Exclusives News 11 February 2019

OPINION: Should we cancel Liam Neeson?

11 February 2019

Globally renowned movie star Liam Neeson has shaken the internet in what could potentially be one of the biggest PR disasters of the year.

Whilst on a press run for his new film Cold Pursuit, Liam Neeson sat down with Clemence Michallon from the Independent to give his take on why revenge doesn’t work. – a theme that’s much in line with his new movie.

The award-winning actor recalled an incident in his past which saw him prowling the streets with a cosh looking for any “black bastard’ he could kill in response to learning that a close friend of his was raped by a black male. From the terms he used, to the logic behind it; the revelation of this story has rightfully angered many people worldwide and in a time where cancel culture is reigning supreme – the question on whether Neeson should be cancelled is on everyone’s minds (and timelines).

Is Liam Neeson racist? He claims he isn’t, as do several of his friends; names like Whoopi Goldberg and Michelle Rodriguez have come to his defence. But its hard to believe that Neeson’s internalised racism wasn’t at the very least partially to blame for the rage that filled him when he prowled the streets in search of an innocent black in which to exact revenge on. Following the blow-up of Neeson’s comments and subsequent cancellation of his movie’s premiere, the 66-year old spoke out on Good Morning America denying accusations racism or profiling. Instead, saying it was an act he thought was driven by honour. An idea that becomes increasingly senseless. 

With movements like Black Lives Matter protests, and most importantly the exposure (thanks to the proliferation of camera phones) of wrongful/unlawful killing of black people (more commonly men), you would think Neeson might hesitate before exposing a thought and situation as striking as this. Is it lack of awareness? lack of care? Or does he have an agenda? He felt it necessary to target a whole race because of the actions of one individual, he waited to be provoked – no part of that seems honourable let alone logical. And very much racist, it demeans and dehumanises an entire race. 

Ex Footballer John Barnes spoke out on the situation, very much in defence of Liam Neeson, exclaiming that he” deserves a medal” for being brave in confessing about the skeletons in his closet. Going onto say it was a different time and drew parallels to Winston Churchill and the Aryan race. In a twisted turn of events, Piers Morgan condemned Barnes, saying that Neeson is indeed racist and tried to use this confession shamelessly as promotion for his new film. Leading us onto the next question, what did Mr Neeson think would happen following this enigmatic revelation? In an ideal world (for him), he would’ve been met with empathy, praise and be commended for being honest about his past but he wasn’t, shouldn’t and hopefully will never be.  

Instances like this are worrying, with an OBE after his name, Neeson has a wide reach, influence and power at his disposal. He is a household name, one that many have loved for years, and a potential role model. So scenarios like this could set the tone for the masses who might feel its okay to share these sentiments if Neeson is not chastised for these proclamations. 

John Barnes wasn’t the first to lay out a “strong” counter-argument; Niall Boylan also came to his fellow Irishman’s defence. Stating that it was a different time, and exclaiming how race relations in Northern Ireland at the time were commonly negative. Boylan says that Liam Neeson was of course wrong, his actions were racist but he himself isn’t. It can be easily argued that as Liam Neeson was a lot younger, ignorant and irrational at the time due to the incident happening over 40 years ago. People can change. Nowadays any public figure is at risk of getting drawn out for things they said or posted years ago and we are quick to either cancel them or reaffirm how long ago it was.The question remains, would Neeson’s reaction have been the same had a white man raped his friend? Would he have gone out looking for innocent white men who vaguely matched the description of the assailant? Or is the rampant internalised racism the reason behind Neeson’s wave of emotions?  


Piers Morgan, Niall Boylan, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu and Richard Blackwood all, in fact, discussed the topic together. Dr Shola opened up the floor to speak about the power in creating awareness that this uproar has had. It has started a much-needed conversation that highlights the racist stereotypes perpetuated in society and how more than ever they need to be spoken about and combated. The single silver lining to the whole ordeal.


Nick Cannon, the hosts of The Real, The Breakfast Club, Terry Crews and many more have had their say – with the conversation not showing any signs of dying down. Boycotting of the infamous Taken franchise already starting. In the midst of the chaos, Twitter merchants have of course wasted no time in making satirical light of it all…


So, should we cancel Liam Neeson? It’s clear he’s now apologetic but is that enough?