Last Saturday, 500 of Washington's most sunburnt alt-righters gathered in the state capitol for the March For Our Rights 3, a very late counter-rally to the 2018 March For Our Lives student protest against school shootings. It was a lavish affair, with the entertainment, equipment and security having been provided by a last-minute mysterious donor. But the Washington State Three Percenters, the rally's right-wing organizers, didn't realize that their benefactor was none other than Prankmaster General Sacha Baron Cohen, who boldly took to the stage disguised as a bluegrass singer goading these militia tools into a racist singalong.
After footage leaked of the militiamen whooping and hollering at a covert Cohen singing about infecting the Chinese with the "Wuhan flu" and chopping up journalists "like the Saudis do," the media (and social media) was ablaze with gleeful reports of the prankster having thoroughly embarrassed these protesters.
But did he actually? These Three Percenters are so blatantly far-right that those same news outlets didn't even bother with an "allegedly" when describing them as an "alt-right militia." These are people who weren't embarrassed to protest against the prevention of school shootings. But now they'll hide in shame because a comedian got some of them to chant about locking up Hilary Clinton, giving coronavirus to liberals and how Jews control the media -- stuff you'd hear in the Trump rally parking lot before you fully get out of the car?
The success of an undercover con relies on how well you manage to embarrass, expose, or rob your mark. In Cohen's case, all he did was get at a bunch of alt-righters to endorse opinions less extreme than the stuff they share on Facebook. Then, he gave the organizers plenty of plausible deniability by getting security to keep them from shutting down his racism.
He even paid them for the privilege by comping their entertainment, equipment, and stage, literally giving the far-right a platform. And for what? So he could dress up like a Hillbilly Mario and get about six drunk white guys to sing along to a problematic song? Have you ever met a drunk white guy? What'll be Cohen's next prank, tricking them into eating lukewarm burritos at four in the morning?
This kind of toothless "gotcha" pranking may have worked back when Sacha Baron Cohen was getting the vice president of an Elk Lodge to say the N-word during the Bush presidency. But it's 2020. Neo-Nazis are invited to speak on CNN. Eric Parker, founder of the Three Percenters and accused domestic terrorist, is running for Senate. Today, white nationalists no longer hide in the shadows, they light their faces with tiki torches while screaming, "You will not replace us."
It's not shocking that someone is going to sing something anti-liberal and racist at an alt-right rally -- if not Cohen, then probably a pair of twelve-year-old sisters in matching star-spangled banner outfits. And for every alt-right racist he did manage to embarrass with that song, 10 of them are going to be humming it next time they strap on their riot gear.
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