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I wholeheartedly support the writers and actors striking right now, they’re fighting the long overdue fight to structure fair payments in the era of streaming and protect against AI taking their jobs. Speaking selfishly, though, I must admit that the withdrawal symptoms from the cold turkey stop in Last Week Tonight episodes have been intense. I miss the once a week dose of someone telling the truth on TV without worrying about making it palatable for all sides, and then abruptly pivoting to absurdist statements like “Pandas don’t want to be here,” as in on Planet Earth. I know I’m not alone right now in missing John Oliver and his superlative, Emmy award-winning team of writers, so I take some joy in this story of Reddit activists protesting new policies… by flooding the network with photos of Oliver:
What the protestors are doing: Several of Reddit’s largest self-moderated communities, including r/pics and r/aww, have turned spaces that were once devoted to images of everyday life, or cute and cuddly animals, into what may now be the internet’s biggest repository for pictures of the comedian… There have been numerous pictures of Oliver posing in sharply tailored suits, and screenshots of humorous moments from his show. There is Oliver as a koala. There are images of his face superimposed on the Mediterranean fruit commonly used to garnish martinis (“John Olive”). And an AI-generated image of Oliver as a “Game of Thrones” character (“John Oliver Snow”).
What the company is doing: Reddit users are protesting a decision taking effect next month that will introduce fees for apps to access Reddit data, much in the way Twitter has erected a paywall for third-party access to its own platform. Reddit, for its part, is looking to bolster its revenue ahead of a rumored initial public offering. Reddit’s critics have said they object to the suddenness of the change, as well as the steep proposed fees, which are expected to force multiple app makers out of business… more than 6,000 Reddit communities went dark to protest the move, including some of the platform’s most popular forums, which claim to have more than 25 million members.
Reddit Co-founder & CEO Steve Huffman adores Elon Musk: Huffman has staunchly defended the coming move as necessary to help make Reddit a profitable enterprise. He has also sharply criticized Reddit’s volunteer moderators who are committed to the protest, describing them as out of touch and unrepresentative of the forums they lead. And he has praised Elon Musk for his handling of Twitter, citing the company’s billionaire owner as an inspiration for Huffman’s own business decisions.
John Oliver approves: In selecting Oliver as a main object of obsession, however, Reddit users are also appealing to a man with a history of wading into tech topics on-air and causing real-world effects with his show’s coverage. Over the past week, many Reddit users have expressed hopes that Oliver might air a future segment about suddenly becoming the face of the revolt, and perhaps feature their content on his show. Oliver has not committed to using any of the material, but true to form, he himself gave users his blessing to continue posting his image on Reddit and provided even more fodder for them to plaster across the site. “Dear Reddit,” he tweeted last week, “excellent work.”
Of course he would be covering this if they were on air right now! This is a man who has, over his Last Week Tonight tenure, seen the openings of the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant and the John Oliver Koala Chlamydia Ward. And this is the second time in the span of a year that Oliver has been inserted into the intersection of art and technology: just last August he wed a cabbage on air after learning there was a vast catalog of AI-generated images devoted to the subject (it was a lovely, if brief ceremony officiated by Steve Buscemi). Reddit’s CEO Huffman sounds like a dick and I’m sure Oliver would expertly read him for filth while also managing to raise funds for the app-owners who will suffer.
photos credit: Getty and Sara De Boer/startraksphoto.com. Screenshots of Reddit.com