Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Police Response In Ferguson, Wage Differences Between Men and Women
August 18, 2014 7:21 AM - Season 1, Episode 15 - Subscribe

This week: Mo'ne Davis pitches first shut-out in Little League history. Iranian Parliament forbids vasectomies and birth control. A look at a Crimean annexation celebration events. Police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri sparks civil unrest, and a look at police militarization (15m). And a piece on the wage discrepancy between men and women, with commercial for "Ladybucks." Last Week Tonight is off for the next two weeks.
posted by JHarris (12 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I love the commercials they produce on this show. I would love to be a part of the team that gets to make them.

The part about escalation of force and not pointing your weapon at anything you aren't prepared to shoot is SO TRUE. The photo (with the funny and poignant "Fuck the Police" mailbox in it) of the multiple cops approaching an apparently unarmed person with weapons at the ready is terrifying.

I think Oliver did a great job of balance this week, finding funny things to say even amidst all the horrible topics he covered.
posted by Night_owl at 7:43 AM on August 18, 2014

I was amazed, when I watched Oliver's piece on Ferguson and militarisation today, that he managed to be funny about it without any jokes targeting victims or protestors. I used it to explain what's going on in overview to a friend, and it worked well. The only bit of the whole Ferguson piece that fell flat for me was the last joke, as, I found the idea that the police should be able to get their toys back, as a punchline, undercut the theme shortly before of "What in the fuck are the police doing with military hardware?"
posted by frimble at 10:13 AM on August 18, 2014

There is an error in the post: Mo'ne Davis isn't, I think, the first Little Leaguer to pitch a shut out, but the first girl to do so. I misunderstood that the first time I watched the bit.

I'll post a recap later today.
posted by JHarris at 1:16 PM on August 18, 2014

News Recap
Mo'ne Davis becomes first girl to pitch a shut-out in Little League history, and displaying awesome style and confidence in doing so. Oliver: "How is she so self-confident at 13 years old? I'm not that confident, and I have a TV show!"

In order to increase population, the Iranian Parliament forbids vasectomies and birth control. Oliver: "That is one hell of a pickup line. 'Hey baby, you wanna come up to my apartment and fully obey the Ayatollah?'"

Stephen Seagal performs (musically) at Crimean annexation celebration concert. Oliver: "In case you're wondering, that isn't Bono having an allergic reaction, that is Stephen Seagal, and incredibly, that wasn't even the weirdest annexation-themed entertainment the people of Crimea experienced, because the day before a Russian motorcycle game called the Night Wolves produced a dramatic retelling of the crisis, and it had everything. Dancers forming a flaming swastika: check. Drummers vomiting red paint onto their drums: check. Man running around on fire: check. Guy doing motorbike tricks in front of confused violinists: check, check, check. The whole thing looks like Leni Riefenstahl hired a color-blind pyromaniac to choreograph a Spinal Tap-themed Cirque Du Soleil performance at the request of Satan himself! And you know what? It was phenomenal! Because say what you will about Russians. You might not want them running Crimea, but on this evidence, you definitely want them running every Super Bowl halftime show in the future."

And Now: People On TV Saying What People Are Saying
"Sooner or later you have to believe what people are saying."
"People are saying we're against immigrants."
"People are saying buy, sell, hold..."
"People are saying, 'Yeah guys, what'dja think?'"
"People are saying, 'hmmm, on second thought, we probably should have chosen the other guy.'"
"People are saying something to me I said you don't know what I been through."
"People are saying they have tiny little tattoos on the back of their neck."
"People are saying, 'I need to fly, it's the Fourth of July, when do I go?'"
"People are saying, 'Listen, even with this insulin inhaler, it's still not gonna sell...'"
"People are saying, 'Why bother having laws at all?'"
"...these are stuff people are saying!"

Main story: Unarmed Teenager Shot In Ferguson, Missouri, Sparks Unrest

It's been all over the news. Michael Brown, unarmed teenager, was shot by Ferguson police several days ago, sparking civil unrest among the townsfolk.

