The hypocrisy of Graham Linehan

The comedy writer, targeted by trans censors, is no warrior for free speech.



Graham Linehan – the co-creator of sitcoms like Father Ted and The IT Crowd – was all over the papers at the weekend, talking about the censorious campaign being waged against him by trans activists.

Linehan has in recent years become a bit of a political Twitter celebrity, and has taken up the trans-sceptical cause in particular. As he put it in a piece for the Mail on Sunday: ‘I believe biological reality exists. I believe women are females. I believe everyone should be able to present themselves as they wish but that women’s hard-won rights must not be compromised for the benefit of men suffering body dysphoria.’

And for this, he says, he has been frozen out by friends, lost commissions, and even found himself having his collar felt by the police: in 2018 he was given a warning by West Yorkshire police for ‘deadnaming’ Stephanie Hayden, a trans activist, on Twitter.

Linehan says he has ‘never seen anything like the authoritarianism on display’ in the trans movement, which is keen to shut down debate and smear opponents. ‘I think there’s just a stink around me’, he told The Sunday Times: ‘The stink of bigotry, you know, that has deliberately been created, by radical trans-rights activists. It has had a chilling effect.’

Linehan, like the trans-sceptical feminists he allies with, has indeed been treated appallingly. No one should get a visit from the police for saying something on Twitter. Nor should he be ostracised and lose work for expressing what most people consider to be simple biological truth. But it’s worth remembering that, when it comes to opposing authoritarianism and unhinged smear tactics, Linehan doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Just take his response to the Count Dankula case, in which Scottish YouTuber Markus Meechan was convicted and fined for a comedy skit in which he taught his pug to do a Nazi salute. Despite it obviously being a joke, and the legal proceedings showing no evidence of Nazi leanings on the part of Meechan, Linehan was one of many who smeared him as some kind of crypto-facist, accusing him of trying to ‘sneak fascism and hatred in under the guise of irony’.

Linehan even tried to get Meechan’s GoFundMe page, which he was using to crowdfund an appeal, shut down, telling the site that Meechan was trying ‘to cash in on spreading hate speech by framing it as a joke’:

His censorious activities, of course, do not disqualify Linehan from being defended by those of us who actually believe in free speech. As Brendan O’Neill put it on spiked at the time of the deadnaming incident, ‘It is the free-speech warrior’s lot that he always finds himself defending tossers. Neo-fascists. Cross-burning white supremacists. Finger-wagging Islamists. Graham Linehan.’

But Linehan is at least an example to the rest of us of why you need to be consistent in your defence of free speech and reasoned debate. It’s not so easy for Linehan to complain now that people are unfairly smearing him in a bid to shut him up, when that’s exactly the sort of behaviour he himself has indulged in.

Watch spiked’s documentary about the Count Dankula case:

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Leanne B

15th February 2020 at 1:28 pm

He’s not necessarily a free speech advocate anyway but, as far as I’m aware, he has since realised his error and apologised to Meechan. Graham is an advocate for women’s rights, and their right to define themselves and speak their truth without fear of violence or losing their job. I salute him for his support.

Lesley Hatch

12th February 2020 at 4:57 pm

Whether he is a hypocrite or not, it doesn’t change the points he’s making about both trans-activists and the common viewpoint against trans women aggressively demanding the right to define womanhood- something they didn’t even experience until their transition. Accusing someone of hypocrisy is simply attempting to distract from his opinion- it’s irrelevant.

Lesley Hatch

12th February 2020 at 4:49 pm

Actually, Neo-Nazis are very much alive, well, and loud here in the US

Graham Southern

12th February 2020 at 8:06 pm

Really? I rather get the impression there’s a supply and demand problem. CNN and the rest are just aching to find and interview people in white hood or swastika tattoos. Their problem is that the few hundred, or perhaps thousands that fit the bill are so obviously pathetic, lonely losers.

brent mckeon

13th February 2020 at 6:28 am

Am sure you are right about the few Neo Nazis in the US but there are many thousands more Marxists Fascists around led by Antifa and aggressively supporting Bernie

Steve Gray

11th February 2020 at 1:43 pm

This is the tricky thing with that recent article about ‘purity spirals’ . It made a lot of sensible observations about how ludicrous it is for a leisure activity to become a hot-bed of denunciation and pile-ons.

But it also sought answers in forms of censorhip, of one form or another, and that has been shown to be a bad way to go.

Danny Rees

11th February 2020 at 12:58 am

If Count Dankula was a leftist Spiked would have defended his Nazi pug video as free speech huh?

Ven Oods

12th February 2020 at 8:33 am

I’d have thought that, even if they condemned it, the spikers would have defended the right to express the view?

