John Oliver is on the “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” panel on HBO TV … [+]
Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP
Comedian John Oliver has made a career by addressing controversial issues directly, yet lightheartedly. At the same time, he’s never shied away from taking a more progressive or left-wing stance on these issues, and that was evident during his HBO series last week tonight with John Oliver as he spoke out on two hot button issues on Sunday.
The first was the ongoing Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, in which the fighting in Gaza resulted in the deaths of more than 200 Palestinians, including dozens of women and children. During his monologue on Sunday evening, he suggested “one side suffers much more” and even declared that Israel had committed “war crimes”.
As of Monday, there had been more than 34,000 tweets in response to the monologue, and the vast majority of users seemed to gather around what Oliver was saying. #IsraelStopPlayingVictim and #FreePalestine were among the hashtags used in a number of these tweets.
In addition, the entire episode was uploaded to YouTube and had been seen almost 75,000 times by Monday afternoon. Many of the comments reflected the mood on Twitter.
While Oliver was merely providing an opinion, many took his words as a fact-based assessment of the situation.
“This one from John Oliver is absolutely amazing – FINALLY a mainstream voice has found the courage to tell the truth about Israel and Palestine!” First published by Bywire News (@bywirenews).
Perhaps it was the monologue that got the most attention on social media after a show. In his main segment, Oliver dealt with the subject of “Stand Your Ground” laws. That was a bit of a lightning rod too, and some of his opinions were again presented as fact-based. This included when he called the controversial gun laws “Rosetta Stone for Justified Murder”.
The segment has also been widely lauded on social media by various gun control groups and supporters, including Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts), founder of Moms Demand Action.
In addition, other media shared the segment as “news” rather than “entertainment”. That included pop culture outlet The AV Club (@TheAVClub), which tweeted, “John Oliver stands up against racist, unnecessary stand-your-ground laws.”
Several responses on Twitter also indicated that viewers were accepting the segments as actual “news” and tweeting quotes with no proper context or counterpoint:
Entertainment Vs. News
While Oliver’s comments from both segments were actually considered “entertainment” on Twitter, the various responses from viewers indicate that it was more of a message. It wasn’t really what anyone could call fair reporting, however.
It’s part of a news trend rather than entertainment.
“John Oliver is surrounded by credibility, websites, cable shows and copywriting like ‘DEADLINE’ and ‘Sign up for breaking news and newsletters’ and Oliver’s HBO show last week tonight. All designed give Oliver credibility for coverage of the news.” Lon Safko, author of the Social Media Bible, stated, “John Oliver is a comedian, not a legitimate newscaster. When Jon Stewart left the Comedy Channels Daily Show in 2015, that show and The Colbert Report ranked higher in their mid-thirties. Somewhat age group than Anderson Cooper 360 and The NBC Nightly News. Twelve percent of US viewers turned to the Comedy Channel comedians for the nightly world news. “
Celebrity influence has grown as Chrissy Teigen and Selena Gomez used their social currency to have open conversations with their fans on important topics, while stars like Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner built their careers through social media.
“There’s a big potential problem for the celebrities / athletes that is polarizing,” said Safko. “Once you’ve published a controversial personal opinion, there’s no going back. You invariably alienate 50 percent of your fans, supporters and supporters.”
Opinion or news
In Oliver’s monologue, it was solely the comedian’s personal opinions, and in the main segment, careful editing and selective commentary controlled the narrative. However, it is more and more common for this type of one-sided content to be shared on the platforms as if it were fact-based reporting.
“As we’ve moved in the post-truth and post-election mindset, the line between news and entertainment is increasingly blurring where it is indistinguishable, especially on social media,” warned futurist and branding expert Scott Steinberg, who regularly follows social media trends.
“The loudest voice carries the day, and that’s because everyone in the news media has an incentive to share comments and opinions, often about hard facts,” Steinberg added. “What is happening now is that people are no longer interested in pure news and are instead seeing more ‘light strike’ -style comments and segments designed to bolster their own opinions.”
The same applies to the content of the cable news networks, in which the evening block does not consist of “news” but of political commentary. Just as Tucker Carlson presents his worldview, so is John Oliver. The danger is that this view will not be seen as biased or one-sided and will be shared as harsh news on the social platform.
“This is happening because people tend to be interested in their own tribe and the media just took care of that,” Steinberg explained. Much of the confusion lies in the role of a commentator, increasingly perceived as a journalist. The news media and commentators have been brought to an extreme where every topic has been treated to the nth degree. It may depend on where you bet grapple with the question of whether you view this as accurate reporting or whether it now borders on misinformation. “
This trend is unlikely to change.
“We as consumers have to be more selective when we are informed and their trustworthy opinion is actually trustworthy,” said Safko. “It’s a bit of a twist on the old ‘caveat emptor’ or ‘buyers watch out’, but now, for God’s sake, don’t take your news and opinions from comedians.”