Stephen Fry condemns the “self pity” of abuse victims and “infantile” student activism

He said the advances of the Enlightenment are being deliberately pushed back

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“There is deep infantilism in the culture, in terms of the way they think, they can’t bear complexity.”

Comedian, actor and Cambridge Alumnus Stephen Fry has condemned the actions of the so called ‘regressive left’ on University Campuses as “infantile” and “stupid”.

Speaking to American comedian Dave Rubin on his political talk show The Rubin Report, Fry expressed concern that “the advances of the Enlightenment are being deliberately pushed back.” Discussing the recent actions of students on campus, including the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, Fry cited the inability of people to ‘bear complexity’ as underlying reason.

“Life is complicated and nobody wants to believe it. I suppose you might call it the infantilism of society. There is deep infantilism in the culture, in terms of the way they think, they can’t bear complexity. That you have to think, there are gradations, nobody wants that, they want to be told and to say: ‘This is good, this is bad’.”

Rationalism, empiricism, baseballs caps and superhero movies all came up in Fry's interview

Rationalism, empiricism, baseballs caps and superhero movies all came up in Fry’s interview

The ex-Queens college student went on to criticize the campaign to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriol College Oxford as stupid, alluding to George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’

“I think it started to happen in Britain with the removal of statues of people who are considered unlikeable. They’ve become, in a very ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ way, ‘unpersoned’ and suddenly someone because they were an imperialist, Cecil Rhodes is the example I’m thinking of. There’s a big statue of him at an Oxford college and there was a movement because people were offended by this because he stood for values we now regard as terrible.”

“But to remove his statue strikes me as stupid. The way to fight colonialism is not to pulled down statues but to reveal who he was.”

The Rhodes statue that caused such controversy

The Rhodes statue that caused such controversy

Fry then went on to make comments on sexual abuse victims for which he has faced severe criticism. Discussing the demand for triggering warnings before plays, Fry said:

“There are many great plays which contain rapes, and the word rape now is even considered a rape. To say the word rape is to rape. They’re terrible things and they have to be thought about, clearly, but if you say you can’t watch this play, you can’t watch Titus Andronicus, or you can’t read it in a Shakespeare class, or you can’t read Macbeth because it’s got children being killed in it, it might trigger something when you were young that upset you once, because uncle touched you in a nasty place, well I’m sorry.”

He continued, saying: “I’m sorry it’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place – you get some of my sympathy – but your self pity gets none of my sympathy because self pity is the ugliest emotion in humanity. Get rid of it, because no one’s going to like you if you feel sorry for yourself. The irony is we’ll feel sorry for you, if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just grow up.”

These comments caused severe backlash on social media, with some calling for the impeachment of Fry from his position at the head of the MIND mental health charity. The QI host, a sufferer of Bipolar disorder himself, has been president of the organization for 5 years. MIND released the following statement in response:

“Abuse is incredibly serious and can have devastating consequences for survivors, particularly for their life-long mental health. We would urge anyone who has experienced abuse of any kind to reach out and seek support. We understand why some people may have been upset by Stephen Fry’s remarks in a recent American TV interview. Stephen was speaking in a personal context, giving his own views as part of a longer discussion on the subject of freedom of speech. As President of Mind, Stephen Fry has done a huge amount to raise awareness and understanding about bipolar disorder and other mental health problems. He has supported Mind in our campaigning activities over the last decade and has helped enormously to change public attitudes in the UK about mental health for the better.”

“We will be speaking to Stephen to discuss the concerns our supporters have raised.”