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♪ ("LAST WEEK TONIGHT" THEME PLAYS) ♪
Hi there, welcome to the show.
Still taking place in this blank void.
Think of it like the moon, in that it's frigid,
colorless, and occasionally occupied by one
very lonely, malnourished man, who's definitely urinated
in his suit.
And we're actually gonna dive straight in
with our main story this week, which, unusually for us,
concerns the week that we've just had.
It's one of the rare times we're actually living up
to our show's title, and why it should probably
be called... (READS PROMPT)
And the reason we're doing that, is that this has been
one hell of a week. So tonight we're gonna talk
about two things in particular: the Republican
National Convention, and the horrific events
in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake
was repeatedly shot in the back by police,
and a vigilante killed two people.
And we'll talk more about Kenosha in a bit,
but let's start with the RNC.
And event to celebrate the stewardship of Donald Trump,
a tough sell at the best of times,
but something that felt particularly out of step
this week, considering we have a pandemic
on the rampage, an economic catastrophe
unfolding, and wildfires and hurricanes
battering the country. All of which made it
a little jarring, that the Republican's
opening argument seemed to essentially be this.
Ladies and gentlemen, leaders and fighters
for freedom and liberty and the American dream,
the best is yet to come!
Okay, then. That's Kimberly Gilfoyle
bringing an energy to the RNC that can really
only be described as, "Sorry, I thought doves
were gonna shoot out of my hands."
And that very much set the tone for the week.
The main theme of the convention seemed to be telling lies
in front of flags. 'Cause it was four days
of a full-throated denial of objective reality.
For one thing, there was the misleading portrait
painted of Trump's opponents.
If Biden wins, he'll be controlled
by the environmental extremists.
We'd be one step closer to government-run healthcare.
Biden has pledged to defund the police.
And he's even talking about taking the wall down,
how about that?
Honestly, that sounds great.
Unfortunately, though, Biden has promised
to do exactly none of those things.
Biden is a radical environmentalist,
police-defunding socialist, in the same way that I
am history's greatest Zazu.
You can say I am all you want to,
and honestly, I wish I were, but the fact is
it's not even close to being true.
And the lies told about Biden were just the beginning here.
Convention speakers also claimed
that Trump never called white supremacists,
"very fine people," which he did.
That he passed the veteran's choice act,
which he didn't. And that he's trying
to protect patients with pre-existing conditions,
which he very much is not. I'm honestly surprised
a speaker didn't, at one point, claim that Trump
invented parakeets, or that he stopped
the murder hornets by sucking them
straight out of the air. And yet even in the midst
of a blizzard of lies, some still managed to stand out.
Like White House Economic Advisor, Larry Kudlow,
referring to the Coronavirus with an off choice
of verb tense.
Then came a once in 100-year pandemic,
it was awful, health and economic impacts
were tragic. Hardship and heartbreak
were everywhere. But presidential leadership
came swiftly and effectively, with an extraordinary rescue
for health and safety to successfully fight
the COVID virus.
What are you doing? You can't talk about
the Coronavirus in the past tense,
when it is, in a very real sense, still raging.
If you're a character in a Saw movie,
you don't say, "Phew, that was a close one,"
while the bear trap is still on your head.
But maybe the biggest gap between the RNC
and objective reality concerns race.
'Cause again and again, RNC speakers
were at pains to reinsure viewers
that racism in America is mostly a relic of the past,
and whatever remains can be easily overcome.
Take Nikki Haley's speech, in which she flatly insisted...
(READS PROMPT)
And then told the inspirational story
of how the confederate flag in her state's capital
was taken down in 2015, after the massacre
at Mother Emanuel church.
After that horrific tragedy, we didn't turn against
each other, we came together, Black and white,
democrat and republican, together we made
the hard choices needed to heal.
And removed a divisive symbol peacefully, and respectfully.
Oh, that's what happened, is it?
That sounds nice.
Just a few things there. It's a peaceful story
of unity and hope as long as you start that story
immediately after a white supremacist
killed nine people in a historic Black church.
Also, Haley's version of that story
ignores the fact that the eventual removal
of the confederate flag was jumpstarted by artist
and activist, Bree Newsome Bass,
climbing the flagpole in front of the state house,
like she was on an anti-racist version
of American Ninja Warrior. And that she was then arrested,
and that the flag was then re-raised 45 minutes later.
