Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Scottish Independence, Corporations Misuse Twitter
September 15, 2014 5:44 AM - Season 1, Episode 17 - Subscribe

The NFL is embroiled in controversy for their handling of player Ray Rice's assault on his wife. ISIS prompts yet another American military intervention in Iraq (2m). Olive Garden comes under fire from activist hedge fund for poor practices, including not using salt to boil pasta water to prolong pot life. Scotland votes on independence from the United Kingdom (15m). Newscasters misidentify photographs as selfies. A record of companies misappropriating Twitter hashtags and memes to try to look important and socially-conscious, featuring the hashtag #WeUnderstandThatAsCorporateEntities​OurPresenceInCertainDiscussionsIsNotAlwaysRequired​SoWeWillStriveToLimitOurActivities​ToJustSellingyouShit.
posted by JHarris (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I really loved the selfies piece. Something about the (paraphrasing) "that's just a picture of a tortoise" made me lose it.

This show gets praised a lot for the long-form bits that aren't possible on the Daily Show, and the Scottish independence piece was a good example. But I feel like the short bits also wouldn't be possible on the Daily Show. For the amount of work it takes to put together the piece last week about "60 Minutes" prompting for sound bites, I think Daily Show would have to pad it to fill time.
posted by Gary at 10:08 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are some tricks to making those kinds of media compilations. The Daily Show is known to maintain banks of Tivos for archiving massive amounts of news media, and I expect LWT does something similar. As far as searching it all, the Internet Archive maintains a website that lets you search the closed captioning feeds of lots of shows. The Congressional Record is also online and searchable, which is nice for finding something someone said on the House or Senate floor; after you find it there, you can then see about getting the footage from CSPAN, I expect.
posted by JHarris at 12:49 PM on September 15, 2014

Oh god that corporate twitter segment was phenomenal.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:28 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

(New convention: if I don't identify a quote or it isn't obvious from context, it's from John Oliver.)

News Recap
The news has been dominated by the NFL, "the FIFA of American sports." There is this guy, Ray Rice, and he punched his finance. For this, back in July, he received a mere two game suspension. More recently video of the assault has turned up and horrified a lot of people. "Many in the world of sports were rightly disgusted, although often for unnecessarily specific reasons."
Michael Oher; "If my daughter were to get hit like that from another man, I'd have a serious problem with it."
Andrew Whitworth: "Having a daughter, having a wife, you know, I'd agree with their decision."
ESPN2 newscaster: "Take your sister, your mom, your significant-other, if you have a daughter, and just put her face on Janay Rice's face. Now tell me, would you give the guy a second chance then?"

"Or, or, here's a crazy idea, you could put away your magic face-switching machine, and just be upset about the incident as it actually happened. Because you should not need to insert a relative into a horrifying situation to make it horrific! For instance: I hate SeaWorld's treatment of whales on principle alone, not just because my father is an orca!'

(Personal note #1: In tracking down the spelling of Janay's name on Google, I found that if you enter "Rice's wife" it autocompletes with "hit first," evidence that there are some sickening memes floating around out there. Personal note #2: I'm so glad someone is saying this, the patriarchal attitudes those clips reveal are infuriating.)

"The NFL has behaved characteristically appallingly throughout this entire controversy, but perhaps the most amazing response of the week came from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti," (pictured) "a candy apple with teeth, who has admitted failing to do enough when the assault first happened, but who is now, for some reason, trying to spin this whole mess as a positive."

Bisciotti: "If this is a seminal moment for domestic violence and the way we handle it as a society, then that's not a burden for us to be that poster boy. It's not. Now I'm embarrassed about it, but five years from now [if] things have changed significantly for the better, I'll be proud of it."

Oliver: "What?? 'Really, you should all be thanking me! I've handled this situation so badly I might accidentally instigate social progress! Think of it this way: you don't get to Rosa Parks without Rosa Park's bus driver, and that is me! You're welcome everyone!'"

