HBO’s John Oliver Backs ‘Defund the Police’; It’s About ‘Systemic Racism’

John Oliver Emmys (Frazer Harrison / Getty)
Frazer Harrison / Getty

John Oliver used Sunday’s edition of his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, to defend the Black Lives Matter movement and its specific demand to “defund the police.”

In an obscene opening rant, Oliver defended protesters and mocked concerns about looting, saying that a spontaneous protest “can’t control every one of its participants.” He added, quoting an infamous prankster on a Los Angeles Police Department conference call, “Suck my dick and choke on it. Fuck you.”

Calling racism “a serious public health issue,” Oliver attempted to explain the current debate in terms of American culture: “America loves nothing more than a renegade cop who doesn’t play by the rules.” He claimed that “zero tolerance” policing, which emerged in the 1990s, was rooted in “white supremacy” that pervaded American society.

Oliver tried to tackle “the major obstacles to reform” in police behavior, and identified police unions as the problem, saying that they take the protection of their members to “a dangerous extreme.” He backed federal government interventions in local policing, such as the numerous “consent decrees” imposed on local police by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice.

He concluded with a discussion of defunding, or abolishing, the police, saying that incremental reforms alone had not worked.

Oliver began his explanation by mocking former Vice President Joe Biden for recommending that police shoot suspects in the leg rather than the heart.

He then cited the example of Camden, New Jersey, which had dissolved and re-formed its police department — ostensibly, in Oliver’s version of history, because of corruption and bad policies. (In reality, the move had as more to do with hiring more officers at a lower cost, which required circumventing the existing police union.)

An even “broader” idea, Oliver said, was the idea of “defunding the police.” (See video below, starting at 25:52.)

“That’s a phrase that, on its face, may sound alarming, to some,” Oliver admitted, before mocking Tucker Carlson of Fox News for claiming that defunding the police meant “no more cops.”

Oliver responded: “Fuck you forever, Tucker Carlson, you sentient polo mallet.”

Defunding the police absolutely does not mean that we eliminate all cops and just succumb to the purge. Instead, it’s about moving away from a narrow conception of public safety that relies on policing and punishment, and investing in a community’s actual safety net — things like stable housing, mental health services, and community organizations.

The concept is that the role of the police can then significantly shrink because they are not responding to the homeless, or to mental health calls, or arresting children in schools, or really any other situation where the best solution is not someone showing up with a gun. That is the idea behind “defund the police,” if you actually listen to it.

Oliver warned that “many police would likely resist any redistribution,” and rejected the idea that bad policing was the result of a few bad apples.

“Look, this clearly isn’t about individual officers. It’s about a structure built on systemic racism that this country created intentionally, and now needs to dismantle intentionally, and replace with one that takes into account the needs of the people that it actually serves.

“And this is going to take sustained pressure, and attention, over a long period of time, from all of us.”

The left-wing HuffPost applauded Oliver’s presentation, saying he had “expertly” disarmed “right-wing talking points.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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