Although John Oliver’s main story in his last episode of Last Week Tonight was about monkey pox, he couldn’t resist starting with Alex Jones, the obnoxious conspiracy theorist whom Oliver very accurately described as “a man who boldly answers the question, ‘What if Grimace was a proud boy?’”
Jones went on trial this week after years of saying the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a government hoax to justify gun control. The shooting was shocking even by very high American standards – 26 people died, including 20 children aged 6 or 7 – and Jones no doubt thought he could make a lot of money by claiming that everything was wrong. He was right, and we get an idea how right he was because his lawyer accidentally sent the contents of his phone to prosecutors, which was just one example of clown Jones showing his whole ass during the trial.
Jones has earned tens of millions of dollars over the years – at times his Infowars platform was grossing $800,000 one day — peddling his Sandy Hook nonsense, and in doing so he inspired some of his wackadoo followers to harass and threaten the families of murdered children.
As a result, Jones was ordered to pay a family around $50 million (he will no doubt appeal), and he has two more trials to come. He’s still doing his show and, predictably, he’s raising money through tryouts.
Oliver then went from a virus that spreads conspiracy theories to a virus that is the subject of conspiracy theories. Despite what your too-online uncle may claim, the current monkeypox outbreak is neither caused by the Covid vaccine nor the product of a lab in Wuhan; in fact, monkeypox has been around and can be treated for decades. But due to misconceptions and ignorance, Oliver felt the need to spend a few rather dry minutes laying out facts about the virus, which, while not usually deadly, can be extremely painful. There are currently less than 10,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States, but that’s enough for us to lead the world in transmissions, make it a public health emergency, and confirm what Covid has already taught us – America doesn’t can’t handle a virus outbreak to save his, or just about anyone’s, life.
“With monkeypox, we were fortunate to have pre-existing tests, vaccines and treatments,” Oliver said. “Unfortunately, the deployment of each of them was painfully flawed…. On a scale of 1-100, we got a ‘No’.
The speed of testing was frigid. The tests themselves require the disease to be at a relatively advanced stage. The United States let almost all of its stockpile of vaccines expire – vaccines that were desperately needed in other countries that have suffered from epidemics for years – and waited months before importing more, which which has led to massive shortages. Government red tape has prevented the availability of long-standing drug treatments.
Which begs a question that is so often asked now: why has America failed so spectacularly? The short answer is that the country’s public health infrastructure has been underfunded for decades. The long answer also takes into account the populations currently most affected by the virus: gay and bisexual men, especially those with multiple partners. Oliver noted the clear parallels to the willful – and in some cases gleeful – neglect by American officials of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.
“It seems like a virus spreading once again brings out the worst in people,” Oliver said. “But to be fair, indifference to those suffering from a smallpox virus has been America’s story since day one.”