Comedian calls Internet trolls to action to defend net neutrality
The chief figures in the net neutrality debate aren't challenging to identify. Amongst them are members of U.S. Congress, government officials actively suppressing Internet freedom and the citizens affected by the debate worldwide. A figure that rarely appears to the top of this list is a comedian, but a scathing takedown of the controversy surrounding net neutrality from prominent entertainer John Oliver on his HBO program Last Week Tonight could change that.
According to a 2012 study done by Comedy Central, half of the country's population under the age of 32 gets their information from news satire television programs. The popularity of shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which have been Comedy Central cash cows and news providers for well over a decade, has given certain comedians a new level of responsibility when laughing at current events. Unlike generations past when late night TV show hosts simply commented on news events, hosts like John Oliver, a long-time Daily Show contributor and temporary host, are expected to provide a story first and bring the humor second. Politicians and other major figures have recognized the power of news satire as a means for promotion with the younger set – President Barack Obama is a master of using this tool with appearances on Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and web-series Between Two Ferns included as critical media magnets during campaigning and health care advocacy.
The hilarious takedown
John Oliver used his clout with millennials to spur awareness and debate on the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight, according to Mashable writer Jason Abbruzzese. As has become the custom in television news satire, Oliver provided the viewer with a two-punch segment – first, giving his young viewer the basics on net neutrality that they may not have known, then scathing opinion-based commentary to support net neutrality. The combination, though not exactly unbiased, was powerful and ripped through the headlines during the weekend. To open, the comedian joked about the phrase "net neutrality" sounding like another low-impact news story, unworthy of attention when it is anything but.
"Yes, net neutrality," he laughed, "the only two words that promise more boredom in the English language than 'featuring Sting.'"
However, the segment ramped up in intensity and commentary in equal measures as the consequences of its overturning were addressed. The concept of the fast and slow lanes of the Internet were introduced in bite-size informational nuggets, as well as the struggle between Congress and major corporations like Google, Amazon, Netflix and Facebook, who continue to stand behind net neutrality.
"What's been proposed is so egregious, activists and corporations have been forced onto the same side," he said before making an appeal to the viewers of the program, which debuted in April of this year.
According to Mashable, Oliver spoke directly to his audience at the end of the broadcast, encouraging them to learn more about the debate and be vocal to the FCC. For a man with a following on The Daily Show, a program which has trumped Fox News ratings for years, this could prove to be a powerful statement.
"After tearing into the FCC, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and the Obama administration, Oliver called for help from someone unexpected — Internet trolls," Abbruzzese explained in his piece. "Oliver pointed viewers (and, more importantly, web commenters) to visit www.fcc.gov/comments to vent about the FCC proposal, which was opened for comment in mid May."
Appealing to this oft-teased corner of the Internet may or may not pay off, but Oliver's action spoke loudly – it gave young viewers, who are so often turned off by the cable news circuit and the thousands of web outlets reporting on the issue, the opportunity to understand and be heard in the debate.