Speed Reads


John Oliver explains the real dangers of Trump's trolling and 'whataboutism,' proposes some defensive tools

On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver spent the bulk of the show on President Trump and how Americans must avoid following him into a nihilistic cul-de-sac. "I honestly know that the prospect of talking about Trump yet again feels exhausting," he said, suggesting that every room in America have a clock that counts the minutes since someone mentioned Trump's name. But "Trump's presidency is like one of his handshakes: it pulls you in whether you like it or not," Oliver said, and you need to be prepared.

Trump is often staggeringly incoherent, but "the real damage isn't in how he says things, but from three key techniques that he uses to insulate himself from criticism and consequence," Oliver said: Delegitimizing the media, "whataboutism," and trolling. "Despite Trump's few real policy accomplishments to date, he has consistently achieved one thing, and that is making his enemies unhappy," he noted. "And for many Trump supporters, that itself counts as a major victory."

Thanks to Trump, these techniques are spreading with a patina of legitimacy, Oliver said, pointing to Sean Hannity's pivoting from the allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to Bill Clinton's alleged sexual misconduct. "Even if you believe that Democrats are guilty of a double standard, the solution is not to have no standard whatsoever," Oliver said. "That is why it's so important to train ourselves to identify these three techniques, because their natural endpoint is the erosion of our ability to decide what's important, have an honest debate, and hold one another accountable."

Oliver acknowledged the bleakness of that pronouncement then listed a few bright spots to keep people going, "because the Trump presidency is basically a marathon: It's painful, it's pointless, and the majority of you didn't even agree to run it." He ended with some new Trump-focused ads from his "Catheter Cowboy" character. Watch below — but be warned, there is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber