Friday, May 20, 2016

Is HBO the Last Bastion of Real Journalism in America?

Over the last year that I've had an HBO subscription (something I still don't really understand...and now I have Showtime and Cinemax  too for...reasons) I've been able to catch up on some of thier shows.  More than Game of Thrones or Silicon Valley or Ballers I enjoy watching their most political shows:  Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Real Time with Bill Maher.  The latter is more of a talking heads show, but they do usually include one conservative on the panel to make it more "fair and balanced" than Fox "News."

Last Week Tonight is a news magazine show that puts a funny spin on a lot of really scary shit.  The expose on Donald Drumpf, er, Trump was a thing of beauty, not that it really affected him in the polls much.  Some of the stunts they pull are hilarious too, like setting up their own phony church that was real according to IRS rules and giving cheap "premium" tickets to Yankee Stadium so ordinary people could freak out the rich people by dressing like Ninja Turtles or Left Shark.

What was really funny to me was one morning on CBS's morning show they announced a 60 Minutes expose on Congressional fundraising and pulling back the curtain on their call center.  Which was great...except it had already been featured on Last Week Tonight a few weeks earlier.  It is hilarious and sad to think a British comedian on HBO scooped the most venerable news magazine on TV.

Not long after that I was watching Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and they had a story on Trump's golf course in Scotland and all the broken promises he made.  In his usual fashion he promised it would be the best golf course ever with a bunch of condos and such.  Eight years later there's a golf course but nothing else that was promised.  And the people of Scotland hate him so much they tried to get the UK parliament to ban him from ever entering the country.  I guess they didn't take it so well when he sued the whole freaking country for wanting to put wind turbines in the water near his precious golf course.

Immediately following that was Vice, which talked about another Trump golf course in Dubai.  This one did get the condos and such built...with essentially slave labor.  The reporter showed the awful conditions workers have to live in while they work for peanuts, much of which goes for bullshit passport and license fees and such.  I mean there's 15-20 guys stuffed into tiny rat-infested dorm rooms.  As if that's not enough, guys take shifts so it's not even just those 15-20 guys living there, it's more like 50-100!  The workers are brought in from other countries in the area--as far as Pakistan--with promises of high wages, 8 hour days, and overtime, but once they get there...not so much.  And if they want to strike for better conditions?  The police show up to beat the crap out of them.  The Trump Empire's response?  It's not our problem.  We just put Trump's name on the place.  You know, like Michael Jordan sneakers.

Not just to bag on Trump, the next story on that episode was about how China is basically colonizing most of Africa.  They start by "giving" poor countries like the Congo a soccer stadium.  Then they make contracts for buildings, railroads, and so forth that have extremely unfavorable terms for the African country.  Meanwhile they're also gobbling up the abundant natural resources of those countries to make our iPhones and cheap Wal-Mart shit.  While the US, Russia, and Europe have pretty much forgotten most of Africa, China has indebted the continent to them.

In another episode they went to Pakistan, where polio has had a resurgence in large part thanks to the hunt for bin Laden.  Someone posed as a doctor giving out vaccinations to get intel that helped locate bin Laden.  Now that and paranoid theories that the vaccination is actually sterilize people have people in Pakistan refusing to take polio vaccines and even murdering the people (mostly women) who are trying to give them out.  The result is that polio, which is mostly extinct in the rest of the world, is becoming rampant there.  It's heartbreaking when a guy who refused to let his family get vaccinated takes his granddaughter to the doctor and finds out she has polio now thanks to that paranoia and fear.  Equally heartbreaking is to think women who are trying to protect kids like that are being murdered with impunity.  Yet they bravely keep doing it; they ought to get a Nobel Peace Prize.  They're far more deserving than Obama was.

Watching all that while CNN, Fox "News," and the big three lamestream networks just endlessly talk about the same boring election shit makes me think HBO has surpassed them when it comes to actual journalism that matters.

But maybe you disagree.


  1. Have you tried watching the Rachel Maddow show? She's on MSNBC, and I really like the investigative reporting that she does. Also, as far as "print" journalism goes I think there's no better source than The New York Times. You can read 10 articles per month for free on their website, and they are very well written. And online, there's the "Gawker" conglomerate of news blogs. It's kind of a "gossip" site, but they do investigative journalism and exposed (for example) the Facebook bias earlier last week. And then of course there is National Public Radio (NPR).

  2. I've seen a few episodes of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and I enjoy the ironic take on current events, but since I never watch regular news channels, it didn't occur to me that HBO, like you said, is doing a much better job in journalism.



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