Back to ISIS: their influence in the Middle East has grown to the point that (cue exasperated sighs) President Obama has announced that, yet again, America would launch a military intervention into Iraq.

Obama: "Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIS, through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy." -- "As Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead."

Oliver: "Yeah, but... do we welcome it in this case? Or is it like when the printer at work runs out of toner and there's no one else around who can fix it?"

"Here's the problem. Almost everyone on Earth would like ISIS gone, but no one is eager to be the one to deal with it. Which is why, as difficult as this might be, Americans need to come together and demand, with one voice, that Peru should really do something about this! Seriously, Peru! ISIS, Peru, poses a threat to the entire globe, and you are just sitting there!" -- "And don't give me the whole 'but John, our population is the size of Texas and the war on terror is a hopeless geopolitical paradox,' that's bullshit Peru!"

Olive Garden has announced a new promotion, where you can spend $100 one time and get all-you-can-eat rights to pasta, salad, bread and drinks for seven weeks. "Seven weeks of Olive Garden food! That is pretty much a one-way ticked to the hospitaliano. Unfortunately for them, their publicity bump was undercut when an activist hedge fund [StarboardValue], seeking to replace Olive Garden's management, released this damning report [PDF], essentially pointing out that all that pasta you can eat is shit."

CNBC Newscaster: "Darden restaurants beating on earnings but gets panned [in a] 300, 300, slide presentation by activist hedge fund Starboard with advice on how to cut costs and improve its Olive Garden chain, of course that makes sense, including though easing up on bread, pushing more alcohol, and salting the pasta water."

Oliver: "That's right. Because according to one of the slides, they no longer put salt in the water they use to boil pasta, because that way, this is the reason, they get a longer warranty on their pots! Although what is really shocking there is that Olive Garden uses pots at all, I always assumed that they just microwaved cold pasta between two damp paper towels."

"The slides go on to argue that Olive Garden serves a 'mushy, unappealing product,' also that 'fried lasagna bites are not authentic Italian,' describing them as 'barely edible,' also saying of another dish, 'Vegetable lasagna topped with chicken doesn't make any sense,' which is fair, also that customers are 'consistently disappointed.' My favorite slide shows a photo of the vegetable lasagna on the menu, then juxtaposes that with what customers were actually served." (An unappetizing photo is displayed.) "What happened there?! I can only presume that between the first and the second photo that vegetable lasagna developed a massive crystal meth addiction."

"If you think that Powerpoint presentation was aggressive, just wait until you see the ads they're running to shame Olive Garden into shaming its ways." Following is a LWT-produced fake ad against Olive Garden, using some quotes from the report. "Think of us as a pot museum that occasionally serves something resembling food!"

Scottish Independence
"Our main story is Scotland. Americans know it as the birthplace of Shrek, and that accent you think you can do but actually can't."

Thursday, Scotland is deciding whether after over three centuries they want to split off from the United Kingdom. Oliver: "Yes, it seems like England may lose yet another country. Look, I'm not saying the sun is setting on the British Empire, let's just say restaurant of history is switching to its dinner menu."

"Now there is a lot to explain here, especially because when most American people think about Scottish independence, they tend to picture this:" Mel Gibson in Braveheart, most of his face blue, shouting, "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!" Oliver: "Ah yes, nothing screams 'Scottish freedom' quite like a millionaire Australian anti-semite on horseback."

Scotland is a member of the United Kingdom, which is not a country, but a "complicated political and economic union. Think of it as an archipegic supergroup comprised of four variously-willing members. To understand why Scotland may want to leave, you really need to understand the history of its relationship with England." England and Scotland had a contentious relationship for decades, until 1707 when after a war they were merged into a single country, Great Britain, (newscaster speaking over footage of a mock battle) "a decision that's been controversial in Scotland ever since." Oliver: "Oh yeah, I'd say it's still controversial, given that, as you can see here, we are still roleplaying with wooden swords to try to emotionally work through it."

