Some of the world’s greatest museums are filled with looted and stolen goods ― and John Oliver of “Last Week Tonight” has had enough.
“If you ever look for a missing artifact, nine times out of 10 it’s in the British Museum,” he pointed out. “It’s essentially the biggest ‘lost and found’ in the world, with both ‘lost’ and ‘found’ enclosed in the thickest quotation marks possible.”
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 caught, which is clearly worse. It’s like being unable to find the last piece of the puzzle and finding out that you haven’t really misplaced it,” he said. “A British earl broke into your house, stole it, then sold it to a museum over 1,000 miles away.”
Oliver criticized the “incredibly condescending” arguments of those defending the British Museum and other repositories of stolen property. Some claim the objects were taken from another era, which means there is a different context to consider.
But, as Oliver pointed out, British Prime Minister William Gladstone said in 1868 that he had “deeply deplored” the looted artefacts from Ethiopia by the British military and called for their return.
“He said that in 1868! says Oliver. “We didn’t even know how to fix a UTI without leeches back then, but we knew that raiding other countries for their crap was ‘deeply lamentable’, which in English means ‘super screwed up’.”
See his full teardown below. And be sure to stick around for a tour of the “Payback Museum,” featuring Kumail Nanjiani: