, where defamation law is much more plaintiff friendly.
11.17.2005 10:48am
Visitor Again:
Actually, I think Ali G is less mean-spirited (towards the victims, not Kazakhstan or wiggers) than most hidden camera shows. Excepting a few skits (usually Bruno), the humor is mostly that Cohen's characters are outrageous and put the subjects in awkward situations, not anything that reflects poorly on the victims.

Who are the victims? The interviewees end up looking terrible. They certainly are ridiculed, and rightly so in most cases.

Cohen ridiculed the patrician white guy who had a black servant bring round drinks by saying, I see you still have slaves. The whole point of the piece was to watch the white patrician try to squirm his way out of it. The answer the fellow gave--something like no, no, we don't have slaves anymore nowadays, said with apparent regret--was classic. And it certainly reflected poorly on the interviewee.

Cohen ridiculed the folks in the country western bar by posing as a Kazakh country singer and having them join in singing an alleged Kazakh country folk song: Let's throw the Jews down the well. The whole point was to ridicule them by showing how readily and enthusiastically nearly all of them joined in an outrageously racist chant with genocidal overtones. It was outrageous, both sad and funny for the same reason. But again, the interviewees==the bar patrons--were ridiculed.

There must be a name for this genre of comedy--the kind that reveals things are much worse than you thought and that makes you laugh as you recognize it. It's more than what is known as black comedy.
11.17.2005 12:00pm
zurg342001:
Kazakhstan is socially liberal with high foreign investment, especially in recent oil, from US, Russia, China, etc &its very important to them. Maybe the Kazakhstan govt is worried Borat might influence Western bids? hmmm.. lol.. just a theory..
4.20.2006 4:36pm