"So Scotland and England have been involved in something of a three-hundred-year arranged marriage, and look, I will be the first one to acknowledge England has been a little bit of a dick since the honeymoon. In 1746 we actually banned the kilt just because we knew they liked it. And then we chose 'God Save The King' as the UK's national anthem, which at once point had a verse referencing 'Rebellious Scots to crush,' although, to be fair, we later realized that that was wrong and replaced it with a line about pissing on the Welsh."

Now Scotland's people finally get to vote on independence. The two primary campaigns are YesScotland in favor of independence and and Better Together against. Oliver: "For a start, 'Better Together' is not a great name for a campaign. It sounds like what people say to convince themselves to stay in a dead marriage."

"And if you think their name is uninspiring, wait until you hear their slogan." Better Together commercial: "No thanks." "No thanks!" "No thanks." "No thanks." Oliver: "'No thanks' is a violently British way to refuse something! That is just one step away from 'Oh I couldn't possibly.'"

Among those funding the Better Together campaign is Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling (Oliver: "But that's not really a surprise is it, she famously wrote a book in which a redhead played second fiddle to a magical Englishman. 'Come along Ron! I shall have all the powers and your brothers can die fighting my wars. Come along!'"), and of those funding the Scottish independence campaign, eighty percent came from lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir. Oliver: "They're like an adorable Scottish version of the Koch brothers!"

Under arguments in favor of Scottish independence, Alex Salmond on C-SPAN says that no one would be better at deciding what's best for Scotland than the Scottish people, and Oliver notes he may be right about that. "Scots know how to run a country. Because when they got to choose a national animal, they selected, and I swear this is true, a unicorn. Who knew you were allowed to do that? Pick a fictional animal! America's probably kicking itself for choosing the bald eagle now, are ya! You could have picked a wookie in a top-hat or or whatever the fuck Grimace is!" (Picture of [the] Grimace.) "He looks like a magic genie granted a wish to Gorbachev's birthmark."

"Also, for their national flower, Scots chose a thistle, that is a plant made out of tiny knives and a throwing star. [Scottish voice] 'The only flower I like is a flower that could pierce an Englishman's throat!'"

"But there are legitimate reasons for Scotland to want to govern itself. It is a predominantly liberal country which has been frequently governed by a conservative UK government. And seldom has that divide been as pronounced as right now, when the UK's Prime Minister is David Cameron. CBS News: "Cameron's problem is, as a posh southern Tory, he's seen in Scotland as the personification of everything that's wrong with England and the UK." Oliver: "I agree with that. He embodies all the things I hate about England, and I'm English! Let me prove this to you. This is a picture of him as a student at Oxford. He's in fucking tails! Now Cameron says he's desperately embarrassed by that photo, which is why it pains me so much to be showing it to you. Can we get a close up on his face?" (Close up -- pissed-off look on young Cameron's face.) "That is the look of a man who fast-forwards through the servant parts of Downton Abbey."

Oliver continues: "Let me show you what an asshole David Cameron is. One of the biggest issues in the independence debate is the fact that Scotland has a surprisingly large amount of oil. But watch how David Cameron responded to a simple parliamentary question about who should control revenues from it."
C-SPAN 2, showing footage of British Parliament:
SNP Angus MacNeil: "A poll last week showed that 68% of scots want oil revenues to go to Scotland. Does the Prime Minister agree with 68% of scots, or does he not?"
David Cameron: "If, uh, you ask a stupid question, you get a stupid answer. (laughs)"

Oliver: (echoes laughter mockingly) "Imagine that sound for three hundred years and you may get some sense of why Scotland may be ready to leave."

"So, let's look at the anti-independence campaign now. Clearly they had some serious work to do. Unfortunately, their attempts to win hearts and minds targets involved this controversial commercial targeted at women, featuring a Scottish mother confused by the whole concept of Scottish independence, who's just send her kids off to school."

Commercial, showing the mother speaking in her kitchen, with a yellow floral-pattern cup in her hands: "Best time of the day this, when they're all out. Nice and quiet! Gives you time to think. Helps you clear your head. Shame only lasts for two minutes." [edit] "Don't get me wrong, I know how important this vote is. There's not much time left for me to make a decision. But there's only so many hours in the day."

