This is the fifth article in our new series THE JOHN OLIVER TWIST, where we monitor tv's political comedians and hold them accountable. The original article, Court Jester as Propaganda Tool, can be found HERE. The second article, The Drumpf Affair and Little Bill Maher's Power Fetish, can be found HERE. The third article Waxing Brazilian and Waning Credibility can be found HERE, and the fourth, Out Trumping Trump on the Great Wall of Trump HERE.
ESTIMATED READING TIME : 7 MINUTES 12 SECONDS
A (relatively) brief post on the recent comings and goings of our favorite political comedian, Brave Sir John Oliver, and to a lesser extent, Little Bill Maher, over the last few months. Much has happened but I've been pressed for time so haven't been able to update you, dear reader, on the shenanigans these two faux truth tellers have been up to.
As I have tried to show in previous posts, John Oliver uses the Establishment Propaganda Model ™ to great effect to deceive and misinform his audience. Oliver is not the first comedian to use that model, but in recent years he has certainly been the most effective. Part of how you know he is such a good propagandist for the establishment is to see how the establishment has embraced his work. If Oliver were what he claimed to be, a rebel speaking truth to power, those in power would loathe or maybe even fear him, but they don't, they celebrate and embrace his every move. It seems every week following one of Oliver's shows the public is inundated with articles in the mainstream press about how Oliver's latest "takedown" or "evisceration" of one subject or another was so utterly brilliant. Even Oliver has poked fun at the embarrassing amount of gushing praise his work receives.
The thing about Oliver's "eviscerations" or "takedowns" are that they have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the subjects he takes on. Yes, they may raise some sort of momentary awareness, but that awareness evaporates almost as soon as the episode is over. The Atlantic magazine did a great piece on this recently where they exposed the reality that Oliver is all sound and fury signifying nothing. And that is part of the Establishment Propoganda Model™ as well. Feed the audience something to distract them and to give them the impression that they are well informed and making a difference, when in reality they are really being led down a cul-de-sac of self satisfaction with nothing at all changing in the long run.
What has interested me the most in the last few months since my last John Oliver Twist post, has been the things that Oliver has left out of his segments, as opposed to what he has put in. This is a vital part of the Establishment Propaganda Model ™, focusing on certain, specific things, but leaving others out. For instance, on episode 10 of season 3, which aired on April 24, 2016, Oliver's opening segment was on Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia and how the Sauid's ignored him during his trip.
It was a cute bit, but if you watch it closely you realize that it entirely ignored the real reason the Saudi's were so angry with Obama. Saudi Arabia was furious with the U.S. over a bill that was up before congress that would allow victims of the 9-11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia over their role in those attacks. That is kind of a huge thing to leave out of the story, don't you think? It's like talking about O.J.'s marriage to Nicole and leaving out the stabbing. The funniest part of the whole thing is that two episodes later, on episode 12 of season 3, which aired on May 15, 2016, Oliver opened his main segment, which happened to be on the 9-1-1 emergency phone system and it's problems, by stating "9-1-1, a number we work hard to remember". Apparently Brave Sir John doesn't work so hard to remember those numbers when they point to Saudi complicity in terror attacks referred to by those same three numbers, and Obama's ass-kissing of those same, complicit Saudi's.
The Saudi/Obama kerfluffle and Oliver's choice to willfully ignore the reason behind it, 9-11, is both odd and telling. It is also telling that just a few weeks later, Oliver did a little bit on Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who had lost his cat. Kadyrov is a real piece of work, no doubt about it, but Oliver made a big point, in fact he mentioned it twice, that Kadyrov's wikipedia page has an entire section dedicated to his human rights violations, as if this was some sort of remarkable "gotcha" point. As I said, Kadyrov, a Sunni Muslim, is a real piece of work (or a real piece of something else more odorous), but that said, you know another group of Sunni Mulsims who have a less than stellar track record on human rights…that's right...the Saudi's! Oliver never mentioned that fact in his piece on Obama visiting the royal kingdom to try and quell the fears of financial liability of the royal family over their role in 9-11. In fact, Saudi Arabia has such a horrendous human rights record that, unlike Kadyrov, they don't just have a mention of it on their wikipedia page…they have a whole wikipedia page dedicated to it!!
This is how the Establishment Propaganda Model™ works, some things are said and others not said. The assumptions underlying the establishment propaganda are never to be challenged, only blindly accepted. A great example of this shows up on Oliver's most recent episode, episode 13 of season three, which aired May 22, 2016. Oliver opened the episode by doing a segment on the turmoil in Venezuela, and the protests that have broken out there. The very first thing he shows about the protests is a video clip from ABC News which clearly states the context of the protests, that "on one side (of the protests) are students and the middle class, and on the other, police and the military."
