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Cancel Me: John Cleese to present Channel 4 show on ‘woke’ thought

Comedian to interview ‘cancelled’ subjects while examining ‘all aspects of political correctness … there’s so much I don’t understand’

Guardian Culture

Tue 24 Aug 2021 02.30 BST

John Cleese will take on the topic of “cancel culture” in a forthcoming television series for the UK’s Channel 4.

The new documentary will reportedly explore “why a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said”.

John Cleese: Cancel Me will see the British comedian and actor meet various subjects who claim to have been “cancelled” for their actions or statements, and activists who have led opposition to various public figures.

In a statement, Cleese said: “I’m delighted to have a chance to find out, on camera, about all the aspects of so-called political correctness. There’s so much I really don’t understand, like: how the impeccable idea of ‘Let’s all be kind to people’ has been developed in some cases ad absurdum.”

“I want to bring the various reasonings right out in the open so that people can be clearer in their minds what they agree with, what they don’t agree with, and what they still can’t make their mind up about.”

The Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star has come under fire himself for his previous work.

In June 2020, Cleese responded angrily to a UKTV decision to remove from streaming an episode of his comedy Fawlty Towers that contained “racial slurs”.

The episode, The Germans, contained a scene in which the character of Major Gowen uses racist language in an anecdote about the West Indies cricket team.

Cleese told the Age at the time: “If you put nonsense words into the mouth of someone you want to make fun of, you’re not broadcasting their views, you’re making fun of them. The major was an old fossil left over from decades before. We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them. If they can’t see that – if people are too stupid to see that – what can one say?”

The episode was later reinstated on the platform with a content and language warning.

Cleese also has been vocal about his opinions on “cancel culture” in the past, saying he worries about the effects it might have on creativity.

“[Political correctness] stuff started out as a good idea, which is, ‘Let’s not be mean to people’, and I’m in favour of that despite my age,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in September 2020.

“The main thing is to try to be kind. But that then becomes a sort of indulgence of the most over-sensitive people in your culture, the people who are most easily upset … I don’t think we should organise a society around the sensibilities of the most easily upset people because then you have a very neurotic society.

“From the point of creativity, if you have to keep thinking which words you can use and which you can’t, then that will stifle creativity. The main thing is to realise that words depend on their context. Very literal-minded people think a word is a word but it isn’t.”


And now for something completely different:


Joe Rogan Slams Right-Wingers for ‘Canceling’ Black Rifle Coffee: ‘Come On’

By Tom Cleary • Updated Aug 12, 2021 at 3:33pm

Joe Rogan slammed right-wingers for “canceling” Black Rifle Coffee in reaction to a New York Times article in which the veteran-owned company’s leaders tried to distance themselves from extremists who have latched on to the pro-gun coffee brand over the years. Rogan, speaking on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast posted on Spotify on Friday, August 6, 2021, with Black Rifle Coffee CEO Evan Hafer, said he thought it was “so weird to see cancel culture come from the right.”

Rogan told Hafer, “When people were attacking you I got butthurt. I was like, ‘Come on? Evan?’ Get the f*** out of here.’ I was like, I’ve got to have you on. It was so weird to see cancel culture come from the right. I didn’t know it worked that way. I didn’t know you f****** idiots would do the same thing. What is going on?”

Some of Hafer’s comments in the article led to backlash from conservatives, especially the far right. Hafer, in the July 2021 Times article titled “Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right?,” said, he doesn’t belong to a party, adding, “What I figured out the last couple of years is that being really political, in the sense of backing an individual politician or any individual party, is really [expletive] detrimental. And it’s detrimental to the company. And it’s detrimental, ultimately, to my mission.” Hafer also told the newspaper, “The racism [expletive] really pisses me off. I hate racist, Proud Boy-ish people. Like, I’ll pay them to leave my customer base. I would gladly chop all of those people out of my [expletive] customer database and pay them to get the [expletive] out.”

Hafer, a retired Army Green Beret, founded Black Rifle Coffee Company in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2014. According to its website, “Black Rifle Coffee Company is a veteran-owned coffee company serving premium coffee to people who love America. We develop our explosive roast profiles with the same mission focus we learned as military members serving this great country and are committed to supporting veterans, law enforcement, and first responders. With every purchase you make, we give back.”



