There's been a whole lot of misinformation spreading around lately, especially when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, and on Sunday night, John Oliver used Last Week Tonight's first show back after a three-week hiatus to talk about the flood of dangerous conspiracy theories that have sprung up around the virus.
Oliver took time to walk through some popular conspiracy theories -- the JFK assassination, Princess Diana's death -- as a way of explaining why and how people end up believing these things. "They help explain a chaotic, uncertain world and appeal to the human impulse to what's called proportionality bias," he said, before expressing his outrage toward some of the loudest coronavirus conspiracy theorists. With all that said, Oliver also noted that it's worth trying to reason with the people in your life who may be falling for the conspiracy theories, rather than attacking them.
"What experts say is that the most effective way to approach someone is not by shaming them for believing something, or overwhelming them with counter-evidence, but to try and be empathetic, meet them where they are, and nudge them to think a bit more critically," Oliver said, acknowledging that he may not be the best messenger for everyone, which is why he enlisted some very trustworthy celebrities to help encourage people to find out where their information is coming from.
In effort to touch every possible demographic, Last Week Tonight brought Alex Trebek, John Cena, Billy Porter, Catherine O'Hara, and Paul Rudd together for videos you can show your conspiracy theory believing loved ones. The celebrities encouraged curiosity about the crisis, with Trebek saying, "If nobody ever asked questions, Jeopardy! would be a very, very weird show, wouldn't it?" But, Porter warned, "You have to be careful, because there's a lot of convincing looking sh-- on the internet, and most of it ain't true." They all urged viewers to think critically and to do research about where their news is coming from, with Cena summing it all up very well: "You have common sense. Trust that part of your brain to guide you as you educate yourself during this difficult time."
If you're looking to start a conversation with someone about conspiracy theories, Last Week Tonight has helpfully put all the celebrity debunking videos up over at The True True Truth.
Last Week Tonight with john Oliver airs Sundays at 11/10c on HBO.