Using the internet and social media to publicly shame people for any number of minor (or major) missteps has gotten out of control, John Oliver said Sunday.
“Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to pile onto a public shaming,” the host of “Last Week Tonight” said. “In fact, it’s now one of America’s favorite pastimes.”
Acknowledging that he and the writers on his show engage in some public shaming of their own, Oliver said that at least they put a lot of thought into the criticism and the targets.
“Look, let’s be honest. We make fun of people constantly on this show. It’s a comedy show. Although for what it is worth, we do think, probably more carefully than you might imagine, about who we’re making fun of, why we’re doing it and how,” he said. “We ask ourselves questions all the time, like should we use their name, how much power do they have and do they have a soul patch? That last one can be a real deal breaker.”
On social media, a lot less thought goes into the criticism of celebrities and people whose stories have gone viral.
“This is a golden age of internet shaming,” Oliver said. “You’ve probably participated in it if you’ve ever been mad at a potential Oscar host with shitty tweets, a company who made a blackface shirt, a beloved Irish actor who wanted to commit some racist murder, an aquarium that called an otter thick, a gender reveal party that started a wildfire, whoever attacked Jussie Smollett, whoever didn’t believe Jussie Smollett and finally… Jussie Smollett. We’re basically goldfish, except instead of discovering a new castle in our bowl every nine seconds, we find something new to be outraged about online.”
For some perspective, Oliver interviewed Monica Lewinsky, who as a White House intern during the 1990s became embroiled in an affair with President Bill Clinton and now speaks out about bullying and public shaming:
It was so bizarre. I mean it was just, it was, I say, extraordinary, not with any positive connotation. And I think it was not only just the slut shaming, not only you know having had an intimate relationship with someone who is now describing me in a way that was like no young woman would want to be described. There was just also my looks. … Part of my vanity now comes from just the wound of having been made fun of for my weight, for, you know, people saying I was unattractive. And it was terrifying. … Not to say that I wasn’t flawed and you know that I didn’t make terrible mistakes or do stupid things or say stupid things, because of course I did.
Now, some 20 years after the scandal, Lewinsky said she still faces repercussions.
Check out the video above to hear how Lewinsky was able to get her sense of humor back.