August 19, 2004
Some viewers of Da Ali G Show" on HBO were a little taken aback during the Aug. 1 episode when the character, Borat, got up in an Arizona bar and had all the patrons singing along with him to this song:
;In my country there is problem. / And that problem is the Jew / They take everybody's money / They never give it back;
Throw the Jew down the well! / So my country can be free -- / You must grab him by his horns / Then we have a big party.;
Borat is a fictional Kazahkstanian reporter distinguished by his utter lack of social propriety who allegedly films segments on American culture for Kazakhstan television. Like the spectacularly stupid pseudo black rapper Ali G and the unashamedly vapid gay Austrian fashion reporter Bruno, Borat is a creation of British Jewish comic Sacha Baron Cohen. And, like the other characters, Borat uses his lack of shame to expose people's darker sides by asking them uncomfortable questions. (Among other revelations, Borat had James Broadwater, an aspiring congressman, say that all Jews are going to hell, and Bruno got a hip Miami nightclub owner to admit he discriminates against handicapped people. You just try to ignore them and hopefully they'll go away, said James Butler of Nerve Lounge.)
But for many viewers in this particular episode, titled Peace, Baron Cohen and his creations just might have blurred the boundaries between acceptable and disturbing political incorrectness. After the episode aired, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said it received hundreds of complaints and wrote to Baron Cohen expressing its concerns.
Todd Gutnick, a spokesman for the ADL, said that Baron Cohen's office responded to the letter, expressing a willingness to discuss the issues with the ADL, but no formal date has been set yet.
Back in Arizona, Carol Irizarry, the supervisor of Country West Dancing and Lounge, says the patrons of her bar are not anti-Semitic.
[Baron Cohen] definitely misrepresented the bar. He didn't show the whole song, she said, referring to the fact that the song had other funny verses about Borat throwing his wife's cooking down the well, which were not aired, but which helped rile up the crowd, and made them amenable to joining in the anti-Semitic song.
As Ali G would say "Hain't that a bit racialist?