Last Week Tonight Host John Oliver Tackles Conspiracy Theory Culture

On the latest edition of HBO's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discussed how normalized conspiracy theory culture gripped the world and how especially dangerous spreading misleading information during the global COVID-19 pandemic is. The host began showing numerous news programs explaining how groups on social media downplay the seriousness of the outbreak from insinuating somehow the virus is harmless or created by Big Pharma. One popular theory blames 5G cellular towers for transmitting the virus. Oliver continued breaking down the conspiracy video Plandemic.

Last Week Tonight: John Oliver Breaks Down Conspiracy Theory Culture
Alex Trebek, Billy Porter, Catherine O'Hara, John Cena, and Paul Rudd appear on news PSA for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Images courtesy of WarnerMedia

"[Plandemic] is a pseudo-documentary with a hodgepodge of conspiracies," Oliver describes. "In one week (citing the New York Times), it was viewed more than eight million times." The host continued saying one of the theories prompted action on social media is #FilmYourHospital. "[It] spread which spread after some claims that the severity of the pandemic was being exaggerated and urged people to expose the truth." Oliver cut to a few clips where one man demands at a hospital to see their coronavirus patients before driving off flippantly asking staff to call the governor to address the "hoax." Before Oliver breaks down how conspiracy theories take root in society, he admitted to once subscribing that the death of Princess Diana Spencer and the UK royal family playing a part on the night of her fatal car accident. While the host changed his mind, the theory never went away. He also compared the high profile assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 to the attempted one on Ronald Reagan in 1981 due to its failure. In the context of COVID-19, Oliver brought up media coverage of previous global pandemics with the bubonic plague, influenza, and Spanish flu.

After breaking down a key moment in Plandemic, Oliver transitioned to another popular argument on how "so-and-so must lack credibility for being a paid shill" before slamming his "corporate daddy" AT&T for their substandard service asking how will they deliver their orders to him? Sprint? Net, he discussed how President Donald Trump addresses conspiracies via a clip of radio mogul Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh stated that despite the president's fascination with conspiracies, he doesn't explicitly say he believes them, but throws "gasoline to the fire" to throw off his enemies. Closing the video, Oliver allowed a group of his celebrity guests to provide a shared PSA about proper media scrutiny. The participants include Alex Trebek, John Cena (for some reason agreed to keep taking off his shirt), Paul Rudd, Billy Porter, and Catherine O'Hara. The host mentioned they posted the complete videos of the actors on the site since RTruth was already taken. Last Week Tonight airs Sundays on  HBO.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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