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Why “Last Week Tonight’s” authoritarianism segment is lazy, even for faux-journalism

Posted by / December 4, 2018

In a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver devoted the long, investigative section to a study of authoritarianism around the world. His ultimate aim, as it has been every episode this season, was to attack President Trump.

In the segment, Oliver and his team identified three traits most authoritarian dictators share: projecting strength, demonizing enemies, and dismantling institutions. He goes through and looks at how authoritarian leaders in Brazil, the Philippines, and Russia all share those traits, and then he suggests that Trump does the same.

Here’s the thing, it’s pretty clear that Trump does all those things––but most presidents do similar things. Obama lambasted Republicans who didn’t agree with him, spread government surveillance at home, and expanded drone bombing, for example. The point is not that Obama was an authoritarian (despite Republican claims), but rather that Oliver’s segment used a very vague set of categories to define authoritarian. The reason he did that seems clear: to ultimately bring the point back to Trump.

The danger of such a story, especially when it’s presented as legitimate investigative journalism, is that it blurs fact and opinion intentionally. It’s “fake news,” in other words, masquerading as real news that’s disguised as fake news.

If you haven’t seen the segment and want to, here it is:

Comments are off for this post.

  • lash

    No, last week tonight doesn’t claim to be investigating journalism. The real question is why are you not writing about any actual major news Network that actually claims to be investigative journalism doing the same thing. Facepalm.

  • Nottelling

    You know its a comedy show, right ? Or are you just mad because someone is making fun of your “”president””?

  • bernard crofton

    And your own link shows that Obama “lambasted” not aaoerdon but a specific policy “the Republican shutdown”. That is not the personal abuse Trump uses. Were you too lazy to look? Or is there in fact no Obama equivalent to the sort of phrases like “crooked Hillary” that Trump employs?

  • Eloy

    Agree 100% the opionins shown in this episode are vague and leave no learnings at all, the leftist agenda is becoming poweless

  • Zec

    This article is just stupid. Obama did not try to dismantle institutions at all. Much unlike trump who attacks everything that dares criticize him.

  • Ruth Cox

    John Oliver is one of the few people on air who, even though its a comedy show, gets the facts right.. And if u don’t like the U.S. saying anything about Ding Don Dumb then go and live in North Korea

  • Comments are far better than the actual text above. Who ever wrote it looks like a super lazy individual? Get your facts in check mate. Hurry up!

  • Derris

    Echoing most sentiments above. This article is far lazier than the segment it attempted to dismantle. It started with a good point and immediately nosedived into nonsense. Please try harder next time.

  • Sandro

    Obama said several times that he has too much power when it comes to drone strikes and has offered both republican houses to take that power away from the president. Obama also never talked s**t about countries and never presented US allies and neighbours as its enemies or opponents. As for strengths, we can say that Obama never wanted to show off his powers with a military parade and has never behaved like an immature bully.

    Conclusion: the author of this…… text, is a lying, biased idiot and fool, who doesnt even have the courage to open their eyes and see reality. Instead, the author makes up a fantasy world, where Trump and Obama are the same and, at the same time, Trump is better. How stupid do you have to be???

  • Mick Coleman

    Soooo….what else you got?

  • Wayne

    Why don’t you stop living in the Trumpian never never land and join the rest of the world in reality land.

  • Marc G

    Sad article…once again pro trump starts with the “Yeah but what about Obama/Hillary…” defense

  • Thomas Oxford

    This story is nothing more than fake, fake fake news, news. And I, for one, shall have none of it!