News clip: "Asked how many times Brown was shot, St. Louis Country police chief John Delmar said: 'It was more than just a couple, but I don't think it was many more than that.'"
Oliver: "Just think about what he's saying there. 'Not much more than more than twice.' Could you try and minimize this any more?! 'Listen everyone! Only very many more than one bullet was fired, so everybody calm down shall we?'"

When police finally released the name of the officer who shot Brown, they also released "a DVD extra that no one wanted," security camera footage of Brown allegedly stealing from a convenience store. Oliver "[...I]t's irrelevant. If the police wanted to distract everyone with a video that has absolutely nothing to do with Michael Brown's shooting, they should have just released Ghostbusters instead. It's exactly as relevant to everything that happened afterwards!"

"But the more the week went on, the more you got the sense that those in charge in Ferguson don't have the best sense of how their community feels. Just listen to the mayor!"

Ferguson, Missouri Mayor James W. Knowles: "We've never seen this kind of violence, we've never seen this kind of frustration and tension between the races. I've always been proud to say that to people." [edit] "I know we've always gotten along, I know our community still gets along very well[...]"
Oliver: "'Oh, we're absolutely famous for it, presumably that is why I, the Mayor of Ferguson, am currently on national fucking television! Presumably we're talking about how well our town is getting along right now, and always has!' The thing is, if you ask around in Ferguson, you get a slightly different story."
News clip, speaking is a young black Ferguson male: "The cops' harassment is frequently, it's all through the day, it's all through the night. If they're not beating us, physically, they're doing it verbally[...]"
Oliver: "Here's the thing the mayor doesn't understand. As a general rule, no one should ever be allowed to say, 'There is no history of racial tension here.' Because that sentence has never been true anywhere on Earth! Even in Antarctica, there is tension between Emperor Penguins and Gentoo Penguins! 'Fuck you Gentoo Penguins! Flappin' over here, stealing our fish! Not you Chinstrap Penguins, you're cool. You guys are good at math.'"

So who's right, the Mayor of Ferguson, or Young Black Male Resident? Oliver suggests we might be able to figure it out by looking at the racial composition of the police force of this town with a population composed two-thirds of African-Americans.

Mayor Knowles, audio from a news clip: "They keep saying three of our officers are African-American, but I actually believe it's five, it was six but one left fairly recently. We also have a Hispanic and two Asian-Pacific Islanders.'"
Oliver: "Exactly! It doesn't stop there guys, we've got a couple of white guys who occasionally listen to hip-hop music! I mean, 'Mackelmore,' sure, buy still! Also, we have six Norwegian-Americans who really enjoyed The Lion King on Broadway!"

Statistics are presented in a clip: in a town that's 63% African-American, 86% of police stops are of black people, 92% of police searches, and nearly 93% of arrests. A commentator notes that, even though they stopped more blacks, more whites actually had comtraband. Oliver: "Of course more whites had contraband. They knew that if you look like this (points to own face), you don't get stopped! If you're white in Ferguson, you would need to be snorting cocaine directly off your dashboard to get stopped by the police. Whereas, if you're an African-American in Ferguson, like say Henry Davis here (pictured), you may have a slightly different experience. Because, while in custody in the Ferguson jail in 2009, officers grabbed him and pushed him, and struck him multiple times, they say they were provoked although oddly, there is no video of this incident despite the fact that the jail is equipped with video cameras. What is known though, at this point, is that he was later charged with four counts of destruction of city property for bleeding on their uniforms." (Daily Beast article on Davis case.)

That's the local police. What about the county police? A clip from a news report is presented in which a St. Louis County Police Lieutenant was fired due to his fellow officers claiming he told them: "Let's have a black day," and "Let's make the jail cells more colorful."

Oliver reminds us that not all cops are bad, but Ferguson's police force has problems, problems which may be best summed up by a photo presented on CNN, of a bunch of camo-garbed officers train guns on a young black girl holding her hands up. "Not just ludicrously aggressive police facing off against an unarmed man, but also (zooms in) because someone has clearly written FUCK THE POLICE on the postbox. Something that apparently CNN did not notice when they were using this photo during all of their coverage."

