John Oliver On What You Can Do Beyond Simply Watching (and Getting Mad After Watching) John Oliver


Late night TV hosts are in a moment of reflection on their role as people who rehash the news through a comical and opinion heavy lens. Following the horror election, one of the biggest overarching conjectures about how we got to this nauseating outcome — outside, of course, the fact that America’s deep racism, xenophobia, and misogyny were given the okay to flaunt themselves — is through the changes the media climate has seen; neutral reported journalism has given way to a lot of false journalism via the viral parasitism of whatever actual reportage still exists.

As far as late night television goes, it’s telling that one of the shows that does best with viewers, Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, is the closest thing to televised clickbait. The application of this mode of entertainment to politics garnered a good deal of criticism when Fallon brought Donald Trump on the air, and when the only way he seemed to challenge the then-candidate at all was by cutely messing with his hair.

Though John Oliver may have his limits with political effectiveness — of likely often preaching to the choir — at least his tendency is to colonize diversion and make it informatively political and persuasive, whereas other late night TV tends to take politics and lazily/toothlessly make it entertainment. John Oliver’s post-election episode, focusing wholly on the election, and predominantly how the state of media (and Trump’s own exploitation of a viral disregard for fact) contributed to this outcome, joins the ranks of legitimately good think-pieces on this subject. So, here we are at Flavorwire, sharing a John Oliver video to our readers who are likely to be very, very receptive to John Oliver.

It’s his last video of the season, Oliver thankfully asserts his own role as a opinion-oriented commentator, noting that he has no claim to be a solution to the lack of fact-oriented news people are getting. “There is nothing wrong with media that has a viewpoint; this show has a viewpoint,” he says. “But a healthy media diet has to be broader than that.”

Oliver explains how a “majority of news now is micro-targeted,” noting that the “echo chambers” of validation for preexisting views won’t help sway anyone of anything they don’t already think they know. “News is now one of the three things we get from social media, the other two being our entire sense of self worth and pictures of shaved alpacas. There is now a whole cottage industry focusing on hyper-partisan, sometimes wildly distorted, clickbait.”

Oliver then dives into Trump’s own interviews and the ways they attempt to normalize factless opinion-spouting, flashing back to him defending falsehoods with responses like, “What do I know about it? All I know is what’s on the Internet.”

Perhaps the best thing a late night TV host can do now is encourage viewers to not merely get mad following a good late night TV lambasting of a political problem, but rather to do something about it. Right now, that’s particularly important: and the thing to do, he asserts, isn’t to merely move to Canada.

“Literally the only excuse to ever migrate to Canada is if you were born there originally, it’s Springtime, and you are a goose. That is it.” Instead, he encourages people to “stay here and fight, and not just in four years when Trump’s up for reelection.” Reiterating a sentiment that’s seemed pervasive since the election (and hopefully not just as its own Internet echo chamber trend), he explains that that doesn’t simply mean yelling within your echo chamber and sharing this video, but rather taking whatever that energy is and supporting the causes that’ll now be endangered by Trump, Mike Pence, and their gathering Cabinet of terrors:

If you’re concerned about women’s health, donate to Planned Parenthood or the Center for Reproductive Rights. If you don’t believe manmade global warming is a ‘silly issue,’ donate to the National Resources Defense Council. If you don’t think refugees are a terrorist army in disguise, donate to the International Refugee Assistance Project. And given these guys’ track record, I would also recommend donations to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Trevor Project for LGBTQ youth, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.