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How John Oliver hurts democracy under the guise of comedy

Posted by / December 17, 2018

Several years ago, Last Week Tonight’s long, investigative segments were a critical part of my Monday morning routine. I’d way up, make breakfast, and then sip tea while learning more about standardized testing biases or problems with the U.S. infrastructure. I remember being impressed with the quality of research for each piece, and even though the show clearly leaned left (which is fine by me), it did a good job being reasonable in its presentations.

But almost as soon as Donald Trump was elected, the show took a turn. Oliver said in an interview that he and the writers try to keep a diversity of topics in the show: “We’ve had to protect the main body of our show, because there’s so much low-hanging fruit around, you can kind of gorge yourself on that and forget that there are other things going on in the world, so we try and make sure that the vast majority of our main stories are not centered around the president.”

But as I skim through the archive of Last Week Tonight long segments he’s done in years past and compare them to the most recent season, something is very obvious: Last Week Tonight has declared war on Trump and the GOP. Nearly every segment has gone back to Trump or the GOP this season––older episodes did not go back to Obama or the Democrats, though. The show’s once slight lean to the left has turned into vitriolic Anti-Rightism.

I’ve had to change my Monday morning routines this year. Starting off the week with unforgiving “us versus them” rhetoric was starting to eat away at me. I still think Oliver is funny, and the segments I do watch make me chuckle, but beneath that there’s the sense that Oliver is doing more to fan the fires of partisanship than he is to shed light on injustice.

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Comments are off for this post.

  • What is “way up”?

    Thinking about it, I don’t what what and where details.

  • Patrick Morgan

    What a moronic, abreviated hot take. You don’t like Oliver because he criticizes the President? Guess what…the President is the President and is always worthy of criticism regardless of party. Maybe watch Fox News for the softball coverage you crave. Get over yourself and write better articles Josh.

  • Patrick Morgan

    I mean…how does criticizing elected leaders ” hurt democracy”. Stupid clickbaity headline.

  • Everton Barclay

    This was the dumbest articale I have ever read. I’m sure you didn’t complain when he made fun out of Obama. Trump is a liar and that is what he is making fun out of. It’s no different from Snl making fun out of Trump.

  • Joshua Browne

    “If you are anti-Trump then you’re hurting democracy” is insane

  • Zippity

    “Way up?” Morpnic artocle from am obvoobv Trump supporter. Sad.

  • Laurence

    I am commenting just to balance out the hate in the other comments. Your thoughts made me realize why I stopped watching him every week. I found the us-versus-them attitude left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    And just so we’re clear I’m not a republican trump-lover.

  • Short, lacking in citation for comparison (actual episode verses episode comparison to prove point rather than nebulous “check out the archive”), and an article in desperate need of an editor or at the very least a beta reader.

    I can understand your position wanting a more even handed representation of serious issues and not laying all the blame at one door rather than acknowledging blame on other sides and good done by those who are having their faults picked over rather minutely.

    However the show has never at any point claimed to be an actual news show. It has always been billed as comedy, never claimed to be centrist, and John Oliver’s leftist political beliefs have never been exactly held secret. Some degree (even a large degree) of partisanship is to be expected. It’s also not harming democracy. Because it’s not the only source of information out there, nor is anyone required to watch it without taking an entire mine of salt with them…or watch it at all. There are plenty of programs, newspapers, and online media available that heavily favour the right, and even quite a few that strive to be as centrist as they can be.

    The show is merely taking part in democracy rather than harming it. People choosing to get their news from a comedy show and to wrap themselves in an echo chamber is their business. Denouncing John Oliver’s show is hardly going to encourage them to seek broader sources for information to balance it out.

    Given this particular article and the criticisms it’s garnered (a few perhaps even deserved if you really consider them), you might perhaps consider working on your own journalism skills before pointing to a comedian’s with such charged language as “hurts democracy”.

  • Prajjawal Sharma

    You are an idiot sir.

  • Erik

    Nothing here besides a sloppy clickbait hack article. Try again when you have something meaningful to contribute Josh.

  • Ray

    I’m personally unsure if this is an attempt at smearing the names of John Oliver and LastWeekTonight, or just Josh expressing their opinion.
    Honestly, if you can’t handle what LastWeekTonight is putting forward, don’t play the videos.

  • Suafg Hagfah

    What a non sensical article

  • Carlos Teves

    Hahahaha hahahaha hahahaha hahahaha hahahaha hahahaha hahahaha. Phew. Yeah, I’m gonna say you’re wrong.

