In the wake of this past week's election, and following a miserable 2016 in general, Last Week Tonight aired its final episode of the season. There was only one topic of discussion: the 2016 election, "or as you know it, 'I Thought I Wanted It To Be Over But Now That It's Over I Wish It Was Still Going On Because It Turns Out The Ending Is Even Worse, Twenty-Fucking-Sixteen'".
Host John Oliver opened the show in a truly chilling fashion: by stating the fears many of us have tried to suppress, such as Trump's access to the nuclear codes and the Supreme Court vacancy. Oliver, like the rest of us, had spent the week dealing with "wave after wave of nausea", with brief reprieves interrupted by doses of reality. He illustrated that quite well by following up a great joke about the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song being the new national anthem with a discussion of the military's discomfort with Trump's election.
For those who aren't happy to see a Trump presidency, there is an important question to answer: namely, "how the fuck did we get here, and what the fuck do we do now?" Oliver talked about the media's common response, which is to tell the American people to give Trump a chance. He acknowledged that, "in the broadest sense", it's a good strategy. However, Oliver cautioned viewers against relying on too much optimism, lest it normalize Donald Trump, who, as Oliver reminded us, is not normal.
"He's not normal. He's abnormal. He's a human 'what is wrong with this picture?'. He sticks out like a sore thumb, and, frankly, he even looks like a sore thumb."
Oliver stressed the importance of speaking out, immediately, against alarming policies. While some optimism that things will work out for the best is healthy, it's important not to allow this to blind us to worrying decisions and statements. After rolling a clip of just a few of Trump's campaign promises, Oliver compared it to Satan's "to do" list. Even more troubling: "either we just elected a President who didn't mean a single word he said, or we elected one who did, and it's impossible to know which one." He warned people not to rely on Trump to change his mind or sway from certain promised policies. When Trump changes his opinion, Oliver pointed out, he often changes it right back. One simply cannot rely on Trump for consistency when it comes to virtually any position. He's "like a magic 8-ball: every time you shake it, he gives you a different answer."
Acknowledging that there was a whole range of factors that contributed to Trump's surprising victory, Oliver examined one of those elements he believed would be important going forward: our media, "specifically, how a system that is supposed to catch a serial liar failed". One fault of the media was failing to take Trump seriously as a candidate until it was way too late in the 2016 election cycle. He called out CNN, specifically, for airing Trump's speeches almost in their entirety throughout the 2016 election campaign. Even CNN's president, Jeff Zucker, now admits it was a mistake.
"It turns out that hindsight, much like the year we're all now looking forward to, is 20/20."
Oliver did mention that there was some spectacular coverage of Trump during the campaign, highlighting the work done by The New York Times and The Washington Post as two excellent examples. Even CNN, eventually, began calling out Trump's mistakes, often using their lower third to correct Trump's erroneous statements.
One problem with relying on the media to give these corrections is that we, as consumers, can choose to only get our news from sources that echo our own viewpoints. While there is nothing wrong with consuming media with a specific viewpoint, "a healthy media diet needs to include more". Oliver pointed out that his own show has a viewpoint and that, while everything is fact checked, he doesn't pretend to hide his own feelings on certain controversial issues. He argued that media such as his show needs to be consumed alongside other sources that lack the same bias.
A related problem is that almost half of all adults in the United States get their news from Facebook. This means that, when fake news stories circulate, it can be hard to contain the impact. For example, during the 2016 campaign, a story circulated that the Pope had endorsed Trump. In reality, the Pope did no such thing, but that story was shared over a million times -- proving how fast misinformation can spread. If that is the only way you consume the news, it's conceivable that you'd never know the story was false.
BuzzFeed News researched this "fake news" phenomenon. They found that there were a number of hyper-partisan websites boasting massive numbers of followers who published outright falsehoods. In just a two-week period, 38% of news on Republican-leaning pages and 19% of news on Democrat-leaning pages was "partly or completely false". The result of this is that your views can be "warped" pretty fast. Even the President-elect is guilty of this type of manipulation, once claiming "what do I know about it? All I know is what's on the internet". Comforting, isn't it?
We can't even rely on the fact that maybe, just maybe, Trump will get bored of holding office and simply resign.
"But that is when you remember Mike Fucking Pence, who might even be worse."
This brings us to the important question mentioned earlier: what the fuck do we do now? The answer is to constantly fight -- to monitor policy as it moves through Congress and to vote when legislators are up for reelection. In addition, Oliver advocated actively standing up for one another since we can no longer rely on the President-elect to do so. This involves more than just sharing things around your bubble; it requires "actual sacrifice to support people who are now under treat". He suggested donating time or money to organizations that are now going to be at risk, listing agencies who will need support during the next four years. And, to make it a bit more fun, he also pointed out that "if you have relatives who voted for Trump, you can donate in their name, so consider your holiday shopping done".
One more thing we can do is to support the press. Trump has consistently promised to punish the press throughout his campaign, which is worrisome. Oliver suggested that we subscribe to and support legitimate news organizations and journalists such as The Washington Post and The New York Times rather than sharing memes generated by hyper-partisan alternatives.
Oliver implored viewers to remind themselves that "this is not normal", even as things slide back into a relative sense of normalcy for those who are not directly affected by President-elect Trump.
"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."
2016, as a whole, was an uncommonly shitty year; it's been "The Fucking Worst". In that light (or in that lack of light, to be more accurate) Last Week Tonight put something together to give 2016 the send off it so richly deserves. #FuckYou2016
You can watch the entire show below. Last Week Tonight will return in 2017. John Oliver can be seen next on November 19, when he and fellow Daily Show alumni Stephen Colbert host a post-election reflection special.
"It turns out that, instead of showing our daughters that they could someday be President, America proved that no grandpa is too racist to become leader of the free world."
"In the broadest sense, I get that impulse. Hope for the best in the face of very long odds. It's like we're on a plane, and we just found out our pilot is a wombat. 'I don't like this. I don't understand how it happened and I"m pretty sure we're headed for disaster. But what the hell? C'mon Batty! Prove me wrong!'"
"...a barely changed version of Obamacare called Trumpcare, which sounds like a healthcare plan where doctors feel your breasts for lumps whether you've asked them to or not."
"...a former New York mayor-turned-professional asshole..."
"[referring to Ted Cruz making campaign calls for Trump in late 2016] Wow. That is hard to watch. 'Hi this is Ted Cruz. Just phoning to remind you to vote for a man who insulted my wife and said my dad helped kill JFK. Anyway, my life has no meaning, and I want to die. Take care now. God is dead."
"Literally the only excuse to ever migrate to Canada is if you were born there originally, it's spring time, and you are a goose."