Twitter has become a space for bullying, and Stephen Fry was right to leave it
He’ll probably be back at some point though
Stephen Fry has quit Twitter after being accused of being misogynistic towards costume designer Jenny Beavan, referring to her as a “bag lady”.
He has a staunch history of supporting the ‘right to offend’, often polarising audiences but more often than not he has come out on the winning side, and has become somewhat a natural treasure in this country.
To be honest, his joke wasn’t very funny. Nor was his one about wanting to imprison Eddie Redmayne in his basement. Fry didn’t deserve to be hounded by his millions of followers on Twitter for it, however.
The problem comes to down to what is offence and what is abuse. What Fry said could be taken offensively- and clearly was- by some sections of our society. Not everyone would have found that joke to their taste.
Little did it matter that it was just a little in-joke between friends and colleagues that was foolishly aired in public. Let us not forget that mundane events like the BAFTAs really are just a circlejerk for the rich and famous. If we are so caught up in the celebrity culture, then we must expect a bit of misguided humour between friends, such as Beavan and Fry, to overspill. Beavan didn’t take offence to the comment. Nonetheless, Twitter had decided that Fry must be punished.
The hundreds of people who rushed in to call him a “cunt”, “twat” or any other inane jibe after the event, safely tucked away behind their keyboards, were being abusive.
Just because nobody came up to him and said it to his face, it does not make it better. As someone who has dealt with, albeit on a much smaller scale due to my pitiful Twitter presence, being abused online is not a pleasant experience. Being abused thousands upon thousands of times must have been truly harrowing.
His media presence and large scale notoriety does not justify it. The man is still a human being.
Free speech laws allow us to have an opinion. They allow you to disagree with your fellow man. It’s why the likes of Donald Trump can offend again and again without consequences. Nobody has the right to live in a world where every opinion is exactly in line with their own. It may have unintended consequences but the positives vastly outweigh them.
Abuse does not extend to this category. We would not allow for what happened to Fry to happen on our streets, where one by one people could come up to him and slander him further. It shouldn’t be acceptable online and he was right to leave.
Twitter has become a place where humour and wit have been reduced to six second vines and photoshopped pictures of ducks. It has lost its charm. And we shouldn’t expect our celebrity idols, whose lives we indulge in every day, to put up with it.