"Now you might also notice in that photo that the police are troublingly dressed like they're about to launch an assault on Fallujah. Well it turns out that that is no coincidence." The Defense Department has transfered
4.3 billion dollars worth of military equipment to police departments since 1996 to aid in the War On Drugs, and after 9/11 the Department of Homeland Security supplied police with additional equipment to defend against terrorism. Oliver: "This has happened on such a scale that it has enabled small towns such as Keene, New Hampshire to apply for a Bearcat (Wikipedia), a military-grade armored personnel truck, which they needed because, as their application argued, 'The terrorism threat is far reaching and often unforeseen,' and cited as a possible target their annual Pumpkin Festival." A picture of said festival is presented and mocked, callously ignoring the real and present danger that terrorists pose towards our Jack O' Lanterns. Oliver shows a picture of Keene's big ol' chunky Bearcat and says: "Good luck out-maneuvering that, teenagers with baseball bats!"

A YouTube video is presented showing a couple of guys' reactions to encountering one of those police vehicles on the streets of their town. "Holy shit, dude!" "Super armor dude!" "Look how big their tires are dude!" "That's awesome!" (Here is that video. [2.5m]) Oliver: "To be fair, that's exactly how they reacted when a Chipotle first opened there." But their responses, while humorous, also point to something disturbing: "Damn dude that's fucked up." "Why?" "Has our city gotten that fucking bad?"

Oliver: "Here's the thing: no! It hasn't got that bad! Because unless you live in Downtown Kabul, there is no practical need for anything like that in your town. Just ask the people that it came from!"

Randy Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, on CNN: "The Army itself actually, in a newsletter a few months ago, recommended against using MRAPs ('Mine-Resistant Ambust Protected') in military bases." [edit] "You know, on paved streets in the United States, they're actually unsafe, they tear up the streets, they have a high roll-over potential..."

Oliver: "The police are not soldiers. So why, in this photo from Ferguson, are they wearing fucking camo? They are north-west of St. Louis, not north-west of the Amazon! If they want to blend in with their surroundings, they should be dressed as a dollar store!"

"Also, look in the photo where their guns are pointed. If you were actually in the military, you would know that you are not supposed to do that!"

Guy on CNN: "In the military we're trained about something called escalation of force, which basically means the only time that you're really gonna point a weapon directly at someone is when you're ready to pull the trigger. And instead of that we've seen in Ferguson that police are just wandering around with their weapons up at all times, pointing them at people that obviously didn't pose a threat."

Oliver: "Woah, no, currently pose a threat. Because it's really all about what they might do. Now they could, for instance, join the police, be given a gun they're not trained to use properly, and then wander around pointing it at people, that would be fucking terrifying!"

"The point is, if you are a cop in the United States, you should dress for the job you have, not the job you want. Because, if you have all this equipment, it's going to go to your head. Look at Doraville, Georgia, population 8,500. The police there got a tank a while back, and up until a few days ago, this video was on the front page of their website." (The video in question. [1m] Oliver's team probably got the link from In response to the growling guitars in the video, Oliver shouts: "We're-gonna-stop-a-burglary-at-Little-Caesar's! We're-gonna-stop-a-burglary-at-Little-Caesar's!"

Oliver continues, "The name of that song is, and this is true, 'Die, Motherfucker, Die.' And it was a good choice, because believe me, that video does not pair well with Simon and Garfunkel." (Comparison presented. He's right.) "Now that video was just a training exercise. But the problem is, police departments don't just use this stuff for training. Thanks in part to this kind of access to military hardware, there has been a massive rise in both the number and the use of police department SWAT teams."

Al-Jazeera: "The number of SWAT rates have gone up by 1,400 percent since the 1980s. An estimated 50,000 now take place every year." The voice-over is of helmet-cam footage of a ludicrously terrifying scene where armed officers storm a suburban home and, shouting, throw a hysterically crying woman to the ground and yell at her to stay down.

Oliver: "Now keep that clip in mind when I tell you that 79 percent of SWAT deployments are now for executing search warrants, and most of those were for drug investigations. So yes, if you are getting high in your dorm room right now, you are not paranoid, there is a SWAT team outside, and they are coming to get you!!"

Back to Ferguson. How do you improve the situation? Demilitarize the police force? But that wouldn't affect the underlying problem, "as embodied by a police officer on the streets of Ferguson this week, who was dressed entirely normally."

