‘Cancel culture is like a medieval mob’: Mr. Bean blasts the woke brigade and social media giants for increasing polarization

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British comedy icon Rowan Atkinson has said online mob justice makes him “fear for the future” and lashed out at the algorithmically generated outrage perpetuated by social media platforms.

In a recent interview with the Radio Times magazine, Atkinson, 65, described online cancel culture as the “digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn,” while detailing what he perceives as the increasing polarization of the world and how it’s exacerbated by online discourse. 

Atkinson previously fell foul of the ‘woke crowd’ when he manned the battlements in the culture war to champion the cause of free speech, and the right to offend and to criticise even the most sacred cultural institutions.

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“The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society,” Atkinson said, adding that it’s important to be exposed to a “wide spectrum of opinion” in the modern world. 

“It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us, and if you’re against us, you deserve to be ‘canceled,’” he opined.

Atkinson’s latest comments received plenty of support online, including from Australian MP Tim Wilson, who described the remarks as a “hole in one!”

I don't feel like what Rowan Atkinson said is that controversial is it? Who likes cancel culture? We saw how disgusting it was yesterday when a suicidal man begged for his job from a blue ticker while her fans berated him. The cruelty made me feel sick.

— Lotty Earns (@lottyburns) January 5, 2021

Rowan Atkinson has long been a free speech advocate…sadly most comics are too gutless to stand up against the mob. https://t.co/YKUZeidTAS

— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) January 5, 2021

Others felt Atkinson’s self-imposed exile from online life might preclude him from commenting on it.

“I love Mr. Bean, but I feel he might’ve missed a few things. Or, more than a few,”wrote one Twitter user.

The Mr. Bean and Johnny English actor described online life as “a sideshow in my world,” while also discussing in the interview his lengthy career in British comedy, including playing his most widely acclaimed character.

Atkinson said he finds playing Mr. Bean “stressful and exhausting,” given he alone must generate the majority of laughs from the audience using a character who rarely speaks. 

He also alluded to a possible return in the role of the only character he created that he enjoyed playing: the iconic Blackadder. Atkinson wrote the show with Ben Elton and Richard Curtis, and it featured such British comedy luminaries as Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. 

However, possibly in reference to his views on contemporary culture, he added that it would be hard to recreate “the creative energy we all had in the 80s.”

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