Haley also conveniently leaves out the part
where the candidate she's endorsing
has defended those who proudly fly the flag
by saying, "It represents the south."
So Haley turning what happened in South Carolina
into a smooth, hopeful story of racial reconciliation
is a bit like if someone asked her
what the film, Do the Right Thing is about,
and she said, "A Brooklyn neighborhood comes together
to help redecorate a pizza place."
I mean sure Nikki, I guess that's technically true,
but it feels like you're leaving out
some pretty fucking important parts there.
And a lot of the RNC's messaging on race
seemed intended, not so much to win
over Black voters, as to re-ensure white people
that they can vote Republican without being racist.
The audience they were talking to was pretty clear,
even in small moments like this.
The American people know, we don't have to choose
between supporting law enforcement
and standing with our African American neighbors.
Well, hold on there, Mike, who is the "we,"
in that sentence? 'Cause it seems like
you're making a distinction between "we" the American people
and our African American neighbors,
who I guess by extension are somehow
a different group entirely. But I guess that sentiment
shouldn't really be surprising coming from Mike Pence,
a man who permanently looks like he should be living
in Ken's White Flight Dream House.
And all of this overt talk of racial harmony
was very much in conflict with the steady diet
of barely disguised racial panic,
that viewers were also being fed.
Perhaps the most flagrant example of this
came on Monday night, when the RNC chose
to feature the St. Louis couple who were charged
with threatening Black Lives Matter protestors
at gunpoint last month. And the message
that they were there to send was pretty clear.
It seems as if the democrats no longer view
the government's job as protecting honest citizens
from criminals. But rather protecting criminals
from honest citizens.
They're not satisfied with spreading the chaos
and violence into our communities,
they want to abolish the suburbs altogether.
By ending single family home zoning,
this forced rezoning would bring crime,
lawlessness and low-quality apartments
into now-thriving suburban neighborhoods.
So make no mistake, no matter where you live,
your family will not be safe in a radical democrat's America.
Wow.
Okay, first, CSPAN, you really didn't need
to put up the banner that says
they're personal injury attorneys,
I very much got that from the everything.
But much more importantly, think about how incendiary
that message is. "Violence and criminals
are coming to your community in the form
of low-quality apartments, and you must defend yourself,
take it from us, the couple that pointed guns
at Black Lives Matter protestors.
And rhetoric like that, and the world view
it encompasses, has consequences.
Which actually bring us to the second part
of our story this week. What happened
in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where, to reiterate,
Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by police,
with three of his children in the car.
And then, in the protest that followed,
Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old who traveled there
from out of state, and was illegally carrying
a weapon, killed two people.
And look, I don't know if he saw the McCloskey's speak
the night before he chose to drive to a city
he didn't live in, to defend property
he didn't own. What I do know
is that he was an avid Trump supporter,
even sitting front row at a rally back in January.
And Trump and his media ecosystem
have been delivering essentially the same message
as the McCloskey's for years now.
Just look at how quickly Tucker Carlson moved
to try to explain away Rittenhouse's actions,
as a natural response.
Showing (?) really surprised that looting and arson
accelerated to murder. How shocked are we
that 17-year-olds with rifles decided
they had to maintain order, when no one else would.
Well, you don't seem to be shocked.
And that alone, should actually be
pretty fucking shocking. 'Cause let's be clear,
a 17-year-old vigilante with a rifle
cannot maintain order, because a 17-year-old vigilante
with a rifle trying to maintain order
is himself the definition of disorder.
Except of course, if you're a regular viewer
of Tucker Carlson, a show that exists
to teach its viewers precisely three things:
Property damage is violence, homicide is order,
and pillows are for sale.
And the events in Kenosha really hammer home
the flagrant double standard baked into American society.
Just look at the difference in how the police
in Kenosha responded to Blake,
and how they responded to Rittenhouse.
REPORTER: Alleged gunman, Kyle Rittenhouse,
walking away, gun in tow, as people screamed
that he just shot protesters.
One law enforcement officer seeming to ask Rittenhouse
if anyone was hurt.
OFFICER: Someone injured straight ahead?
REPORTER: Two incidents, two videos.
With some asking why two different responses.
Why two different responses? I think the answer to that
is pretty obvious. It's the same reason why
ahead of the shooting, there was video of the police
trying to enforce a curfew against protestors,
even as they offered water to Rittenhouse and the militia,
saying, and I quote, "We appreciate you guys,
we really do."
And if you're looking for a better visual illustration
of the differences between being Black and white
in America, I don't think you're gonna
find one except maybe foreseeing exactly
who sits down and who stands up when "Cotton Eye Joe"
comes on at a wedding.
And that disparity in treatment continued even after
the shooting. Just watch how the next day,
the Kenosha police chief couldn't help but spread blame
to the protesters who were shot at and killed.
Everybody involved was out after the curfew.
I'm not gonna make a great deal of that,
but the point is the curfew's in place to protect.
Had person's not been out, involved in violation of that
perhaps the situation that unfolded
would not have happened.
Okay. First of all, thanks so much for not making
a great deal out of that.
The people who got murdered were out way past
their government-imposed bedtime and you were nice enough
to not mention it except to imply that maybe
it was a reason they kind of had it coming.
And that is the kind of restraint
that we've all now come to expect
from the Kenosha Police Department.
And you might think,
"Well hold on. That's just one guy.
Surely not all law enforcement thinks that way."
Although I will point out to you
the guy standing next to him is the Kenosha Sheriff
who just two years ago gave a pretty striking press conference.
A group of five young Black people
had allegedly stolen some clothing
from an outlet mall, and it led police on a chase
that ended in a minor car accident,
and in that press conference he expressed some views
that are pretty explicit.
Let's put them in jail.
Let's stop them from, truly, at least some of these males
going out and getting 10 other women pregnant
and having small children.
Let's put them away.
At some point, we have to stop being politically correct.
Sorry. Can I quickly interrupt you there because calling for
American citizens to be stopped from having small children
isn't politically incorrect so much as
politically 1940s Germany?
And he wasn't just idly saying that.
He really thought through a whole plan.
And I know it is deeply unpleasant,
but honestly it is worth listening to how detailed
his solution was.
If there's a threshold that they cross,
these people have to be warehoused.
No recreational time in the jails.
We put them away.
And maybe what we gotta do is build warehouses
that after this generation is gone,
they've perished in these buildings,
we can turn them into something else.
Maybe it'd be malls, maybe-- maybe, uh... um...
Amazon will buy them as warehouses later.
But at some point, we have to get rid of
this group of people. We have to lock them up.
I don't think I'm saying anything different than
most people in society aren't thinking,
but they're afraid to say it.
And I'm just to the point that I'm saying it.
Okay.
If that is what most people in society are thinking,
then we are, and this is true, a terrible society.
And I honestly cannot believe that that was an idea from
a still employed sheriff and not a pitch from...
(READS PROMPT)
Good question there, Mark Cuban.
The answer is these concentration camps can easily
be converted into Amazon warehouses.
(GIGGLES) Looks like I've got a bidding war on my hands.
And look, the offense in Kenosha would be infuriating
at any time, but it's somehow especially infuriating
that they took place in the same week where
the RNC was desperate to reassure the country
that America isn't racist while simultaneously
fearmongering about violent crimes,
threatening law-abiding citizens.
It was a disconnect that was pretty well summed up
by NBA coach Doc Rivers in an emotional post game
press conference on Tuesday.
What stands out to me is, um, just watching
the Republican Convention and they're spewing this fear,
right? Like, all you hear Donald Trump and all of 'em
talking about fear. We're the ones getting killed.
We're the ones getting shot.
We're the ones that were denied to live in certain communities.
Um. We've been hung. We've been shot.
And...
(VOICE BREAKS) All you do is keep caring about fear.
It's...
It's amazing to me...
why we keep loving this country
and this country does not love us back.
Yeah. Exactly.
It's all exhaustively depressing.
Although in a week of incredible darkness,
there was actually a bright spot.
Because shortly after Doc Rivers spoke there,
something genuinely extraordinary started to happen
in his sport.
The Milwaukee Bucks had a playoff game
but didn't take the court with rumors
starting to fly around that they were about to refuse
to play, then WNBA players,
who incidentally have lead from the start on
the Black Lives Matter movement, also refused to play
after arriving at a scheduled game
with shirts with seven bullet holes drawn
on their backs.
And eventually, wildcat strikes spread throughout
both leagues in an unprecedented and genuinely inspiring show
of collective action, and they did this
without union approval, so they were putting
a lot on the line here:
their income and maybe even their careers
which is what makes it so infuriating
that when Jared Kushner was asked for his response
to the strike, this is what fell out of his mouth.
Look, I think that the NBA players are
very fortunate that they have the financial position
where they're about to take a night off from work
without having to have the consequences to themselves
financially. So, they have that luxury which is great.
Okay, get fucked, Jared, you Welcome to Marwen reject.
'Cause for starts they're not taking a night off from work.
The emotional toll of being Black in America combined with
the pressure to perform at an elite level
during a global pandemic is, I'm guessing, pretty taxing.
So by not playing, they're not exactly taking a spa day.
And if NBA players are too rich to take meaningful action,
then who is exactly is in the right tax bracket
to have their protest approved
by America's most laminated prince?
Because we've seen time and time again
that wealth and fame absolutely do not protect you
as a Black athlete.
It didn't protect Sterling Brown from getting tased by the police
after being stopped for a parking violation
in Milwaukee.
And it didn't protect Thabo Sefolosha
from having his leg broken by NYPD officers
in an incident that forced him to miss the 2015 playoffs
and put his whole career in jeopardy.
And you might wanna strap in, Jared,
because this probably isn't the last disruptive action
like this that we're gonna see going forward nor should it be
'cause people are sick of waiting.
Just listen to Jacob Blake's sister,
Letetra Widman, making that very clear.
I'm not sad. I'm not sorry. I'm angry, and I'm tired.
I haven't cried one time. I stopped crying years ago.
I am numb. I have been watching police murder people
that look like me for years. I'm not sad.
I don't want your pity. I want change.
Right.
This can't be about pity. It can't be about sympathy.
That is why there is no section in greeting card stores labeled
(READS PROMPT)
This isn't about what white people feel or say.
This has to be about creating real change
in a system that has been built to be non-responsive.
'Cause history has repeatedly shown us
the system does not respond until it is forced to.
So, it's easy for RNC speakers to insist that
the only appropriate action is peaceful
and unobtrusive, but the fact is
that's just not how it works.
Thousands of people marched in the wake
of George Floyd's death and have continued marching
even as media coverage has steadily drifted away.
Meanwhile, the NBA has made a lot
of symbolic gestures of support for the movement
like painting Black Lives Matter on the court
and allowing players to wear a social justice message
on their jerseys selected by the way
from a list of 29 agreed upon options.
But to underscore just how limiting
that pre-approved protest can be,
SayHerName was on the list, but Breonna Taylor was not.
And I guess the only positive thing there is that
if players wanted to protest
that particular restriction, the NBA had a jersey
ready-made for them.
The problem with purely symbolic protests is that it's
far too easy to co-opt, and there might actually
be no more visceral example of that than the fact that
that Kenosha sheriff, and human warehouse innovator,
got positive attention earlier this year
when he kneeled for nine minutes
in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
So, is it any wonder the basketball players felt
they had to escalate their protest
by not just wearing a jersey but by striking
and in doing so putting team owners money
at jeopardy because real discomfort
is the only thing that's gonna bring about real change here.
And it's worth noting that already the strike has had
some effects.
Not only did it spread to other sports
and other athletes, but the NBA players
now have a promise from owners to convert
as many of their arenas as possible into polling places
this November, which is great, although it also brings us
to the fact that simply voting this November
is clearly not gonna be nearly enough.
Because as much as I or the RNC would like to believe
that Joe Biden will be an agent of radical change,
there's just no reason to believe that.
To the extent that real change is possible
through the ballot books this year,
it will only be if Biden is elected
alongside progressive candidates all the way down the ballot.
From the Senate to state legislatures
to city councils, to sheriffs.
And even that will be very much a beginning
and not an end.
None of this is easy, but it has to begin and now.
'Cause our current situation is completely unacceptable.
And the RNC this week actually ended up being
a pretty good reminder that where we still
might end up going is genuinely terrifying.
Because if it showed us one thing this week,
it's the danger in continuing to be governed
by an administration that encourages
the ugliest forces in American society
that lionizes threats of violence against
peaceful protests,
that tells us there's no conflict between
supporting law enforcement
and "our African American neighbors"
and it insists that the best is yet to come
which given everything that we've seen
in the last four years, is sounding less like a promise
and more like a fucking threat.