Speed Reads


John Oliver ponders how to connect Trump with factual reality, hits upon an outrageous plan

Last Week Tonight likes to focus on wonky, maybe even boring, subjects like special tax districts, John Oliver said on Sunday night, but sadly, the first show of 2017 must "address something even bigger: the concept of reality itself." Yes, you can thank President Trump for that, Oliver said, since the president "has made it clear that reality is not important to him."

He listed some examples, then gave his thesis statement: "Trump's relationship with the truth is going to be of profound importance going forward, because any policy discussion has to begin with a shared sense of reality." Trump vs. Reality is a big topic, so Oliver broke it down into "four basic questions: How did we get a pathological liar in the White House? Where are his lies coming from? Why do so many people believe him? And what can we possibly do about it?"

Trump has a long, documented history of lying, Oliver said, but during the campaign "Trump was telling the truth about his solutions to the problems he was lying about, and he is now making real policy based on fake facts." He gets those "facts" from cable news, but also Breitbart, InfoWars, and other fringy sites. There is a "really dangerous" pattern here, Oliver said: "Trump sees something that jibes with his worldview, doesn't check it, half-remembers it, and then passes it on, at which point it takes on a life of its own and appears to validate itself."

"If you get your news from similar sources to him — as many, many, many people do — he doesn't look like a crank," Oliver noted. "He looks like the first president ever to tell you the real truth." That's not a joke, he added. "Real people get hurt when you make policy based on false information. Billions will get spent on a wall that won't work, to prevent a crime wave that isn't happening, while refugees sit in dangerous situations to prevent Bowling Green-style massacres that never took place." To fight this, defend facts, support legitimate news organizations, and "make extra effort on social media to verify stories before passing them on — especially if they confirm our pre-existing biases," he said. Trump won't heed this advice, or watch Last Week Tonight, Oliver conceded, but he came up with an audacious plan to slip some facts to the president on the sly. Watch below, though be warned: There's some NSFW language. Peter Weber