****ESTIMATED READING TIME : 15 MINUTES****
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS QUESTIONABLE LANGAUGE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!! CONSIDER THIS YOUR OFFICIAL TRIGGER WARNING…MOTHERFUCKERS!!
On a Sunday night last April, after finishing a session with my final client of the day (yes, I work on Sundays!!), I heated up some chicken and pasta, plopped myself down on the couch and tuned in to John Oliver's HBO weekly comedy show "Last Week Tonight". Oliver's main topic was the Internal Revenue Service, which makes sense since this was that most dreaded time of the year, tax time. Oliver's premise was that the I.R.S. is hated, but desperately needed, and terribly underfunded. He made the analogy that the I.R.S. is the "anus of the country", saying "you may not like to talk about it but you really need it to work." It's a clever anal-ogy*, which was no surprise since John Oliver is nothing if not clever…and an asshole.
*anal-ology…GET IT? See how clever I was there?
To start at the beginning, I am one of those rare people who through the years have not religiously watched Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show". Nor did I watch much of Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report". I am in a tiny minority in the world I inhabit when it comes to my viewing habits of Comedy Central political shows, I readily admit that. I'm not sure exactly sure why, I have nothing against either man, but I just never thought, or remembered, to watch their shows. Regardless, I only rarely watched, and because of that I was not familiar with John Oliver.
When John Oliver's HBO show came out, I missed the entire first season. The biggest reason I missed it is probably the same reason I didn't watch "The Daily Show", namely, because it never occurred to me to watch. Coming in a very close second for why I missed it is…I didn't have HBO at the time, so I was incapable of watching. I was aware of the show though because the media was gushing in its praise of the program and of Oliver. Nearly every media outlet did glowing pieces on Oliver, ebullient in their praise of him and the show, calling it, "smart, funny and insightful!"
In no time at all, "Last Week Tonight" became a big hit and Oliver the darling of the hipster/intellectual/cool kid set. The mainstream media slobbered all over him, adorning him with the type of praise once only reserved for Saint Jon Stewart, the Patron Saint of Thinking People Everywhere™. It was at this point that I got HBO, so the John Oliver option was suddenly on the table. So, I decided to check out "This Week Tonight" and see what all the fuss was about.
Season two of "Last Week Tonight" started off innocuously enough, or so I thought. Oliver made fun of some racist tweets made by the Argentinian president while on her trip to China. He also talked about the closing of Radio Shack and the Republican congressman who decorated his office like Downton Abbey. It was clever enough if not a bit cloying, but as expected it was funny in a "man shooting fish in a barrel", substance-free way. In my opinion it was amusing enough, but not very "insightful". Oliver finished the show by doing a seemingly mundane bit about Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa. The bit included a video of Correa hosting a live talk show where he answers questions from the audience and pontificates on whatever topic he feels like. In the video, Correa (in Spanish, or as they say in Spanish, En Espanol) singled out a young Ecuadorian man who had tweeted that he wished President Correa were dead. Correa gave out the young man's name to his audience and told people to flood the mans Facebook and Twitter accounts. John Oliver excoriated Correa for bullying the poor, young man. He then showed a funny, weird and completely out of context clip of a creepy clown embracing Correa during one of these live talk shows. Oliver relentlessly mocked Correa, and he did it very, very well.
After the show ended, out of pure curiosity, I looked Correa up on the internet. I knew nothing about him and frankly, very little about Ecuador. I was pretty shocked too see what kind of a man Correa was and what he had accomplished in his life. Correa isn't the tin-pot dictator and bully Oliver made him out to be, not in the least. Here are some of the highlights of Correa's public life. After resigning in protest over corruption as finance minister from the previous administration and being widely regarded as the most respected and trusted person in the country, he was voted into the Presidency in 2006 and took office in 2007. Upon becoming President, Correa immediately poked his finger into the eye of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), The World Bank, and the U.S. He declared Ecuador's national debt illegitimate since it was contracted by corrupt and despotic prior regimes. Correa then said that Ecuador would default on $3 Billion worth of bonds. He pledged to fight creditors in international court and reduced the price of outstanding bonds by 60%. He then refused to renew the U.S. lease of Eloy Alfaro Air Base in Manta, Ecuador, thus ending the U.S. military presence in the country. If Correa wanted to make enemies, he certainly succeeded. He not only made enemies, he made enemies with the most powerful country, military and financial institutions in the world. To make matters worse, for the U.S. anyway, Correa greatly reduced Ecuador's rampant unemployment and poverty, solidifying his popularity in the country.
