Free speech is under attack, and conservatives are leading the resistance.
There are exceptions, of course.
Three prominent liberals -- Alan Dershowitz, Cornel West and Van Jones -- speak up for free expression in the documentary “No Safe Spaces.”
Monty Python alums Terry Gilliam and John Cleese scorch PC sensibilities from the left. Progressive comic Sarah Silverman and center-left star Jim Gaffigan are having second thoughts about woke bullies.
Still, few prominent voices defend speech better, or with more clarity, than left-leaning comic Ricky Gervais.
The “Office” superstar is scheduled to host the Golden Globes gala Jan. 5. That’s assuming he isn’t fired first.
Gervais enraged trans activists over the weekend with a series of Tweets deemed “transphobic.” Just don’t expect Gervais to apologize. He’s a comedian, first of all, not a politician. And, unlike many of his peers, he doesn’t do the “apology tour.”
That rarely stops the usual suspects from trying to “cancel” him. It hasn’t worked yet, but they keep trying.
Which leads us to a new interview Gervais gave to the UK Spectator. The wide-ranging chat covered the comic’s humor principles, free speech and much more.
Not every celebrity is eloquent on the subjects they care deeply about. Consider Oscar winner Robert De Niro’s weekly fusillades against President Donald Trump. Even Trump’s harshest critics might find the actor’s attacks unhinged.
Gervais’ defense of free speech is smart, powerful and thought-provoking. Consider the following seven quotes as prime examples. Note: Please read the original Spectator interview in its entirety. It’s well worth your time.
I’m playing the idiot. That’s what irony is. It’s the opposite of what you actually think. You wouldn’t satirise an idea that you fundamentally agreed with and get excited about it as an artist.
It’s a near-perfect defense of a comedian’s right to explore tough issues without cultural handcuffs.
The new puritans … [are] a younger crowd with trendy haircuts, who you’d think would have left-leaning liberal sensibilities, who have invented this new term “hate speech.”
He’s right, of course. Just gander at your average college campus … or watch “No Safe Spaces.”
These so-called activists … they’re the people who go on a good march to smash windows and they make the 95 per cent who are peaceful marchers look bad.
Gervais goes on to defend sincere trans activists who speak up without resorting to violence.
The people who’ve had to endure real racism throughout their lives are the ones being hurt, because now the term “racist” is meaningless.
Play the Race Card 24/7 and what happens next? As Adam Carolla often says, it’s a fine time to be an actual racist because everyone else is getting the label now. The legitimate bigots get mixed in with decent people unfairly maligned as monsters.
A lot of the things I say I don’t believe. And it’s a sliding scale. It’s non-binary. Sometimes I mean it and sometimes I 100 per cent don’t mean it. And if I have to explain which bits I mean and which I don’t, that destroys it.
Ever try to explain a joke? Has it ever ended well?
I want people to stop saying “That joke is offensive.” You should say you found it offensive because you’ve got to own the emotion. That’s all it is. It’s an emotion, an opinion.
This shouldn’t need to be said in modern times, but here we are.
You mustn’t, because that’s the end. The end of satire and the erosion of freedom of speech based on people’s feelings will have a catastrophic effect.
That’s Gervais sharing why he doesn’t apologize for his jokes.
Some comics don’t have to apologize these days. They self-censor to avoid getting canceled. Our best and brightest minds won’t go near certain topics for that very reason. Compare that to how Dave Chappelle made audiences think beyond their ideological positions during his Netflix special, “Sticks & Stones.” That’s comedy at its most profound, and the Thought Police want to stamp it out.
Gervais is fighting back so that won’t happen. It still might, of course, but he’s ready for any contingency. Here’s his 2018 take on the Police PC and the hypocrisy behind holding comedians to a new, unreasonable standard.
“For the first couple of years, every month someone said ‘It’s the end of his career.’ The first time it happens it worries you. The next couple you just think it’s ridiculous. I’ve got to break the law to end my career, or give up. And in light of what’s happened in the last couple of years, we’ve realised telling a rude joke is not the worst thing you can do in entertainment.”