Oliver, holding a yellow, floral-pattern cup: "Och, it's so confusing. It hurts my wee head! I'm just a woman, you know, just a pair of ovaries and some bangs! How do I possibly have the mental capacity to pick from one of two options? Put me down for a 'no,' and never trust me with an important decision again."

Oliver, continuing: "The crazy thing about this is that the anti-independence side actually has some legitimate arguments to make. Leaving the UK could potentially have some serious consequences for Scotland." Scotland could lose the British Pound as their currency, leaving them with the currently-unstable Euro, or, as Oliver suggests, revert to their old currency, "which I believe was sheep and threats. 'I give you three sheep for it an a punch in the face, do we have a fuckin' deal??' (Why do they hate us?)"

Also, a big driver behind independence is what to do with oil revenue, but some consider that supplies are dwindling, and there might not actually be all that much left.

The vote is now days away, and the split is incredibly slim, with polls showing that it could easily go either way. The British press is inundating people with strident headlines, like a Daily Mirror cover with a blow-up of Queen Elizabeth's face and huge white letters begging, in the inimitable tabloid style, DON'T LET ME BE LAST QUEEN OF SCOTLAND. If Scotland does leave, the British flag would probably change too, as its current design is a mixture of English, Scottish and Irish flags, which is a rather large part of British national identity. And the Scots would probably ship British nuclear weapons, a source of much contention among Scots back to England. Scottish leaders have described the weapons as "an affront to basic decency." Oliver: "And this is coming from the land of the haggis, a boiled sheep's stomach stuffed with organ meat."

The British government is scrambling to make nice with Scotland, but "here's the problem: when you haven't been nice for a thousand years, it's very difficult to suddenly start. For instance last week they tried raising the Scottish flag over 10 Downing Street. Watch how that went." (Footage is shown: the flag fell off the pole.) "That's right! Not even English flagpoles can start treating Scotland with the respect it deserves!"

"And in a last-ditch effort, David Cameron has even tried, like a romantic hero, to turn up at Scotland's door and plead for them, plead for them not to leave."

David Cameron, in Al Jazeera footage, with that characteristic Cameron Glare: "I would be heartbroken, heartbroken, if this family of nations that we've put together, that we've done such amazing things together, if this family of nations was torn apart."

Oliver: "That's it? That's all the pleading you've got? There are only four days left! If I've learned one thing from the last four minutes of British romantic comedies, it's that if you're trying to win someone over you need a big romantic gesture. A kiss in the rain! A kiss in the snow!" (showing clip from Love Actually) "Turning up at someone's door with romantic signs expressing your love for them because you can't say it out loud, because her husband, your best friend, is in the next room, which is a bit fucked up!"

"But, it is effective. And with that in mind, let's do this... because..." (addressing camera) "right now Scotland, I'm just a boy! Standing in front of a nation! Asking it to continue tolerating me! You want me to show you what I'm willing to do to save this relationship? Here..." (puts plate with something disturbing on it on table) "I will eat some haggis!" (He does.) "Mmm. Oh yes, sheep lungs! There are literally sheep lungs in my mouth!" (Brings up bottle.) "Let me just wash that down with some fine Scottish whiskey!" (gulps, coughs) "It tastes like a delicious house fire! Look at me Scotland, I'm drunk on Scotch, I'm trying to choke back sheep lung vomit, so kiss me Scotland! What do you mean this isn't enough? Look, here's your national animal!" (Two guys in a pantomime unicorn outfit come out on stage.)

"And if that's not enough, I'll make the ultimate sacrifice!!" And the bagpipers come out. "That's right, I will feign enjoyment of bagpipe music! The atonal death-squeal of your people! I believe this particular song is called Cat Bronchitis in A-Minor!"

