After Saturday’s terrorist attack in central London, in which seven people were killed and more than 40 injured, the American media reported the event as something that left the city “reeling”, and “under siege”. As a British person living in the United States, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver felt “compelled to address a certain theme that emerged through American coverage of this tragedy.”
And then Oliver took the headlines apart. “For the record, in no way is Britain under siege. Is it upset? Yes. But to say it’s ‘under siege’ and that its people are ‘reeling’ is to imply that it’s somehow weak enough to be brought to its knees by three monumental arseholes. And that, as an idea, is insulting,” he said on Sunday’s episode of his show.
Referring to the viral image of a man holding on to his pint of beer even as people were evacuated following the attack, Oliver said, “Honestly, it was an uplifting demonstration of quintessentially British defiance because the British people are never going to let terror change their way of life.”
Oliver seemed positively thrilled with the response on the street to terror. “He refused to leave his pint of beer behind! That is a one-man walking ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster.” The American press coverage had many locals taking to Twitter to vent humorously on the #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling hashtag, such as “making accidental eye contact on a tube or a train.”
Oliver also quoted the example of another man who returned to the bar after witnessing the attack first hand, to pay his bill and tip the staff. He later told reporters: “We’re not going to let these people win. And I keep saying, if me having a gin and tonic with my friends, flirting with handsome men, hanging out with brilliant women is what offends these people so much, I’m going to do it more, not less. Because that’s what makes London so great.”
In response, Oliver brought out a signature British cocktail and raised a toast to the audience, saying, “And I sincerely hope that that guy is out on the town tonight, pounding down gin and tonics and flirting with every man he sees.”