Some of the world’s leading museums are filled with plundered and stolen goods ― and John Oliver of “Last Week Tonight” has had enough.
“If you are ever looking for a missing artifact, nine times out of 10 it’s in the British Museum,” he pointed out. “It’s basically the world’s largest ‘lost and found,’ with both ‘lost’ and ‘found’ in the heaviest possible quotation marks there.”
A prime example: the Elgin Marbles, aka the Parthenon Marbles, taken from Greece in the 19th century by Lord Elgin and currently in the British Museum.
“They weren’t lost. They were taken, which is clearly worse. It’s like being unable to find the last puzzle piece and learning that you didn’t actually misplace it,” he said. “A British earl snuck into your house, stole it, and then sold it to a museum over 1,000 miles away.”
Oliver slammed the “unbelievably patronizing” arguments of those who defend the British Museum and other repositories of stolen goods. Some claim the objects were taken in a different time ― and that means there’s a different context to consider.
But, as Oliver pointed out, British Prime Minister William Gladstone in 1868 said he “deeply lamented” objects looted from Ethiopia by the British Army and called for their return.
“He was saying that in 1868!” Oliver said. “We didn’t even know how to fix a UTI without leeches back then, but we knew that raiding other countries for their shit was ‘deeply lamentable,’ which is British for ‘super fucked up.’”
See his full takedown below. And be sure to stick around for a tour of the “Payback Museum,” featuring Kumail Nanjiani: