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War of Terror! Great Success!

Sacha Baron Cohen’s highly objectionable Borat might be the most offensive American social satire of the last decade, if not ever. Racism, sexism, antisemitism, and just about every other discriminatory “-ism” plague this mockumentary. However, what might be most offensive about this film isn’t Baron Cohen’s obviously bigoted character, what might be most offensive is how unsuspecting Americans dealt with his antics as exhibited in the clip below:

In Disciplining Terror, Stampnitzky makes the case that “new terrorism” (despite its largely contested definition) is subscribed to “irrational” criminals who only act out of their evil nature from the 1990s onward–unlike hijackers, murders, and criminals of the past who rationalized their violence. Furthermore, Stampnitzky explains that the “Islamist terror threat” was mobilized by a discourse that focuses on “this new form of terrorism that was irrational, that broke from predictable routines, and that held the potential for mass violence” (143). Borat is able to display this widely held conceptualization in his speech.

After Borat shouts, “May U S and A kill every single terrorist!” the crowd goes wild with jeers and smiles. They even continue to cheer after he suggests George W. Bush drink the blood of every man, woman, and child in Iraq. The audience only critiques Borat when he begins singing the “Kazakhstan national anthem” to the tune of the US national anthem, presumably because of his unpatriotic bastardization of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The arbitrary construction of “terror” induces fear and anger in these Americans as they are perceived as a group of people who are “motivated by a desire to incur destruction for its own sake” (153). While Baron Cohen is pointing out the ignorance and unfaltering patriotism of this crowd, he is also displaying the heightened unpredictability rhetoric surrounding new terrorism. The audience has an ingrained fear in an entire country of people that have been systemically dehumanized by the discourse of new terrorism.

Callie • October 27, 2016

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