Monty Python comedian and actor John Cleese argued with a number of Twitter users last week after he fiercely criticized slavery while also pointing out that it was not unique to the Western world but a global practice.
"I think it's untrue to suggest that European countries invented slavery," Cleese told his over 5 million followers on Twitter.
"The pyramids were not built by independent contractors. Nor by volunteers," he added. "Sadly, this disgusting practice has always been a worldwide phenomenon. Suggesting otherwise looks to me like a form of racism."
One user agreed with Cleese, writing that it was a fair point to make in a debate that has been "taken hostage by the woke brigades."
While Cleese's comments prompted some to defend the 83-year-old comedian, others labeled him, a white graduate of the University of Cambridge, as a "racist."
"Every time you post a tweet liked this you're exposing how much of a systemic racist mindset you have... It's really quite depressing," one user wrote.
"No, not true Mr. Cleese," another user told Cleese after he argued that it didn’t help anyone to turn the history of slavery into a competition. "Before American slavery, slavery as an institution was mostly an economic condition. Americans turned it into a racial condition."
"I see your point," Cleese responded back. "So American slavery is more reprehensible than ordinary slavery…" he wrote, giving a seemingly sarcastic reply.
Cleese told another Twitter user that the history of all peoples was unfortunately characterized by the strong abusing the weak. "The basic fact is that the history of the World is a history of Crime - of more powerful people subjugating less powerful people," he wrote. "It didn't require any specific gene."
He has also called for the full history of slavery to be taught, especially where it still exists. "I think the history of slavery throughout the world, should be taught - all five millenia of it [.] And there should be a special focus on where it still exists."
Cleese’s most recent comments on Twitter closely echoed a panel he attended at the music festival South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
He told panelists that "[h]istory is a history of crime. It’s a history of people who were stronger beating up people who were weaker, and it’s always been that. It’s deeply, deeply distasteful."
"But to pretend that one lot were worse than another — you do know the British have been slaves twice, right?"