  • Noel G King

    Free speech hurts democracy? Not unless your shouting fire in a dark crouded theatre… In my popourie of reading I don’t always agree but I love the ”pepper’ and ”onions’ of disagreement they sprinkle into my thought.

  • John Oliver has never claimed to be anything other than a comedian and Donald Trump is a wealth of comedic gold.

  • Stephen Lakos

    I need to change my routine not to click on

  • That’s a very misleading bad title ever for the worst article I have read in my morning routine.

  • Joel

    This author is such a poor little melting snowflake. So now just criticising Trump = “hurting democracy”? Jesus. What a bunch of thin-skinned, whiney babies, you Trump-types are. Click-bait article written by weak-kneed snowflake. Great job, alltop.


    What a bad article… Don’t write that the show is anti-democratic just because you don’t like it anymore.
    This article wouldn’t even be a good YouTube comment.

  • If anything, he only makes it stronger.
    Terrible and insane governments need to be questioned and criticized.
    Laughable click bait this is.

  • Wolfy

    Actually, I think the author sort of has a point… I am an avid Oliver and Last week watcher, but what I used to enjoy was the arcane, left field topics on injustice going on in the US and other parts of the world. Items that really opened my eyes. Trump bashing just seems a little too easy for him and his research team. But I guess sweet aromatic low hanging fruit is what boosts ratings, sand HBO is a company that wants to make a profit. Soooo….

  • Ruth Cox

    If donald drumpf wasn’t such an idiot, there wouldn’t even be talk from John Oliver…but bc he is, he does.

  • Michael McCarthy

    Totally agree. Oliver is no fun anymore, i am not a Trump supporter but don’t want every show to be centered around trump. Diversify John.

  • Forth cooker

    I’ll b sure to ignore all alltop viral links from now on. What a waste of time. First to read the garbage, n writing a response.

  • Scott

    Lazy, provocative writing for a hot headline at best; bad attempt of hate-mongering at worst. Far too much personal exposition, with no evidence given towards why the show may have “hurt democracy”.

    Citations are required, try using examples next time.
    C –

  • I. P. Freely

    Wow. The truth hurts, but I guess it also makes you stupid. Oliver just tells it like it is, just funny to make it palatable. As for Trump perfect reason why abortions are required. I’m not American, but I feel sorry for them with Bozo the clown at the helm.

  • Myo

    Maybe it’s time for you to give up your job Josh

  • Bal

    Oh c’mon guys, don’t bash on ‘Josh’, (some of you act like you know this guy) I’m pretty sure he was instructed the write something like this. You know how modern journalism works. BTW Josh, pretty solid stuff over all, although you have to conceal you accusations even more as logical deductions, it’s still pretty conspicuous.

  • Sarah

    Rubbish article. No content to support the headline that Oliver hurts democracy. The sad thing is that although he does it through comedy, actually Oliver’s voice reeks of sanity and logic that current world administrations glaringly lack.

  • I can recall only 3 pieces that were heavily focussed on the president since he was elected. However, i do recall that last week tonight has featured some moments of Obama that were critical as well. Such as the piece about drones and prison reform. Maybe do some actual research before you make bold statements in a pretty much empty article? That would be great, thank you.

  • Mike

    I still love LWT take on stuff. I watch it every Sunday night. And I can totally get what you are saying. Perfectly fine that the more comfrontative nature of the show is not for your taste. Definetly a valid opionion.

    But not liking a show is not hurting democracy. If i made a video a day saying Trump is an idiot does noy hurt democracy. Amd of you think that the “us versus them” rethoric is harmful to democracy, isn’t the President hurting democracy? (And all of us in some sense).

    Second article I clicked from this site. It will be the last. This is not interestjng or thoughtful content. I literally fell for click bait.

  • Leon

    Most comments above already state my opinion clearly, you Josh Taylor, are an idiot. Your headline is a poorly veiled attempt to snatch views by open minded people offended by your accusations.
    I anticipate your demise into a close minded barrel of an audience, as your go to readership. It is sad you have worked hard to make it this far just to be led into the cesspit of popular political “journals”
    What you have produced here, is not journalism. It is propaganda, and you sir, should be shamed and feel ashamed, for you are truly a shame.

  • Leon

    I posted the above comment at 17:17 20th of Dec 2018 from Australia. It was not 2 days ago. It was 2 minutes ago.

  • Dan English

    This is the last time I read anything from all I love the LWT & was hoping for an insightful article to make me question Oliver’s direction & my appreciation of the show. Instead all I got was an alt right snowflake upset that he didn’t like his incoherent racist posterboy being called out on his BS.