That quote may seem like a minor part of a bigger segment, but this clip and statement are incredibly crucial in setting up the context of the protests and the premise of Oliver's argument that follows. This statement of "students and the middle class being on one side, and the military on the other", does all the work Oliver needs in setting audience expectations for who the good guys are and who the bad guys are in the Venezuelan situation. And I am not saying that Oliver is wrong here, as he skillfully shows with the rest of the segment, Venezuelan president Maduro is, like Kadyrov, a real piece of work. What actually intrigued me the most about Oliver's Venezuela piece and his setting of context in regards to the protests, was that in a very similar situation in Brazil (episode 6, season 3, air date March 20, 2016), he completely ignored the context of those protests because he was taking the side of the right wing, the lighter skinned, the powerful, the rich and the military, against the black lower and working classes. Why would Oliver highlight the context in one case and ignore it in the other? The answer is obvious, the context helps him in the Venezuela argument, and undermines him in the Brazil argument. The key in both cases is that Oliver, just like the American Establishment, and just as the Establishment Propoganda Model™ would predict, calls for the overthrow or removal of an elected, left-wing, South American government that is less than friendly with the U.S.. The Venezuela/Brazil protests segments are damning and incontrovertible evidence of Oliver as a propaganda tool. Every liberal watching his show immediately sided with the "students and middle class" against Maduro in Venezuela, just as they would have sided with the black, poor and working class protesting in support of the left-wing President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, but Oliver intentionally never alerted them to the class warfare element of the Brazil situation.
This is how the Establishment Propaganda Model™ works, you manipulate the information you present in order to contort "reality" to your own ends. So, for instance, the mainstream media in the U.S. would ignore or treat as completely normal the U.S. military doing exercises on the Russian border, but would call Russian military exercises WITHIN THE BORDERS OF RUSSIA as provocative. An easy way to dissect this sort of propaganda is to simply turn it around and imagine what you would think if the media from another country…Russia say, did the same thing. Would you trust them, or believe them? Would you take them seriously? Of course not. If the Russians did a military exercise in Canada and the U.S. did a military exercise in North Dakota, who is the one being provocative? In this case, obviously the Russians. So this is one way you should watch and read the news and see through the propaganda model.
As previously stated, it is not always the things that are said that are revealing of the Establishment Propaganda Model™ at work, but what isn't said. For example, why does John Oliver choose the subjects he chooses? Why did he completely ignore 9-11 in regards to the Saudi/Obama situation when it was such a vital part of the story? Why hasn't he done a segment on the "28 pages" redacted from the 9-11 report which some believe implicate the Saudi's in the attack? Why hasn't he done a segment on the C.I.A. losing the torture report…talk about a situation ripe with comedy? Or better yet…why not do a bit on this press conference from last year by the State Department which talks about how the U.S. has 'long standing policy" to not support coups. it is relevant to both the Venezuela and Brazil situations…and come to think of it, the Ukrainian and Egyptian situations as well. This press conference is the height of comedy and should be right up Brave Sir John's alley…yet he ignored it.
These are the types of questions viewers should be asking of Oliver and all of the other political comedians. These questions show that it isn't just what Brave Sir John says that proves he is a propaganda shill for the establishment, it is what he chooses NOT to say.
LITTLE BILL MAHER PUCKERS UP
As for Little Bill Maher…well…he has been up to his old ass-kissing tricks once again. Most of the episodes of Realtime with Bill Maher are dreadfully dull and inane. The only time my interest is piqued is when Bill bends over backwards (or just over) for an interview guest. On the 5th episode of season 10, which aired on February 12, 2016, Little Bill interviewed "journalist" Richard Engel. Engel was there to promote his book, and Maher was more than happy to let him "plug away".
What was so interesting in the interview was that Maher briefly mentioned Engel's being kidnapped in Syria. This kidnapping story is pretty amazing and is a twisting and turning tale of propaganda from start to finish. Engel was kidnapped by Syrian rebels who claimed to be Assad forces in an attempt to garner U.S. public support to invade Syria. Engel claimed that a group of Syrian rebels attacked his captors, killing many of them, and freed him. The purpose of the propaganda was to make Assad's troops out to be the bad guys, and the rebels to be the good guys. Except…there were no dead bodies…even though Engel claimed to have seen them. And the rebels didn't save Engel from Assad's forces, they saved him from themselves. It was all a ruse…one which, shock of shocks, NBC, the home of Brian Williams, gladly went along with. You know who else gladly went along with it? Little Bill Maher. The story had been quite clearly debunked and dissected by the time Engel made it the set of Realtime, but Little Bill Maher simply pretended that Engel's original story was the one that happened. In typical Maher fashion, he got on his knees, licked his lips and told Richard Engel that he was "so brave", much like his similar work with General Hayden this season. This is a great example of the Establishment Propaganda Model™ in two respects…the first is what Maher (and Engel) didn't say, namely that the kidnapping was a ruse and propaganda ploy, and two, retelling the original story so that the truth of what actually happened goes down the memory hole, never to be seen or heard again.
