I’m not usually a fan of individuals who set up front companies and phony websites with the express intention of misleading people. It’s how the oil industry manages to convince people its "thinktanks" are in fact sources of objective research on energy and global warming. It’s how Washington uber-lobbyist Richard Berman — the model for Aaron Eckhart’s character in "Thank You for Smoking" — has operated for years.
At least in theory, then, I feel I should be at least a little scandalized that Sacha Baron Cohen has done exactly the same thing for his new movie, "Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt."
As reported and extensively documented by The Smoking Gun, Cohen’s production company set up at least 29 phony firms — among them Amesbury Chase Productions, Chromium Films, Cold Stream Productions and Coral Blue Productions, all with remarkably similar websites linking back to the same Sunset Boulevard mailbox company — so his victims would not connect requests from a "German documentary crew" for on-camera interviews with the creator of Ali G and Borat.
Is this strictly legal? It’s a fair bet, once the movie comes out, that that proposition will be thoroughly tested in the courts. "Borat," after all, led to a large flurry of lawsuits, many of them alleging gross misrepresentation by Baron Cohen and his production assistants.
And is it defensible? I would have expressed some doubts, but that was before I saw the web postings of a Missouri neo-Nazi called Glenn Miller, who allowed himself not only to be taken in by Baron Cohen this time last year but was actually dumb enough to boast about the great interview he expected to give to a German documentary crew.
On a right-wing chat site called the Vanguard News Network, Miller salivates over the "two gorgeous young chicks" who made the first approach and positively swoons over the idea that he would be included in a two-hour documentary to be broadcast around the globe by German TV One ("whatever TV station that is," he wonders, all too briefly).
"And get this," he adds. "They’re paying your’s [sic] truly $500 bucks as payment for my time, use of … photos, and for my signed permission for them to air my racist and anti-semitic ‘ravings’ far and wide. (Shit, life jus don’t git no bettern nat).”
When a sympathizer worries on the chat site that the interview might make him look "retarded," he dismisses the idea out of hand. “No journalist in 35 years has managed to do that,” he says, "and since I readily admit I’m a racist, hater and anti-semite with good reason, their name-callings are truth-tellings.”
We shall see just how well the Miller interview worked out for him. And much as I’d like to say I disapprove, the deeper truth is, I can’t wait.