In addition to all that, Correa also took on foreign oil companies because they failed to meet environmental and investment regulations. He restructured the country's finances in order to increase spending on social programs, rather than on foreign debt, and set out to protect and support the indigenous Quechua Indians of Ecuador, a long brutalized people. In other words, Correa was a champion for justice and for the people of Ecuador. These might be things that John Oliver's audience might want to know about the man, but Brave Sir John Oliver had no interest in informing his audience, only propagandizing them.
If you still think Brave Sir John was doing the right thing by calling out Correa for his "bullying" of a citizen who was wishing him dead, you should look more closely at the historical context of Correa's comments. A brief perusal of South and Central American history shows us that colonialism has devastated the continent. Up to and including this century, the U.S. has been behind some of the most brutal and insidious policies in the region. Correa is an Ecuadorean nationalist, which means the U.S. government, military, Wall Street and Oil companies hate him, because he puts the Ecuadorian people first. When you see John Oliver ridiculing Rafael Correa for being a "bully" when someone publicly states they want to see him dead, keep in mind the history of U.S. backed assassination of people like fellow Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldos and Panamanian President Omar Torrijos to name just two of many, or the U.S. backed coups and wars that litter South and Central American history (Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras to name a few). Then keep in mind it is not Correa who is the bully.
John Oliver is the weapon used those by those in power to ridicule Correa in the eyes of the mostly liberal Americans who, if they knew anything about him, would, or should, greatly admire him. But now Correa is little more than a punchline, and if and when he is 'killed in a plane crash', or 'overthrown by a popular revolt', or 'hangs himself in his jail cell'* or a civil war or coup breaks out in Ecuador, Americans, liberal Americans in particular, will just nod and say "hey, thats that despotic clown we saw on John Oliver". The man who stood up for his country and the weakest of its people, and wouldn't be bullied by military or corporate empire is now a joke. Mission accomplished John Oliver, true dissent from the American establishment group-think, is now strangled in the cradle.
Oliver is just the newest propaganda tool of the American Empire, at home and abroad. So when Oliver was mocking Correa, he was intentionally doing the IMF's, World Bank's, U.S. Government's, Military's, Wall Street's and the Oil Company's dirty work. Way to go Brave Sir John, instead of bullying the bullies, you are bullying for the Bullies. Good work.
John Oliver's greatest skill as host of "Last Week Tonight" is in reassuring his audience that they are, in fact, as smart as they think they are, and most definitely smarter than everyone else. What Oliver is really doing with his show is inoculating his audience from thinking critically. Oliver serves up the very bitter pill of American Empire and Citizen Subservience wrapped in a delicious serving of liberal red meat. His audience is too enamored with it's own delusions of superiority to realize that they are, in fact, just like those ridiculous Fox News viewers they love to hate, in that they too are gullible rubes lapping up gobs of American Imperialism by the bucketload. What the hell am I talking about? How can everyone's favorite, goofy, Brit really be a propaganda tool? That's how propaganda works. If it is obvious, it isn't any good. "Last Week Tonight" is really good propaganda because the show, and its host John Oliver pretend to be truth tellers against propaganda.
Oliver sells himself as the brave and noble truth teller, a much needed check to the power of the mainstream media. But Oliver only mimics speaking truth to power and standing up for the little guy. He appears to plant his flag on the high ground of rational thought, moral superiority and common sense, and waves it with a robust sense of self-satisfaction. This is all little more than theatrics though, because the reality is that John Oliver doesn't speak truth to power, he is merely a puppet of power, a useful idiot, a weapon they use to pacify and control those who believe themselves to be well informed and deeply critical thinkers. The stark truth is that John Oliver doesn't stand up for the little guy, he consistently kisses up and kicks down. And as for being a symbol of rational thinking, Oliver instead waves a red flag of emotion in front of liberals in order to get them on his side and then feeds them misinformation, disinformation and propaganda while they are in their highly emotional state.