Another hum dinger of an interview with Little Bill was on epsidoe 13, season 10, air date April 22, 2016. This time writer Lawrence Wright stopped by to discuss 9-11, Saudi Arabia and the 28 pages redacted front he 9-11 report. I was glad Little Bill was tackling this important issue…and then I saw the interview. This interview was a classic of the Establishment Propaganda Model™ in that it served no purpose but to obfuscate the truth, not reveal it. Take a look.
This interview is so incoherent as to be mind numbing…and that was its purpose. Wright speaks of Saudi complicity in the attacks due to a Saudi agent being in contact with the hijackers here in the U.S. He also spoke of Saudi government officials being involved by supporting the attack logistically. He also claimed that the U.S. intelligence community knew this as it was happening and were also in close watch over the hijackers their entire time in America. But then he says that the 28 pages aren't really worth much thought because all they will do is "embarrass" the C.I.A. Yes…"embarrass" is what he said. The idea that anything other than "embarrassment" is behind the nondisclosure of the 28 pages is never even mentioned or thought of. What an absurd idea!! How could it be anything other than fear of "embarrassment"? This ignores the fact that it isn't just 28 pages we haven't seen about 9-11 and the Saudi's, but 80,000 files. That's right, 80,000 files…not just 28 pages. That is a hell of a lot of "embarrassment" to cover up in an attempt to save face.
Later in the interview Wright goes on to "explain" that Saudi Arabia isn't responsible for any terrorism at all…only the ideology that creates terrorists. Got that? This comes just moments after he explains that Saudi Arabian officials were in direct contact and supported the hijackers on 9-11. If none of this makes any sense to you, then that makes two of us.
Of course those statements by Wright are in direct contradiction of one another. Maybe Wright was just drunk and rambling…not the craziest notion after watching the absurd interview, or maybe he was intentionally being obtuse and contradictory. Maybe that is his job, to muddy the waters, to obfuscate the truth, not to clarify it. And Little Bill Maher was all to happy to help Wright make a gigantic mess of things. Little Bill was giddy at the chance to be able to change the subject from 9-11 and Saudi and U.S. Intelligence "embarrassment" and make it about Pakistani child fuckers…seriously. Little Bill turned the redacted 28 pages of the 9-11 report into a story about Pakistani child fuckers. Pakistani child fuckers reinforces Little Bill's, and the establishment's, preferred worldview, and U.S. intelligence "embarrassment" and Saudi complicity in 9-11 do not. Concerned about Saudi Arabia, U.S. intelligence and terror attacks?Don't worry…Lawrence Wright and Bill Maher assure that there is nothing to see here.
Besides his interviews, Little Bill has been full of the usual idiocy in his comments over the last few months as well. A case in point is when he had a comedian on and talked about how he, Little Bill, doesn't tell his audience what they want to hear. He was very proud of this, wearing it as a badge of courage. Little Bill is a truth speaker who says the truth no matter what…consequences be damned!! In his next breath, Little Bill went out of his way to make a point blindly supporting Israel. Little Bill explained that Europe, who has always been adversarial with Israel, might now be more sympathetic to Israel since European countries are now being over run with Muslim immigrants from Syria. It was a staggeringly illiterate thing to say, historically speaking. In case Little Bill doesn't know, it was European Jews who immigrated into Palestine, not the other way around. And those European Jews brought with them a terrorist campaign against the locals which featured the invention of the car bomb!! Yes, Little Bill Maher doesn't tell his audience what they want to hear, unless that audience are his pay masters in the establishment, then he says exactly what they want to hear, especially about Israel, over and over again. Bravo Little Bill!!
Also in keeping with the Establishment Propaganda Model™, Little Bill, just like Brave Sir John, hasn't mentioned on his show the C.I.A. losing it's torture report either. In addition, Little Bill keeps on banging home the idea of "liberals supporting liberal ideas" in regards to the Middle East and Islam. Either Bill is dumber than I think, or he is intentionally laying the foundation for more wars in the region against Islam. You see, you cannot argue for liberals to fight for liberal values in Middle Esatern countries, without also arguing for actual fighting in those countries. Little Bill is a neo-con in that he wants to reshape the middle east, and while he would say he is against another war there, his rhetoric betrays him. You can't tell people to fight for liberal values and then tell them not to actually fight.
In conclusion, both Brave Sir John and Little Bill Maher have been, as the Establishment Propaganda Model™ would predict, serving as useful tools to reinforce the establishment narrative, and not to attack it. As much as I am loathe to do it, I will continue to watch these two dim-witted, establishment shill, asshats, week in and week out, all as a service to you, my dear reader. I hope you are grateful for this, the greatest of all sacrifices, that I willingly make for you. God help me!!