Woody and I have talked about Sacha Baron Cohen's latest show, Who is America? (Showtime) and mostly questioned his tactics. If you're not familiar, in his show, Sacha Baron Cohen poses as different characters and takes aim mostly at higher profile conservatives, getting his targets to say or do things that are either contradictory or flat out humiliating. Dick Cheney has been pranked and also GA State representative Jason Spencer, who left his seat early after his segment aired.
The latest target, however, is Daniel Roberts of Fort Mill, SC. , founder and president of Youth Shooters of America and a vocal defender of gun rights. He apparently had no idea that he was on a prank show or even who Sasha Baron Cohen is. In this segment, Sacha Baron Cohen is posed as an Isralei anti-terrorism expert, offering on camera training for Americans to fight Islamic terrorism. He convinces Daniel Roberts to participate in a shouting match (to ward off terrorists) and to throw a doll in a trash can because of a suicide bomb hidden in the diaper.
Look. We've seen this kind of thing before. The Daily Show has used this for years, however perhaps not to this extent. There is a line that should not be crossed. With Mr. Roberts in particular, that's somewhere before coaxing him into biting on a sex toy to fight off a would be terrorist- which is what happened in this segment.
There's a way to make your point about how "the other side", whichever side that may be, is misguided or hypocritical or just flat out wrong. But using tactics of humiliation and shame are unnecessary, ineffective and ethically wrong. SHAME AND HUMILIATION ARE NOT MOTIVATORS. If the end game is to get this man to question his stance on gun control, how is humiliating him in front of his family, community and anyone with an internet connection going to to serve that purpose? There has to be a better way to bring together differing political opinions, constructive conversation, and freedom of speech while also maintaining basic human dignity. Don't go for the low hanging fruit. Be bigger than that.
Check out the Who Is America? segment below (probably NSFW or children) and check out the NYTimes interview with Daniel Roberts here.