The British comedy legend was among a group of authors, journalists, philosophers and campaigners who signed an open letter against legislation put forward by the Scottish Nationalist Party, warning of the “unintended consequences” the bill could have.
The signees raised specific concern over provisions around making “stirring up hatred” an offence, even if it was not the intention of the person making the comments.
"The unintended consequences of this well meaning Bill risk stifling freedom of expression, and the ability to articulate or criticise religious and other beliefs."
Concerns have been raised that people like JK Rowling could have been targeted by the new law, after she expressed her views on transgender issues.
Other prominent people to add their name to the letter include the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the philosopher AC Grayling. The Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Newspaper Society, the Scottish Police Federation and the Catholic Church have also raised concerns about the bill.
Despite numerous prominent people and organizations raising objections, Atkinson has served as a lightning rod for those in favor of the law, with many cancel culture jihadis rounding on the popular comedian.
The swirl of reaction saw the ‘Mr Bean’ and ‘Blackadder’ actor’s name trend on Twitter in the UK on Tuesday. Some responders put forward their reasons for disagreeing with Atkinson, while many others just resorted to name calling.
However, it wasn’t all bad news, as many applauded the actor for taking a stance. The backlash boomeranged into support for Atkinson and people began sharing footage of the comedian discussing free speech back in 2012.
“The reasonable and well-intended ambition to contain obnoxious elements in society, has created a society of an extraordinarily authoritarian and controlling nature. It is what you might call The New Intolerance, a new but intense desire to gag uncomfortable voices of dissent,” Atkinson argues in the resurfaced clip.
The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.