John Oliver is what I always wished Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert would be. In fact, he’s what I always wished Ted Koppel or Jim Lehrer would be.
With so many people getting their news from comedians, the distinction between fake news and real news doesn’t seem very useful. There’s news that pushes corporate propaganda with a straight face and endless respect for those in power. And there’s news that cracks jokes and mocks and ridicules those most deserving of scorn.
But most comedy news up until now, as far as I have seen, has mocked everyone from the powerful and corrupt to the sincere and righteous. Jon Stewart has had his brilliant moments, but — even setting aside his weak, fawning interviews — his attitude is one of mockery for all and contempt for any serious engagement with the world. He held a rally for people too smart to attend any other rallies — and too dumb to realize they were volunteer participants in an advertisement.
Solemn news and humorous news thus far have both tended to be reactions to events. Both have told us what a horrible bill was passed by Congress yesterday, never what we might want to actively demand or resist with an eye on tomorrow. Both have been disempowering. Both have told us to stay home. And both have focused on the agenda of the status quo, as the serious news covers the day’s disasters, and the funny news covers how absurdly the serious news covered the day’s disasters. Neither has contributed much historical perspective or background; neither has been especially educational.
Now, watch John Oliver on nukes:
If you knew and were outraged by what he said, you’re probably thrilled that he’s said it. If you didn’t know, you’re importantly better informed. Here’s news that’s intended for a government of, by, and for the people, encouraging people to get active around an issue of the greatest importance and about which most people have lost interest.
Watch John Oliver on prisons: (Yes, there’s singing.)
Watch John Oliver on income inequality:
Watch John Oliver on net neutrality:
Watch John Oliver on climate change:
That is five more times than I have ever before told anyone to watch television. Don’t overdo it.