The Thinking 

Mr. Bean Objects to Britain’s Hate Speech Law

November 1, 2012


ROWAN ATKINSON, the British actor, spoke out recently against Britain’s draconian hate speech law, which has led to hundreds of arrests for those who have violated liberal rules of etiquette, such as the man who called a police horse “gay.” The “right to insult and offend” is basic to British tradition, Atkinson said. He stated:

“‘I’m not intolerant,’ say many softly-spoken, highly educated liberal-minded people. ‘I’m only intolerant of intolerance.’ And people tend to nod sagely and say, ‘Oh yes, wise words, wise words.’ And yet if you think about this supposedly inarguable statement for longer than five seconds you realize that all it is advocating is the replacement of one kind of intolerance with another.”

The law, he said, is “indicative of a culture that has taken hold of the program of successive governments that with the reasonable and well-intentioned ambition to contain obnoxious elements in society, has created a society of an extraordinarily authoritarian and controlling nature.”

—- Comments —–

Terry Morris writes:

Funny word, “tolerance.” It implies disagreement with a thing. If one agrees with something, he does not tolerate it, he embraces it. So essentially the self-styled “intolerant-of-intolerance” crowd will not allow non-embracement of anything it embraces. At least not openly. I suppose you can think anything you want, as long as you keep it to yourself.

Laura writes:


The real issue is not the people who are convicted of hate speech, as bad as those convictions are, but the fact that everyone must embrace, at least in public, the reigning ideology. That’s tyranny.

Kevin M. writes:

In 1999, I spent eight spectacular days in the Czech Republic. Fascinating culture. I was very strongly encouraged to begin all conversations with the expresson, “Dobre den!” (good day). I was told I would be treated harshly if I didn’t. People who engage others in conversation without this small but highly valued benediction (if I use the term correctly) are not worth talking to, my Czech host assured me. Sure enough, I got distracted while in a leather shop and forgot to say Dobre den to the clerk, an attractive young woman maybe 15 years my junior. Her eyes got rather large, she turned on her heels and walked away from me. Then I blurted out about a dozen dobre dens to make up for my opprobrious transgression. In all my travels that was the only time I felt self-conscious about being an American.

Tolerance is an interesting thing. In the States we seem to think of it as being a good thing. It isn’t. Intolerance is much more effective a tool to ensure your culture doesn’t descend into the sewer. Decide what you do not want as part of the cultural landscape and never put up with it. In Prague, every waiter or waitress, every shopkeeper, bank clerk–everyone–is entitled to be wished a good day if you expect them to assist you. If you don’t abide, you will be turned away. And as a result, Prague is a very civil city. In America, the dollar is the new god and the customer is always right. How pernicious.

We put up with everything here, and as a result our society is ill-mannered, uncivil, and often grotesque. Those are the fruits of tolerance.

Jane S. writes:

I find it helpful to revisit, from time to time, Lawrence Auster’s brilliant article about how the tolerance of liberalism leads to intolerance.

It is one of my all-time favorite pieces of his. He does a peerless job of explaining this paradox.

 Winnie writes:

Another thoughtful Englishman had this to say about tolerance:

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions” – GK Chesterton

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