Rowan Atkinson compares woke cancel culture to ‘medieval mob looking for someone to burn’

Rowan Atkinson stars in 'Johnny English Strikes Again'

Rowan Atkinson, 65, best known for his work in Mr Bean and Blackadder, has condemned the current online cancel culture. The famed actor has long advocated for free speech and compared “woke” snowflakes to a “medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn”.

It is scary for anyone

Rowan Atkinson

Rowan admitted that one of the main concerns is that social media sites run off a basic “algorithm” that decides “what it wants” users to see.

Therefore it can create a “simplistic, binary view” of what the world is like, and makes those interacting feel as if they should comply with certain viewpoints, or be “cancelled”.

He said: “It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn. 

“So it is scary for anyone who’s a victim of that mob and it fills me with fear about the future,” he added to The Times.

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Last year he joined forces with 20 other arts and media personalities to challenge the proposals put forward by the SNP’s Humza Yousaf for new hate crime laws to be introduced.

Rowan signed a letter alongside actress Elaine C Smith and writers Chris Brookmyre and Val McDermid against the SNP’s Hate Crime and Public Order Bill.

The group has concerns about its impact in relation to “stirring up hatred”, which could see those who express divisive views spend up to seven years in prison.

In 2005 the actor also led a successful campaign against Westminster legislation that could have made insulting language a criminal offence.

He joined Nicholas Hytner, Stephen Fry, and Ian McEwan in asking for a review of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill in the UK, which they felt would give overwhelming power to religious groups to impose censorship on the arts. 

Online cancel culture has been a growing concern in recent years with social media users declaring a number of public figures “cancelled” due to their differing views.

JK Rowling was supposedly “cancelled” online for a tweet that was seen by some as not “inclusive”.

On Twitter, #cancelJKRowling trended for a number of days and the author even addressed the furore on her website.

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She joked: “I must have been on my fourth or fifth cancellation by then.”

Meanwhile, Rowan has been working on his new Netflix comedy Man Vs Bee.

A statement from the online streaming platform read: “Renowned actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson plays a new character in this riotous comedy. 

“A man finds himself at war with a bee while housesitting a luxurious mansion. Who will win, and what irreparable damage will be done in the process?”

Man Vs Bee is likely to be a major show for Netflix thanks to the popularity of the Mr Bean franchise.

Although it is unlikely Rowan will play the character again, admitting to finding the role “exhausting”.

However, the franchise has hundreds of millions of fans around the world, with Rowan being one of the most recognisable comedians in every part of the globe.

His last prominent Bean portrayal on-screen was in the 2007 feature film sequel Mr. Bean’s Holiday, and he continues to voice the animated series.

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