Mr. Bean: We Must Be Allowed To Insult Each Other

from the yes,-that dept

We've been documenting a rather troubling trend in the UK of criminalizing comments that are insulting or in bad taste. Thankfully, some people are speaking out against such things, including comedian Rowan Atkinson -- best-known internationally as Mr. Bean, but famous in the UK for characters (especially Edmund Blackadder) built on caustic wit and elaborate insults. Atkinson has stepped up and argued for the freedom to insult each other in the UK.
He criticised the "new intolerance" as he called for part of it the Public Order Act to be repealed, saying it was having a "chilling effect on free expression and free protest".

Mr Atkinson said: "The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult."
These statements came as part of a campaign to roll back laws that have allowed this to happen, with a former government official, David Davis, pointing out the key thing -- you have no right not to be offended:
"The simple truth is that in a free society, there is no right not to be offended. For centuries, freedom of speech has been a vital part of British life, and repealing this law will reinstate that right."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Pinstar, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 10:39am

    Paint

    When someone like Mr. Bean, THE Authority on bad ideas, inventor of the 'dynamite in a paint can to paint the room' 'do-it-yourself dentistry' and 'trying to drive your car out the in lane of a parking garage'... is saying your law is a bad idea... I think that says something.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 12:29pm

      Re: Paint

      Absolutely. Who is a better authority to voice concerns in this area than someone who has spent his life pushing buttons and boundaries of acceptability? If Britain values him (I think the Olympics would support that assertion), they ought to also value the principles that made him successful.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 4:21pm

      Re: Paint

      I get your enthusiasm but Mr. Bean isn't doing anything.

      Rowan Atkinson is a very intelligent man and a fantastic actor. To downplay his opinion as coming from a bumbling character seems counter-productive.

      Also Blackadder is much better than Bean, does you

       

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    sehlat (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 10:50am

    They'd jail Churchill under this law.

    Two examples:

    Lady Astor: Winston, if you were my husband, I'd poison your tea.

    Winston: My dear, if you were my wife, I would drink it.

    ----

    On Aneurin Bevan: "He will be a great curse to this country in peace as he was a squalid nuisance in time of war." and "I can think of no better step to signal the inauguration of the National Health Service than that a person who so obviously needs psychiatric attention should be among the first of its patients."

     

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      Baldaur Regis (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:53am

      Re: They'd jail Churchill under this law.

      When caustic wit is outlawed, only outlaws will be interesting to talk to...the question is not whether a comment is insulting or in bad taste, but rather what level of blandness a society can tolerate before being bored to death.

       

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 3:06pm

      Re: They'd jail Churchill under this law.

      Oh you don't need to go nearly as far back as Churchill...

      "Like being savaged by a dead sheep." - Denis Healy ,Chancellor in the late 70's, describing an attack by Geoffrey Howe of the shadow cabinet.

      "A semi-trained polecat." - Michael Foot on Norman Tebbit in the 80's

      "The honourable member for two tube stations." - Nicholas Fairbairn on Frank Dobson, MP for Holborn and St Pancras

      "Atilla the Hen." Clement Freud on Margaret Thatcher

      "The Self-appointed king of the gutter" - Michael Heseltine on Neil Kinnock after an attack on Margaret Thatcher

      "If I was in the gutter, and i ain't, he'd still be looking up at me from the sewer." - Kinnock on Heseltine

      Rowan Atkinson is right... it would be a little hyperbolic to suggest that the erosion of free speech by nannying, dare-not-offend-anybody political correctness is destroying the UK "democracy", but I'd say it could have a good shot at making the top 20 list.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 10:52am

    Thought police.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 10:54am

    It's illegal to offend someone by making statements about their beliefs? Well, then by all rights it should be illegal for the scientologists to come knocking at my door trying to sell their religion; I find it offensive as hell. There were a few Jehova's Witnesses too a while back. Better get the police to track them down.

    Yeah, this counter-movement is sorely needed, not just in the UK, but in every single country on the planet.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 12:32pm

      Re:

      Doesn't it also follow that the situation would be recursive?

      JW: You're going to hell! (goes to jail)
      You: That's stupid and offensive! (goes to jail)
      JW: I'm offended at your offense, you blasphemer! (goes to more jail)
      ... and so on.

       

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    David (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:01am

    You go Mister Bean

    You go Mister Bean, even if you are a weird little twit.

     

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      justok (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 12:17pm

      Re: You go Mister Bean

      He's 5 ft 11.25 in (I think that's about 3 stones in English units). Hardly "little".

