In the days following Saturday’s terrorist attack in London, members of the U.S. media—many of whom are not actually in the British capital—described it as being “under siege” and its people as “reeling”.
On Sunday, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver debunked that notion with a giant stiff upper lip (and a middle finger, too).
“Obviously, our thoughts go out to all the people affected,” Oliver said. “But as a British person living in America, I feel compelled to address a theme that has emerged during American coverage of this tragedy.”
Oliver said that while the British people are “pissed off,” the characterization of a nation “under siege” implies that it’s “somehow weak enough to be brought to its knees by three monumental assholes and that, as an idea, is insulting.”
Oliver pointed out that in the wake of the attack and its ensuing coverage, his fellow Brits were irked that outsiders were so quick to underestimate their resilience and started the hashtag #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling to identify the things that really gets their collective goats. Among them: inadvertent eye contact on the tube, and making tea in the microwave. Oliver called the hashtag “an uplifting demonstration of quintessentially British defiance.”
Biting into a chocolate bar to discover it’s Hershey’s and not Cadburys. #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling— Karen Moseley (@SFExpat) June 5, 2017
When you see someone making a cup of tea and they put milk in first ☕🐸#ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling— Amer Aka Biggie (@AmerAkaBiggie) June 5, 2017
Oliver then singled out a pair of residents who in his mind, represented the British people’s core values on the night of the attack. First, he showed footage of people being evacuated from the scene on Saturday, and singled out a man who fled while still holding his beer. “That is a one-man, walking ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster,” Oliver said.
The late night host then showed footage of a man who returned to the scene of the attack the following day to pay his outstanding bill at a bar. “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,” the man says in the clip. “Because that’s what makes London so great.”
Oliver couldn’t agree more, as he raised a glass to the man and offered a toast. It was powerful, moving and perfectly British. Watch below.