It may be difficult to find the humor in last week’s election results. Americans who are appropriately terrified by the prospect of Donald Trump’s presidency may be in no mood to laugh. However, some comic relief could be just the right medicine for a nation infected by the Great Orange Plague of 2016. And who better to fill that prescription than John Oliver.
In the season finale of his HBO program, Oliver spent the whole show assessing the consequences of Tuesday’s debacle. He began by finding a smidgen of positivity by noticing that the promise of opportunity in this country is still alive. “America proved,” Oliver wryly observed, “that no grandpa is too racist to become leader of the free world.” Only in America. He went on to question the potential causes that led us to the edge of this political cliff:
“How the fuck did we get here? Well clearly, there are many possible answers to that question, including: misleading forecasts that bred complacency; a flawed candidate who failed to appeal to white rural and working-class voters; and — and this is worth repeating — deep racism and/or indifference to it.”
It’s impossible to argue with that assessment, as far as it goes. But Oliver then launched an assault on what is certainly one of the primary factors in Trump’s victory: The Media! He castigated it for having neglected its professional obligations to the public. He was stunned by “how a system that is supposed to catch a serial liar failed.” But he was also aware of the shameful malfeasance of the corporate press hacks who seemed to be oblivious to their ineptitude. He quoted CNN’s president Jeff Zucker:
“I’d say that if we made a mistake last year, it’s that we probably did put on too many of his campaign rallies in those early months, unedited, and just let them run. And I think, in hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have done that as much.”
Is he freakin’ kidding?! Zucker considers that an insightful reflection on his performance as a news executive? Well, how could he have known not to pander to Trump incessantly for hours on end? Other than by having been chastised for it repeatedly while he was doing it. Every respected media analyst was loudly condemning the networks for kowtowing to Trump. If this “mistake” came as a surprise to him he is either totally incompetent or in the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease. More likely he was taking the same approach as a network colleague who at least was honest enough to admit that he was in it for the ratings. Les Moonves of CBS told a media conference that “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” And that’s the same theory by which all the networks operate. Greed before patriotism.
Oliver went on to urge viewers to “stay here and fight” because the country can no longer assume that we have a president who will “stand up for the rights of all Americans.” And he pegged Trump as deceitful and opportunistic saying that:
“Trump is a masterful denier of both reality and responsibility. He is a man that would kick you in the nuts and then tell you that your penis did it. So the press is gonna face challenges. Not just because Trump’s chief strategist is Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News, but also because of yet another promise that Trump made:
“‘If I become president they are gonna have such problems. Oh, are they gonna have problems. I’m gonna open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.'”
Let that sink in. Trump, having benefited inordinately from a star-struck press corps, is also threatening to sue them into oblivion. It’s a sort of battered spouse relationship with Trump receiving all the love while meting out the abuse. Unfortunately, that perverse relationship is likely continue as Trump moves into the White House. And Oliver had some closing remarks to make sure that citizens don’t become numbed to the insanity. He urged people to “get actively involved to at least mitigate Trump’s damage” and that:
“It is gonna be too easy for things to start feeling normal, especially if you are someone who is not directly impacted by his actions. So keep reminding yourself: This is not normal. […] because a Klan-backed, misogynist, internet troll is going to be delivering the next State of the Union address. And that is NOT normal! It is FUCKED UP.”
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.