       

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        Beta (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 1:19pm

        they've gone back to metric without tellin' us

        A Stone is a measure of electrical current, you're thinking of an Imperial Weber-furlong.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 1:56pm

          Re: they've gone back to metric without tellin' us

          Gods, the ignorance here is amazing.
          A stone has numerous definitions
          it is for example one member of a rock band
          it is also a method of getting high
          it is also a sibilant measure of weight with the non sibilant version equal to 907 kilograms and the sibilant being equal to 907 skilograms

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 5:53pm

            Re: Re: they've gone back to metric without tellin' us

            All named after the immeasurable St. One.

             

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            Niall (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:05am

            Re: Re: they've gone back to metric without tellin' us

            The ignorance here is beyond amazing :)

            A 'stone' in British use is a measure of weight equal to 14 pounds, or 6.35 kg. Most people give their weight in stone (sing & pl.) in colloquial speech.

            But it's certainly nothing to do with height.

             

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          G Thompson (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 8:38pm

          Re: they've gone back to metric without tellin' us

          Watt?

           

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 2:30pm

        Re: Re: You go Mister Bean

        I didn't know he was anorexic.

         

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    Matt Williams (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:05am

    Full video

     

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    Mesonoxian Eve (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:10am

    Behind every law is a victim. Those who wrote the law fail to consider the abuse it will receive, creating more victims.

    Laws aren't design to protect. They're designed to punish those who carry no respect, common sense, or dignity to others.

     

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      Lord Binky, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:37am

      Re:

      Ehhh.. I beg to differ on that.

      Laws are there to discourage actions, which is essentially protection.

      The repercussion of breaking laws is punishment- weakening behavior because a negative condition is experienced as a consequence of the behavior.

      The punishment being twisted to address not correcting the behavior, but to address improving another person’s feelings about an event makes the whole thing a muddled mess that loses sight of the original intent.

       

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    Mike Martinet (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:11am

    Bloody Hell

    You would think, what with George Bleedin' Orwell being a British citizen, that this would never have been an issue.

    Sods!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 12:44pm

      Re: Bloody Hell

      Given the world record in public cameras in UK, it seems 1984 is seen more as a roadmap than something negative.

      Thought police is also active in Germany (nazi-sympathy is outlawed.)

      And France has several ridiculous laws about making it illegal to deny the armenian genocide or holocaust.

      European leaders have a horrible way of bending free speech to mean less, just to "protect" a minoritys feelings. Great Britain is actually one of the place I did not think the free speech denying was common.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 3:23am

      Re: Bloody Hell

      Faked photo but ...

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:12am

    so which knob brain brought this law in? under what pretense did that knob head bring it in? what other equally as big a knob heads agreed with the one that introduced it? when the hell is this self-interested, do-gooder society gonna either come to it's senses or leave everyone else that disagrees with it the hell alone?

     

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    PaulT (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:23am

    "Rowan Atkinson -- best-known internationally as Mr. Bean, but famous in the UK for characters (especially Edmund Blackadder)"

    Rowan Atkinson should be known worldwide for Blackadder rather than Bean, if you ask me. Oh well, I suppose Bean's just easier to translate to other cultures...

     

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 12:26pm

      Re:

      Rowan Atkinson should be known worldwide for Blackadder rather than Bean, if you ask me. Oh well, I suppose Bean's just easier to translate to other cultures...

      I concur -- I made Mike add that caveat to the post :)

      But yeah, the ease of translation is key, so I guess it makes sense. Germans love him, apparently.

       

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        G Thompson (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 8:50pm

        Re: Re:

        Well the yanks only just 'discovered' Doctor Who, so stating that he has other characters is at least a good start. Though you might confuse em by showing that Blackadder was actually 4 different people set over 4 different periods in time/history played by the same person (Rowan) ;) who constantly and absolutely offended everyone, and there dog.

        Hmmm, maybe this UK law was made to protect Baldrick.. poor Baldrick ;)

         

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 1:46pm

      Re:

      I think he should be well known for both. I never understood how his fans are split into two camps. What I find so especially intriguing about him is that he practices two different fields of comedy (imho) perfectly: Mostly silent slapstick AND wordy, depp thoughtful satire. And THAT FACT should be what he should be known for.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 1:47pm

        Re: Re:

        And yes, I'm German.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 1:48pm

        Re: Re:

        Sorry, DEPP thoughtful satire should of course read 'deep' and so on.

