Ricky Gervais is treading dangerous ground by perfectly pegging the ‘cancel culture’ stealing rights to expression like a mugger coldcocking you in broad daylight.
One of the most crucial amendments to freedom in the US is the First Amendment prohibiting government control over our speech. The spirit of that amendment has led to US culture traditionally tolerating different points of view even in the private sector. Until now. It’s common for many of us to self-censor to avoid conflicts with numerous ‘social justice’ warriors keen on shutting down any speech they deem unacceptable.
Sadly, many in the entertainment and publishing worlds are happy to join the kill-speech bandwagon. Every now and then a top tier personality steps forward in an attempt to get across how important it is to keep free expression alive. That’s what Ricky Gervais did recently.
Gervais did a stint for talkRadio (UK), and he held nothing back when it came to saying what he thinks about the assault on free expression. It’s useful to point out the United Kingdom doesn’t have a First Amendment—it doesn’t even have the equivalent of the US Constitution. Whatever the UK Parliament does, the people must live with.
Most countries don’t have the equivalent of the First Amendment. That’s one reason international tech corporations are eager to limit speech—it makes it easier for social media, search engine, and other such interests to fit everyone into a cookie cutter box. Why make an exception for US citizens’ rights?
That paradigm has led to censorship. Personally, I think Twitter is the worst, although Facebook isn’t far behind when it comes to zapping speech a ‘content moderator’ might disagree with.
I often see political statements that I find unreasonable, even offensive. What I do agree with is that others have a right to express their opinions.
Gervais is a brave man. During his guest spot on the show, he said:
“The two catastrophic problems with the term ‘hate speech’ is, one, what constitutes hate speech? Everyone disagrees. There’s no consensus on what hate speech is. Two, who decides? And there’s the real rub because obviously the people who think they want to close down free speech because it’s bad are the fascists. It’s a really weird, mixed-up idea that these people hide behind a shield of goodness.”
Excerpts from his interview are summarized in an online article.
Hostility to free expression is common on campuses these days, with students apparently having no idea the value of speech they may not agree with. Recently an incoming freshman planning to attend Marquette University got a nasty wakeup call when her admission was threatened:
“An incoming freshman at Marquette University said the Milwaukee school threatened to cancel her admission after she posted a TikTok video expressing support for President Trump — and that she has been threatened for it, according to a report.”
What are the consequences for a university receiving large sums of federal money, when said university stomps on speech? Those consequences should be harsh. Shouldn’t a student be able to support whomever s/he wishes for any public office?
Young people have little knowledge of history, and even less knowledge about the US government. Gervais stepped up to the plate and did what 90 percent of the Tinseltownies in the United States haven’t done.
Gervais got on the soapbox to promote free expression. Would that we had dozens more like him.
~~Featured Photo: Society For Individual Liberty, Sponsor/Advertiser, and Distributor Society For Individual Liberty. Bill of Rights: Void where prohibited by law. , None. [Between 1969 and 1980] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017646848/.
(Kay B. Day/July 15, 2020)