I've been a fan of 'Da Ali G' show since it debuted, and I think Sacha Baron Cohen provides a brilliant, hilarious and absolutely fearless commentary on many unfortunate realities of western culture. The whole point of all 3 of his characters is their ability to wind up people to the point where they (and often all too quickly, I might add) reveal their own prejudices because they feel safe exposing themselves to someone who is "other"...this is particularly true with the Borat character, who is erroneously assumed to be an ignorant "foreigner", and therefore a harmless audience for one's bigotry(ies).
I'm recalling in particular a segment on the TV show where he visits a wealthy Texan who keeps what is essentially a "hunting zoo" on his huge estate. This includes not a few endangered animals, which he has lured into the open with mechanized feeders, so that he can shoot them from the comfort of his jeep without ever getting off his fat butt. When Borat asks if this could be done using Jews (NB that Baron Cohen is an Orthodox Jew who keeps kosher and won't even answer the phone on the sabbath), the man answers regretfully that it would be illegal in the US; Borat replies that this is a shame, to which his companion ruefully agrees...is nice, yes?
While it might have been preferable to have used a made-up country for Borat's homeland (and let's face it, how many of his marks would know the difference anyway? I'm thinking of those adorable drunken, sewer-mouthed, misogynistic frat boys who kept asking him about Russia...their parents must be so proud!), I don't think anyone ever expected what began as a short-format sketch to become the big deal that it has since the movie came out. And my feeling is that the Kazakh government's even dignifying such a broadly comedic and ridiculous character with a response is ludicrous...no-one actually BELIEVES that the national sport is rape, you know?
At the end of the day, pretty much any groundbreaking comedy in history has been deemed "offensive" in some quarters, but the fact is that exposing society's foibles and weaknesses is a time-honoured approach, and besides, it's *funny*!