Officer, in a CNN feed, shouting to a crowd: "Bring it! All you fucking animals. Bring it, I don't give a fuck."

Oliver: "The phrase 'Bring it, you fucking animals," is barely acceptable during a zoo escape. It's not even acceptable in the restaurant in Mary Poppins where penguins are waiters!"

"That kind of statement betrays an inability to see the citizens of Ferguson as individuals, and instead treats them as a threatening whole. And that is a top-down problem. Because last night, this is how the Governor of Missouri decided to try to rebuild trust between the police and the community:"

Governor Jay Nixon: "I signed an order declaring a State of Emergency and ordering the implementation of a curfew in the impacted area of Ferguson."

Oliver: "Perfect. You took a community tired of being treated as criminals and imprisoned them all in their own houses for a night. And in doing so, employed the tone of a pissed-off vice-principal trying to restore order at an assembly."

Nixon: "If we are going to achieve justice, we must first... have... and maintain... peace. This is a test! The eyes of the world are watching!"

Oliver: "That is profoundly patronizing! 'Let's see... if you can all remain quiet for 20 minutes... then we'll see if you can all go and play outside!' If even the Governor can't distinguish between the good and the bad elements of the community, and has decided to punish everyone equally, then that should go both ways. I know the police love their ridiculous, unnecessary military equipment, so here's another patronizing test. Let's take it all away from them, and if they can make it through a whole month without killing a single unarmed black man, then, and only then, can they get their fucking toys back!"

And Now: Nancy Grace Pretending Not To Be Able To Hear The Person She's Talking To
"I think I need to have my ears fixed, did I hear this?"
"Did I hear you say they went back some days later?"
"Did I hear you say that both parents worked the graveyard shift?"
"Woah woah wait wait did I hear you say 'house arrest?' Did you say that?"
"Sex every night? Is that what I just heard?"
"Did I hear that right or did my ISP just flip out?"
"Alright what did you say? You had to say something because I'd do a backflip if I heard that."
Man: "Did you ever smoke pot?" Grace: "I'm sorry, what?"

Wage Differences Between Men And Women

Oliver: "And finally tonight: women! What do they want? It's a question that's plagued no less an authority than movie star and noted humanitarian Mel Gibson." (Shown: movie poster of What Women Want.) "Not to be confused with his far less successful follow-up 'Why Are Jews?'"

"But for most American women, one thing that they might want is to be paid the same as men. And one prominent man currently agrees."

President Obama, in a State of the Union speech caught on C-SPAN: "Women deserve equal pay for equal work!"

From an interview on Morning Joe, lady: "Equal pay kicked off your presidency, it's become really a theme, one of your themes of your time here."

A fine sentiment. It beats previous presidental themes like "Let's lock up the Japanese" and "Destroy the Seminole scourge." But as often happens with Obama, from the outset the goal was muddled.

Obama: "Equal pay for equal work! It's not that complicated."
Oliver: "Yeah! It shouldn't be that complicated, and, as long as he hasn't overlooked something which complicates this significantly, everything should still be on track."

Fox News: "In 2013, female staffers in the Obama White House were paid less than 88 cents for every dollar paid to male staffers."

Oliver: "That's okay! Maybe the President was just 88% sincere when he talked about equal pay! When if you round it up is basically 100% anyway, so why is everyone complaining? And with that, all anyone could talk about is not how to fix this problem, but how to quantify it."

(A number of clips are presented showing announcers and pundits quibbling. Four of them are Fox News, one CBS.) In the last clip, a man related, from a Washington Post article: "Among women who do not get married, there is virtually no wage gap. They earn 96 cents for every dollar a man makes."

Oliver: "Look, even if 96 cents is the number, which it isn't, it's still terrible! Let me put this in terms that are perhaps easier to understand. If someone takes a dump on my desk, the size of the dump is not the issue."

"This is where we are right now. The one equal pay act in Congress has already been killed, and there's seemingly nothing on the horizon. But to listen to some that's not a problem, because not only does the gap barely exist, if it does, it's actually women's fault."

Brit Hume on Fox News: "Women make different choices about what kinds of jobs they seek, they make difference choices in reaction to marriage and childbirth..." [edit] "When those factors are taken into consideration, studies have indicated that the pay gap all but evaporates."

