If there’s one person who I haven’t subjected to scrutiny on this site quite yet, it’s John Oliver, the former Daily Show correspondent who left and launched his own show on HBO. As the host of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver became a widely acclaimed comedian who regularly receives praise from progressive news outlets like Salon (yes, THAT Salon), Huffington Post, and The Guardian (who regularly kisses his ass). To be fair, John Oliver is also popular with other outlets, and he’s become something of a household name in America. To be fair, I actually like the show. I like that John Oliver takes his choice of subject matter both lightly and seriously, with his longer segments being both witty and insightful…most of the time.
However, I think he deserves a good dose of scepticism, especially when you consider that he has an enormous platform from which he could espouse a certain political agenda. From what I can gather, John Oliver is clearly a progressive. Fortunately he isn’t the lunatic progressive we see amongst the social justice crowd, but I think there are moments that give away his particular political leanings.
For starters, throughout the show’s third season, he has placed particular focus on Donald Trump, especially now that he’s the presumptive nominee for the Republican party. In February, he ran a long segment about Donald Trump which was funny and well-argued. However, he made one fatal error – he ended it on the assumption that the source of Trump’s success is his name, and made a satirical campaign (Make Donald Drumpf Again) using the name of one of Trump’s ancestors, Friedrich Drumpf.
Aside from being very silly, it’s kind of childish. Friedrich Drumpf would likely have changed his name to blend in with American society, as many German immigrants would have done in Friedrich’s time. Also, it demonstrates a critical failure on Oliver’s part to understand why Trump is so popular. Trump’s supporters are drawn to him because he’s more outrageous than all the other candidates, and because they are tired of being betrayed and told what to think by the political class. That John Oliver doesn’t get this forces me to question his intellectual position. No wonder Americans decided not to make Donald Drumpf again. It certainly doesn’t help that he’s been relatively uncritical of the two Democrat candidates, though in a recent episode he did make the convincing case that Bernie Sanders would have lost even if you accounted for all the caucuses and other factors (sorry if I’m being rather glib, but the US primary system is seriously confusing even for me).
Throughout the show, John Oliver has given coverage to a wide range of news stories and topics of all shapes and sizes, from the more serious topics to the bizarre, and sometimes the pointless (such as a Gloria Steinem interview and the Queen insulting Chinese officials). On the longer segments, Oliver’s investigatory skills show a serious journalistic interest in various subjects, and they have had an impact on the outside world. However, there are a few that I would call into question.
For me, the most obviously questionable segment is the one he ran last year on online harassment. My main area of criticism is that he essentially bought into the narrative of Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn as victims of online harassment, and the mainstream media outlets praised him for it. He assumed that all her critics were misogynist trolls, and gave no coverage to why the GamerGate movement hated them in the first place. Sarkeesian, Wu and Quinn are all militant neofeminists who were hell bent on destroying gamer culture, and many of the comments they received were people who simply disagreed with them. What John Oliver didn’t mention is that they made a living as professional victims, with Sarkeesian and Quinn later begging the UN to censor online speech just to protect their feelings. Not only that, but he ignored the evidence that suggests that not only do men receive more harassment online than women, but also that Sarkeesian and Wu generated fraudulent harassment against themselves in order to get media attention. They’re total frauds, and John Oliver gave them a platform. This is no surprise, considering how the mainstream media is now in bed with progressive social justice activists. In a way, this highlights how corrupt the mainstream media is (and let’s face it, HBO is totally mainstream now).
Another segment I have a problem with is the one he ran about the migrant crisis, which saw him taking the side of the European Union, and attempting to explain the situation to Americans using the soap opera Days of Our Lives. Granted, the media coverage was still skewed one way or the other, but Oliver was part of that. Not only did he dismiss the idea that terrorists could take advantage of the migrant crisis without even giving it a fair hearing, but he also joined the rest of the mainstream media in picking on a camera woman who was caught kicking a migrant in the stomach (she was in the wrong, but that’s no excuse for mindless virtue signalling). I agree with his point that we shouldn’t treat people like garbage because of their religion, but he also ignored other factors, such as EU countries not being able to take in the amount of migrants that were coming in, and attempted to rationalise a reckless open border policy using the declining birth rates of EU nations. What he doesn’t know is that this was being taken advantage of by radical clerics such as Sheikh Muhammad Ayed, who called for Muslim migrants to breed with Europeans as a way of conquering EU states.
The whole segment, though hilarious, was essentially a masterclass exercise in virtue signalling, and on top of that, when the Paris attacks happened, he didn’t consider for a moment that the EU’s open border policy may have had something to do with it. Instead, he dedicated two minutes to yet more virtue signalling. He’s also a naive believer in the idea that ISIS is fighting a cultural war, when we can all see that they’re fighting an actual war, with real weapons. Of course, these facts aren’t mentioned because they’re inconvenient to Oliver’s clearly left-wing narrative, and any facts that contradict it would threaten his ability to position himself as the smug British man who’s always right about everything.
Of course, John Oliver is a comedian, and so you shouldn’t really be relying on him as a journalist, but many people actually take him seriously, and so do the progressive news outlets that like to kiss his ass. They take his comedic diatribes as gospel when it’s supposed to be entertainment, and John Oliver knows this. He knows that the Daily Show format he continues is capable of advancing a political position, and he uses it very shrewdly, pontificating a political position wrapped in objective journalism. The worst part about it is that he could easily dodge criticism by making of them, and his millions of followers will agree with him. As much as I like John Oliver as a comedian, I worry that he runs the risk of being a progressive demagogue, and once you become a demagogue, it becomes increasingly more difficult to resist the urge to use that power at its most dangerous level.