Comedian Rowan Atkinson has incurred the wrath of woke warriors on social media after voicing his opposition to a controversial hate crimes law which he believes will stifle free speech and rational debate.
The British comedy legend was among a group of authors, journalists, philosophers and campaigners who signed an open letter against legislation put forward by the Scottish Nationalist Party, warning of the “unintended consequences” the bill could have.
The signees raised specific concern over provisions around making “stirring up hatred” an offence, even if it was not the intention of the person making the comments.
“The Bill creates stirring up offences without any intent being examined; merely that the words, action, or artwork might do so. This offence could even be applied to being in possession of materials produced by someone else, where sharing the material could stir up hatred,” the letter states.
The unintended consequences of this well meaning Bill risk stifling freedom of expression, and the ability to articulate or criticise religious and other beliefs.
Concerns have been raised that people like JK Rowling could have been targeted by the new law, after she expressed her views on transgender issues.
Other prominent people to add their name to the letter include the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the philosopher AC Grayling. The Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Newspaper Society, the Scottish Police Federation and the Catholic Church have also raised concerns about the bill.
I looked to see why Rowan Atkinson is trending and it’s the usual. A comedian comes out in favour of free speech and is called ’problematic’. Forget the fact his career has been spent lampooning racists and fascism, that’s an inconvenient fact. He’s toxic now. Fuck off, Twitter.
— Jonathan Pie (@JonathanPieNews) August 11, 2020
Despite numerous prominent people and organizations raising objections, Atkinson has served as a lightning rod for those in favor of the law, with many cancel culture jihadis rounding on the popular comedian.
The swirl of reaction saw the ‘Mr Bean’ and ‘Blackadder’ actor’s name trend on Twitter in the UK on Tuesday. Some responders put forward their reasons for disagreeing with Atkinson, while many others just resorted to name calling.
HATE SPEECH =/= FREE SPEECHAmazing how those against the anti hate speech bill are those like Rowan Atkinson and Stephen Fry saying “feel free to insult me!”You’re not the ones at risk of violence and even murder as a direct response of the impact. https://t.co/BioO44VIvo
— CuppaJoey Comedy (@comedy_joey) August 11, 2020
I wish comedians would stick to comedy. Rowan Atkinson is a Tory nob. And TBF as a Tory there is an expectation for him to be one.He’s not alone though….Centrist comedians, whose livelihoods depend on the fascist media can be even more damaging to the cause of Socialism.
— Art Crunchy (@ArtCrunchy) August 11, 2020
However, it wasn’t all bad news, as many applauded the actor for taking a stance. The backlash boomeranged into support for Atkinson and people began sharing footage of the comedian discussing free speech back in 2012.
Rowan Atkinson is trending on Twitter for daring to defend free speech. He’s been one of the most brilliant advocates of it throughout his career. pic.twitter.com/KnQ31qRZlx
— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) August 11, 2020
“The reasonable and well-intended ambition to contain obnoxious elements in society, has created a society of an extraordinarily authoritarian and controlling nature. It is what you might call The New Intolerance, a new but intense desire to gag uncomfortable voices of dissent,” Atkinson argues in the resurfaced clip.
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