The host of The Graham Norton Show on BBC One argued that free speech should not be “consequence-free”, stating that “cancelling” people is better described as holding them to account.
Norton took aim at John Cleese, branding him a “man of a certain age” who is suddenly facing this accountability and complaining about it. Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Norton said of “cancel” culture: “The word is the wrong word. I think the word should be ‘accountability’.
“John Cleese has been very public recently about complaining about what you can’t say. It must be very hard to be a man of a certain age who’s been able to say whatever he likes for years, and now suddenly there’s some accountability.”
The 59-year-old added: “It’s free speech, but not consequence-free. I’m aware of the things I say.”
Cleese has been outspoken in his criticism of cancel culture and threats to free speech, and has recently accepted a role on GB News, vowing to speak about issues which are being “censored”. The Monty Python star, 82, whose movies have been banned in certain countries, said he had not been offered a BBC show but would definitely turn it down if he was.
The argument from Norton is that cancel culture is not as we think it is, because people like Rowling and Cleese have enormous amounts of people and followers who listen to their viewpoints. However, cancel culture is viewed by many as the divisive “no debate” method of removing people from mainstream commentary as well as jobs.