British actor Rowan Atkinson has called on U.K. officials to change a law on insults in a bid to halt the "creeping culture of censoriousness".
The Mr. Bean star delivered a speech at a parliamentary reception in London on Tuesday (16Oct12) backing a campaign for an alteration to the 1986 Public Order Act, insisting the outlawing of "insulting words and behaviour" has had a "chilling effect" on free expression and protest.
Critics have suggested the act is being abused by prosecutors, as it is not clearly defined what constitutes an insult.
Atkinson declared, "My concerns are less for myself and more for those more vulnerable because of their lower profile. Like the man arrested in Oxford (England) for calling a police horse gay. Or the teenager arrested for calling the Church of Scientology a cult...
"The clear problem with the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism is easily construed as insult. Ridicule is easily construed as insult. Sarcasm, unfavourable comparison, merely stating an alternative point of view can be interpreted as insult.
"We need to build our immunity to taking offence, so that we can deal with the issues that perfectly justified criticism can raise. The repeal of this clause will be only a small step, but it will, I hope, be a critical one in what should be a longer term project to pause and slowly rewind a creeping culture of censoriousness.
"The law should not be aiding and abetting the new intolerance. Free speech can only suffer if the law prevents us from dealing with its consequences."