“I’ll tolerate your hobbies if you tolerate mine.”–Hagbard Celine.
I hope you can forgive my erros, and mistakes on contemplating Karl Popper and Johnny English. I think Rowan Atkinson has bumbled around the philosophy of Karl Popper, and missed the subtle nuance of Popper’s Paradox of intolerance. For example, the concept of limits, where to draw the line (using specific cases) and when to tolerate the intolerant in the defence of tolerance, needs some open debate. Damn straight.
Consider WWII, the slightly more tolerant allies fought back against the very very intolerant Axis powers. Arguably, when Nazi’s and fascist groups organize and rise up, and market themselves well, and go on the march recruiting and grooming others with lies, it’s time to become a bit intolerant of their intolerance, to a degree. I said, “a bit intolerant” A paradox of intolerance? I think that the paradox comes with the territory of absolutism, what we need are shades of meaning, specific examples to stretch and synthesize the limits of any given definition.
Karl Popper rallied against solving arguments with “fists and pistols”, and I think that his entire life’s work was aimed toward creating a culture of tolerant, open debate, what Rowan calls “robust dialogue”. The difference, between Rowan and his defence of Boris Johnson’s cheap joke, seems to me to be, that Popper only too well understands that the power and dangers of unmitigated Nazi and Fascist propaganda, a worrying monopoly on the press and broadcast media, and a strict crack down on dissenters and independent investigative journalists, and the impact that this has had on the rise of the ulta-intolerant, violence prone, intellectual thugs.
Rowan, from his letter, and his previous speech concerning the right to insult, seems to me to be missing the impact of the sordid, unholy alliance between British M.P’s (most but not all Tory) and media barons (like Rupert Murdoch) and tabloid media outlets (The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Telegraph) and huge international spy data firms (Cambridge Analytica, Aggregate IQ, Facebook). Buckets of very strong evidence points to a very unbalanced, ‘robust public forum for robust discussions on these issues,’ to say the least. Watershed rules and the other regulations adhered to by the BBC might be a good jump off point for robust debate? Where do they draw the line of intolerance to certain speech? Do they see promoting illegal drugs, such as cannabis, equally dangerous to promoting far-right racist ideology and flat out lies, as in vote leave campaign? After all this, Rowan, personally speaking, I’ll still tolerate your manias, if you’ll tolerate mine. But I beg you to attempt a more balanced, nuanced PR stunt, than defending Boris.
Free speech without free RADIO speech is as zero. Same for TV, and print press. Rowan, I ask you, how can you have a discussion about tolerant society and intolerant society IN a society with so many GAG orders on certain issues, with totalitarian Digital Intelligence and Security protocols, and yet more unholy international alliances (Saudi Arabia, The United States?) How, Mr. Blackadder, can you favour allowing more insulting, racist and bigoted speech, on the one hand, without simply paying tribute to the fact of the situation on the ground in the UK right now. You have missed Popper’s subtle contribution to human thought and conduct, in my humble opinion, you have communicated in a inappropriate manner, and come to the defence of the speech from one of the more disgusting examples of Englishman we have in 2018, without simply admitting that yes, there is a rise of right wing hate speech and racial slurs and a new found licence to call people hurtful and hateful things. Rowan, you could have made a comparison between a thoughtful, original, clever and artful joke, a nuanced joke, that uses precisely the same punchline as Boris, yet, in the tradition of original comedy, actually causes people to think. And perhaps followed by a story of somebody who has been bullied, and then taken there own life, arguably caused by name calling. Isolated cases, should just grow thicker skin?
I think we need ‘some laws’ concerning freedom of speech, and perhaps only binding for media broadcasts, print media, political speech. But who is going to police that, and where do you draw the line between a political speech and comedy sketch? A utopian idea, and a place where I think we could begin the debate, where indeed individuals can say what they like, and then start to add complexity, what abouts and what ifs….what about if somebody is on speakers corner, and they get filmed, and it goes viral on instagram? I think it’s the premeditated, highly edited and pre-produced forms of propaganda that deserve scorn and a watchful eye, such as the videos produced by Gert Wilder’s, and much of the Tommy Robinson campaign, and much of what Breitbart puts out, and, of course the UKIP Brexit vote leave, (will do anything to make you) beleavers.
