No Joke


Sometimes events in international relations are funny when they do not mean to be--and such moments usually underscore something serious. In December, authorities in Kazakhstan pulled down the website of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, best known to audiences as Ali G. One of Cohen's personas is Borat, a bushy-mustached Kazakh journalist who deadpans outlandish statements in broken English: he congratulated Madonna at the MTV Europe Music Awards for being such a convincing transvestite; he boasted that his faux homeland is so modern that "women can now travel on inside of bus." The recurrent joke, of course, is about the inherent prejudices of all of us who laugh. To add a touch of realism, a Web site, www.borat.kz, was registered under Kazakhstan's two-letter national domain. But the Kazakh government found the material disparaging, and--after murky government orders; no one publicly says how--the address was deleted and the site

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