It only took a moment but it drew a lot of attention.
Woody Harrelson recently hosted Saturday Night Live for the fifth time. Five appearances is supposed to be memorable as lucky celebrities receive an “honorary jacket”. Yet Woody’s gig will be remembered for him donning the cloak of conspiracy theory (see what I did there), during his opening monologue. After some surprisingly ordinary pot-smoker jokes Woody told viewers about a film script he had read as he smoked a joint leaning against a tree in Central Park. The same joint we’d just met in a prior joke.
So, the movie goes like this: the biggest drug cartels in the world get together and buy up all the media and all the politicians and force all the people in the world to stay locked in their homes.
And people can only come out if they take the cartel’s drugs and keep taking them over and over.
I threw the script away. I mean, who’s going to believe that crazy idea?
I reckon like most people and virtually all Aussies, I was drawn to the SNL footage by the reaction it generated. I expected that Woody had hijacked the bulk of his monologue to chuckle through Ye Olde grab bag of COVID conspiracy smirk. Yet it was a tiresome old line: Big Pharma Control of government and media, purportedly being the real cause of COVID lockdowns, with an ultimate of profit. It fell rather flat on the audience.
Condemnation was swift. “Woody sprouts COVID conspiracy”, read Forbes. Vanity Fair told us he “really blew it”. People suggested he “sparks controversy supporting the COVID conspiracy theory”. SBS noted he “pushes conspiracy theories”. A quick Google search yields much more of the same. It’s pretty clear that rehashing COVID-19 fakery is not a way to win respect.
Yet as one might predict, the COVID conspiracy mob loved it. Avi Yemini tweeted “Woody Harrelson sums up the Covid scam perfectly”. His followers eagerly agreed, each chipping in some meaningless confirmation. One offered, “Now you know who was happy to sell you out for their own enrichment”, as if the pharma cartel conspiracy was a novel idea. The clip hit YouTube as supporters backed Woody for “telling the truth”, or dropping a “truth bomb”. Commenters adored him. Yet what really stood out is that COVID conspiracy theorists crave affirmation.
Tireless anti-vaccine profiteer Meryl Dorey, took time off from her High Court mischief to write a post on Substack praising the embarrassing wobble. Woody Harrelson makes heads explode by telling the truth about COVID policies, her piece was headed. Meryl had also noticed the critical headlines and sagely observed, Truth is not the media’s friend. She went on to list a number of headlines variously dismissive of Harrelson’s “anti-vaccine” and “COVID-19 conspiracy theories” deemed “antivax nonsense”. Then as if to again confirm she rarely has a grasp of topics she claims to be expert in, Dorey writes:
Notably, the Youtube (sic) video on SNL’s own site had comments turned off but shows that there are over 27,000 likes and only 1 dislike. One has to wonder if producers are paying attention?
Actually one has to wonder if Meryl has been paying attention, because it’s been almost 16 months since YouTube removed public display of dislike counts. Making things worse, Meryl then referred to a video of Harrelson recently ranting to Bill Maher on Maher’s Club Random about Big Pharma profits, hydroxychloroquine and the unfortunate development when, “ivermectin got made into a horse tranquilliser”. Meryl hoped more “high-profile individuals” will follow his lead, because it might just make “complicity theorists” think. An absolute failure to read the room, as it were.
Cute terms like “complicity theorists” and the utterly boring repetition of thoroughly debunked claims seeking to cast doubt about the COVID-19 pandemic, the success of vaccination and the role of pharmaceutical companies are passé. Long gone are the days of potential recruitment to the cause of COVID conspiracy. All that’s left are the various misfits and cookers who cling to the idea that democracy is under threat, paedophiles are hiding children beneath the streets and our very status as free human beings needs to be fought for. Regrettably, there are those who continue to amplify absurd themes for their own profit.
The world is moving on from the initial, uncertain years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The frightening, dystopian world that conspiracy theorists insisted we were heading for never eventuated. All that’s left for them is to keep referring to past events in the hope of maintaining relevance. Harrelson’s SNL effort confirms this rather nicely.
It is quite apt that Woody Harrelson was trying to get laughs because one thing is quite clear: the continued obsession with COVID-19 conspiracies is nothing but a bad joke.
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Latest update: 2 March 2023