Hate crime Bill a danger to ‘comic creativity’, warns John Cleese

Comedy giant John Cleese has said the Scottish Government’s hate crime Bill would have a “disastrous” effect on free speech.

In an online debate hosted by the free speech think-tank Academy of Ideas, Cleese argued that the Bill’s “over-sensitivity” threatened to shackle creative “spontaneity”.

Unlike similar legislation for England and Wales, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill does not contain crucial free speech clauses.

Speech control

The comedian said: “If you’re having to edit everything you say before you say it then nothing is going to happen creatively”.

“Things that are rather lovely and funny in ordinary conversation, they’re not going to happen either because everybody’s thinking ‘oh somebody might offend’.”

Cleese, famous for his role as the hapless Basil Fawlty, warned against the outlook of a “small number” of people, working to a “completely different” rule, being allowed to control the way we speak.

‘Over sensitive’

Cleese said there seemed to be a group of people just “waiting to be offended” but warned “all these different kinds of attitudes” cannot be legislated for.

He concluded: “we don’t want to run society according to the sensitivities of the people who are most easily upset”.

Cleese joins fellow comedy legend Rowan Atkinson in expressing serious concerns about the effect of certain aspects of the Scottish Bill on their profession.

Also See:

Holyrood, Scottish Parliament

Bestselling author calls on Scot Govt to protect free speech in hate crime Bill

Scottish Labour: ‘Hate crime Bill could threaten free speech’

New campaign: ‘Hate Crime Bill a serious threat to free speech’

Scots QC: ‘Hate crime Bill could criminalise comedy’

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