Only John Oliver Could Make Net Neutrality So Sexy That TMZ Wanted To Cover It

from the wait,-what? dept

So this has been a bizarre week on the net neutrality front. There's been plenty of legitimate concern that such a serious issue is hard to explain to the public in a way that they would "get" the seriousness of it. However, comedian John Oliver seemed to do the impossible by summarizing it simply as the fight to prevent cable company fuckery. And, of course, the final call to action in his broadcast was to get people to go send their comments to the FCC. And, while no one seems willing to officially say that his call to action resulted in the mess over the next few days, the FCC's server appeared to melt down under some sort of pressure.

Oliver himself has mostly stayed quiet since then (the show is only broadcast once a week, on Sunday nights), but on his podcast, The Bugle, (which too few people seem to have discovered despite it's incredible level of awesomeness for many years), he addressed the issue... and how "odd" the reaction has been, in discussion with his co-host Andy Zaltzman:
It's right at the beginning, but here's my quick transcript:
I've had a slightly... weird few days to be honest, after finding myself at the center of a minor technological tornado. We did a piece, on Sunday's show, about net neutrality; an issue that is, quite simply, the single most important issue that is too boring to give a shit about. We ended the segment by reminding everyone that the FCC was now accepting comments, and pointing out an email address, at which those comments would presumably be welcomed. At which point, all hell appeared to break loose. The comments page at the FCC soon went down, and they sent out a Tweet saying "we've been experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system due to heavy traffic. We're working to resolve these issues quickly." And they seemed to experience technical issues for the next few days, which became a bit of a story in and of itself, giving more attention to the issue, driving more people to the comments pages, making them crash again.

Now, my role in this is not entirely clear. But, it definitely led to one of the strangest encounters of my life. Yesterday morning, I was walking to the CBS studios to do an interview on CBS This Morning, just to generally promote the show. As I walked up the road, I saw a TMZ reporter with a camera in his hand and I thought: "Ooh! That's exciting. Someone like LL Cool J must be on the show. I wonder if I'll get to meet him."

Then, the TMZ reporter started walking towards me, and I thought: "Oh, he must want to know what door LL Cool J is likely to come out of." And then he lifted up his camera and pointed it at me, and I thought: "Oh shit!" Because, I've never been interviewed by TMZ before, Andy. That was a streak I was very happy with. I should, frankly, not be pinging anywhere near their radar. But I'm afraid that streak has now emphatically come to an end.

The guy said to me: "You crashed the FCC website. Can you tell us quickly what net neutrality is all about?" To which I basically said: "No, I can't tell you that that quickly. It's a lot more complicated than we have time for here at the side of the road." To which he said: "Well, can you tell me what the biggest problem facing America right now is?" To which, I replied: "To be honest, you're pretty much embodying it at the moment."

Now, I'm not proud of that, Andy. He was just doing his job. Although, lots of people have used that as a defense in the past for doing some pretty appalling things -- so I'm not quite sure that's an excuse enough. And, I certainly think it was an unusable enough answer, that it is unlikely to appear on TMZ. Meaning, technically, my streak continues, Andy!
From there, they go onto a discussion about a bee and Andy's miso soup. So that's about the extent of it. Neither net neutrality, nor the FCC are mentioned again. But, still, just the idea that "net neutrality" has become an issue even barely on TMZ's radar, even if Oliver is correct and it does not appear they posted anything about his "interview," is a good sign. (Update: As noted in the comments, it appears that TMZ did put the video on their website -- I've embedded it below, though it mostly talks about his status as a non-American, rather than net neutrality). As Oliver said in his original report, the best way to do something evil, politically, is to make it sound mind-numbingly boring. And net neutrality has been in that category for a long, long time.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I look forward to TMZ-level (i.e., so clueless you'll want to punch your screen) analysis of the ins and outs of the issue, but it at least gives me hope that this is an issue that can actually get some mainstream interest as being incredibly important. Either that, or we'll start hearing stories about drunken orgies at the FCC and poor fashion choices by AT&T lobbyists, because that seems more along TMZ's usual fare.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    gigglehurtz (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 3:34pm

    "To be honest, you're pretty much embodying it at the moment."

    I love this guy!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anon, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 3:48pm

    TMZ Video of the encouter

    TMZ video coverage of it. Net neutrality is barely mentioned. https://www.tmz.com/videos/0_q9jkwrqg/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 4:15pm

    Re: TMZ Video of the encouter

    I don't think they liked his response based on their byline:
    Comedian John Oliver’s bringing down of the FCC’s website makes him a powerful American!
    Only problem is he’s not an American yet.


    Their response to "You embody the problem with America":
    "Is that so? Well... you're not an American, so there!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 4:17pm

    Re: TMZ Video of the encouter

    Huh. Added a link in the post. I cannnot get t he video to play on that site. Don't know if it's just because I block basic crap like Flash from playing or what, but I've tried in 3 different browsers and no luck.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 4:31pm

    FROM: TMZ ed.
    TO: rptr.
    RE: net neutrality q&a

    whois john oliver? [get pic]
    whois he banging? [get bikini pic]
    whatis fcc? (optional)
    whois head of fcc? [get pic]
    whois he banging? [get bikini pic]
    wtf is 'net neutrality'? (optional)

    200 words max, splash pic to be net neutrality making 'oh-face'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 5:24pm

    Re: Re: TMZ Video of the encouter

    Finally found the YouTube version... added to the post...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Ignis (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 7:05pm

    That's an epic comment by Oliver. However, on the whole, I don't think it's net neutrality itself that got TMZ interested at all. I mean, of course an entity like TMZ would sensationalise headlines, but in my view, the way they titled the interview ("Comedian John Oliver’s bringing down of the FCC’s website makes him a powerful American!") shows what they're really interested in.

    It's as Oliver himself says. "Net neutrality"? Boring. But a comedian taking down a government agency's website? And what are the odds TMZ's readers won't misinterpret that headline to mean that Oliver DDoS'd the FCC's website?

    "What, his call to action brought about the downtime of the FCC's website? So he mobilised a bunch of people which resulted in that downtime? Does that mean he's part of Anonymous?"

    Or maybe I shouldn't be giving them ideas.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Ignis (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 7:06pm

    Re:

    Oops, forgot to close the tag, it seems... HTML 101 fail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2014 @ 5:40am

    So now it has come to this: comedians bring us news.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Stacey, Jun 7th, 2014 @ 7:35am

    Re:

    Stupid idiot wasted that air time. He could have prompted people to action.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 7th, 2014 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re:

    He did.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2014 @ 7:52am

    Re:

    They have for some time now. Mainstream news has so epicly failed for so long that they became a natural target for comedians to mock.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2014 @ 7:55am

    Oliver didn't bring the FCC site down. Tech News sites did. That didn't happen when the show aired. It happened when sites like this one picked up the story with the clip the next day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    vrk, Jun 7th, 2014 @ 8:17am

    Re:

    Well by that logic the tech sites didn't bring it down either, the people who emailed did.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2014 @ 9:40am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Maybe she meant the TMZ interview.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2014 @ 4:54pm

    Re:

    Eh then in that case he was the message and they acted as the medium.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Blue Sweater (profile), Jun 9th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re:

    You mean the people who watch TMZ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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