Yesterday I told you about “Bean Dad,” a.k.a. John Roderick, the hapless podcaster who tweeted out a really long, very weird story about making his daughter open a can of beans herself. In return for his efforts, Roderick instantly became Twitter Enemy #1. Tens of thousands of complete strangers suddenly decided he was the worst person in the world, and they focused all their venomous rage on him until he capitulated and groveled for the forgiveness of his tormentors.
I couldn’t think of a good Mr. Bean joke,* but Rowan Atkinson came to mind because he’s been banging the drum against cancel culture for some time now. He’s an eloquent advocate for the principle of free speech, in the face of an entire group of people who use their free speech to silence people they don’t like. As it turns out, the guy who’s most famous for rarely talking is actually quite good at it.
Online cancel culture is like a “medieval mob looking for someone to burn”, Rowan Atkinson has claimed.
The star of Blackadder and Mr Bean has long advocated for free speech and has campaigned against legislation he believes stifles expression…
The actor believes this culture of “cancelling” individuals is a threat both to the victims of the online mob and to the future of free speech.
“It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion,” Atkinson told the Radio Times. “But what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn…”
“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. It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. If you’re against us, you deserve to be ‘cancelled’.”
If anything, Atkinson’s comparison is an insult to medieval mobs. Back then, at least those violently insane bigots limited their damage to one village at a time. Their influence was limited to how far they could throw their torches and pitchforks. Today, the roaming online outrage mob will go after anyone, anywhere, for any reason or no reason at all.
An increasing number of people seem to believe that free speech doesn’t count if it makes them angry. And pretty much everything makes them angry. So they spend a lot of time exercising their own free speech rights to explain why you need to shut up. If you refuse to shut up, they come up with all sorts of crazy lies about you. If you still won’t shut up, you’re “doubling down.”
There’s no such thing as hate speech. There’s just speech that somebody hates.
Every day of my life, people say things to me that would be considered hate speech if I were a liberal. But I’m not a liberal, so nothing is done. And because I’m not a liberal, I don’t want anything to be done. Scream at me all you want. It’s not my problem.
I don’t want anybody telling me what I can and can’t say in the United States of America. The price of that freedom is that I can’t tell anybody else what they can and can’t say. It’s more than worth the price because I’m not a miserable totalitarian fascist Democrat.
Okay, now you can scream at me to shut up. I won’t do any good, but it’s your time on this planet and I won’t try to take away your right to waste it.
*Yeah, I know, I know. Thinking of good jokes isn’t really my thing.