Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 1, Episode 4 - Episode #1.4 - full transcript

John talks about the product recall going on at General Motors, the EU Court of Justice "Right to be Forgotten" ruling, and updates us on how the Indian election is going, with help from Fareed Zakaria.

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Episode 4

Welcome to Last Week Tonight.
I'm John Oliver.

My guest tonight: Fareed Zakaria
will be with us, very exciting.

Quick roundup of the world.

It was something of a week
of angry protests around the globe.

In Brazil, people took to the streets
over government corruption,

while in Turkey, thousands
protested the government

after a horrific mine accident

and the Turkish Prime Minister
responded in an unusual way.

Many are also angry because
of a video that has emerged

that appears to show
the Turkish Prime Minister

slapping someone as he was
mobbed by an angry crowd.

A Turkish newspaper today
is quoting the prime minister

as saying, if you boo the
Prime Minister, you get slapped.

Yeah, boo me, you get slapped.
Scowl at me, purple nurple.

You disagree with me:
it's a tickle attack.

In happier times here at home,

yesterday was something
of a wonderful anniversary.

Ten years ago today,
Massachusetts became

the first state
to legalize same sex marriage.

Yes, ten year, that's right.
Ten year anniversary of gay marriage !

And that sound you hear
is a lesbian in Northampton

figuring out why her partner
was in a mood all day yesterday.

Happy Saturday, I guess, Linda, see
as that seems to be all it is to you.

Ten years !

Since then, we've come even
further with gay marriage.

It's now legal in 17 states. For all
accomplishments in the political realm,

marriage equality still faces
unusual obstacles.

Nintendo is the target
of a social media campaign.

In the company's upcoming game,
called the 'Tomodachi Life',

you can make your avatar
do just about anything

but your avatar "cannot"
marry another avatar of the same sex.

You can use a civil union cheat
code, but it's just not the same.

It's up, up, down, down,
be gay, be gay, start.

Keep that to yourself !

But in a happy sign of progress,
Nintendo made a big announcement.

Nintendo is apologizing, pledging
to be more inclusive in the future.

While it says it's too late
to change the game now,

it is committed to building virtual
equality into later versions.

Yes ! Virtual eventual equality !
That's the dream.

Let's see how this news
went down in Nintendo's world.

Mario just got the call,
he is overjoyed about the news.

Here's his friend Link
and they are...

I didn't know
either of them were gay.

Link seems a little young
for Mario, here's a....

That's Princess Peach
and Princess Zelda.

Let's give them some privacy,
shall we ?

Wonderful, Yoshi and Toad,
wasting no time getting married !

The beauty is, they now got access
to instant benefits power-ups.

Pension in a box, that's great !
You love to see stability like that.

This is bittersweet. Bowser
received his death benefits

after the death of his partner
Donkey Kong.

That's good,
they had a lifetime together,

Donkey Kong would want him
taken care of.

Why are you so sad ? Donkey Kong
dies multiple times every day !

Would it make you happier
if I restarted the game ?

Let's do that,
restart the game right now.

There you go !
See, they're back,

they're alive and well
and enjoying brunch together.

Happy now ? They're brunching,
are you not entertained ?

And now, this:

The past week
in Bullshit National Holidays.

It may be Wednesday to you,
but it's National Biscuit Day to us.

- It is National Nylon Stockings Day.
- National Odometer Day.

- Third Shift Workers Day.
- Piercing Day !

- Hepatitis Testing Day.
- International Museum Day.

Pack Brat Day.

National Ride
Your Bike to Work Day !

- Wear Your Lifejacket to Work Day.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Day.

- Dance Like a Chicken Day.
- It's National Limerick Day, so...

- There once was a girl named Sue.
- Never a good thing.

Apple Pie Day.

- It's National Hummus Day.
- National Pizza Party Day.

It's National
Chocolate Chip Cookie Day !

Let's move on.
Our main story this week

concerns a titan of American
industry: General Motors.

Few companies in history
have ever sold more cars.

As of this week, few company has
ever demanded as many of them back.

This is the year of the recall
for General Motors.

Today, GM recalled 2.7 million
more cars.

That brings the total to 11 million
recalled vehicles this year.

Eleven million cars !
We are approaching a "total recall".

Where you return your car to your
local three-breasted GM representative.

By and large,
these cars' flaws are frightening.

From steering loss
to power brake failure

to the fact that airbags, brakes
and power steering

could suddenly all switch off
at the same time.

If you're thinking: "I'm amazed
no one's been killed by that",

you would be wrong.

The government's own files show
as many as 303 accident related deaths,

the company admits 13 people
have been killed.

Here is a sign that your
corporation is in trouble:

when the statement "our product
only killed thirteen people"

is your "defense".

The government stepped in
and held GM to account.

General Motors is going have to pay
the government $35 million.

$35 million. That is a lot
of money for a car company. In 1923.

But for today's GM, it amounts
to less than one day of revenue.

There's only one GM employee
who is up in arms over this,

and it's "this guy".

And he's up in arms over
basically everything.

President's day...
Whenever it's windy.

This is a paltry amount of money.
It's about to seem even paltrier

when you learn how long GM waited
to tell customers about the problems.

The carmaker now says it found
the problem with an ignition switch

back in 2001 during
preproduction of the Saturn Ion.

So you knew of a potentially fatal
ignition problem for 13 years !

A child attending her first day
of school the day you found out

would be old enough to die
driving one of your cars

the day you did something about it.

I don't really feel people
are quite angry enough with this,

maybe this will help.

Years after finding out
definitively about the link,

they continued to tell families
of accident victims

that they did not have enough
evidence of any defect.

In one case, GM threatened to come
after the family of an accident victim

for reimbursement of legal fees if the
family did not withdraw its lawsuit.

GM doubled down on their awfulness,
they couldn't help themselves.

Much like people
stuck in their shitty cars.

This Friday, we learned that GM
"was" holding meetings at the time

about dealing
with their defective cars.

You'll never guess
what they were talking about.

These are slides from a Powerpoint
presentation given in 2008.

Workers were told not to use
the word "defect "or "defective"

but rather
"does not perform to design"

and GM had judgment words
that were banned,

including dangerous, crippling,
hobbling and 65 others.

How did they even come up
with that list ?

Was it just word association ?

Say the first word that comes
to mind. Cadillac XTS ?


The new Chevy Sonic.
Crippling and dangerous.

Fantastic. Keep 'em going,

there are no bad ideas here
just bad cars.

There were a lot more words
on that list.

Because the banned words include
and I'll show you the document,

they include "deathtrap",
"decapitating", "grenade-like",

"Kevorkianesque", "powder keg",

"rolling Sarcophagus"
and "you're toast".

When demons have sex,
those are their safewords.

Luckily, GM still left us a few ways
to describe their vehicles...

Hell-taxis, the GM reapers,

and "like Hotel Rwanda,
but a car".

GM is clearly in deep trouble,
their only hope might be

that their recently appointed CEO
has something that most CEO's don't:

two x chromosomes.

GM announced
something new for 2014.

For the first time
in its 105 year history,

the company will be run
by a woman.

Here we have first female CEO
of the big three

trying to represent the new GM.

We discussed, whether a man or
a woman would handle this differently.

She is also a mother.
There will be some thinking

around child safety,
child accessibility

and just kind of the things
that moms think about.

Yea, Mary Barra is,
apparently unfathomably, a woman.

And the fact that she so stubbornly
refuses to be a man

means that she is forcing commentators
to define her by her gender.

Let's see if we can discern a woman's
touch in her handling of this crisis.

Her first move was to issue
an internal company letter,

I quote: "our process for determining
whether and when to recall a vehicle"

"is decided
by experienced technical experts."

Not really detecting
a woman's touch there.

Or indeed a "human's" touch.

That was when a male commentator
told her how a woman should act.

She's a mom with two kids.
Her first responsibility

isn't as CEO of the company,
it's as a mom with two children.

She could relate to those people
who lost their family members.

Right, because everyone knows
that people without kids

could barely give a shit
when 13 people die.

I don't have kids,
you tell me that

13 people died I'm like:
"Why are you telling me this ?"

I could be sleeping or counting
my disposable income.

You're wasting
my plentiful free time.

It's a classy idea ! Deploy your
own family as a human shield.

Or a human airbag, if you will.

Within days, it was clear
that Barra was actually listening.

As a member of the GM family
and as a mom with a family,

this really hits home for me.

There you go. That's the lady
stuff ! Getting much warmer.

Not as warm
as the brakes on a Cadillac XTS,

which could start a fire
for no apparent reason,

let's just say warmer though.

Even the new video
seems slightly off.

Something went wrong
with our process in this instance.

Terrible things happened.

Sounds less like "a person expressing
sympathy in a human manner"

and more like the distress message
from a doomed spaceship in a SF.

After all, something went wrong
with our process in this instance.

And terrible things happened.

So, to recap: Barra's first statement
had serious design flaws.

She introduced a second,
hastily-assembled statement

with many of the same catastrophic
issues as the first.

But then this week, after recalling
11.2 million cars and paying a fine

worth less than 24 hours
of corporate revenues,

she rolled a new statement
proudly off GM's PR assembly line:

CEO Mary Barra had this response:

"We have learned
from this recall."

"We will now focus on the goal
of becoming an industry safety leader."

"We will emerge from this
situation a stronger company."

you'll be a stronger company ?

So this was all a great thing.

A learning experience
and a refocusing of goals.

Somewhere the CEO of Blockbuster
video is going:

"Shit, we should've killed 13 people."
It's the magic recipe.

While some might see this
as yet another depressing entry

into annals
of corporate malfeasance,

let's celebrate together
a milestone:

at a time when women leaders
are routinely questioned

in ways they shouldn't be,
Mary Barra,

the first female CEO
of a major car company,

has defied gender stereotypes
and issued a statement

every bit as shitty
as one from a male CEO.

Congratulations, Mary !

You haven't just shattered
the glass ceiling,

you've been ejected
through the glass windshield.

We don't technically have
commercial breaks on this show,

but after this I think
we all might just need one,

to get away from this story.

So if you'll excuse us,
we'll be right back.

General Motors makes cars
that America can be proud of.

Cars you couldn't describe as
"defective", "catastrophically flawed".

"Gruesome, potentially-disfiguring
rolling Sarcophagi ?"

That's not our cars !
We make sleek,

non-grenade-like anti-Hindenbergs,
the opposite of Kevorkianesque.

Why not tell your family you love
them and come test-drive a GM car ?

Driving a GM car is so smooth,
it's like butter. And you're toast !

General Motors. Why walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,

when you can drive ?

Welcome back. Let's talk about
something else, the internet.

In Europe this week, there was
some potentially significant news.

It is said the Internet
never forgets until now, that is.

The highest court in Europe ruled that
Google and other search operators

must delete search results
if they are requested,

the right to be forgotten.

The right to be forgotten,

which incidentally is my favorite
non-existent Morrissey song.

I have the right to be forgotten,
I have...

Yeah, yes.
What the ruling amounts to is,

if there's something embarrassing
on the Internet about you,

then EU citizens can now ask Google
to take down any links to it.

I'll tell you who seems weirdly
excited about this potential new right:

the newscasters reporting on it.

Let's hypothetically say
when you were in high school

you toilet papered someone's house
and were arrested.

The one night of wild drinking
in college can haunt you forever.

What if 10 million people
approach Google and say:

that story about
me running over a squirrel

on my bicycle while drunk
and naked ?

I want that removed.

That is "way" too specific
to be something

that he came up
with off the top of his head.

There is a photo of that man
naked on a bike crushing a squirrel.

