John Oliver used his last show of the year last night for an epic deconstruction of Donald Trump’s propaganda tactics that just happen to align with those of Fox News. It’s Must-See TV for everyone but especially any liberal who may ever appear on Fox.
The three categories of Trump and Fox News propaganda
Oliver broke down Trump’s propaganda into three categories: delegitimizing the media, whataboutism and trolling. All three pertain to Fox News. But whataboutism is probably Fox’s favorite weapon against the Russia investigations and the Roy Moore scandal. Oliver played a number of clips of Fox pundits using that technique for those purposes.
OLIVER: This technique of saying “What about” is actually an old Soviet propaganda tool. And the reason it is dangerous is because it implies that all actions, regardless of context, share a moral equivalency. And since nobody is perfect, all criticism is hypocritical and everybody should do whatever they want. It is a depressingly effective tool which is why, on Trump’s favorite network, you hear it all the time.
I’d argue that Fox’s goal is not to make all criticism look hypocritical or argue that everybody should do whatever they want, just to delegitimize criticism of Republicans so that they should be able to do whatever they want. Democrats, on the other hand, should be criticized at any possible excuse. But I digress.
OLIVER: Here is the thing. None of the errors those people may have made in the past excuse the Trump administration’s actions. A defense attorney could not stand up in court and say, “Maybe my client did murder those people but I ask you this: What about Jeffrey Dahmer? What about Al Capone? What about the guy from the Silence of the Lambs? I rest my case here, people. I rest my case.”
The problem with whataboutism is it doesn’t actually solve a problem or win an argument. The point is just to muddy the waters which can make the other side mad.
Whether Clinton behaved in predatory behavior is absolutely a legitimate question. But it shouldn’t really inform what we do about Roy Moore. And even if you believe the Democrats are guilty of a double standard, the solution is not to have no standard whatsoever.
That is why it’s so important to train ourselves to identify these 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. And that erosion can be so gradual that it is difficult to spot.
The Trump presidency is a marathon that we can’t quit
As he prepared to bid us adieu until 2018, Oliver noted some bright spots in the past year: the defeat of Trumpcare, the blocking of the Muslim ban and Democrats’ big electoral victories last week. But, he cautioned, we need to use those moments to keep going and not become complacent.
The Trump presidency is like a marathon, Oliver added: pointless, painful and something most of us did not sign up for. We may not even be an eighth of the way through it yet. No matter how exhausted we may be already, “The stakes are too high for any of us to stop,” he warned.
Oliver promised a slew of ads on Fox & Friends
The irony of exhorting viewers to persist on his last show of the year was not lost on Oliver. But he does not intend to disappear into the void. Since Trump is such a devoted follower of Fox & Friends, “We are going to spend our hiatus sneaking in information,” Oliver promised. Last Week Tonight's pal, the Catheter Cowboy, is ready to return to the Fox News airwaves.
We saw the first ad, addressing Trump’s ignorant use of the term “clean coal” and a reminder that “Frederick Douglas is dead.” There were previews of others in which the Cowboy tries to teach Trump that the U.S. Virgin Islands has a governor, not a president; NFL players have a right to protest during the National Anthem because of the First Amendment; and “Remember: if you’re not enjoying this, there’s no shame in quitting.” They will all run in the Washington, D.C. area during Fox & Friends.
Watch the entire segment below from the November 12, 2017 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.