Rowan Atkinson, famous for playing the characters Mr Bean and Blackadder, has once again made headlines for criticizing the rise of a culture of destructive cancellation.
In an interview with British Radio Times, Atkinson described online trolls trying to ban everything as “the digital equivalent of the medieval mob”.
“The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society,” he said.
“It becomes a case where you are with us or against us. And if you are against us, you deserve to be “canceled”, “said the British comedian.
Atkinson also lambasted social media, saying it filled him with “fear of the future” as it continued to reduce tolerance for dissenting opinions, which widens divisions in society.
“What we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval crowd roaming the streets looking for someone to burn,” Atkinson urged.
He noted that he was at the end of the Hateful Mob, not only because of some of Mr. Bean’s skits, many of which were written 30 years ago, but also because of his long history of defending him. freedom of speech.
“It’s scary for anyone who falls victim to this crowd and it scares me for the future,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson opposed the introduction of so-called “hate speech” laws in 2005, describing the legislation as “a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
Atkinson also opposed the introduction of homophobic “hate speech” clauses in UK law in 2009.
At the time, in 2009, Atkinson pointed out where such measures to suppress discourse were headed, prophesying “a culture of censorship, a questioning, negative and leaden attitude that is encouraged by legislation of this nature.”
The comedian warned that this would only be “considerably and significantly mitigated by [a] freedom of expression clause. “
In 2012, Atkinson further insulted the fact that “insulting” behavior was classified as a criminal offense.
“The clear problem with the insult ban is that too much can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, simply asserting an alternative point of view to orthodoxy, can be interpreted as an insult, ”Atkinson said at the time during a passionate defense of free speech:
In 2020, Atkinson was again targeted by the mob he speaks of when he publicly opposed the Scottish ‘hate crimes’ bill, saying it’ risked stifling the freedom of expression and the ability to articulate or critique religious and other beliefs ”.
Several other comedians have spoken out against the rising cancellation culture, including Monty Python star John Cleese, The Office creator Ricky Gervais, “ podfathers ” Joe Rogan and Adam Carolla, as well as Bill burr and “politically incorrect” star Dave Chapelle, to name a few.
Cancel culture has seen some comedians censor themselves in order to appease the crowd:
However, the comedy is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to setting aside the crop. There are signs that its tentacles are penetrating deeply into all aspects of society.
A recent study by Civitas, a leading education think tank, found that freedom of speech at major universities around the world is eroding at an alarming rate.
The study found that over the past three years, more than 68% of UK universities have seen freedom of speech severely restricted, with academics unable to meaningfully discuss the nuances of issues such as race and gender. sex.
The report notes that universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews, three of the world’s largest institutions, are among those that have fallen into a “red” category for free speech following cases of “no platform ‘scheduled speakers.
Last year, 150 of the world’s leading intellectuals, authors and activists signed an open letter decrying the left-wing culture of cancellation, censorship and the totalitarian march of “ideological conformism.”
The letter warned that the cancellation of culture creates a climate of risk aversion that prevents anyone from opposing the monolithic consensus of social justice rhetoric, creating a “stifling atmosphere that will end up harming the causes most. vital of our time. “
In the United States, the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security also recently warned that the actions of tech companies in embracing the culture of cancellation and censoring opinions with which they disagree were “serious. threat to national security ”.
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