And if there isn't,
then frankly, there is now.

Yes, meet your new top
Google hit, Brian Sullivan !

And live with this
for the rest of your life.

Maybe my favorite
newscaster fantasy spurred

by this ruling came this week
from Fox News's Shep Smith.

I'm trying to think what I would
give just to be forgotten.

I might go rob
all the banks on the planet.

Hold on, Shep. Just because you erased
yourself from the internet,

doesn't mean you won't be
caught for robbing banks.

That's not how
basically anything works.

But it's charming
that you think it is.

I just like to rob banks,
that's kind of my thing.

Maybe this new ruling though
addresses a genuine problem:

internet has an unforgiving memory
and it can ruin people's lives.

So if all the ruling does
is let people take down

links to minor indiscretions from
their past, it's probably fine.

A source says a man in Europe,
convicted of child pornography,

was among the first
to request

that links to articles about
his conviction be taken down.

A politician with
some bad behavior in office.

Even a doctor
with a negative review.

A failsafe question to ask
yourself when drafting a law is:

"might child pornographers
like this ?"

If so,
maybe take another pass at it.

Luckily, the only thing stopping
this ruling from doing real damage

is that it is, by its nature,
completely ineffective.

Because what the EU court
doesn't understand

is the internet is like quicksand.

The more aggressively you fight
to remove yourself from it,

the deeper you're going
to sink.

The case in point,
the guy who started all of this:

The case originated in Spain.
A man there argued

that when a Google search
turned up an auction notice

of his repossessed home
from back in 1998

that that being out there was
a violation against his privacy.

That Spanish man
is Mario Costeja Gonzalez.

This is his photo, which was on
an article from New York Times

about his crusade to remove links
mentioning his debts from 1998.

In doing so,
he is now world-famous for being

"that Spanish guy
with debts from 1998".

I know about him the only thing
he didn't want me to know.

That is why, all of this...

All of this, is why
"right to be forgotten" law

is no longer workable
in the Internet age.

Nothing you are embarrassed of
on the internet is ever going away.

We all have a horrifying
photo from our past

that undermines
the person we are now,

professionally and personally.

We can all live in fear
of that thing ever surfacing.

Or we can all hold hands, jump at
the same time and save each other.

Which is why
we're launching tonight

hashtag mutually assured humiliation.

If we all put our worst photo
into the world together,

none of us will ever be
in a position to judge anyone else.

I'm not talking about the cute,
mildly-embarrassing photo,

like that one of yourself,
let's say wearing

a homemade sweater
with your own name on it.


The kind that you claim...
That's real.

The kind you claim is embarrassing,
but somehow humanizes you a little.

No, I'm talking about "this".
Toxic, weapons-grade awkwardness.

I am putting this photo
up online right now.

We all have to do this together.
I'm trusting you to do the same.

Three, two, one. You have
to do this with me, right ?


You better fucking have done that
or I have made a horrible mistake.

And I think I've just made
a horrible mistake. And now, this.

And now, shame !

Shame on the little
totalitarians of the left.

- Shame on HGTV.
- Shame on Thailand, yes.

- Shame on the Australians.
- Shame on Warren Buffett.

- Shame on the legal profession.
- Shame, Hank Aaron.

Shame on you, Copenhagen Zoo.

Shame on them,
shame on you too, Chris.

- Shame on you guys !
- Yea, shame on us.

It's a Rove-down dirty shame.

Moving on, finally tonight.

You may remember
on our very first episode

we talked
about the election in India.

After five weeks
and over 500 million votes,

on Friday,
there was an announcement:

It appears at 9:37 AM
and we are calling the election

the BJP will have won the election
and Narendra Modi with these numbers

will become
the next Prime Minister of India.

That is a seizure-inducing amount
of information on that screen.

If you followed this election,
you learned two key things:

Narendra Modi was destined
for an historic victory.

And two, no one covers an election
like Indian news networks,

who are apparently sponsored
by Adderall.

