Legislating from the Stage: The Brilliance of John Oliver
Looks like John Oliver is trending across the internet today because he is holding hostage the personal data of some click-happy members of Congress. Twitter has lit up in praise of the stunt. Well done, good sir.
Hollywood and Washington, DC, have always been strange bed fellows. In the popular — and my — imagination, Jackie Kennedy appearing on the cover of Vogue was a flirtation between the two, Ronald Reagan’s candidacy and presidency was the start of their dating, and Donald Trump’s circus was the first time everybody got, well…ya know. As the entertainment industry corporatized over the 70s, 80s and into the new millennium, and as politics embraced the power of the internet and social media, Hollywood and DC are now intertwined in pretty ghastly ways.
I always find it funny when people say actors and entertainment folks should “keep politics out of Hollywood.” The last president was the former host of a reality-television show that ran for more than a decade, and he served concurrently as the leader of the free world and Executive Producer of that same show before it was then hosted by the former governor of California, who was a bodybuilder before he was The Terminator before he married a Kennedy before he controlled the sixth largest economy in the world. Politics and Hollywood are two sides of a very strange coin.
For all the power that that gave Trump (and the Conservatives) as he ran the country like a click-bait reality show, this week John Oliver gave a master class on how to turn the tables. On his weekly show on HBOMax, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the comedy-show host explained the multi-billion-dollar business of data brokering, which is one of the integral players in the surveillance capitalist state we now find attempting to thrive in. Your email is not just on a list somewhere in a vague database, your entire search history, buying history, and location data are tracked all day long unless you take (often complex) active steps to stop it. The easiest: (1) don’t accept cookies when you browse (but who doesn’t like cookies?!), (2) use an alternative browser with better security (e.g., Brave, Firefox, or DuckDuckGo), and (3) turn off tracking on your phone. At this point, though, Big Tech, Big Media, Big Business and Big Politics know everything about…