Last week, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen addressed the Anti-Defamation League at the ADL’s 2019 Never Is Now Summit, where he was the Recipient of ADL’s International Leadership Award.

Sasha Baron Cohen talks about "the greatest propaganda machine in history" at the ADL 2019 Never is Now Summit.
Sasha Baron Cohen talks about "the greatest propaganda machine in history" at the ADL 2019 Never is Now Summit.

If you are one of the many people who know him as his outlandish characters like Borat or Ali G, he might seem a strange choice for this award. Baron Cohen explains it like this:

“…when Borat was able to get an entire bar in Arizona to sing “Throw the Jew down the well,” it did reveal people’s indifference to anti-Semitism. When—as Bruno, the gay fashion reporter from Austria—I started kissing a man in a cage fight in Arkansas, nearly starting a riot, it showed the violent potential of homophobia. And when—disguised as an ultra-woke developer—I proposed building a mosque in one rural community, prompting a resident to proudly admit, “I am racist, against Muslims”—it showed the acceptance of Islamophobia.

“Today around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream. It’s as if the Age of Reason—the era of evidential argument—is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.

“What do all these dangerous trends have in common? I’m just a comedian and an actor, not a scholar. But one thing is pretty clear to me. All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.”

Baron Cohen goes on to say that while we cannot rid the world completely of racist, misogynists, anti-Semites and child abusers, we can do something about taking away their platform.

“There is such a thing as objective truth. Facts do exist. And if these internet companies really want to make a difference, they should hire enough monitors to actually monitor, work closely with groups like the ADL, insist on facts and purge these lies and conspiracies from their platforms.

“Fortunately, Internet companies can now be held responsible for pedophiles who use their sites to target children. I say, let’s also hold these companies responsible for those who use their sites to advocate for the mass murder of children because of their race or religion.

“The ultimate aim of society should be to make sure that people are not targeted, not harassed and not murdered because of who they are, where they come from, who they love or how they pray.”

To see the full video, visit the ADL website.

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