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No More Mr. Nice Guy

Trump is king when jokers run wild

The time has come to say a few words about the perils of group think. A short while back, a fake documentary entitled Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was released on these shores. The film purports to chronicle the adventures of a Central Asian journalist named Borat Sagdiyev as he wanders across America. It fuses real-life footage of everyday people who have been snookered by staged, scripted scenes made to look real. The audience has no way of distinguishing between the two.

                                            

Borat, a nitwit, racist, sexist, anti- Semite and all-around pig, is the brainchild of Sacha Baron Cohen, an Englishman famous for creating the character of Ali G, a fake journalist who succeeded in landing interviews with such luminaries as Patrick Buchanan and Andy Rooney, who were then made to look like fools. Even before its release, Borat was lauded in hyperbolic terms by the usual cabal of servile film critics, many of them middle-aged men who dread being perceived as “unkewl” by the 12-year-old bloggers who are now the cultural arbiters of this society. Buoyed by the adulation of the press, it made a fortune here. Critics either didn’t notice or didn’t care that the film is a nonstop stream of spittle directed at the people of America.

Since then, a quiet backlash has set in. Cohen has been sued by several of his victims, ran into other legal problems here and abroad, and was punched out in New York City. Meanwhile, a few serious journalists accused him of being deliberately vicious not to the rich and the powerful, but to ordinary people all across the heartland of America. As any idiot knows, satire loses its moral power when the satirist aims down. But Cohen went out of his way to humiliate well-meaning Americans of all classes, races and ethnic groups, decent people who actually made an effort to be helpful to his vile alter-ego.

Viciously offensive to women, fiercely xenophobic, festively homophobic, casually anti-Semitic, contemptuous of religion and nauseatingly puerile, Borat is a nonstop fiesta of hatred of Middle America. It was released the same month as Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood’s tribute to the ordinary Americans who planted the American flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, thus making the world safe for people like Sacha Baron Cohen. The movie tanked.

There is a valuable lesson in all this unpleasantness-one with great relevance to the business community. The people tricked into being friendly or helpful to the repulsive Borat did so in part because Americans are friendly by nature, but also because they felt that they should be polite to a person from foreign climes who did not fully understand our culture and who was probably brain-damaged.

Borat shows ever so clearly that Americans are hesitant to judge the values of other societies, even when those values are odious, because they have been brainwashed into thinking that being judgmental is being reactionary. Alas, this is the ultimate form of paternalism: to hold some ethnic groups and some nationalities to lower standards than others.

Several years ago, Cohen, in his Ali G guise, set up an interview with Donald Trump. Trump, through his intermediaries, agreed, believing that he was being interviewed by a real journalist. About two questions into the conversation, Trump realized that he was either being scammed by a fraud or harassed by a moron. He walked out. This is yet another instance where Donald Trump, revered by some, reviled by many, has lit the way out of the darkness.

Donald Trump was the first American businessman to stand up to Cohen’s bullying and tell him to take a hike. He was also one of the first Americans to state on record that he hated Borat. If he ever runs for president, he’s got my vote.

About Joe Queenan

Joe Queenan is a regular contributor on business issues, corporate culture, and financial follies to Barron's and The Wall Street Journal.