For those appalled at the right-wing hellscape the Donald Trump era has unleashed upon the land, the idea of going local is seen as an effective strategy to fight back against a federal government infested with conservative idealogues at the highest levels. Unfortunately, according to Last Week Tonight host and guy whose astutely angry British-ness can make even outraged cries for sanity the cause of cathartic laughter, John Oliver, conservatives in the media have adopted the same strategy, albeit in their own traditionally insidious manner. In his main segment last night, Oliver explored how Sinclair Media Group, which is on the verge of becoming the largest owner of local news stations in the country, uses its top-down yellow journalistic mandates to literally put words in the mouths of your trusted, endearingly stiff local anchors.
Showing how Sinclair’s policies force all local stations they own to run mandatory slanted news stories, commercials, and commentary from truth-averse and blustering wannabe Sean Hannitys Mark Hyman and Boris Epstein, Oliver plays a clip of local anchors from Sinclair stations all over the country using the exact same, Fox News-worthy introduction to a story about the Trump-Russia investigation. That, plus Sinclair’s “must run” Terrorism Alert Desk feature (which, Oliver demonstrates, often uses the words “terrorist” and “Muslim” more or less interchangeably) are part of the broadcaster’s intellectually dishonest interpretation of what journalism is, a concerted effort by one massive media company to transform your folksy six o’clock broadcast into a little Fox News clone. (The header image isn’t a real Sinclair headline, but it might as well be, as Oliver showed one of Hyman’s editorials which managed to squeeze in essentially every other boorish Trump troll buzzword in about 15 seconds.)
As Oliver points out, Sinclair is attempting to purchase Tribune Media as we speak, which would increase the range of its mission to turn states’ news shows into something a lot closer to “state news.” (Contact info for the FCC can be found here.) As Oliver puts it with the help of former Sopranos star Steve Schirripa (who bears more than a passing resemblance in speaking style with former Trump advisor and Sinclair talking head Epstein) in a proposed disclaimer for all such infiltrated Sinclair stations, local news should be about coverage of actual news and adorable animal stories, not “cheap scaremongering or advancing a political agenda.” And, as the former Bobby Bacala says, if Sinclair does take over your local news, watch out for their Trump-like fingerprints and, as he warns, “Good luck with that shit.”