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Rowan Atkinson attacks gay hate law

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  1. Simon Murphy 19 Mar 2009, 4:30pm

    I understand his viewpoint but I think he is misguided. He says the following:

    “”To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom. The freedom to criticise ideas, any ideas – even if they are sincerely held beliefs – is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.””

    Being gay is not a belief – it is an inbuilt orientation that cannot be changed – the same as race.

    I agree that the freedom to criticise religion is an absolute right as religious belief is entirely voluntary and freely chosen.

    It is as equally irrational and ridiculous to criticise someone’s sexual orientation as it is to criticise their race.

    1. MamaMeggie 9 Aug 2012, 5:20pm

      I think that quote muddied the water in this piece. The quote about race/religion was about an entirely different matter, and nothing to do with sexuality. It had only to do with freedom of speech, as does his current argument against the so called ‘hate’ clause.
      His entire premise is that protection should be given to what people ARE (i.e. gay, a member of an ethnic minority, etc.) but not to what they believe (i.e. religion, racism).

  2. Sad bugger must have a book out soon.

  3. Simon, to be fair, the quote you refer to was with regards to religion, not sexual orientation.

    I’m a bit ambivalent on this issue, I see his point, freedom of speech is important. But I don’t know exactly what this law entails so I’ll shut up about it for now.

  4. Only 2nd rate comedians use discrimination for their stand up shows.

    I hate it when I have to go on a weekend away down to Devon or Cornwall and the hotel entertainments are a homophobic comedian.

  5. simon I agree with you.

  6. Ryan Haynes - fyi radio 19 Mar 2009, 6:03pm

    I think it is a worry that some comedians say things by accident – they slip up – they play on caricatures, they use stereotypes and everyone knows it. Rowan’s worry is – take this away then what we laugh at is in-jokes only understood by a few.

    That comedy is about the masses and the general perception or stereotype… I can see how comedy will struggle. However most comedy especially by gay comedians is directed at themselves nowadays and not the audience or individuals.

  7. I will now boycott ‘Oliver’…..

  8. Crain, Rowan Atkinson is not a second rate comedian. He’s first rate and beond.

    He’s also misguided. A lot of people outside the queer comunity don’t realise how detrimental hate speach is. He’s a white heterosexual male, chances are he’s never had his culture and his people visiosly atacked by priests, by bigots, or beaten in the streets simply for being diferent. He needs to learn the reasons behind the laws and their implications; stoping people activly encoraging their folowers to murder gay people isn’t just ‘sending the right message’.

  9. Why doesn’t he see race and sexuality as being equal? I’d have thought someone like him could have known better.

  10. I agree, John. He just doesn’t get it.

    “He cited Christian groups as being “particularly concerned” the law will be used against them, adding that “heavy-handed police intervention” had been used before in instances of groups condemning gays and lesbians”

    I’m guessing he wouldn’t dream of saying that the law had been ‘heavy-handed dealing with groups condemning black people’. How can he think it’s acceptable to allow groups to condemn LGBT people? It’s the same thing, Rowan.

  11. I can’t help but feel that Rowan Atkinson has got things a bit mixed up here, for I got the impression that he originally objected to censoring views about religion. Religion is a dogma, and homosexuality is a state of being. It would not be any more right to poke fun at gay people than it would be to poke fun at black people. However, the idiocy of organised religion is fair game because it is not the same thing.

  12. I am gay, and an atheist, but if someone wants to say that I am sinful, against God, a perversion of nature… is their right to say it. A free society with free speech, is more important than anything. If we lose free speech, what rights will we lose next?

  13. Race and sexuality are not the same, because sexuality cuts across races.

  14. I will never watch anything that comes from this man !

  15. Rowan…who? He’s a shite comedian anyway and hasn’t done anything remotly funny since Not the 9 O’ Clock News and that was only funny because of Pamela Stephenson.

  16. Maybe Lord Roy, Chubby Brown, will put him right.

    All the best.

  17. Anthony – I agree. And I was very surprised by his stance too.

  18. I call for a boycott of Rowan atkinson by the gay community. It`s not ok to spew out hatred against me and my kind.its not ok now nor has it ever been or ever will be. rowan best u shut up u stupid idiot.

  19. Sorry Rowan you have lost me too although I had already lost interest long ago in your comedy.Its time homophobia was faced full on in all the arts. You are setting LGT’s up for even more shite in the future and that is not acceptable as the pope is finding out fast.

  20. David Griff 20 Mar 2009, 4:45am

    I don’t think he’s trying to speak out against the law itself. The substance of it doesn’t really seem to be his problem, he seems to have a problem with the consequences of the law on society, which might be a legitimate concern for a comedian if, but I’m not sure maybe he is just being heterosexist.

  21. Mr.Atkinson, being gay is NOT a belief. Sadly being an ignorant second rate has-been comic is.

    1. uh, no its not?

  22. sensibly common 20 Mar 2009, 8:39am

    Just to clarify, the UK has no guarantees of free speech and it never has. You’re probably thinking of the USA.

    We already have enough protection for minorities thanks to laws against incitement to violence, and unequal treatment based on gender, race, religion and sexual preference.

    But don’t forget that those who spew bile and vitriol about minorities will themselves be marginalised and shunned anyway. If someone’s that offensive, then the general public will already know it.

    By changing the law, you can change what individuals do – but you can’t change attitudes. That takes generations.

  23. Well by not wishing to have LGBT people protected he might as well join the BNP and show his true colours – he clearly wants them to have free speach too

  24. Abi Chrisopher 20 Mar 2009, 9:33am

    I thought Rowan Atkinson had stopped doing Mr Bean. Though this idea could of come from Baldrick. Maybe Rowan Atkinson is just worried about the future of BBC comedy when they can not take the piss out of the LGBT any more.

    Free speech is not free if it comes at the cost of the people your talking about.

  25. Vulpus_rex 20 Mar 2009, 9:38am

    I think the point RA is trying to make is that with the introduction of this law would David Williams have been able to indtroduce “The only gay in the village” to the world? He thinks not.

    If David williams can get away with this, then why not a straight actor?

    If we are going to protect people from “Hate speech” then why isn’t the government introducing a similar law for people whith ginger hair?

  26. Watch Not the Nine O’Clock news and Blackadder – it gives you a pretty good idea of RW’s attitudes towards us.

  27. Christina Engela 20 Mar 2009, 10:43am

    Rowan Atkinson says: “To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom.”

    Since when is sexual orientation anything less than an inborn trait like race?

    Nobody expects comedians to censor themselves more than usual – even I can appreciate a few good GLBT jokes – I even tell a few myself – but surely he must realize that the aim of such a law is to ban HATE speech – emphasis on HATE.

    I used to be, right up until this moment, a fan of Atkinson, be it for Mr Bean, Black Adder or Keeping Mum – but that is IT.

    How can I ever laugh at his comedy again knowing that he values antiquated laws that allow vicious bigots to target innocent people?

    I will never support him again.

  28. Christina Engela 20 Mar 2009, 10:57am

    I used to be, right up until this moment, a fan of Atkinson, be it for Mr Bean, Black Adder or Keeping Mum – but that is IT.

    How is discrimination against sexual orientation in the form of HATE speech in any way different from racism? Is sexual orientation and gender identity not also an inborn trait like race?

    People do not expect comedians to stop making good natured jokes involving GLBT – I enjoy a few, and even retell them myself. However, Mr Atkinson is losing sight of the difference between good natured humor and actual HATE speech – which is what these new laws are all about.

    And yes, freedom of speech does not come free if it costs those at the receiving end – and what have GLBT people ever done to Mr Atkinson? Are we not also fans? For what reason does he choose to side with human rights abusers?

    I used to be, up until today.

    How can I ever enjoy any of his work again, knowing that he has, unprovoked, taken a stand against people like me and decided to throw in his lot with bigots and fascists who protect their own rights, but not the rights of others whom they choose to look down on.

    My dvd collection of his series is going out in the next garage sale. I will never support him again and I hope no-one else does either.

  29. @All the people attacking Rowan, he’s a nice guy and doesn’t deserve this. I dated his cousin a few years back and can tell you he has no issue with gay people whatsoever. He does seem to be missing the distinction between inciting hatred and having a laugh at someone’s expense though – the latter should always remain free; that I agree with.

    I just wish I knew how all the people defending incitement of hatred managed to get their views lumped into the general “political correctness gone mad” canard- it’s highly irritating.

  30. Go tell those jokes to the family of michael causer, mr atkinson…

    There is a fine line. Crossed many times by stand up comedians. You can ridicule and criticise something that they choose – like an opinion, religion. But not sexuality, race.

    By the way – our freedom of expression, when it concerns religion, is curtailed. If I decide to rip up a bible in front of placard waving fanatics condemning me to eternal hell – I am the one who can expect to be arrested, for breaking ‘religious hate laws’. (It shows you can get convicted of thought crime, as I do actually hate religion).

  31. PS It’s often gay comedians that make the gay community look stupid, or typecast us. ‘only gay in the village’, the inane graham norton, etc just help reinforce dumb prejudices. As vulpus rex hints at above.