"Last Week Tonight's" formula is obvious to any one with a nose for media manipulation, and it executes that formula with a surgical precision week in and week out. Oliver lures 'intellectuals' in with a wonkish bit on a very specific topic, be it infrastructure, the I.R.S., FIFA, NCAA, voting rights in U.S. territories or patents, and then, like a pied piper, once he gets the viewer hooked, he leads them to the establishment narrative he really wants to sell them, usually in the form of a foreign policy or intelligence issue, and they, wanting to not be seen as stupid, unquestioningly accept the story he is selling. If you also notice, when Brave Sir John does critique something "American", it is always and every time a critique of a that very specific thing, and never a critique of America.
Another thing to take notice of are what type of targets and topics Brave Sir John decides to take on. Just as a quick example of how Brave Sir John earned that nickname...he has taken on both FIFA and the NCAA, two organizations that are universally loathed by every single person who has even the most remote knowledge of them, with the handful of corrupt men running them being the lone exceptions. Another example of Brave Sir John's tremendous, steadfast courage was when he took on both racism (he literally said "fuck racism!!" in regards to Ferguson, Missouri, I shit you not) and cigarette companies. Taking on racism and cigarette companies!! What truly brave stance to take…IN 1964.
Regardless of Brave Sir John's weak kneed choices in segment topics, he never fails to to be a propaganda tool when it comes to the issues that really count. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. So let's take a taste of John Oliver's rotten and rancid pudding, shall we, and see what we come up with.
On episode two of season two, Oliver followed up his initial mocking of Correa with another flurry of attacks prompted by Correa actually defending himself against Oliver's baseless buffoonery the week before.
Episode three had Oliver belittling another countries finance minister, this time Greece, who had the temerity to take on the IMF. What a strange coincidence? Three episodes into season three and John Oliver had attacked enemies of the IMF on all three episodes. In this episode, he said Greece's finance minister looked like "Pitbull's uncle", looked "slimy" and probably smelled like "scented lube". All very funny stuff, but once again he was attacking the underdog, not the big bad bully of colonialism and empire. There is comedy to be found in the horror of the Greek economy, but it isn't the cheap kind at the expense of its finance minister. Why didn't Oliver make fun of Goldman Sachs engineering the whole Greek fiasco and then looting the public coffers once Greece was bailed out? Or JP Morgan? Why not make fun of the IMF, which basically ran an extortion racket that oversaw the entire Greek collapse? Is that not funny to John Oliver? Would his self described intellectual audience not "get it", like they "get" his making fun of the way the finance minister dresses and looks? Why not make fun of Germany for accomplishing what Hitler never did, conquering and ruling all of Europe without having to fire a single shot, by bailing out their reckless banks at the expense of the Greeks? The reason why Oliver wouldn't take that approach to the issue is obvious, it is contrary to the narrative the establishment is feeding the populace. Oliver's job is not to challenge the establishment narrative, but to reinforce it.
Episode three turned out to be a propaganda tour-de-force, as it also gave us Oliver's brave and cutting edge stance on Ukraine. His stance, not surprisingly, is identical to the mainstream media's and U.S. governments official stance…that EVIL PUTIN™ started that horrific war. What a brave and shocking stance to take!! The real comedy here is that anyone with the slightest bit of sense, curiosity and courage knows that the U.S. intelligence community started the Maidan protests and the civil war in Ukraine. The U.S. planned, funded and executed the whole thing, from soup to nuts. In a genuine piece of comedy completely ignored by Brave Sir John, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was caught on tape during one of her phone calls saying as much. Even some Government-friendly media outlets like the BBC have reported that the snipers on rooftops at the Maidan who shot and killed protestors, weren't government forces, but rather some shadowy group attached to the protesters who were trying to start a revolution.
A great way to smell an establishment rat is to listen to them when they speak of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The U.S. has been at war with Russia for at least the bunch of years. The war started out purely in the form of propaganda (remember the Socchi Olympics and the media assault on all things Russian?), and has now morhped into a proxy shooting war in Ukraine and Syria. As many people who have senselessly died in these terrible wars, one of the greatest casualties has been the truth. There is, believe it or not, comedy to be found in Ukraine, Syria, Putin et al, but it is in the way the establishment group-think has to contort reality in order to make it fit their preconceived narrative. John Oliver is more than happy to ignore the contorting, and just mouth the same old party line in regards to these deadly serious issues.
Now, you may be thinking, wait, Putin is a tyrant and a monster!! He wants the Soviet Union to come back and he wants to dominate Europe!! Look, I am not making the case that Putin is some saint, but like Correa, he is a true nationalist, and he is certainly not half of what the U.S. media and officialdom have painted him to be. For instance, there have been multiple accusations by the powers that be here in the U.S. that Putin has sent Russian troops into Ukraine. The problem is that there is no proof of this. It would be nice to have proof, because, as I am fond of saying, "proof proves things." But the charge has been made so often that it is now taken for granted that it is reality. It isn't reality, it is establishment fiction and propaganda.
The same is true of MH- 17, the plane shot down over Ukraine, killing all aboard. The U.S. said in the immediate aftermath of the shoot down that it had proof that Russia or Russian backed separatists shot down the plane. Again, there is no proof of this, and for some strange reason, the U.S. seems to have lost it's evidence because out hasn't released it. Maybe Russians did shoot the plane down, but there is no PROOF that they did. "Proof proves things!" But again, this charge has been repeated so often by the media and establishment that it is taken as completely true.
The charge that Putin had a second rate political rival, Boris Nemtsov, assassinated in Moscow also became a part of the establishment narrative, and not surprisingly, there is no proof that is true ( Remember..."Proof proves things!!"), nor is there much logical sense to the accusation when you take Nemtsov's lack of political standing or threat to Putin into the equation. That didn't stop John Oliver on episode 4, from doing an entirely predictable bit about it though, that was completely uncritical of the U.S. official narrative. John Oliver, if he so wished, could have a field day holding the U.S. government's feet to the fire regarding their statements and actions in regards to Russia and Putin, but he has no interest in doing that. His only interest is in buttressing the story being told by those in power because he is not a truth teller, he is a lap-dog to power.
The most glaring example of Oliver being an incurious lap-dog for the establishment, was when he travelled to Russia and interviewed whistleblower Edward Snowden. The interview was so confrontational, and so obviously a piece of contrived propaganda that I was left slack jawed at the audacity of it. The propaganda script was easy to see from the get-go as Oliver started off the bit by playing like he was scared to death by just being in Russia. He was, in particular, very frightened because…shudder...across the way was the old KGB building from back in the Soviet Union days. He quivered like a nubile starlet in a horror film at the thought that the KGB, which has been defunct for over twenty years, might come and get him. He also was worried that they were 'eavesdropping' and 'listening' to his conversations, even going so far as to talk to the imaginary microphones hidden in the room. This was particularly odd since the Russians aren't the ones who are proven to eavesdrop, THE U.S.. is the country that does that!! "Proof proves things…like NSA spying!!"
For some reason, Oliver also played up the drama that Snowden was an hour late for the interview. This was so strange as Oliver made it seem like a huge piece of intrigue, but the reality is that people sometimes get stuck in traffic, it happens. But Oliver made it out to be an intensely dramatic moment which was odd in and of itself. When Snowden showed, Oliver proved himself to be an even bigger douchebag than I had already thought he was. He proceeded to be completely adversarial, and frankly rude, to Snowden, even holding him accountable for the New York Times screwing up an article and putting out some classified information on ISIS in Mosul. He blamed Snowden for the mistake and called the situation a "major fuck up". This is just the most twisted and tortured sort of anti-logic imaginable, but it is right in line with the contortions propaganda salesmen routinely peddle. You see…according to Oliver, the U.S. government reads all our emails and listens to our phone calls, but Snowden is the bad guy because THE NEW YORK TIMES FUCKED UP. Got it, thanks again Brave Sir John for the "insight".
