Last night on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver delved into something that it's usually more pleasant to stay far, far away from: Alex Jones and Infowars. Instead of just showing the usual clips of Jones spouting conspiracy theories, John Oliver's segment on Alex Jones explored the collection of strange products that Jones, or as Oliver dubbed him, "the Walter Cronkite of shrieking batshit gorilla clowns," sells on the Infowars website.
In one of his four-hour long broadcasts, Jones complained about John Oliver just taking his words of of context. Oliver, then, segued into his main segment of the night by pledging to do exactly the opposite. "People are right," Oliver said, "That people don't present [Jones] in his full context. So tonight, we're going to do that."
Oliver then dedicated quite a lot of time and energy to showing that rather than just lecturing people on the evils of chemicals in tap water, Jones actually lectures people about the evil chemicals in tap water and then pivots right around to selling products meant to get rid of those chemicals. "If you play small clips in isolation, he looks like a loon," Oliver said. "But, if you play them in context, he looks like a skilled salesman spending hours a day frightening you about problems like refugees spreading disease and then selling you an answer."
John Oliver's take down of Alex Jones, then, wasn't just your average take down. Sure, Jones says a lot of stuff that sounds insane to those who aren't his dedicated listeners. But as Oliver explores, he's not just peddling in misinformation. He's peddling in hundreds of products on the Infowars store, which are either heavily marked up compared to similar (or even the same) products on different websites, or are actually his own products.
Oliver reported that Jones gets two thirds of his money from selling his products, and the Last Week Tonight team bought and tested a number of them. Included in that bunch were such necessary items as "nutraceuticals" (another word for dietary supplements), a Bill Clinton rape whistle, and a bone broth chocolate drink called Caveman. This apparently contains chocolate, bee pollen, and chicken collagen, and Oliver was kind enough to taste it on air. "I have got a glass of Caveman right here," Oliver said, drinking the cloudy brown liquid. "And I can confirm to you that it tastes exactly how you imagine a drink would taste that's made from chocolate and domesticated bird corpses."
While of course Oliver's treatment of Jones' questionable business practices was hilarious, it also highlighted the sinister truth — Jones' whole show, all of the conspiracy theories and fear-mongering, effectively acts as advertising for his products, and it's working exceedingly well. And when I say "well," I mean quite possibly to the tune of $10 million a year. Will Oliver's segment stop any of Jones' faithful listeners from going onto the Infowars website and buying, for example, the "Combat One Tactical Bath Wipes," marketed specifically for use on "the perineal area"? Probably not — but at least now you will always remember the look on John Oliver's face after he tried the chocolate bone broth.