  32. Yep, Atkinson is just PLAIN WRONG here. Sexual orientation is an inherent characteristic. Religion is a choice – even if it was imposed upon you as a child, you can still choose to reject it in later life. But you can’t fight your sexual orientation. Atkinson ought to know better, being in showbiz. I suggest that despite people thinking he couldn’t possibly be homophobic, HE IS.

    Boycott anything Atkinson does. He’s a stupid LITTLE man.

  33. I most certainly agree with Simon

  34. It’s amazing what a modicum of success in the revival of ‘Oliver’, and a minor resurgence to his career can do to this man.
    However his comments have shown him to be a true bigot, even though he probably doesn’t realise it. Does he really think that we can go on being humiliated, laughed at, ridiculed, and sometimes beaten up and occasionally murdered just so that he and his like can go on making puerile, sniggering jokes about us on TV and radio and in the press? Perhaps he will now go ahead and join the BMP where his sort belong.

  35. yeah i meant the BNP sorry for the typo

  36. As long as it doesn’t incite violence people should have the right to say what evver they want. We don’t have to like it. And they will probably make themselves look like idiots, but they should have the right to say it.

  37. yeah that is unwise of him, he got really offended when journalists merely asked him about how his marriage is doing but it’s ok to hurt other people’s feeling. Mr Bean? No. More like Mr. Bean-head.

  38. Rowan was indeed a talented and funny man ‘once upon a time’, but the old duffer’s getting on a bit now, and by the sound of it, he’s gone a bit soft in the head too.

    He can’t seem to tell the difference between the illegitimacy of inciting hatred – and the violence often consequent upon that – and inappropriate policing methods.

    They’re not the same thing, Rowan. You’re over-the-hill and long since out of touch with what’s going on in the world of vitriolic, queerbashing fundamentalist religion and reactionary politics. The religious world does not consist merely in the doddering, but likeable ageing liberal Anglican vicars you lamely impersonate.

    If you’re so courageous, Rowan, let’s see you impersonate some ranting, murderous wingnut of a Muslim Imam!

    Where are YOUR cojones, Williamson?

  39. Oops!

    I meant, where are your cojones, Atkinson!

  40. Anyone remember his ‘not the nine o’clock news” sketch when he joked about god hating gays? I remember everyone at school ranting it word for word at anyone they thought was gay. Should have been against the law then….but as of now….grow a spine man!

  41. Brian Burton 23 Mar 2009, 3:11pm

    What a Minefield every one has to tip-toe around!

  42. I agree Brian – anyone would think RW had issued a fatwa against us all. If we really lived in a free and liberal society we’d know people wouldn’t like us, but we’d just get on with our lives, leaving them to their sad little narrow world. Someone saying they don’t like us and someone punching the living daylights out of us are 2 different things. Some pretty hateful things have been said about christians on this site, but I don’t feel incited to go and fire bomb a church!

  43. @Johnathan & Brian

    I think you’re missing the point here…

    The purpose of the legislation was not to stop lame comedians telling tasteless & unfunny jokes.

    The purpose of this legislation was to prevent the kind of hate-speech that leads to violence (primarily by fundamentalist religionists & those touting reactionary politics), and the point of the get-out clause was for the benefit of religionists to allow them to continue using expressions like ‘Abomination’ ‘Pervert’ & ‘Sodomite’ etc when referring to LGBT people.

    You may try to console yourselves by imagining that fundamentalist religion a rump that is in such rapid decline that it will have expired completely in the UK very soon. Recent statistics suggest otherwise, however, and in the meantime, many people will suffer avoidable psychological and physical harm because of this needlessly inflamatory use of language. It is perfectly possible for religionists to say that, in their view, homosexual practice is wrong, or a sin, without using hateful & derogatory language like that.

    But they CHOOSE to use this kind of language, and they do so for some very obvious reasons…

  44. Don’t see anything wrong with his views, because well we’ve seen Blackadder character Lord Flasheart, were he is potrayed as an idiot Macho heterosexual. So I do not see why homosexuals should be different? There are funny characteristics about both straight and gay people, no doubt about that. So I do not see a reason for homosexuals to be isolated from the comedy world. Isn’t equality what homosexuals want?

  45. Mike R. Paul 27 Nov 2010, 9:59pm

    Mr. Atikinson has shown a libertarian streak with his former criticism of anti religious hate legislation. however this hardline tendency towards free speech finds its limitations in the notion that both bills were developed on the basis of protecting the ability to argue such issues. the bills devoted to preventing hate speech against religions is based on allowing persons to hold beliefs while legislation to halt anti LGBT speech prevents the use of beliefs as incendiary attermpts to direct harm to a particuliar group. the very nature of religion itself makes it a need to place boundaries not around it but around ideas that it may threaten, it is not about censorship, as free speech is not indicative to campaigning, as most anti LGBT groups attempt to do. it is about preseving ideas so that they may coexist without catastrophic.consequuences. mr. Atikinson is certaintly no bigot- but he may be an alarmist, as most libiertarians are, critical of the government and fear of some orwellian nightmare. however when it comes down to it, if legislation is worded to protect individual freedoms, than there can be no harm done.

