RICKY Gervais has criticised cancel culture and wokeness as a “weird sort of fascism”.
The comedian and actor, 59, spoke up in defence of free speech in a recent interview with TalkRADIO amid the growth of a movement that shames and silences anyone with opposing views.
He said: “There’s this new weird sort of fascism of people thinking they know what you can say and what you can’t and it’s a really weird thing. Just because you’re offended it doesn’t mean you’re right.”
His words came as 150 eminent names signed an open letter in Harper’s magazine hitting out at the impact cancel culture is having on rational debate.
Authors JK Rowling, Margaret Attwood and former New York Times op-ed editor Bari Weiss are among those who expressed concerns with the increase in “illiberalism”.
Part of the letter explains how cancel culture is no longer restricted to fringe movements having infiltrated mainstream society.
It reads: “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.”
Gervais made headlines around the world in January for his blistering Golden Globes monologue that tore into the Hollywood elite.
The ceremony host revelled in insulting A-list stars with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Felicity Hauffman and Kevin Hart all finding themselves the butt of a joke.
And he has defended people’s right to offend.
He said: “There’s this new trendy myth that people who want free speech want to say awful things all the time.
“It’s just isn’t true, it protects everyone. If you’re mildly left-wing on Twitter, you’re suddenly Trotsky, right?
“If you’re mildly conservative, you’re Hitler and if you’re centrist and you look at both arguments, you’re a coward. Just because you’re offended it doesn’t mean you’re right.”
And The After Life creator believes the programme that launched his career – The Office – would be unlikely to air on the BBC today.
Nearly twenty years on from its release, Ricky claims the mockumentary series would fall victim to cancel culture were it released now.
He said: “Now [The Office] would suffer because people would take things literally. There are these outrage mobs who take things out of context.
“This was a show about everything — it was about difference, it was about sex, race, all the things that people fear to even be discussed or talked about now, in case they say the wrong thing and they are cancelled.
“The BBC have got more and more careful, people want to keep their jobs, so would worry about some of the subjects and jokes, even though they were clearly ironic and we were laughing at this buffoon being uncomfortable around difference.
“I think if this was put out now, some people have lost their sense of irony and context.”