Edited by BansheeOne
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So there is an interesting furore that is kicking off not far from where i live. There is a very old 18th Century statue of a Black slave boy on a clock on what used to be a girls school. Some black people want it removed because they say it is a representation of the colonial past. Other want it to remain, by pointing to it being where it is since the 1840's and its a local landmark.

There is even a historical study of the figure and its presence in stroud, complicated by its occasional deterioration, its restoration, and nobody seemingly very clear how much of it is original, or even if its painted the original colour.


You can get some idea of whats kicking off here.


To be fair to the campaigners, they dont want it destroyed, they want it removed to the local museum so it can be put in context. Although personally im not sure why it cant be put in context where it is, and logic dicates if it gets carted off to the local museum, there will then probably be a campaign to take it off display so nobody will see it at all and any context will be completely lost.

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7 hours ago, Angrybk said:

Have been ducking out of this thread, but this article by Helen Lewis (Brit writer) from last June is brilliant and basically sums up Cancel Culture — it’s best understood as an economic thing, corporations throwing people under the bus to prevent controversy. https://amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/614086/

She has a number of good points, but although she is certainly not wrong in characterizing the behavior and motivations underlying "woke capitalism" it is worth underlining that Cancel Culture is not even remotely limited to corporations.

As she even mentions in passing, NGOs, non-profits and government agencies and institutions are all displaying the exact same behavior, so it is not only an economic matter.

The problem is rather with institutions in general, bureaucratic instincts, and above all, human nature, as they all adapt to changing technology. 

And reducing the matter to "Capitalism Bad"  (which is the thrust of the article's headline and while the author may not have written the headline, it is not wildly out of sync with the main body) smacks of a left wing person reflexively trying to disavow a monster that was conceived and nurtured in the left wing hothouse of academia.

Though I suppose it is fair enough to want to point out to naive progressives that corporations are not their friends, just as conservatives have now belatedly realized that corporations are not their friends either.




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Most people also don't understand the difference between the set containing "people you know" from the set of "friends", I blame Facebook, because Zuckerberg bad, m'kay?

A somewhat woke acquaintance: "Cleese's show will come across as somewhere between a wheezing old Monty Python show and an old man ranting at clouds."

Inevitably prejudging the content to set up his own internal narrative for discounting anything that might be said.

Edited by DB
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oh, to be added to the list of cancel culture victims... The Americans, allied nationals and Afghanis who are about to become victims of the Taliban. 


While the state department was being outmaneuvered by Taliban Chads who make woke noises and promise to be ‘inclusive’ while the Biden admin abandons US citizens and allied folks...because the Taliban promised...

Edited by rmgill
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On 8/27/2021 at 7:17 AM, DB said:

They wanted credit for the pullout, they can take credit for the fallout, too.

But they won't. Somehow it will be Trump's fault.

Yes and the ever Trumpers will slaughter electrons by the trillions proclaiming that he would have conducted the withdrawal flawlessly if only the spineless RINOs had voted for him. Kind of a win win for both tribes.

Edited by Harold Jones
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  • 1 month later...

At this point I've put so much effort into looking for a balanced English-language report on a recent local case of what some say is one of cancel culture and others say is not that I guess I can just write it myself ... public broadcaster WDR tags Palestinian-descended journalist, doctor and poetry slammer Nemi el-Hassan as future host of their science show "Quarks". Conservative media promptly publish pictures of her attending the Hisbollah-affiliated annual anti-Israeli al-Quds demonstration in Berlin, notorious for anti-Semitic chants, seven years ago at age 20.

WDR delays the decision on whether she will get the position. El-Hassan apologizes for and distances herself from her protest attendance, says it was a terrible mistake driven by her youthful search for identity, and that she has since worked at exposing racism and anti-Semitism as a journalist and activist, including on trips to Israel. An open letter of support for her is signed by several hundred intellectuals, not a few of them Jewish, lauding her engagement, saying that anybody deserves a second chance after honestly repudiating earlier errors, and criticizing that she's being targeted as a Muslim woman.

Conservative media follow up by reporting that contrary to her claimed change, el-Hassan liked social media posts affiliated with the BDS movement and by a Jewish group critical of Israel only recently, like one celebrating a prison break by a half-dozen Palestinian terrorists; and, critically, removed those likes after the al-Quds protest story broke. There are other bits, like her visiting a radical Hamburg mosque in her youth, using anti-Israeli language at poetry slams, and explaining the term "jihad" in its broader sense of personal struggle in a video clip for the Federal Center of Civic Education in 2015. Some of her erstwhile supporters withdraw after those new details emerge.

The WDR director eventually decides not to give her the position, not so much over the al-Quds thing rather than the recent social media story. He says not least the whole affair would otherwise politicize a science show, though notes she could still work as an author behind the camera. The WDR board criticizes the latter, saying that if reasons are severe enough to exclude her from the former, they should be for the latter, too. El-Hassan's supporters complain she's the victim of a racist right-wing campaign which also promotes the narrative that anything anti-Israeli is anti-Semitic. It's this stance that mostly shows in international coverage of the case, such as there is.

To be sure, they have some points. The incriminating protests pictures were supplied by an ex-Muslim right-wing activist who lauded himself for well-timed exploitation, some usual suspects overhyped the thing as an "Islamism scandal in public TV", and the conservative media attacking her kept showing pictures of el-Hassan wearing a hijab, which she hasn't done for years (a change she got criticized for by fellow Muslims). Then again, you wonder if the same supporters would uphold their claim that "everyone deserves a second chance for the errors of youth" if the case was about someone who attended PEGIDA marches at the same time, had since worked against xenophobia, but found to have liked some vaguely right-wing social media posts recently.

Edited by BansheeOne
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When I talk about Cancel Culture with a lefty friend, he always says that conservatives started it with the Dixie Chicks.  

My recollection on this is rather nebulous, but I don't remember them being blacklisted by the music industry, rather it was their public who deserted them.  Is this correct?

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38 minutes ago, rmgill said:

Are pro-muslim, pro-al-quds folks left wing?

Broadly, yes; though the German far left in particular is divided between an anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian "anti-imperialist" and smaller, vociferously pro-Israeli "anti-German" camp (and probably an even bigger camp who think either are nuts). But pro-Israeli left- and right-wingers alike have pointed out that the signatories of the open letter include a lot of the usual suspects from their view, i. e. leftist, Muslim and Jewish Israel haters united by post-colonialist thought. That may in turn be an ideologically-minded exaggeration, but an example anyone would have pretty much expected on such a list is left-wing journalist Jakob Augstein who has long bumbled around the contested area between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. 

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On 10/9/2021 at 12:35 PM, Mikel2 said:

When I talk about Cancel Culture with a lefty friend, he always says that conservatives started it with the Dixie Chicks.  

My recollection on this is rather nebulous, but I don't remember them being blacklisted by the music industry, rather it was their public who deserted them.  Is this correct?

The latter was my recollection. However, they have as much right to express their opinions as any other person. It's not as if their actions came anywhere close to Hanoi Jane, who might be a better archetype for (attempted) cancellation.

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It wasn't a 3rd party showing up to their concerts and blocking/attacking the event to stop the event and prevent it occurring. 

Has everyone seen the Jordan Peterson event at a church where there were anti-fa/LGBTQXYZ activist outside who even climbed up on the windows and were beating on the doors/windows to hinder the event? 

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14 minutes ago, bojan said:

Wasn't Sen. McCarthy originator of the original cancel culture?

In that way, I think you could go back to the book of Genesis, when the brothers of Joseph sold him to the Egyptians.

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Nope, only a colony! 😁

Still, the point is that prosecution of people because points of speech is not new. About McCarthy, it could be said that he was partly vindicated afterwards, when the results of Venona were made public. Hanoi Jane was consorting with the enemy in wartime, bit like Tokyo Rose, Ezra Pound, or Lord Haw Haw.

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8 hours ago, sunday said:

....Hanoi Jane was consorting with the enemy in wartime, bit like Tokyo Rose, Ezra Pound, or Lord Haw Haw.

There was no formal declaration of war, no officially declared wartime measures hence... no wartime, as far as civilians were concerned. That is a reason she was never really prosecuted.

Agree that cancel culture is "older than a feudalism".


8 hours ago, sunday said:

...About McCarthy, it could be said that he was partly vindicated afterwards, when the results of Venona were made public...

No noble goal can vindicate pressuring people to snitch by the methods he has used. That is what STASI does, not a "beacon of democracy".

Edited by bojan
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Cancel culture always existed, starting in school yard. The intensity of it, the scope and now the organizations in state making it - which means they get money from those they cancel - is what makes it a different level. 

Edited by lucklucky
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