Saturday 7 December 2019

Ian O'Doherty: 'Baron Cohen has inadvertently made the best rebuttal of his own argument'

Sacha Baron Cohen (Ian West/PA)
Sacha Baron Cohen (Ian West/PA)
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

While Sacha Baron Cohen's humour can be very hit and miss, I've always admired the man's courage.

He has consistently pushed the boundaries, and that's what good comedians do - they challenge our perceptions of what is and what isn't acceptable. His address to the Anti-Defamation League in Washington this week, when he went after Facebook, has been hailed as perhaps the greatest speech of the year.

Certainly, few people would disagree with his assertion that Facebook is the "greatest propaganda machine in history".

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But while he is right in his concerns about the tech giants, he was wrong on nearly everything else - on both a moral and, more importantly, factual level.

He was quick to bring Godwin's law to mind when he said that Facebook, "would have allowed Hitler to post ads every 30 seconds on his 'solution' to the 'Jewish problem'."

That's highly unlikely. After all, one of the main problems with social media is that they keep looking for Brownie points every time they ban people who offend the vocal minority.

With his Hitler comments, he inadvertently made the best rebuttal of his own argument.

As Fraser Myers pointed out in Spiked this week: "Leading Nazis including Joseph Goebbels, Theodor Fritsch and Julius Streicher were all prosecuted for hate speech before they rose to power. The Nazi publication Der Sturmer was regularly confiscated and its editors taken to court on at least 36 occasions."

That's the problem with hate speech laws - they always have the opposite effect to what they try to achieve.

Making a martyr out of a moron is never a sensible approach.

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