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Op-Ed

Evan Berryhill: The Last Bastion of Free Speech Is Under Attack

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In a Hollywood scene that has had its share of dark days in the midst of an increasingly unflattering public perception, comedian Kevin Hart is one of the bright spots.

Regardless of how you feel about his comedy, Hart’s attitude toward life is one of inspiration. If you spend any time looking at his social media, you will see a staunch advocate of hard work and being your best. Along with that, he preaches raising one another up, not tearing people down.

One thing Hart is very obviously not is a homophobe, but that didn’t stop the mob from coming for him anyway.

Last week, Hart stepped away from hosting the Oscars after almost decade-old Tweets and lines from his standup that were perceived as homophobic began resurfacing and receiving public scrutiny. Despite preaching their moral superiority, the outrage mob ironically doesn’t believe in apologies, forgiveness or people changing over time.

However, Hart took the important step few others have been willing to take — he refused to cower to the outrage mob and apologize. Too often, the loud minority on Twitter try to bully people into a corner, but Hart stood strong.

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In a statement on Instagram, he said he won’t apologize because he has already addressed these things from his past and has grown as a person.

Sadly, Hart was not the only comedian under scrutiny last week. Despite Columbia University’s Asian American Alliance inviting comedian Nimesh Patel to do a set at their “cultureSHOCK: Reclaim” event, the group removed him from the stage mid-set following a joke they found to be too unsuitable.

The joke they found to be inappropriate enough to end his set early stated: “No one looks in the mirror and thinks, ‘This black thing is too easy; let me just add another thing to it.’”

Even if you don’t find this joke funny, it was clearly Patel, a minority himself, showing empathy for other minority groups.

Do you agree with Kevin Hart's decision to step away from hosting the Oscars?

Hart and Patel should be an example for all of us that if they can be attacked, so can anyone else — including you.

Hart is African-American. He generally refrains from political topics, but when he has commented he’s taken some digs at President Donald Trump. Mostly, he chooses to focus on making people laugh and being a positive role model.

Patel is an Indian-American and former writer for “Saturday Night Live.” These are two of the last people you would expect to be targets of online outrage mobs. Needless to say, these two don’t fit the demographics typically targeted by such.

Humor is one of the few remaining things in this country that can bring together people of differing viewpoints. By attacking comedians like Hart and Patel, the outrage-mob is bullying individuals and hoping to force conformity with their views.

The importance of comedy to free speech is why we are seeing an increase in smears on comedians. It’s why comments from people like Joy Reid are easily forgiven, but jokes from Hart and Nimesh are attacked.

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Often in comedy, the “funny because it’s true” sentiment applies. Even though jokes are typically an exaggeration, the funniest ones — those we tend to have a predisposition to laugh at — contain at least a grain of truth.

For the left, allowing comedians that freedom of speech means facing some of the harsh realities — and stereotypes — of the real world. The left hates that because it conflicts with their stance of ignoring any possible difference we have as individuals or in society and acting as though everyone is exactly the same.

Despite this outrage mob on the left, it is not exclusive to them. “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn was fired due to controversial tweets that were dug up from a decade ago. Just as this behavior is wrong when it is perpetrated by the left, it is equally wrong when it is those on the right engaging in these smear campaigns.

The recent attacks on comedians should show both of us that the PC police will stop at nothing to suppress speech with which they disagree.

As a society, we need to follow the example of Kevin Hart and stand up to the Twitter mob. If we capitulate to the hollow outrage now, we will soon see how quickly our freedom of speech — and comedy — disappear.

Evan Berryhill is a former communications staffer for Rep. David B. McKinley. Currently, Evan is a law student at West Virginia University and works as an opinion writer and political commentator. You can follow him on Twitter.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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