Bad Comedy

03.16.12

Hey John Oliver: Satirize THIS

John Oliver presented a scathing satirical piece on the Daily Show last night about a U.S. decision to deny UNESCO a scheduled $65 million contribution.

UNESCO had previously decided to admit "Palestine" as a full voting member. Under U.S. law, this action triggered suspension of America's 2011 dues to the UN agency.

Oliver attacked the decision by the simple means of interviewing UNESCO spokespersons about the agency's purported mission—and then taking absolutely at face value every statement those spokespersons made about the agency, without a whiff of skepticism or anything like independent corroboration.

This exercise in flackery is hailed by the show's many fans as "epic satire."

If anyone points out that UNESCO does not in fact deliver much value for money—that it does not feed the starving or teach Afghans to read, but only "coordinates" those who actually do useful the work; that in fact almost all of UNESCO's money goes to pay salaries and support conferences—you are likely to get the response, "it's only satire. Can't you people take a joke?"

Given that the real target of the piece's satire is Israel and those who value the US-Israel relationship, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to fill in which people are "you people."

So let's meet Oliver on his own ground.

You want satire? Satirize this: The UN Human Rights Council—which regularly includes and is even sometimes chaired by the world's worst human rights offenders—is right now holding a session in Geneva.

That body sits in a chamber beneath a newly painted ceiling. The artwork on the ceiling cost $23 million—almost half the scheduled U.S. contribution to UNESCO.

Pretty funny, right?

And you want a "topper"? Outside the chamber of the UN Human Rights Council sits an artwork donated by the government of Syria, currently engaged in the brutalization of its citizens, unreproved by the UN of course.

Think what a comedian could do with that. 

(h/t Tom Gross)