Hey John Oliver, Your Net Neutrality Rant Is Way Off!

Alright John – I’ve never written a blog post before, but watching your widely circulated tirade about the corporate conspiracy to end internet neutrality in the U.S. has inspired me to issue something of a rebuttal.   Of course I understand that America requires a level playing field online in order to innovate and grow.  Of course I understand that your argument was thoroughly researched and fact-checked to the point of impregnability.  But I can’t sit idly by and watch a comedian distort our national conversation with one-sided opinioneering and such unapologetic spinnery on what is (clearly) a multifaceted issue.  It’s astonishing really John: despite your stellar record of cultural criticism, you somehow believe that Sting – aka Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, English singer/multi-instrumentalist par excellence and former front man for transcendent 80s punk-reggae squadron known as The Police – is boring.  As boring as “net neutrality” sounds.  Ha! Far from it.


Just one minute into the now famous rant, you drop this slanderous laugh-line: "Yes, net neutrality.  The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are featuring Sting"

Ouch. That’s word-for-word John, and it was the most successful joke in your 13 minute opus.  (Even you have to smile after selling that whopper.) Most egregious of all, you don’t offer any evidence to back up your claim!  Rather than methodically tearing apart the allegedly snooze-worthy Sting oeuvre with characteristic pluck and befuddled dismay, you cowardly pivot to a few easy targets: C-SPAN, Thomas Freidman, and the inevitable anthropomorphic khaki pants.  Why can’t you attack Sting’s rich career of musical re-invention head on?  Are you afraid of the truth?  Do you secretly know the soaring heights of Sting’s artistic range and the voluminous depth his poetic soul?  Do you actually own 3 copies of 1993’s 10 Summoner’s Tales (two original vinyl unwrapped, one for “parties”), and do you lie in bed pondering the emotional intricacies of “The Shape of My Heart”?  Are you happy to sell out the 62nd best living songwriter in the world (Paste Magazine, 2006) for the sake of a cheap laugh?  I think you are! Here is what you won't admit:

The words “featuring Sting” actually promise many things (brilliance, subtlety, risk, beauty, and probably a couple instruments you have never heard of) but BOREDOM is not among them.  The Dire Straits’ 1984 hit “Money For Nothing” supposedly features Sting, but they really should have called it “another breathtaking vocal performance by Sting, featuring Mark Knopfler and his band.”  Seriously! This former English teacher just kills it.  Don’t even worry that he cannibalized the hook from an old Police song in this case; it will always be Sting’s artistic right to re-interpret Sting as Sting sees fit.

And on the subject of re-interpretation, please reflect with me a minute on Sting’s newly minted folk/pop historical musical The Last Ship. The story follows the decline of a once thriving shipbuilding industry in Wallsend, England and, according to Sting, was inspired by a 1991 studio album called “The Soul Cages” also by Sting. Now tell me this – who else would be brave enough to attempt such a selflessly erudite project, all the while convincing his PR team that shirtless promo pics are still “the way to go”?  It’s actually incredible; this 50-something continues to show up in enough half-naked photos to give Vladimir Putin a run for his money.

And speaking of Russians John, I wonder if your are familiar with Sting’s 1985 breakaway hit “Russians”?  In this portentous parcel of pop perfection, Sting fearlessly melds the hook from the Lieutenant Kijé Suite into an otherwise thoroughly modern synth dirge—cleverly preserving the enviable songwriting credit “Sting/Prokofiev” in ASCAP’s database forever.  It’s a hummable masterpiece that summarizes Cold War anxieties of the Reagan era while deftly rhyming “historical precedent” with “president” to Shakespearean effect.  Go ahead and count ‘em, that’s four layers of genius.

Now John, it’s entirely possible that you did not fully consider Sting’s landmark contributions to rock n’ roll, art, and/or humanity before airing this net neutrality rant.  It’s entirely possible that you have never heard the song “Englishman in New York” which, by all rights, should be the intro theme for Last Week Tonight.   It’s even possible that you consider an entire album of renaissance lute ballads a chore. But more likely YOU ARE SECRETLY EMPLOYED BY PAUL SIMON TO TARNISH STING’S REPUTATION AS THE PREEMINENT WORLD-MUSIC-INFLECTED-POP SONGWRITER OF THE 80s AND 90s!!!!!

At any rate, I’d like to see you try and defend your sensationalized claims.  If it happens that you can’t fully explain away the rewarding complexities of Sting’s catalog, then doo doo doo, da da da is all I’ve got to say to you.


Posted on July 2, 2014 .