Things went downhill from there as Oliver proceeded to minimize the importance of the information Snowden released because it was "too complex" for regular people to really understand. He also dropped in a beauty of a throw away statement, namely that Julian Assange, creator of Wikileaks, was a "bad" guy and not likable. Good to know, Brave Sir John, thanks again for that nearly subliminal "insight" that is devoid of any context. He then proceeded to say it is hard to "wrap your head around perfect privacy vs perfect security." Great straw man from Brave Sir John, as that is an entirely false argument. "Perfect security" is an impossibility, while "perfect privacy" is not.
Brave Sir John then followed this up by showing videos of people interviewed in Times Square who had no idea who Snowden was or what information he released. Oliver assured the viewer that these interviews were COMPLETELY representative!! Trust him!! Brave Sir John would never lie!! This is the oldest trick in the book in order to bolster your preconceived opinion…go and watch, if you dare, Bill O'Reilly's segment, "Water's World", if you don't believe me. Or any "man on the street" segment on any two-bit show anywhere. This nonsense was followed by Oliver undermining the vital importance of the NSA survelience issue by reducing it to a bit on "dick pics". That is some solid, top notch, "insightful" comedy from America's favorite rat-faced, establishment lap-dog. Oliver succeeded in doing what Snowden himself said in the film Citizenfour the media would do to him to obfuscate the NSA spying issue, they would make the story about him and not about the NSA spying. Brave Sir John played that game plan perfectly.
In response to the Oliver piece, all the cable channels, officialdom's own public relations department, did stories on the interview and sure enough, they all took shots at Snowden and diminished his truly brave work and service. On Chris Matthews reliably revolting show, he had a group of guests on, each more repugnant than the next, who all took the same courageous stance that John Oliver took, that Edward Snowden was a "leaker", and not a "whistleblower". Washington Post Establishment shill extraordinaire, the achingly ambitious yet utterly vacuous Jonathon Capehart, ended the Chris Mathews show segment by declaring Edward Snowden was "smug". Thanks for the thoughtful analysis Jonathon, have you ever heard of the phrase, "pot calling the kettle black?"
The most disturbing part of the entire Snowden affair happened a few days later, when I overheard some very liberal friends talking about Oliver's interview with Snowden. These true- blue liberals lapped up everything John Oliver had fed them. One of them kept mis-stating that Snowden "was the 'wiki-leaks' guy", showing that Oliver's disinformation and obfuscation campaign was a huge success with his target audience. Of course my liberal friends, like the rest of Brave Sir John's audience, think they are astoundingly well informed, but are, in reality, really dangerously mis-informed.
Oliver has proven, with his constant regurgitation of establishment narratives, on Putin, Snowden and Correa in particular, that he is a propaganda tool for the powers that be. If you watch his show closely enough, you will notice that John Oliver never, ever questions the things the Establishment holds dear... U.S. foreign policy, the Intelligence community, Israel, capitalism, The War on Terror, or the establishment itself. Brave Sir John is, at heart, a corporatist and Imperialist, which should come as no surprise since he is currently an employee of Time-Warner.
It is important to understand that John Oliver is the symptom, not the disease, which is ironic because Brave Sir John only feels comfortable pointing out very specific symptoms on his show, and never the bigger disease. This is what the intelligence community does, they co-opt popular culture to their benefit in order to shape opinion. They manipulate, dominate, and misinform people through pop culture, media and film. It isn't just Brave Sir John, it is Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and even...gasp…Jon Stewart!! I know people will have a tough time swallowing the charge against Jon Stewart, but go take a look at his interview with Kathryn Bigelow, director of Zero Dark Thirty, a well known propaganda piece, the day after the Senate Torture report came out showing that her film was filled with convenient lies for the intelligence community. Stewart and Bill Maher both had the same reaction to Bigelow when they interviewed her in the same week, they both ignored the torture and propaganda issue and instead let Bigelow plug her work involving African elephants. Stewart started his interview by bringing up the torture topic and asking her thoughts, and Bigelow simply replied, "it's been a tough week"...End of discussion, Stewart dropped the subject…NOW let's talk elephants!! It was truly bizarre on Stewarts part, but at least he asked her thoughts, Bill Maher ignored the topic altogether when Bigelow was on his show later in the week.