Yes, I’ll tolerate your mania’s, if you’ll tolerate mine. Seems fair? sure thing, I’ll tolerate your illegal wars, mark austerity, crack down on the homeless, disabled and vulnerable, and unholy alliances with foreign powers, offshore banking practice, and overpriced Royal family, yes, I would….tolerate ALL of that, if you simply tolerated by favourite herbal plant remedy (my medicine, proven to be harmless and non addictive and effective my thousands of reports produced over decades, yet ignored) Yes, I would tolerate all of your despicable actions and historic trail of blood and slavery and war and trade and war, if you would simply allow me, and all people of the UK to not face criminal prosecution for recreationally consuming cannabis. Fair? “No” the law is the law kid. Get the fuck outta’ here, pay the fine or do the time. End of…”
You see, Rowan, your of tolerance in defence of Boris reeks of your own alter-ego, the dumb Bond like Johnny English. A bumbling intelligence asset used to distract a population, including awkward sexual repressions and already deeply entranced by a TVternet, into carrying on regardless. English, calling it out as is, as you do in England, no care for possible damage done or fanning of flames (although ‘isness’ and ‘beingness’ (Mr Being?) have been, refuted since 2000 years ago, essences are like ghosts, you should know this Rowan as an actor, it’s what you do. Calling somebody an X, usually involves a noun, which is in some sense meaningless, due to the fact that we are human beings, interacting within a process oriented reality, a world of verbs. “There are no nouns, I only see verbs.” Bucky Fuller said. Ad hominem attacks usually reply on nouns to do the most damage, and invoke mockery of the outwardly obvious, i.e “you look like the result of an Ostrich that fucked a meerkat. ” I digress. “Your beastiality is your right, and your right to promote beastiality and necrophilia with another species, on the national news, is your right, Mr. Cameron!”
Many people awake to the unfolding scandal(s) in the UK, see “reason to believe that their own security and that of the institutions of liberty are in danger.” Reason to no longer tolerate (due to a sense of self-preservation) speech and broadcasts that cross the line (whatever that line is, specific to individual cases?) for example the line Alex Jones crossed, specifically claiming the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. (so here we have another specific example of a line crossed) I agree with the prognosis, and remain greatly concerned by the damage I perceive done, by the Alex Jones brand of disinformation, spreading lies, racism and hatred to incite violence and very intolerant intolerance. Islamophobia 101. It’s tricky territory here, comparing the Alex Jones brand of right wing propaganda with, let’s say, the ‘far-light-right’ images and tactics used by the vote leave campaign, and UKIP are problematic.
Each case should be treated separately, we should explore both the differences and similarities. I think we should strive to construct a hierarchy of values in the robust public debate on these issues. And yes, I think that recidivist bullies and liars, on the national scale, such as UKIP and the vote leave campaign should be banned from at least reaching national air time before watershed? For me, UKIP have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, that they are a clear and present danger to security and that of the institutions of liberty across Great Britain. For my own family and friends sake, and for everybody else, all humans in the United Kingdom.
I think Rowan, and other establishment friendly celebrities will be just fine post Brexit, living in their ivory tower of tepid jokes, and high brow elitism. Beloved by the all encompassing, unbalanced and monopolized UK entertainment moguls. Johnny English, the inept spy, and Blackadder, the pompous class snob, who is probably the best example of continued bullying (to Baldrick) in all UK TV history, calling for more insults and offending? I get your point Rowan, but I feel you dropped the ball and missed the chance to deliver an eloquent and nuanced bit of information. No, replacing one form of intolerance with another form of intolerance is not just replacing one for another. It’s the DIFFERENCES that distinguish one from another, the limits, and the specifics. Case by case. To generally call for more insults and offending comments, based on the germ immunity argument, based on the current climate in the UK seems ignorant at best, and damn right inciteful at worse.
There’s a lot hinging upon the subjectivity of humour, and a lot of stand-up comedians get a lot of unnecessary flack from serious critics, and censors who are unable to view the context, of the jokes, and often choose to isolate the offending word: Jews, Scientology, Aids, Cancer, and then go on as the the comedian somehow is perpetuating the stereotypical mockery of said people, whereas, in most cases the comedian has worked his or her ass off to create something new, surprising, original and often therefore, paradoxical. Like great art, and music, and Zen Koans, the paradox can be a furtive place to make a joke. The only paradox I see about your defence of Boris Johnson, Rowan, is that Boris is officially the secretary of state. Like Trump, the lack of courtesy and common decency, manners, among our leaders and representatives is at an all time low. These are the last people to be dropping jokes that may in any way viewed to be racist, or mocking. That’s your job, Rowan, and what a good job you have done with another Johnny English film, thanks for making Britain great again, by portraying a character that every spy, CEO, M.P and councillor in the UK can relate to, the useful idiot.
Consider the lack of tolerance from the establishment concerning drugs versus UKIP, to get a measure of another form of the paradox of intolerance, and where the priorities lie, where they do not choose tolerate, and where they do. Consider the homeless, those with dependencies beyond their control, the vulnerable, or simply foreign, are they just as reasonable a target of insults, just as good-game to prey on and exploit their weaknesses, often the obvious which they have little control over? compared with, let’s say, your mate from down the pub? Yes, that’s only banter, I get it. However, on-line, and broadcast far and wide, please, consider the impact your words might have. If you think you know what funny is, get up on the stage and try some material out on a room full of people. Rowan, I hear you were last seen doing stand-up in 1984, is this true? Now we all know what kind of jokes you think are good and bad, you think that a rehashed, badly copied, borderline racist grunt from Boris Johnson is a good joke. Sad.
I’ve got a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.–Blackadder
Yours, Steve Fly