Stephen Fry Speech

Stephen Fry and his Attack on Social Media and Society

The Baftas, usually a stage to celebrate the achievements of film in Britain and the wider world, were sadly overshadowed last night following Stephen Fry’s ‘controversial’ decision to call costume designer Jenny Beavan a “bag lady”.

Despite Fry later using Twitter to defend his position, explaining she was a “dear friend”, the lynch-mob of keyboard warriors were quick to label one of the country’s best-loved TV personalities a misogynist and demanded he apologise for his comment.

His ‘strop’ on Twitter was quickly over as he deleted his account this morning, but not before branding those hounding him: “tragic people”. With more than 8 million followers, his disappearance has topped the headlines and overshadowed even Leo DiCaprio, who won his first Bafta last night.

The removal of his account may be a statement of intent on Fry’s part. However, consider the cold, hard facts: a TV presenter has removed his social media account (something he has done on a number of occasions before) because he was unhappy at the abuse that came his way.

Surprisingly, Fry has used this opportunity not only to denounce those who find offence at every tiny detail of modern society but he has also launched a scathing attack on Twitter itself and the community it has built up.

In a post on his website this afternoon, Fry proclaimed in his usual, elaborate manner that the modern Twitter is “frothy with scum, clogged with weeds and littered with broken glass, sharp rocks and slimy rubbish”.

“If you don’t watch yourself, with every move you’ll end up being gashed, broken, bruised or contused. Even if you negotiate the sharp rocks you’ll soon feel that too many people have peed in the pool for you to want to swim there anymore. The fun is over.” Stephen Fry

Almost ironically, he was a guest on ITV’s The Johnathan Ross Show last Saturday where although he discussed his early love with Twitter, he hinted that he was becoming dissatisfied with the social media platform thanks to the loss of ability to have a personal connection with his followers.

As I mentioned, this is not the first time Stephen Fry has quit Twitter. Last year he took a four month unannounced break from posting whilst in 2009, he threatened to remove his account after a follower called his content “boring”.

On his website post, he reiterated that this walk-out is “not a big deal” he “hadn’t slammed the door” on Twitter forever. More than likely, it would seem likely that he will return in a few weeks.

However, it is interesting that Fry has used this outburst to launch his own attack on Twitter. It is true that since he started using Twitter in its early days, the site has changed drastically, driven in particular by the surge in active users which has made it the second most popular social media platform in the world. Earlier this year we reported on how proposed plans to remove the character limit would destroy Twitter’s USP.

Its rise has come in parallel with society’s new urge to try to oust anyone who appears to be even slightly offensive in public life. Many saw last night’s example as highlighting Fry’s misogynistic views meaning he does not believe in equality for all. No, the gay, bipolar man who actually has the guts to speak out on the mental state that almost drove him to suicide definitely does not support equality…

I am no doubt certain that Stephen will return to Twitter very soon, however, his strop has raised questions about those that hide behind the keyboard, ready to come to the defence of any ‘minority’ who may need ‘protecting’ from the reality that is the real world.

As these warriors of the internet watch from up on the moral high-ground with the shield of anonymity protecting themselves from falling down to reality, those of us sane enough to have avoided floating up to join them need to do something, anything, to make that shield impermeable to everything, allowing our ‘protectors’ to live in their own, unsolicited world whilst allowing us to get on with our lives without worrying about a celebrity joking about his friend.

Image Credit: https://flickr.com/photos/raaphorst

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Ruairidh Campbell
Based in the Scottish Borders/Glasgow, Ruairidh has written extensively on everything from rugby to politics with work published in publications including the Scottish Rugby Union's website, Scottish Field Magazine and Edinburgh Rugby's match-day programmes.
Ruairidh Campbell

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