Comedian Stephen Fry has quit Twitter after a barrage of abuse directed at him over a joke he made about a friend of his being dressed like a “bag lady” during the British Academy Film and Television Awards yesterday.
“Only one of the great cinematic costume designers would come to an awards ceremony dressed as a bag lady,” he said of Jenny Beavan, a costume designer, as she was leaving the stage during the BAFTAs, which Fry was hosting.
Some vintage Twitter outrage followed, with people accusing him of poor taste and offensive comments.
Fry would later post a photo of himself with Beavan at the BAFTAs after party to show the two were friends, but he then quit Twitter and published a damning blog post denouncing the humourless and lynch-mob-like mentality of its users, describing it as a “stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous” that now shows “as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined”.
Here’s an excerpt:
Oh goodness, what fun twitter was in the early days, a secret bathing-pool in a magical glade in an enchanted forest. It was glorious ‘to turn as swimmers into cleanness leaping.’ We frolicked and water-bombed and sometimes, in the moonlight, skinny-dipped. We chattered and laughed and put the world to rights and shared thoughts sacred, silly and profane. But now the pool is stagnant. It 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 any more. The fun is over.
To leave that metaphor, let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know. It’s as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined. It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists … the ghastliness is absolutely the same. It makes sensible people want to take an absolutely opposite point of view. I’ve heard people shriek their secularism in such a way as to make me want instantly to become an evangelical Christian.’
But Stephen, these foul people are a minority! Indeed they are. But I would contend that just one turd in a reservoir is enough to persuade one not to drink from it. 99.9% of the water may be excrement free, but that doesn’t help. With Twitter, for me at least, the tipping point has been reached and the pollution of the service is now just too much.
As a company, Twitter is struggling to find audience growth and its shares have been crashing to all-time lows. It recently announced it had no growth in the last quarter over the previous period and investors are wondering if the service has reached its peak.
High-profile celebrities denouncing the service as a cesspool of vitriol does not help with that marketing challenge.
Fry has been a high-profile presence on Twitter for years, amassing more than two million followers as he documented his work, thoughts, and travels on the service and regularly engaged in conversations with fans.