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Red Corner: Borat gets Reprieve
Sacha Baron Cohen has pissed of an entire country. That's what happens when you create a comedic persona that is wickedly funny, politically incorrect and mocks the 15 million people of a former Soviet republic. Cohen's masterful creation is none other than Borat Sagdiyev, a misogynist, anti-Semitic TV reporter from Kazakhstan who bumbles his way through interviews and drops such inappropriate lines as, "How many punch it take you to kill cow? For me my record is 11." Check out his hilarious website here.
As Erik reported a few months ago, the Kazakh government grew so angry at Borat they shut down his Kazakhstan home page and threatened to sue Cohen for his unkind portrayal. Borat himself responded with the statement, "I'd like to state I have no connection with Mr. Cohen and fully support my Government's decision to sue this Jew. Since the 2003 Tuleyakiv reforms, Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world. Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear the blue hats, and the age of consent has been raised to eight years old."
It's never wise to battle a comedian since they will always get the last laugh. Apparently the Kazakh government has finally learned this lesson and will now roll with the punches. Dariga Nazarbayeva, the daughter of Kazakhstan's president who also runs a major television studio in the country, has just publicly voiced her disagreement with the censorship of Borat/Cohen.
Is this a move towards freer speech in authoritarian Kazakhstan? Probably not. It's more likely that Nazarbayeva has merely learned about the power of negative media-as is evident by her comment; "This Internet site has caused less damage to our image than its closure, which was covered by all international news agencies." And it has, good or bad, raised awareness about a country very few people have ever heard of before.