Now, this is the way to handle libel. The BBC reports that Rowan Atkinson has been given substantial libel damages over allegations that he had been on the edge of a nervous breakdown. What interests me about this? Largely the response of Atkinson, who has made it clear that much of the problem with the allegations was the way in which mental health problems are treated in the media. To quote the BBC, reporting Rowan Atkinson:
He said they had particularly stigmatised the condition of depression, “from which I am fortunate enough never to have suffered”.
I have lost track of the number of times a celebrity has denied something which no-one should be ashamed of, and managed to do it in a way that makes you think you should be ashamed of it. Remember Jason Donovan and the allegations over his sexuality? No matter how much he said he didn’t have a problem with people being gay, somehow the impression people got was that he though it was a problem.
Similarly, today, Ron Atkinson (no relation to Rowan as far as I’m aware) has resigned from his job as a football pundit following an outrageous racist remark that was accidently broadcast to overseas broadcasters taking a feed from ITV. Ron Atkinson’s response was to say:
“It was not an intentional comment, but it was an unfortunate one.
“I did not even know I had said it.
“I have worked with more black players, I would think, than any other manager in the country and I bet none of them has ever heard me say it to them.”
I have no idea about whether Ron Atkinson is racist or not, but I find there something odd in the response that he didn’t even know he had said it. To be that lazy with language that you can casually say something so racist is really scary.