Idea Blog

Backlash: John Oliver and the Dark Side of Bright Ideas

Blake Harris 06.22.2015

When it comes to ideas, most of us possess a “more the merrier” attitude. More ideas = better perspective = additional tools for analysis, comprehension and imagination. Good ideas, of course, are more valuable than bad ones, but even notions off-the-mark can often help us filter things towards a more informed conclusion. So, in light of this, it would seem strange that any ideas—no matter where they fall on the spectrum—could incite a large degree of backlash. But, as host John Oliver made quite clear in last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, there is a bustling landscape where ideas are constantly being bashed: the Internet.

As per the central focus of last night’s segment, the backlash often has little to do with what is being said, and much more to do with who is saying it. Especially when it comes to women. To which Oliver makes the point that the Internet has become a dangerous place for “any woman who makes the mistake of having a thought in her mind and then vocalizing it online.” And not only does he do a good job of using evidence to support his thesis, but he also uses a pair of explainer videos (one real and one fake), which are so impressive that they will be the subject of our post on Wednesday:

 Here’s the clip, with annotated notes below:

0:39     An explanation video ad for AOL, circa 1995, provides a glimpse of what we might soon expect from the Internet

2:49     Oliver talks about how “women, in particular, can receive a veritable cornucopia of horrifying messages online.” He then gets into the recent GamerGate controversy, in which a handful of female developers and journalists received death threats for doing nothing more than sharing their (very, very reasonable) ideas.

4:28     Amanda Hess, who wrote a great piece for Pacific Standard titled “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” details the day to day harassment she received from Twitter. And, perhaps worse, how ill-prepared authorities are to deal with threats made online.

6:09     Oliver explains how, via “revenge pornography,” the Internet has come up with a whole new way to wreck women’s lives.

8:40     Just Hilarious

9:00     The segment delves into how copyright issues are inadvertently empowering those online who crassly seek revenge.

10:40   Oliver highlights the victim-blaming approach that most media outlets have taken to what is becoming a very serious issue.

12:47   A wonderful Oliver throwback to his Daily Show days where Anthony Weiner was a constant source of mirth and fodder.

14:41   The segment concludes with a fake explainer video that is so supremely hilarious it will receive it’s own post this Wednesday…

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