  46. The problem is RA seems to be railing against the possibility that gays will never be able to be criticised, or have any of their behaviour held up to any sort of scrutiny,- just because of sexual orientation, which has become a sort of uncrossable line. Christianity must continue to have a problem with allowing society to descend into ‘gay-friendly’ as God’s Word doesn’t allow them the ‘tolerance’ option. Homosexuality is in the same list as thieving and witchcraft, perhaps but not necessarily for the same reasons. Some posters state that being gay is not a belief. Those who have renounced the ‘gay lifestyle’ would beg to differ. Many of these postings are both blind and self-serving.

    1. There is no such thing as a ‘gay lifestyle’ there is being gay, being straight and being bisexual. Those men who claim they have been ‘cured’ are either repressing their true desires to their own detriment, or they are bisexual and repressing one half of their sexuality. I suppose everyone is free to destroy themselves, the problem comes when their behaviour destroys others.

  47. Most people who commented simply can’t read and analyze texts properly. Thus, their comments are reactionary, rather than critical. It seems more like Anti-Hate legislation is sensitive as It might become ambiguous. He may be more concerned about how people will start denouncing even the most trivial matters, which will lead to the “censoriousness” he speaks of. A distinct touchiness can already be noticed in most of the comments here.

  48. I hate “hate-speech”, but I also hate curtailment of freedom of speech… I know “hate-crimes” which are absolutely the consequence of “hate-speech” but I still hate the curtailment of freedom of speech. At a practical level I think it tends drives people underground and then we dont know where the danger is… and we can’t have the conversations that can change them. Some Christians have a persecution complex, cant take that seriously but I had a very start;ed evangelical preacher in Serbia who found he had a lesbian who would come to his church to defend his right to make a sermon. I did say that I hope he would look very very closely at all the other evils in the world and consider whether that would really his priority!

  49. The central issue of “homosexuality” is …Is it a) an inborn trait, human characteristic like being left handed or b) is it a choice…that question is at the very heart of this debate/struggle. It is therefore odd that as LGBT we dont focus on emphasising that it is an inborn trait.

  50. I am an American and a very open gay. Sure, I hear hate speech about gays, christians, blacks, and so forth. Restricting peoples speech is a slippery slope; we cannot tolerate controlling people’s right to say their beliefs no matter how hateful. If we limit gay bashing, which I hate, we can limit everyone’s speech and thus not knowing where they stand and creating a secret society.

    1. Yes. I wrote my comment below before seeing yours here. It’s the same principle.

  51. Thing is, in places like the U.S., free speech (even defamatory speech) tends to be recognized as an inalienable right regardless of political stripes, because of the very same concerns about excess censorship in whichever direction. Maybe Rowan Atkinson is thinking more like an American. I loathe hate speech, and routinely report it to moderators in the privately-owned newspaper online comment forums. But whatever is spoken on a public sidewalk is understood to be fair game because of the 1st amendment. Public censorship laws make even the most fervent American gay rights advocate feel uneasy because the state can abuse them.

  52. I do not see the need for some comedians to single out or make money by victimising and humiliating people in the LGBT Community. We can laugh at ourselves and some of the things we do in the Community. But I do not agree that it is funny or intelligent to belittle the Gay Community and to make money out of it as well. To me that is cowardly because we are not there to defend the taunts or the ‘humour’. Mr Atkinson is a professional, a man of talent and loved by many and I understand the point he is making but a line has to be drawn somewhere. I, for one, am not going to be the brunt of homophobic or anti-gay jokes just to amuse a heterosexual homophobic audience. If you want to make jokes about us gays then it is going to cost you a fortune because I shall simple patent the LGBT Community and any jokes etc aimed at us will have to be paid for. And believe me, we are expensive and professional.

  53. Stuart Parsons 19 Oct 2012, 6:12pm

    Sadly many see homosexuality as a perversion which has been acquired. They will not accept that people are born that way. However, happily we have come a long way since the days when homosexuals were viewed as perverts and imprisoned. I take some comfort in the view that we are at least now pointed in the right direction. I suspect however that it will be at least a million years before those who have been indoctrinated into the Cult of Muhammad begin to believe that homosexuals might just have been made rhat way by Allah. Perhaps when Allah has got a spare moment, he will send down another revelation saying, “Lo oh faithful followers I forgot to tell Muhammad that I made the followers of Lot different to those who fancy the contents of a burqa”

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