Why John Oliver is only funny to a point: How taking down big pharma without mentioning vaccines shows how the acceptable parameters of satire are maintained.
By E.F Nicholson
Broadly speaking, I like John Oliver’s new show “Last week with John Oliver” on HBO. He has come from Comedy Central’s Daily Show to create a show that’s punchy, funny, and, I think, quite relevant. Since its beginning, the show has tackled head-on some very key issues that need to be discussed. From drones, predatory leading, private prisons, inequality, and many others, as far as political comedy goes it’s as good as you will get on mainstream TV. So most of the time I watch his stuff and generally like how he comes at things. Recently John Oliver did a scathing take on the “Big Pharma” and their billion-dollar criminal practices. His show’s 17-minute smack-down on Big Pharma humorously revealed its corrupt and fraudulent practices. He does a good job of highlighting how greedy, sociopathic and criminal many of these companies are in the lengths they are willing to take to make that extra buck. All good and all information the public should be informed about. You can watch it here.
What I found interesting (and yet unsurprising) in this critique is how he left out any mention of these same companies he is taking a comedic shit on being the ones producing the “vaccines” that are currently also in the news. It seems with progressive mainstream media there are very clear lines of what are “credible” targets for satire and critique and what are not. For mainstream-ish comedians like John Oliver, Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert to openly question “vaccines” is career suicide, akin to saying 9/11 was an inside job, or maybe that the queen is, in fact, a lizard. It was interesting to see how Russell Brand was deliberately shoe-horned into responding to one line in his book while on BBC News Night regarding the need to not trust our government’s ideas as to how the acts of 9/11 came about. Brand seemed to be aware of the “set-up” in place, and skilfully deflected it and directed the interview toward more relevant points. Yet I have no doubt that if Brand had come out and said, “Yes, I think 9/11 was inside job,” it would have been the last time he ever appeared on the BBC, Guardian or any other mainstream outlet (which I personally think was the whole point of trying to force him into some answers along those lines). Not that I think 9/11 was or wasn’t an inside job; I don’t have any personal opinions on it. What is interesting is how what’s “credible” gets defined and policed within progressive media.
With this reported outbreak of measles the question of whether the anti-vaccine people are bat-shit crazy has resurfaced as a credible source of outrage and scorn in liberal progressive media outlets. Supposedly thanks to the likes of playmate Jenny McCarthy and other Republican fruit-loops, all of society could be inflicted with Dickensian types of diseases and viruses. Progressive outlets like the Guardian, Salon, mother jones, ect., all condemn the supposedly unscientific and non-academic groundlessness of the anti-vaccine crowd. “We may be progressive but we are not idiots,” they cry out, so eager to assure the world of the credible credentials of sane liberal voices.
I did an article a while back on the issue of vaccines and autism that you can read here. My conclusion was simple: I don’t know if vaccines cause autism. Based solely on orthodox medical opinion, it appears they don’t. Yet let’s not forget for about 80 years orthodox medical opinion told us smoking wasn’t bad for our health. My article was more about the danger of making people’s health and well-being connected to global corporate profits. When profit drives an industry such as healthcare, one can only assume making profit will always trump what’s best for people’s health. Given that companies such as British pharmaceutical giant GSK are willing to suppress data such as this:
Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry (EHPP) has published an excerpt from a previously sealed product liability report against Glaxo SmithKline (GSK). The medical expert report documents how the company systematically hid and manipulated data concerning Paxil-induced suicidality in depressed adults. The number of suicide attempts on the antidepressant Paxil was under-reported and the number of suicide attempts on placebo was inflated.
just to make more profits, tells us these are not companies to be trusted. Actually, in 2012, for the first time, Big Pharma overtook Banking and Defence as the most fined and corrupt industry. Well done, guys, as they are hard industries to beat. So as John Oliver rightfully lambastes and highlights just how shameless and greedy these companies are, is it really a big step to say the same companies that make money from an anti-depressant through suppressing studies, bribing and criminal conduct, for some bizarre reason should be given an unquestioned gold pass when it comes to the vaccines they sell alongside these other dubious products? Again I don’t know if vaccines are or are not good for people’s health. Personally, my kids are vaccinated. Yet what I do know is the companies that produce them have proven track records of lying and covering up. Then government authorities that are meant to regulate them are toothless, bought through revolving doors of government and corporate synergy. Yet there was no way John Oliver was going to add the “vaccine” question to the satirical scrutiny of their legitimacy. Or even more radically, questioning the very capitalistic model that drives vaccine production first place. I am sure no one told him not to, it’s just journalists, producers and editors all intuitively know what is within the lines of credible satire and satire that will allow them to continue to make more satire.
Maybe it’s not a bad thing; one could argue it’s better than nothing. Yet the journalist Gary Webb, once he was banished from “credible journalism” for reporting the truth, said something along the lines of, “You don’t know you’re on a lead until you pull up against it.” As funny as John Oliver is, it appears he is no exception.
UPDATE: November 13th 2015: I have been taking break from covering some of the more heavy subjects and focusing solely on satire.
I have no doubt I’ll come back to the serious but feel the need to be a bit more playful, silly and of course scathing on those worthy of it.
I am taking shots at inane articles you see on relationship advice, looking at absurdstories in the news, highlighting the opinion of people I would consider morons and just getting stuff off my chest like I do here.
So please check it out and see what you think.