These "clowns", Oliver, Stewart, Colbert and Maher shape and form public opinion and thought, particularly on the political left. These guys and their imitators are insidious because they use the ruse of being rebellious comedians who scrutinize authority to actually cover their vehement defense and cultural enforcement of all things establishment. It is all the more insipid because these men are held up, and hold themselves up, as a vital check and balance to establishment authority. These clowns only play the role of court jester, but never have the courage to actually speak the truth to the ruling powers or challenge their authority. They are less like the court jesters of old and more like the court eunuchs. They are more interested in staying relevant and in good graces with the establishment than in growing a pair of balls and telling the truth.
Do I think that CIA operatives are sitting in the writers room at HBO or Comedy Central…no…well..probably not. That is not necessarily how it works. But I would say that John Oliver, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert wouldn't have their jobs on television if they weren't vociferous establishmentarians. Would some corporate entity with a television channel have given a weekly or daily show to George Carlin or Bill Hicks when they were alive or if they were alive today? Not in a million years, because those guys directly challenged the establishment, their foundation of power and their false narratives. They didn't dance and giggle around specific symptoms like John Oliver, they punched hard and often by diagnosing the whole god-damned disease. And where are the Carlin's and Hick's of this new generation of comedians? They might be out there, but they won't be getting work on corporate television anytime soon. Guys like Carlin and Hicks are anathema to the corporatist, imperial system and the powers that be who run it. Dangerous comedians will be frozen out of the process entirely. That's how the game works.
In a normal world, comedy is found in being contrarian. But not with the comedy or propaganda we get from Brave Sir John and his ilk. Brave Sir John just tells people what they want to hear…that they are really, really smart!! That what they read in the New York Times and Washington Post is true!! Oh…and they are really smart BECAUSE they read the NY Times and Washington Post and can regurgitate the establishment party line on all matters big and small!! In reality, John Oliver and his ilk are cowards. They won't take on true power, which makes John Oliver in particular…and I'll use a British term here he will definitely be able to understand…a fecking twat.
"Last Week Tonight" begins its third season tonight, Sunday, February 14. I will be tuning in to watch if only to observe and note the propaganda that Brave Sir John will be selling. I will try and keep a running tally as season three progresses. If you watch the show, and if you like the show, watch it with a sharply critical eye. Watch how Brave Sir John lulls you into a false sense of liberal camaraderie and superiority, and then pay attention when he sells you the Establishment line.
I know some of you may think I'm crazy, or an idiot, or both, well rest assured, you are in good and crowded company. But understand, I am not asking that you agree with me in thinking that John Oliver is a propaganda tool for the establishment, I am simply asking you to BE CONSCIOUS AND AWARE when you watch his show. There is more going with on with "Last Week Tonight" than meets the eye. Wake up and see through the bullshit you're being fed, whether it's the mainstream media or an "alternative" comedian who is feeding it to you.
I leave you know with a relevant quote from the wonderful writer and intellectual Chris Hedges.
"Those few who acknowledge the death of our democracy, the needless suffering inflicted on the poor and the working class in the name of austerity, and the crimes of empire—in short those who name our present and past reality—are whitewashed out of the public sphere. If you pay homage to the fiction of the democratic state and the supposed “virtues” of the nation, including its right to wage endless imperial war, you get huge fees, tenure, a television perch, book, film or recording contracts, grants and prizes, investors for your theater project or praise as an pundit, artist or public intellectual. The pseudo-politicians, pseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-artists know what to say and what not to say. They offer the veneer of criticism—comedians such as Stephen Colbert do this—without naming the cause of our malaise. And they are used by the elites as attack dogs to discredit and destroy genuine dissent. This is not, as James Madison warned, the prologue to a farce or a tragedy; we are living both farce and tragedy." - Chris Hedges, The Great Forgetting 1/10/2016
EPISODE 5 : THE JOHN OLIVER TWIST : THINGS SAID AND UNSAID