Tony Benn

12th February 2020 at 10:09 am

Graham Southern

12th February 2020 at 8:09 pm

LOL, Danny assumes Spiked operates by his own clannish, hypocritical standards and falls flat on his face.

Paul Duffin

10th February 2020 at 9:06 pm

He doesn’t have to claim to be a free speech warrior to be a hypocrite for wanting his speech to be protected. He believes his speech should be protected against censor from those that disagree with him and yet he wants to criminalize someone whose speech he disagrees with. That makes him a hypocrite.

Asif Qadir

10th February 2020 at 8:51 pm

“Consistency in your defense of free speech”…on a site festooned with free-speech w horing and mods, in a story about being hypocritical. No inconsistencies to see here.

Jim Lawrie

10th February 2020 at 10:30 pm

I don’t think you know what festooned means.

Jim Lawrie

10th February 2020 at 10:31 pm

But trumpeting your ignorance is all part of free speech.

Claire D

12th February 2020 at 7:41 am

There’s nothing wrong with the word “festooned” in the comment above, it’s imaginative use of language, which people are allowed to do, if they are able, it often makes comments entertaining to read.

Ven Oods

12th February 2020 at 8:36 am

I got stumped at the ‘w horing’ bit. Is it a speech impediment, or a wobbly typing finger at fault?
Or just a hoary attempt to slip by the modalgorithm…

Maria MacLachlan

10th February 2020 at 8:00 pm

I don’t think Linehan claims to be a free speech warrior, I don’t think he has said or done anything to suggest that he believes in unlimited free speech ergo he isn’t a hypocrite. Also, he didn’t get a visit from the police and there is no such thing as a ‘police warning’. What he got was a telephone call informing him that an allegation against him had been made – an administrative measure.

jessica christon

10th February 2020 at 8:37 pm

He doesn’t have to claim to be anything. The hypocrisy is that he supported the censorship of Dankula, yet now he complains that his own views are being silenced. Also, just like every other woke who gets hoist on their own petard he can’t even bring himself to publicly reflect on his own past behaviour; it’s all self pity.

Maria MacLachlan

10th February 2020 at 9:58 pm

Actually, no. Nowhere is he claiming his own views are being censored. In neither the Mail nor the Times articles of last weekend, does he claim he is being censored or silenced at all. On the contrary, he has made it clear that he expresses his views quite freely and will continue to do so. His point is that those views – which are not hateful in themselves – have turned him into a hate figure for many and lost him work. There is no inconsistency in his making that point and supporting the prosecution of someone for offensive behaviour.

jessica christon

11th February 2020 at 8:31 pm


I said that Linehan supported the censorship of Dankula – which he did. The millionaire even went as far as to petition to financially hamstring this ordinary man and sabotage his appeal – that’s lower than the belly of a snake, imo. Furthermore, the claims to have never seen this the anything like this kind of authoritarianism before are laughable; he has seen it because he was among those who were visiting it on D for making a joke. It is hypocrisy writ large.

What is and isn’t “hateful” is purely subjective. It doesn’t seem like it ever occurs to the Linehans of the world that all it takes is for some others to decide their own views are “hateful” to bring down on them the same cancel culture which they’ve been a part of.

jessica christon

11th February 2020 at 8:34 pm

That should read

“the claims to have never seen anything like this kind of authoritarianism… ”

Edit button please!

Ven Oods

12th February 2020 at 8:41 am

“Nowhere is he claiming his own views are being censored.”
Well, if you ignore the fact that companies have stopped clamouring after his scripts… but, hang on – wouldn’t that be a form of censorship? (“We think this script would fly, but don’t want to be associated with someone who’s currently being roasted on social media.”)

Dominic Straiton

10th February 2020 at 6:17 pm

Its actually really hard being a Neo facist,cross burning white supremacist these days. Its really hard work.Gone are the days when you could simply split Poland up with the communists. Today you have to really hate your goddamn black neighbour who is actually rather nice……….. The Nazis are gone. They do not exist, except in the imagination of the increasingly ridiculous left. Get over it.

David Harrington

11th February 2020 at 7:42 am

If everyone is a Nazi then no-one is a Nazi. They don’t seem to get this.

Ven Oods

12th February 2020 at 8:42 am

I think the committed types carry party cards (regalia being optional).

Lesley Hatch

12th February 2020 at 4:50 pm

Actually, Neo-Nazis are very much alive, well, and loud here in the US

brent mckeon

13th February 2020 at 6:36 am

Well said, the Neo Nazis mostly are the dreams of the MSM bent on stirring up race hatred.

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