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Mr Bean has offended those who love to be offended, but the joke’s on them – they just don’t realize it

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Mr Bean has offended those who love to be offended, but the joke’s on them – they just don’t realize it
Rowan Atkinson, one of Britain’s most loved actors, has suffered a torrent of verbal abuse for standing up for his beliefs in the most dignified of ways, by signing an open letter from the Humanist Society.

The crosshairs of the outraged woke brigade’s snipers are trained on their latest target, Atkinson. His alleged crime? Mr Bean came out publicly against Scotland’s proposed Hate Crime and Public Order Bill. It beefs up existing laws that sanction those who spout hate speech but also adds a new offense of “stirring up hatred.”

A coalition of artists, journalists, authors and campaigners have joined forces to block it.

Their main worry is that the bill will remove the need for proof of intent. In fact, the lower threshold for being guilty has led the Catholic Church to say it fears its members could break the law for possessing a Bible – as certain passages could be deemed inflammatory

Another facet of the debate is those who believe gender and identity are non-fluid, will be unlikely to make that view known without fear of legal proceedings.

The others joining Atkinson in standing against the bill are not what anyone would refer to as even remotely radical. By any measure, they are respected professionals without any history of stirring up controversy. They include feminist campaigner and best-selling crime writer Val McDermid, arts administrator Dame Seona Reid, and renowned philosopher Professor A.C. Grayling.

Even the cops don’t want it as they know they’ll be forced to arrest people for comments that will more than likely be twisted and deliberately misconstrued. The Police Federation said that it “appears to paralyze freedom of speech in Scotland.”

Still, it’s Mr Bean who’s been picked out as the perceived Achilles’ heel. After all, the British icon is a white man with a $130 million fortune – the embodiment of “privilege.”

But those bumping their gums calling Atkinson a socially-blind white elitist are the ones who’re actually out of touch.

He’s spent his career defending freedom of speech.

Along with insults and accusations of him promoting racism and bigotry appearing all over social media, there’s also a video of a talk that he delivered eight years ago

In it, he expresses his opinion in measured tones, consistent with the low-key and dignified manner in which he has signed the open letter from Scotland’s Humanist Society. It praises the intention of the bill, but highlights how it goes too far and will result in “stifling free expression.”

Even one of Atkinson’s most famous characters, Johnny English, is the antithesis of the elite, colonial, white stereotype. It’s a cutting parody of the epitome of white privilege, James Bond – a man who views women as conquests and has to save “lesser” nations from destruction. Atkinson’s version of the British super-spy in a black tuxedo is a blundering buffoon, whom no one respects.

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The same logic applies to Mr Bean, who on the surface is a simpleton on his own wavelength but he always comes out good in the end – there’s a fundamental humanity and decency to the character.

It’s clear Atkinson is an advocate for sparking debate and enlightenment, in his art and his personal beliefs.

And the only reason his opponents are able to openly air their own hostile views is because of an environment which the likes of him have helped to flourish over the years. It’s pointless to attempt to dissect the unfathomable rationale behind shutting down those who advocate free speech.

And anyone who equates the most basic of rights of airing your opinion to condoning racism, sexism or any other form of discrimination needs to get informed.

Even better, why don’t they take a leaf out of Mr Bean’s book and say nothing at all?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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