Last Week Tonight

Out of all the years I’ve followed political commentary, few shows have struck the delicate balance that Last Week Tonight has struck between being informative and being entertaining.

I usually prefer outlets that don’t have too much of a lean, and I like watching unique interviews from journalists I trust like Charlie Rose. I find watching BBC News to be a decent alternative to most US outlets since they tend to have less of a political bias being an ocean detached from the issues in play in American politics. And I usually shy away from comedic mediums for news. But I’ve found myself particularly drawn to Last Week Tonight’s approach to covering issues more and more, and it seems like they’re only getting better with every passing season.

Episodes are on average half an hour, which is impressive enough already. Few shows can hit on important issues for such a long period of time while also not losing the viewer’s attention halfway through. And it doesn’t hurt that John Oliver has a lovable British accent, and actively markets himself as being terrified of the wrong direction humanity is going on certain important topics.  It just adds a little bit of flavor to the experience.

Especially during a time where it feels many legitimate news outlets are consistently being discredited, it’s important for there to be an outlet where views contrary to reality look hilarious and ridiculous through the cunning use of actual facts. And I find that though they do have a pretty strong lean to the left, they still do try to explore multiple angles of an issue.

Out of all the years I’ve followed political commentary, few shows have struck the balance that Last Week Tonight has struck. It’s just the right blend of quality content mixed with absurd jokes that are barely contextually relevant enough to entertain you while maintaining your interest in the main topic of the show. And one of the more important topics he’s touched upon lately is the topic of net neutrality.

The most recent episode was a continuation of one made three years prior, and it’s a topic which will likely have sweeping implications if the laws do get altered. If changed, it would give internet providers the power to determine which websites would get priority over others, presumably for a fee. So companies would be able to pay service providers to give their sites priority over competitors. This would potentially leave room for greater monopolization by bigger players, since smaller companies might not be able to pay for higher prioritization over competitors, and have one additional hurdle in getting their feet off the ground. And potentially a crippling one, depending on how heavily internet service providers choose to wield their power.

That’s just skimming the top of the topic. And all things considered political topics are difficult to get anybody to care about since they can get so mind-numbingly boring when you get into the laws. So since it’s hard to understand, it’s hard to pay attention to. And the insidious build of these decisions in affecting everyday people negatively is a piece of the problem. Once there’s a problem present, and people of power are benefiting from the new state of affairs, it’s easy to muddy the waters and prevent people from ever getting to the root of what’s happening to prevent any meaningful movement in the right direction on issues. Which brings to mind a pretty poignant quote that I recall hearing in this first net neutrality video.

“If you want to do something evil, put it in something boring.”

It’s sad, just how well that works.