Over the last couple of days, the internet has been having fun with a picture of Nicolas Cage posing in a fairly ridiculous outfit with the First Lady of Kazakstan. However, not everybody thinks the picture is very funny. The Human Rights Foundation feels that Cage's appearance and public statements, while there, were a very public endorsement of the political regime in Kazakstan, which they claim, stifles the free expression of its citizens. According to Human Rights Foundation President Thor Halvorssen...

Nicolas Cage is a world-famous actor, and his endorsement carries great influence. His glowing review gave Kazakhstan's dictatorship much-needed PR, and his photos boosted the regime's visibility on the international stage, even as it persecutes journalists, monitors and arrests social media users, crushes opposition voices, and strangles the electoral process.

Needless to say, none of the Human Rights Foundation's issues with Kazakstan were anywhere close to the topic of conversation when the picture of Nicolas Cage when viral earlier this week. For the most part, people were just laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. While we have no idea what Nicolas Cage was or was not aware of regarding Kazakstan's political oppression, he clearly wanted to be done with this photo op.

Human Rights Foundation pulls no punches in their condemnation of Nicolas Cage here. While the actor may have thought he was just attending a film festival and, apparently, planting trees with the mayor of Astana, according to them, what he was doing was fairly terrible and requires significant steps to makes amends.

Cage should be mortified that he participated in a whitewashing stunt for a murderous tyrant. If he aims to live up to his previous comments about artistic freedom and freedom of expression, he should donate the hefty payment he received from the dictatorship to independent Kazakh artists and journalists.

The look on Nicolas Cage's face in the picture certainly gives the impression that he regretted the choices that led him to that place. With the added pressure of human rights organizations coming down on him he likely regrets it all the more. We doubt he was considering the human rights implications of his appearance while this picture was being taken. Wearing a fur coat and hat in July over a shirt and tie while also wearing sneakers, one probably does not contemplate the human rights issues.

What we thought was a silly meme-able moment may turn out to be much more than that. We'll have to wait and see if this is the end of the story or if Nicholas Cage will respond in some way to the criticism.

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