         

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          art guerrilla (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 6:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          ja, vee zought zyou meant zee johann deppian school of zee thoughtful satire...

          (calm down, inertnest, its okay: i have german ancestry, i have special dispensation to mock them...)
          hee hee hee

          art guerrilla
          aka ann archy
          eof

           

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 2:06pm

        Re: Re:

        I never understood how his fans are split into two camps.
        But you've just explained it. Envision a Venn diagram with fans of silent slapstick in one circle and fans of wordy, deep, thoughtful satire (not to mention laced with topical references for history nerds) in the other. Do you not expect the region of intersection to be rather slight? (Personally I love Black Adder but don't care for Bean)

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 3:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Actually, I said that I can see THAT they are split, but that I can't understand WHY. I don't see how loving slapstick automatically means rejecting satire.

          I'm not talking about fans of slapstick and fans of satire who, because of their respective preferences, merely happen to like what R.A. does.

          I'm talking of fans of Rowan Atkinson.

          Camp A: 'He was so great as Blackadder, but this Bean crap is just shtoopid.'

          Camp B: 'Blockheader was nothing but hot air and big words, but Bean is ART!'

          If you look at his early live shows, he has ALWAYS mixed both styles. Some skits like this, some like that. Also, why do people have to limit themselves in such a terribly narrow fashion? Comedy is an at least 20 sided die and every side has something going for it. You don't have to LOVE them all, but I don't see how you can't love several of them (like slapstick, satire and plain sillyness) for their respective virtues.

          So to answer your question about my expecting the intersection to be rather slight: No, I absolutely wouldn't expect that people willingly limit themselves so severely.

           

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            Leigh Beadon (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 4:23pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Good point - some of the live stuff where he blends it is fantastic (A Day In The Life Of The Invisible Man comes to mind)

            I respect his work as Bean, and recognize its talent, and I liked it a lot as a kid. I'm glad I've seen all the Bean episodes here and there (and even got something of a kick out of the movie) -- but as far as something with re-watch value, and something that I will actively evangelize in an attempt to get others to enjoy it, it's Blackadder all the way.

             

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 8:13pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          and I think both are brilliant

           

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 3:20pm

      Re:

      Personally I remember him fondly from "Not The Nine O'Clock News".... but I guess I'm just showing my age.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 3:39pm

        Re: Re:

        I, for one, have only ever seen one or two episodes (probably the two 'best of' episodes) on the french/german channel 'arte'.

        If the BBC released the series on DVD or as downloads, I'm sure many of his fans (and fans of the other cast members, of course) would eagerly buy it. And I'd greatly prefer watching complete episodes instead of bits'n pieces on YouTube.

        Didn't it also take a whole lot of 'lobbying' by fans to get the BBC to finally release 'A Bit of Fry & Laurie' DVDs?

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 4:10pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          regarding the 'news' on arte, I am suddenly not so sure anymore whether it was arte or not. Even if it was, it was over 10 years ago, so it's really a bit hazy.

           

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    Paul Brinker, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:24am

    Are the law Retroactive?

    This would be the most wonderful array of tossing everyone in jail at the same time as I doubt anyone alive has not been offended at least once in there life.

    Those who do not end up in jail will rule the world, sadly it may as well be jail by then.

     

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      Lord Binky, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:48am

      Re: Are the law Retroactive?

      There is zero reason for laws to be retroactive. The point of a law is to dissuade/prevent behavior, after the behavior has occurred, is punishing someone later for what was originally legal, going to change the initial behavior? Not with how Time works so far, so any reasons why you would apply punishments retroactively are not in-line with the purpose of laws.

       

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    c.meyer (profile), Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 11:24am

    Repeat, but a good repeat

    Steve Hughes did a sketch on this a few years ago. If you look him up on youtube, he says almost the exact same thing, that you have no right not to be offended...

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 12:04pm

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”


    Written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall In her biography of Voltaire, hence its frequent mis-attribution to Voltaire.
    This seems a good summary of Free speech.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 12:25pm

    I would Vote for him.
    Not The Nine O'Clock News - American Election Candidate

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfuN9HRDVZY

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 3:09pm

    It's when Mr. Bean really makes me think....

     

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    Niall (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:09am

    Doctor Don't

    Don't forget that Rowan Atkinson has also (sort of unofficially) played Doctor Who for Comic Relief!

     

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    The Real Michael, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:59am

    What else is new?

    Another day brings another excuse by a government body to control and punish its own citizens.

     

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