Freedom from Meaninglessness

Rowan Atkinson

Tom Jamieson for The New York Times.

I’m not a supporter of Boris Johnson. I have no interest in him or his political ambitions. [But] I do defend people who make jokes about religion. I was part of a campaign to oppose a Parliamentary bill [the Racial and Religious Hatred Act] in 2006 because I draw a distinction between race and religion, and I think religious practices and beliefs can and should be lampooned. It’s been quite a British tradition for many hundreds of years.

But it sort of bleeds through into the challenges of free speech in the modern era, and this new definition of free speech — which is free speech is fine as long as it doesn’t offend anybody. And free speech to me is completely meaningless if you can’t offend.

(Rowan Atkinson)

(Katharine Shattuck, “For Rowan Atkinson, Comedy Isn’t Always a Laughing Matter,” NYTimes, 11-3-18)

(Cc)2018 JMN.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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2 Responses to Freedom from Meaninglessness

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    Lots of comedians are speaking out against political correctness, as it pretty much kills comedy if you can’t poke fun at anyone, which means it kills careers. Jerry Seinfeld is certainly having none of it. Neither is John Cleese. Atkinson was careful to separate race from religion, but, even putting race entirely off the table as a topic for humor is going too far. I preferred when comedy failed from tastelessness than to it being prohibited on the front-side: when something would be considered tasteless rather than a potential crime against THE CAUSE (which has become, if not a religion, a believe system upheld by moralists who take offense at the slightest infractions and seek to destroy their perceived enemies in a battle for power and control over society). When you kill comedy, it should be a sign that you aren’t any fun and might be sliding into authoritarianism (always in the name of moral goodness).

    Liked by 1 person

    • JMN says:

      I agree about the failing from tastelessness being preferable. I think comedy is so important, and being able to laugh at ourselves and at others is good, not bad. The interview with Atkinson showed him to be such an intelligent person. The best comedians are. I love Seinfeld and Cleese. The very phrase “free speech” is being co-opted into vacant twaddle-talk, somewhat like your favorite, “toxic masculinity.” I hope our societies escape from the death grip of the specious moralists. It occurs to me in mulling this comment that the reason certain brands of humor start to invite outrage is because of the existence of real racism and bigotry outside of comedy. Item: A certain president of a certain country has never been observed to laugh.

      Liked by 1 person

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