Oliver: "Classic! Women are paid less because they choose to have children, although to be fair, they didn't technically choose to be the sole gender biologically capable of pregnancy, with the notable exception of course of seahorses and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior."

Another argument given is that women choose to enter lower-paying professions. A lady is shown saying you need to compare men and women in the same professions, with the same experience, to compare "apples to apples." Oliver: "Okay, apples to apples. In which case, I actually have a question for you: how do you like these apples?"

Sarah Crawford (speaking on some show): "A recent study out of Yale University that is interesting, where professors were given the identical resume, one had the name 'John' on the top, and the other had the name 'Jennifer' on the top, and the male candidate was rated more favorably, and they were offered on average $4,000 more than the female candidate."

Oliver: "Okay, so it seems we either address the root of this problem and fight entrenched sexism in our society, or all women simply change their names to 'John.'"

"Paying people less for the same work is clearly wrong. Even monkeys know that! Scientists actually ran a test where two monkeys performed exactly the same task. One was paid with a grape, and the other with just a cucumber. Watch how the monkey who got the cucumber reacted when it realized it was underpaid." (The monkey throws the piece out of its cage, rattles the door and bangs the table outside its cage.) "Calm down monkey! You don't know what the other monkey's experience and education were! You just made different choices in your life! Besides, a cucumber is virtually the same as a grape!"

Some people will always want to pay women less, but Last Week Tonight thinks it should be obvious that they're doing that. So they present a (fake) commercial for "Ladybucks," special Monopoly-money-looking dollars companies can use to pay women that are worth 83 cents on the dollar. "Ladybucks is the new currency for women! From the Federal Reserve and the creators of Playtex Gentle Glide 360!" "It's an amount that could be described as 'Virtually the same!' 'Really just reflective of the difference choices women make!' and 'some fucked up Mad Men bullshit!'"
posted by JHarris at 3:41 PM on August 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

People have speculated about what the show's success means for The Bugle, John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman's current events comedy podcast. Some have suggested it's pretty much the death knell for it.

If I might fantasize baselessly for a moment, might I suggest a different possibility? The Bugle could join up with Last Week Tonight.

After all, The Bugle began as an organ of The Times of London, before Rupert Murdoch noticed they were making rather a lot of fun of him and his organization during the News Of The World scandal. There's precedent here for the podcast to be riding some other group, so why couldn't The Bugle join on? Give some solid work to Andy Zaltzman! Expand Last Week Tonight to an hour and give Zaltzman his own pun-filled spot! Fuck Eulogies for every dictator to kick the bucket! An endless stream of stock characters like The American! "Oh, Pippa!" "Fuck you, Chris" uttered three times a week! And then they wouldn't need to rely on people filling out volunto-subscriptions!

(Yes, I tend to do this kind of wistful speculation about people I like. After writing this I'm going to write fan fiction with Stephen Colbert marrying Princess Twilight Sparkle.)
posted by JHarris at 4:17 PM on August 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would absolutely love a segment every week for The American.
posted by Peccable at 6:58 PM on August 18, 2014

The Bugle could join up with Last Week Tonight

I think there's probably a limit, even on US premium cable, to the amount of cricket the American public can stand.

Hottie's From History would make the transition pretty successfully though.
posted by brilliantmistake at 3:50 PM on August 19, 2014

I don't know if the US is ready for a televised pun-run, but I'd be curious to find out.

I'd also like to know when its time to go ahead and cancel my bugle volunto-subscription , because I'm starting to feel a bit the chump.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 11:15 PM on August 20, 2014

John Oliver Literally Destroys PiƱatas - web exclusive video.

RSS feeds for YouTube channels are available. For some reason I thought they went away.
posted by Gary at 10:02 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The piece on wage differences between men and women is also now up on YouTube.
posted by JHarris at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2014

Fan Mail Vol. 1
posted by Gary at 12:05 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

John Oliver meets the Cookie Monster!
posted by JHarris at 3:53 PM on September 2, 2014

« Older Cowboy Bebop: Gateway Shuffle...   |  The Strain: Occultation... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments