Posts Tagged ‘Last Week Tonight’

Eat S**t, Bob!

April 5, 2018

I am a huge fan of political humor and I am a big nerd when it comes to research. Research is actually a big part of why I decided to become a paralegal. If I had more time, I would do a lot of research in my free time as I looked up a lot of things that interest me. So it is that I like shows like Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. The show is a weekly show that examines current events and tries to explain and reveal its subject matter so that people can get another perspective from actual journalism and social media. The show is known for singling out a specific topic or event and doing a deep delve into it. Oliver and his crew research the heck out of things and then contact all parties involved in the issue to allow them to comment. But, let us see what we can do with just a little bit of research and examine one of the funniest legal documents I have had the pleasure to read.


The issue at hand in this post is Jon Oliver’s episode segment about the coal industry and in particular, he decided to shine a spotlight on Bob Murray. You can see the entire segment above on YouTube but I will try to make this post make sense without watching. Robert “Bob” Murray is CEO of Murray Energy which is the largest coal mining company in the United States of America. In the show, Oliver took Murray to task mostly for not caring about coal workers and various lies he had (allegedly) been caught in. Bob Murray is notoriously litigious so few people have ever really gunned for him like Oliver and his team did. Oliver acknowledged that he was opening himself up to a potential lawsuit but stood by his words and dared Murray to bring it on. He ended his show by having a man in a squirrel costume say “Eat S**t, Bob!”.


Predictably, Murray filed a complaint for defamation in a West Virginia court. All of this happened in off camera and definitely was not a publicity stunt, at least not on Bob Murray’s part. What I wanted to teach you about today is something called an amicus curiae brief. An amicus curiae brief is literally a commentary on the issue at hand from a “friend of the court”. This “friend” is a party not involved in the suit (as plaintiff or defendant) who wants to offer their interpretation of the law and any recommendations they might have for the judge involved. This commentary attempts to provide arguments or additional information that the courts may not be considering. In this case, the amicus brief came from the West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. I am admittedly a big fan of the ACLU and I follow their journey to defend freedom in the land of the free.

The ACLU correctly points out that the first defense to defamation is always truth.

The first defense the ACLU points out is that since all of John Oliver’s speech is protected as free speech by the First Amendment, Bob cannot sue him for being mean. The First Amendment of the Constitution places limits on what is and what is not defamation. One of the forms of protected speech is satire which Jon Oliver’s show definitely falls under. Oliver and his team use ridiculous overtures and comedic statements to highlight an issue that is of public interest. As the ACLU points out, the segment begins with Oliver saying that coal is “Basically cocaine for Thomas the Tank Engine”. While Oliver and his team make sure to include plenty of facts, the show is heavy on opinion which is also protected speech under the First Amendment. Opinions are not to be combatted in a court of law but are supposed to be solved through competition and debate. If Bob Murray wants to convince people that Jon Oliver is wrong, he needs to debate it in the court of public opinion and not waste the time of the actual courts of West Virginia.


The ACLU also takes issue with Bob Murray taking further action by trying to slap a restraining order and an injunction against Oliver and HBO. Restraining orders and injunctions are intended to get somebody to prevent somebody from doing something and to stop somebody from doing something respectively. In this case, Bob Murray filed both of these to make sure that Oliver’s show could not talk about Murray or Murray Energy again in order to stop them from tainting a potential jury. In reality, his feelings were hurt by Oliver’s piece and now he wants to make sure that Oliver never tries to hurt him again. When an action like an injunction goes up against a constitutional right, there needs to be intense scrutiny. Basically, while Murray is trying to gag Jon Oliver, he is holding press conferences about the case himself which is unfair. In addition, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press and, as long as the speech is not defamatory (hurtful lies), no private citizen can tell the press what to report. Oliver is the first to say that he is not really a journalist but his show is news media adjacent and the rule still applies.


Basically, the ACLU is saying that there is nothing actually actionable in the complaint (lawsuit) against Jon Oliver and Home Box Office. In layman’s terms, Oliver and company never actually did anything illegal and therefore the lawsuit should be dismissed out of hand. The elements of defamation are as follows:

(1) a false statement about the plaintiff is made, (2) that statement was broadcast, (3) the defendant is responsible for the broadcast, and (4) the broadcast caused damage to the plaintiff. When a celebrity or famous figure is the one filing for defamation, there is an additional element in that (5) there was actual malice in the broadcast.

Oliver and HBO definitely broadcast their information (2 and 3) and the broadcast probably damaged Murray’s reputation (4). Actual malice is not what it sounds like. It means that the defendant knew the false statement (1) was false or did not care enough to fact check it. If you go back to my first paragraph, you will remember how much work Oliver’s crew puts into research and none of his stated facts were proven false. Also, opinions and flat out insults cannot be “false” by definition. The complaint falls apart there which is exactly what the judge in the case ruled in the end.


Media Update 10/22/2015

October 22, 2015

The Martian

So I first heard of this movie (and book) when I saw a poster in the lobby of the now closed down Rotunda Theater. Matt Damon in a space suit, looks pretty cool. I vaguely remembered seeing some buzz online about the book so I said something to my Dad. My Dad ended up reading the book and telling me a little about it but not enough to really spoil anything. We saw the movie this week and it was great. I just had a big smile on my face through out a lot of the movie. The cast is phenomenal with Matt Damon, Donald Glover, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and so many more. The movie just clicks along from the very start with great pacing, direction, beautiful cinematography, acting and pretty much everything else. Hell. it almost felt real at times and although my suspension of disbelief is super strong, that’s still high praise. Go check it out.

American Horror Story: Hotel

Next up, I was sitting around after work and I mentioned to my mother that I needed to watch some Halloween stuff for my blog. I meant movie reviews for the remainder of the month but she had something else in mind. She had heard about the hype of American Horror Story and saw that I had episode one of Season 5 on DVR. Each season is a contained story so she wasn’t missing anything by checking out the new season first. Having seen bits and pieces of seasons 1 and 3 I asked if she was sure that’s what she wanted to watch. We started it up and right away the art direction and cinematography were both beautfiul. However, pretty quickly the madness started and my mom was repulsed by how over the top the show is. The show really is like a non-stop train wreck. Everything is morbid and gory but you can’t look away. We watched the whole first episode which is about vampires in haunted hotel or something. It was good but we both said that was the last episode we would watch. It’s just too much.

Last Week Tonight

I mentioned how much I love the Daily Show. It’s a show that is funny while being surprisingly informative for a comedy show. The host of Last Week Tonight (John Oliver) got his start as a correspondent on the Daily Show. When Jon Stewart took a three month hiatus, Oliver took over as host. This led to him getting a show of his own that I originally thought would be like the Daily Show. It ended up being like the Daily Show in that it is a comedy show that focuses on the news and has a social conscience. However, it’s a lot more laser-focused than the Daily Show as it focuses on one issue and researches the hell out of it. By focusing on an issue he can refer to multiple stories to create a sort of thirty minute essay on how we should be better as a species. I love the show and I watch it every Monday morning.

Cool Links of the Week:

Longbox of the Damned: Puppet Master #1 – 3
Kryst the Conqueror – Dr. Phibes Rises Again
Even Stevphen – Halloween
Werewolves! – Starring Felicia Day, Mark Fischbach and Kate Miccuci
Weekly Thoughts and Updates:

– The latest Star Wars trailer made me smile. “Chewie, we’re home.”
– I just found out that there’s actually a Doctor Who ripoff starring Peter Cushing
– I saw a trailer for another stupid haunted doll movie
– I already finished iZombie Season 1
– I finished The Flash season 2 and man it was good
– If you’ve been living under a rock, yesterday was Oct 21, 2015
– It was heavy, Doc.

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