Two ghastly pieces recently published at The Independent, a British newspaper that no longer has a print edition, provided further depressing proof that the journalistic left is no defender of free speech.
In an opinion that is evidently not a parody, alleged stand-up comic Liam Evans came out for hate-speech laws to be enforced against comedians who tell “problematic jokes” about transgenders, Muslims, and...the gender pay gap?
Check out the deck of headlines to the piece, published last week: “As a new comedian working the circuit, I’m appalled at disgusting ‘jokes’ creeping back into the industry -- Comedians, crying ‘free speech’ isn’t good enough -- hate crime laws should apply to all of us.” The piece was so extremist that some doubted whether Evans is in fact “working the circuit,” as no other comedian will confess to have ever heard of him.
(Note that some of the comedians may be unfamiliar to U.S. audiences, and British spellings are retained throughout the story.)
Evans led off by describing his traumatization watching a standup performance “which made light of sexual harassment, the gender pay gap and the #MeToo movement.”
Again, his reaction sounds literally unbelievable.
What kind of reactionary drivel was I being subjected to in the name of comedy?
For a while I sat there, seething, as a room full of doubtless well-intentioned punters were laughing along with this thinly veiled rape apologism. Eventually, I left.
Speaking as a person of colour in an irredeemably racist culture, I’m sick of being accused of hypersensitivity by straight white men who are blind to their own privilege. What makes them believe that comedy should just be for them?
This admitted newbie then solemnly delivers his laws of amusement.
The hallmark of a good satirist is the ability to expose the follies of the powerful and the corrupt, not to embolden them at the expense of those of us who are already marginalised.
Evans then attacked some actually funny famous comedians, including Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais.
The overtly transphobic routine in Ricky Gervais’s Netflix special Humanity is a case in point, in which he repeatedly deadnamed Caitlyn Jenner and claimed to identify as an ape as a means to ridicule gender reassignment.
He recommended some other performers, who don’t seem to pose any hazards of split sides.
The success of Hannah Gadsby’s game-changing masterpiece Nanette has also proven beyond doubt that woke comedy is commercially viable.
Then he pulled out the speech-squelching threats.
I would go so far as to argue that some of the jokes I have heard on the comedy circuit of late constitute actual hate speech.
The government has recently launched its new website to raise awareness of hate crime and hate incidents, in which it is made clear that verbal abuse can qualify as hateful if “perceived by the victim, or anybody else, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice.”
Again, the tone is so on-the-nose in its political correctness that one wonders if the piece is some kind of put-on. But The Independent printed it as a serious view.
....I believe in freedom of speech, but I am also adult enough to recognise that this freedom does not extend to making public events unsafe for vulnerable members of society.
The latest government guidelines would now seem to confirm that this kind of Islamophobia dressed up as humour should be subject to investigation. It simply isn’t good enough for comedians to cry “free speech” after every hateful joke, as though the laws that govern the rest of us don’t apply to them.
It takes an astonishing degree of entitlement to claim the right to free speech without accepting the consequences of one’s choices. In a country poised on the brink of a far-right resurgence, is a cheap laugh really worth the risk? The kind of jokes that reinforce negative stereotypes and normalise bigotry should no longer be tolerated in our society. This really isn’t too much to ask.
Again, it sounds almost too bad to be true, but whether or not Evans is having a laugh, it was taken seriously by the humorless folks at the hard-left Independent.
The bans on “hate speech” were coming from inside the house as well. Sean O’Grady, Associate Editor of the Independent, used his concurrent review of a BBC documentary examining the deadly controversy over Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses to call for the novel to be banned. (The novel’s publication earned the author a fatwa, or death sentence, from Ayatollah Khomeini, for insulting the prophet Mohammed.)
Rushdie’s silly, childish book should be banned under today’s anti-hate legislation. It’s no better than racist graffiti on a bus stop. I wouldn’t have it in my house, out of respect to Muslim people and contempt for Rushdie, and because it sounds quite boring. I’d be quite inclined to burn it, in fact. It’s a free country, after all.
“A free country” where satirical novels are banned? A contradiction in terms.