• This Leftist-Atheist Comedian Get’s It Right on This Contemporary Trend …

    Surge Summary: Atheist and “lefty” funny-man Ricky Gervais is telling performers to stop apologizing for things they say which aren’t wrong – and he may have stumbled into some truth here.

    Ricky Gervais identifies himself “a lefty liberal champagne socialist”, but turns out he sounds like conservative writer and radio host Ben Shapiro when he declares, “I don’t agree that feelings are more important than facts.” He and Shapiro both full-throatedly support free speech.

    “This quality makes them somewhat courageous,” writes National Review’s Kyle Smith,  “though it shouldn’t”.

    Both public figures also “tend to elicit a lot of shock and dismay”. In a recent discussion on the podcast Making Sense with Sam Harris, Gervais tartly rejects adverse social media comments as the scribbles on “every public toilet wall in the world”.

    Gervais giggles with disbelief when he says, “John Wayne was canceled recently, 40 years after he died, for not being woke enough.” He stresses that “political correctness, I’m all for it” — because he doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings — but standards do change, so applying them backwards in time is a strange fixation. When Kevin Hart was chosen to host this year’s Oscars, his detractors resurfaced some nasty cracks about gays he’d made years ago on Twitter. He apologized and deleted the tweets but lost the gig anyway, because “it’s not enough to apologize anymore and move on. People want blood, people want you ruined, because it’s a point-scoring competition now.” Even if you’re finely attuned to evolving standards, as Gervais says he is, “You can make your jokes bulletproof at the time, but now you have to make them bulletproof for ten years.”

    Fascinating. Has Gervais been comparing notes with fellow comedian Sarah Silverman who, like Hart, just got snagged by the “cancel culture” herself?

    Kyle Smith considers Gervais’ ten-year estimate to be a lowball one because,

    as time passes, people don’t just let their irony detectors rust and fall into disrepair; they seem actively to sabotage them. Willfully ignoring comic intent is a growth industry. In his comedy, Gervais says a lot of things he doesn’t actually mean in order to get a laugh, but that may become an increasingly untenable practice in an age when satire is subjected to stern and humorless fact-checks. “If you water the irony down so much, it’s not irony anymore,” he tells Harris. “I might as well go out and say ‘racism’s wrong, isn’t it,’ and get a round of applause. That’s lovely, but it’s not funny.” He could have added that no comedian would stay in business for very long by being boringly earnest. (That task falls to politicians.)

    When he’s doing his standup and “ten thousand people are laughing, you don’t care about one heckler. Sometimes I explain the joke to people, and the people who got it are angry. . . . And I have to say, when a comedian apologizes, I go oh, ‘F***ing don’t apologize!’ You can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t. You can’t legislate against stupidity, and you shouldn’t.”

    This is a separate matter, of course, from saying “I’m sorry” when a person actually needs to do so – which we all do, at times. Humbling oneself when apologizing when it’s warranted is a welcomed virtue and contemporary society could use more of it. But apologizing for imagined zings? Apologizing for speaking necessary truth?

    Kyle Smith continues: In today’s cultural environment, it goes that everyone who says anything that’s putatively offensive gets thrown into the same box. Disagreement with progressive dogma and you’re tagged a “white supremacist”.

    Gervais smartly explains this willful failure to distinguish actual malevolence:

    “Everyone that’s being fired and publicly embarrassed about a misdemeanor and being called a Nazi — there are real Nazis who are getting away with it. This must be amazing for real racists to be out there, and going, ‘It’s all right, everyone’s a racist now, this is a great smokescreen, we’ve got people out there calling people who aren’t Nazis, Nazis. . . . They don’t know the real Nazis from people who said the wrong thing once!’ . . . It plays into the hands of the genuinely bad people.

    Does it bother Gervais that sometimes someone on the right agrees with something he said? Clearly not, although it bugs some of his Twitter attackers. He, on the other hand, likes finding common ground with people who disagree with him on other matters.

    Yet “it’s not about the argument anymore, “[he says.] “It’s not about the joke. It’s about who’s saying it because there’s a point-scoring system going on now. It’s like everyone’s trying to get into heaven by having more points scored for them and more points scored against the opposition. … [E]veryone wants to be exempt. . . . They don’t want their beliefs being made fun of so they try and give beliefs human rights. . . . That’s what blasphemy is, giving their beliefs human rights. It’s like saying, “you hurt my god, you hurt me.”

    Gervais is an outspoken atheist, but he, probably unintentionally, hits on a crucial observation here: Many moderns, having rejected the actual God, has to substitute something else for Him – pleasure, the government, another human being, a social cause. For that latter category, if you disagree with or even simply make a joke about their political or social passion, in their regard it is akin to impiety; a secular sin.

    Gervais takes risky note of

    how efforts to enforce dogma now come primarily from the woke and secular Left. “If you say the wrong pronoun it’s a blasphemy. . . . They stick ‘phobia’ on the end of a word and then you’re racist if you don’t agree with an idea. It’s like me getting offended by someone making fun of maths. Doesn’t change it. Science doesn’t care about your feelings.”

    He does extend some optimism, however; that the Dark Ages of wokeness won’t endure forever: “There are blips, but I think truth is too strong in the end.”

    Kyle Smith isn’t as hopeful.

    I’m not convinced there’s much of a market for blunt truths anymore, but I’m grateful that there are comedians such as Gervais who are willing to tell it.  Intermediaries are making it difficult, though. He made The Office for the BBC, but he detects a chill in the air at the Beeb and elsewhere. He says broadcasters are “scared of saying something that offends anyone. So they don’t defend it, they just go, ‘Don’t do that.’” When Gervais explains the joke to them, “they go, ‘Yeah, but we’ll have to write letters and people will think we’re bad.’ So it’s not what’s right and wrong anymore, it’s, ‘Ooh, I don’t want to write any letters.’” So maybe the Dark Ages aren’t exactly ending. “They’re winning,” Gervais says. “The people who bully people, saying ‘you can’t say that,’ they’re sort of winning. Because a lot of people go, ‘Oh, I’m not going to say it anymore; my wife’s scared to go out.’ And that’s like terrorism, it’s verbal terrorism.”

    While the fifty-eight-year-old entertainer is hardly a supporter of America’s current president (he calls Trump “this crazy narcissistic baby, this overprivileged dog-whistling moron,”) he does see the connection between the iconic British Network’s attitude and Trumpism ‘s attraction.

    “You have conspiracy theories start, like his whole base is racist, which clearly can’t be true,” Gervais says. “Some people just voted Republican. Some people hated Hillary. . . . The swing vote was a certain percentage of people who’ve been tired for the last ten years of being told what they can say and do.”

    That’s a matter-of-fact sensibleness there. Gervais is an unbeliever and a Leftist, but it might be a good thing if like-minded types would pay him heed on these particular cogitations.


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