“Mr. Bean” star Rowan Atkinson blasted cancel culture in an an interview with the Radio Times, likening the left-wing movement to a “medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn,”
What are the details?
The U.K. comic actor said social media has been responsible for increased sociopolitical polarization, which Atkinson said makes him nervous about the future of freedom of speech, the outlet noted.
“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 observed, according to Deadline. “It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be ‘cancelled.'”
Atkinson added: “It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn. So it is scary for anyone who’s a victim of that mob, and it fills me with fear about the future,” the outlet reported.
Not the first time
This was far from the first time Atkinson has spoken up about free expression. In 2009 he decried U.K. hate speech legislation, which is much harsher than in the United States — at least so far.
“The last thing that any academic, or cleric, or practitioner in creative writing wants to hear is of police officers walking round with a tool box bulging with sanctions against speech and expression that ‘could be useful one day.’ I do not believe that legislation of such a censorious nature as that of Hate Speech, carrying as it does the risk of a seven-year jail sentence for saying the wrong thing in the wrong way, can ever by justified merely by the desire to ‘send the right message,'” he said.
In 2012, Atkinson urged a repeal of part of the U.K.’s Public Order Act that outlaws “insulting words and behavior” in order to stop the “creeping culture of censoriousness” which saw the arrest of a Christian preacher, a critic of Scientology, and even a student making a joke, the Daily Mail reported.
Saying the law was having a “chilling effect on free expression and free protest,” he noted to the outlet that “the clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult.”
And earlier this year Atkinson joined more than 20 prominent cultural figures in signing a letter against the Scottish government’s proposed Hate Crime Bill over fears it could limit freedom of expression.
Check out his recent words on these issues: