In times when politicians in the west are becoming increasingly clownish, sometimes true wisdom can only be ascertained through the antics of professional comedians.
The Russian prank callers Vovan and Lexus are clear examples of this. The dynamic duo have previously phoned up extremist US Senator John McCain and convinced him that they were Ukrainian politicians, while they also got through to Turkey’s President Erdogan, former Georgian President and possible future Ukrainian leader Mikhail Saakashvili, as well as the head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg.
This week however, Vovan and Lexus, pretending to be the Polish Prime Minister, spoke for over twenty minutes with US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley:
During the conversation, they extracted some non-committal answers from Haley regarding Poland’s conflicted opposition to Russia, while being equally ill at ease with the ascent of neo-Nazis in Ukraine, whose violent rhetoric is aimed at both Russians and Poles.
But the most disturbing part of the conversation was when Vovan and Lexus told Haley of Poland’s concerns with recent elections in the fictional country of Binomo. The pair “reminded” Haley of Binomo’s claims in the South China Sea and that its location was “near Vietnam”.
Without hesitation, Haley affirmed that she is familiar with the non-existent state and that she was fully aware that Russia had meddled in its recent elections. This also indicates that Haley is willing to believe that Russia is actively advocating for China’s claims to the South China Sea, even though Moscow’s diplomats are careful to avoid the subject as Russia is an important partner to both China and South China Sea rival Vietnam.
Once Vovan and Lexus passed this hurdle, they crossed into even deeper levels of absurdity, suggesting that the American actor Kevin Spacey had a homoerotic experience with the Kiev regime leader Petro Poroshenko.
Interestingly, when the fake Polish Prime Minister told Haley that Warsaw would prefer Mikhail Saakashvili in charge of Kiev rather than Poroshenko, she refused to state what Washington’s positon is. This was one of the few professional diplomatic moments of the conversation.
However, being duped into condemning Russia for meddling in the elections of a state that does not exist is highly worrying. At the end of the conversation, she told the fake Polish Premier to call back at any time, indicating that she remained unaware that it was a prank phone call even after it became progressively absurd.
While the US will likely brush off the incident and possibly blame the Russian government for the fact that Russian comedians exposed the incompetence of the woman who often acts as though she’s the US Secretary of State, the comic endeavour actually exposed something more important.
An intelligent person on the receiving end of a prank, always knows when he or she is being pranked. In such cases some people respond with anger, others laugh it off and call-out the comedians or otherwise, speak up afterwards stating that they realise they were being pranked and that they played along out of their own sense of mischief.
There are countless examples of this, as demonstrated by the antics of the former prankster Sasha Baron Cohen who went by the stage name Ali G and often trapped political leaders in absurd situations, just as Vovan and Lexus do. But on three occasions he failed (videos here, here and here).
For Haley though, it seems as though she took the fake Polish Prime Minister seriously and at no time indicated that she was even partly aware that she was speaking to a comedian.
This is quite worrying as it shows both a lack of personal judgement and a lack of geo-political knowledge on the part of a woman whose job title would dictate that she should have a great deal of both.
In an age where journalists and politicians are increasingly afraid to ask difficult questions about crucial matters, it seems that the west has reached a stage in which it takes an unabashed prankster to reveal the truth.
I personally propose a “Vovan and Lexus test” for public officials. Beyond being materially harmless satirical clowning, the prank phone calls of Vovan and Lexus are actually deeply instructive in respect of what politicians think, say and are ignorant of, during times when they don’t have their script in front of them.
People must ask themselves: “Would I prefer politicians and diplomats who can sniff out a prankster using logic and intelligence or would I prefer politicians and diplomats who get duped as Nikki Haley did”?
Haley should be publically scrutinised for acknowledging the existence of a fake state and taking the absurd leap of agreeing that a fellow permanent member of the UN Security Council is meddling in elections which did not and could not take place. This ought to make people question whether Haley is even up to the job if this is all it took for her to be fully revealed as lacking in knowledge about the political geography of South East Asia.
Concerned citizens, journalists and politicians throughout the world ought to encourage Vovan and Lexus to keep up the good work and expose incompetence among politicians as much as possible. This should be the work of professional journalists and opposition political leaders in any given state. But since they are not doing their job, others will have to fill the gap. This is exactly what Vovan and Lexus are doing and they should be commended for it.