Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Gun advocate featured on Who Is America? says that, actually, he fooled Sacha Baron Cohen

Illustration for article titled Gun advocate featured on Who Is America? says that, actually, he fooled Sacha Baron Cohen
Photo: Cindy Ord (Getty Images)

The clear highlight of Who Is America?’s premier was the final segment: a nauseating series of interviews with American gun advocates, eagerly endorsing programs like arming preschool-aged children with firearms. Among the writhing snake pit featured in this part of the show, one particularly notable serpent, the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s Philip Van Cleave, slithered out of the group with distinction.


During his interview with show creator Sacha Baron Cohen (in his prosthetic-and-makeup heavy role as supposed Israeli anti-terror expert, Erran Morad), Van Cleave merrily played along with a discussion that resulted in him saying that children could be “very effective soldiers” because they haven’t yet learned right from wrong and endorsing a program where preschoolers learn how to “stop these naughty men and have them take a long nap” with a little help from firearms.

Now, a long, unconvincing statement about the shoot has been discovered by The Daily Beast. Written by Van Cleave back in February and posted on the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s Facebook page, it runs roughly 1,400 words and was penned in an effort to protect others like him from being tricked by the “EXTREMELY WELL FUNDED PROFESSIONALS” behind Who Is America?

As you might expect, the post is full of remarkable passages, such as Van Cleave describing how the show’s creators “use psychological manipulation, as well as lies and tricks to put their victim into comedic situations that subject them to public shame, embarrassment, and ridicule.” How these tricks lead to a man singing a nursery rhyme song that teaches toddlers how to take down terrorists in a gunfight (“aim at the head, shoulders, not the toes/not the toes”) is anyone’s guess. But Van Cleave would like you to know, too, that finding himself in a situation where he advertises a catalog of “Kinderguardian” weapons featuring firearms nestled inside stuffed animals relates, in some way, to Harvey Weinstein and Michael Moore planning a movie that would “discredit gun owners and leaders for years by tricking people and using creative editing techniques to make them look foolish or idiotic.”

Van Cleave goes on to describe how he started to suspect the show wasn’t entirely legitimate when told about an Israeli child who emerged victorious in a firefight, noting that “4-year-olds can hold a gun and fire it with supervision, but not take on terrorists, and especially manage to shoot and kill two of them.” While he was worried that he may be filming “a ‘mocumentary,’ by someone like Michael Moore, or, even worse, a Sacha Baron Cohen-esq ‘Borat’-type of shock comedy [sic] meant to be devastatingly embarrassing and humiliating to the victim in the crosshairs,” Van Cleave continued to participate because he thought that would help him “find out who was behind this and where this was going.” By the time he finished shooting, he concluded that “in the end we played each other and I confirmed what I feared this was all about.”

Read the full post below to enjoy the full scope of Van Cleave’s defense and to find yourself entirely convinced by the viewpoint of a man who believes that lending his name, voice, and image to a guns-for-kids infomercial was somehow part of a logical plan to advance the pro-firearms agenda. A clear victory for his cause. (You can also listen to him read it, if you’ve got nine minutes to spare.)


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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.