And Now: Newscasters Misidentifying Photographs As Selfies
* "Team USA taking this selfie." [NOT A SELFIE]
* (of Obama) "He even found time for the obligatory selfie..." [NOT A SELFIE EITHER]
* "How often do you get a selfie with a lemur?" [STILL NOT A SELFIE]
* "There's even a doggie selfie station." [NOT A DOGGIE SELFIE STATION]
* "Look at him. Ooh, nice! That's a selfie!" [THAT'S JUST A PHOTO OF A TORTOISE]
* "That's a back of a pickup truck rolling down the highway. That's a selfie, huh?" [ABSOLUTELY NOT]
* "That is the ultimate selfie." [WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS] [BUT IT'S NOT A SELFIE]

Corporations Misappropriate Twitter Hashtags
This bit is about corporations misappropriating hash tags about social issues and tragedies for advertising and promotional purposes. Here are the examples from the piece:
* #WhyIStayed is a hashtag used by people who stayed in bad relationships despite violence. DiGiorno pizza tweeted: #WhyIStayed You had pizza.
* #911NeverForget is a hashtag commemorating, well, 9/11. It was used in a tweet reading "Today is 13th anniversary of 9/11. We remember those lost, & honor those still fighting for freedom. #911NeverForget" The tweet was made by Fleshlight, makers of a cylindrical false vagina men can stick their penises into. Also, Build-A-Bear workshop tweeted a picture of a bear in military desert camo and dogtags with #911anniversary, which is disturbing on at least two separate levels, and theme restaurant Medieval Times got in on the act too.
* PopChips used the #mlk tag in a tweet calling him an "eternal poptimist."
* #PearlHarbor used by SpaghettiOs, with a hilarious image featuring a smiling SpaghettiO, wearing sneakers, carrying an American flag.
* When Casey Anthony was aquitted and #NotGuilty was trending, Entenmann's, makers of super low-end baked goods, tweeted "Who's #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!"

Oliver suggests a hashtag game, with the tag (deep breath): #WeUnderstandThatAsCorporateEntitiesOurPresenceInCertainDiscussionsIsNotAlwaysRequired​SoWeWillStriveToLimitOurActivities​ToJustSellingyouShit (gasp). He notes that, since it's exactly the length of the Twitter length limit, it's difficult to misappropriate.
posted by JHarris at 4:54 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Fingers crossed for Scotland.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 5:26 AM on September 16, 2014

Oh god that corporate twitter segment was phenomenal.

Yes and no. The DiGiorno tweet that kicked the whole thing off? It was up for maybe a minute before the person behind the account took a closer look at the hashtag and deleted it.

But, y'know, the Internet is forever, and people screencapped it, and the Internet Outrage Machine seized on it with its usual glee and schadenfreude. The account's been doing nothing but tweeting apologies since then.

Granting that this was certainly a screwup, they've done everything right since then. I don't think they really deserved to be dragged through another round of this on TV without any context.
posted by Shmuel510 at 1:34 PM on September 16, 2014

(On the other hand, Rule Of Funny. I suppose it comes down to whether you think the show has any obligation toward journalistic integrity, or whether it's purely comedy. I think the showrunners would argue the latter, and they may be right.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 1:37 PM on September 16, 2014

I think it also depends on how much you feel this is about never-ending punishment of DiGiorno (probably not deserved) versus about educating corporate social media managers about setting better guidelines and not screwing up like that in the first place.

Hey, Coca-Cola relented on New Coke, but it will be a business school and management book chestnut forever.
posted by dhartung at 11:07 AM on September 17, 2014

Yeah, I don't object to DiGiorno being brought up in itself; what I'm objecting to is yanking that tweet out of its context (immediate deletion, subsequent abject apologies).

New Coke isn't entirely comparable, being a deliberate decision instead of a momentary lapse; that said, the immediate point stands there as well. The business school analysis of New Coke will forever include the ironic fact that it helped the brand in the long run. Coke sales had been on the decline before New Coke; the whole imbroglio boosted the standing of Coke Classic and kept sales high thereafter.
posted by Shmuel510 at 2:57 PM on September 17, 2014

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