A Russian official seems to have mixed up his terrorists and comedians.
Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom, recently took to Twitter to criticize United State’s strategy to oppose Iraqi cooperation with Russia. He opined that U.S threatening to stop helping Iraq against the Islamic State (ISIS) – alternatively known as ISIL – must have rejoiced the terrorists.
Although his entire tweet was highly debatable, it was the image he chose to illustrate his point that has drawn the Internet’s attention.
US threatens to stop helping Iraq against ISIL if Baghdad asks Russia for help. The terrorists must be rejoicing pic.twitter.com/aKDaf1ae7q— Alexander Yakovenko (@Amb_Yakovenko) October 21, 2015
Apparently, the diplomat’s idea of a terrorist rejoicing is Hollywood actor and former White House staffer Kal Penn dressed in a fake beard and turban from 2008's satirical movie Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
Yes, Yakovenko used a still from the movie showing Kumar – an Indian American character – imagined as a Middle-Eastern terrorist, taunting an elderly female passenger in an airplane, to discuss the U.S. involvement in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
As Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley points out, “the Russian ambassador used an image from a satirical film about the fear-mongering political excesses of the war on terror to make a dubious and fear-monger-ish political point involving terrorism.”
The Russian Federation ambassador to the UK tweeted this Harold & Kumar pic with seriousness. I can't stop laughing. https://t.co/ZsR041AAVJ— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) October 21, 2015
Meanwhile Penn – who served as associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement from 2009 to 2010 and was a part of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 2013 – could barely contain his glee at the absurd faux pas.
The New Jersey-born actor not only tweeted out his amusement, he also thanked Yakovenko by sending him a photo of Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren portraying Russian boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
While Yakovenko has yet to respond, the Russian Embassy in the U.K. tweeted that Penn’s performance as a terrorist was so convincing that it seemed fit to illustrate the ambassador’s point.
@kalpenn it is rather hard to spot an actual terrorist laughing. Your performance is convincing and therefore fit to illustrate the idea.— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) October 21, 2015
As it turns out, when you search “terrorist laughing” on Google Images, the image of Kumar Patel dressed as a terrorist appears to be the top result – perhaps that’s why Yakovenko got confused and included it in his tweet.