We are not speeding
this footage up !

I feel like I'm playing a slot machine
while high on peyote.

Just a small word of advice
to Indian news networks:

"this" is not the most
relaxing way to watch television.

The only thing
this is good for

is potentially putting your
elderly viewers in the hospital.

But I digress.
Take it down !

The real news regarding this election
is that Narendra Modi is set

to become
the new Prime Minister of India.

He's a transformative,
albeit controversial figure.

Some worry he might be
too harsh and authoritarian.

So perhaps one of his family
members can reassure us.

His brother remembers
their days together.

Narendra Modi loved flying kites.
I had to hold a spool of string,

but if I refused,
he would get angry.

And he would hit me.

In Modi's defense: how difficult
is it to just hold a spool of string ?

Fuck this guy. Anyway, I'm sorry.
What you were saying ?

- Were you scared of your brother ?
- I'm still scared of him, even today.

Should India be scared of him ?

Anyone concerned for the well-being
of the country has nothing to fear.

Only those who work against
the country need to be scared.

That's reassuring ! He should have
run his campaign slogan on that:

"Don't worry, only my brother
and those who oppose me"

"will beaten to death
with a child's kite."

Here to talk more about the Indian
elections is CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

Fareed. Thank you so much
for being here.

Let's talk India.
You were born there.

My people were temporary
custodians. This was...

Temporary self-appointed custodians.
Let's just be clear.

We felt we were kind
of inherently invited in some way.

That's the excuse
of the British Empire.

I'm sure you were...
it was lost in the post.

This was an amazing election.
And it's been described the result,

as either an exciting
or a frightening time for Indians.

It's mostly exciting.
You're right. It's an amazing election.

Here's this guy, Modi,
the son of a tea seller,

himself sold tea,
really humble origins,

extraordinarily disciplined
politician running against

a political dynasty
like no other in the world.

This is Rahul Gandhi, the guy
he was sort of running against.

His father was prime minister,
his grandmother was prime minister,

his great-grandfather
was prime minister.

Like Chelsea Clinton's fetus having
a child and then running for president.

Does it have to be like that ?
Could it not be a different image ?

Everything about this election
was different from normal.

There's a great bit in one of your
books where you point out:

"Indian elections are not
really national elections at all."

Rather simultaneous regional and local
elections with no common theme.

But this changed this time.
He has a huge mandate.

This changed in a fascinating way.
Rather than regional elections,

what you ended up with
was one big national issue.

And the Congress party,
ran on really the default message

that every third world ruling
party runs on which is,

we're going to give you

A kind of socialism in action.
We're going to give you subsidies

you're poor,
you're entitled to them.

This guy said: "I'm going to run
on growth and good government."

Not going to give you
anything for free.

I'm gonna try to get good
roads, good electricity.

And what he banked on,
was that in India now,

there is an aspirational middle class

that doesn't want to be handed
government subsidies but wants

the infrastructure, the governance
that produces economic growth.

The Times of India
had a really interesting editorial,

where they referred to him
selling the Indian dream.

Packaging the Indian dream
to people.

The American dream is clear. Catching
something from a T-shirt cannon.

What is the Indian dream ?

Is it just the concept
of upward mobility ?

When you hear about this,
about the Indian dream

or the Chinese dream,
they're all really the American dream,

the idea you will do
better than your parents.

We franchised it. That's it.

It's like a supernova. Just as
it's catching on everywhere else,

it's imploding here at home.

Why does every analogy you use have
to be so appallingly negative ?

- This is HBO, isn't it ?
- That's true.

- We're testing the limits.
- It's not TV, it's negative.

Can you stick around
to talk online ?

This is a much bigger discussion
than we have time here.

As long as there are more
photographs you're going to post.

I actually have one worse than
that and I chickened out.

If you want to watch an extended
version of this interview, go here.

Fareed Zakaria, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for joining us.

We are off next week. Have
a fantastic two weeks, good night !