Poles, Politeness and Politics in the age of Twitter

I sometimes think that when I die there should be two graves dug: the first would be the usual kind of size, say 2 feet by 7, but the other would be much, much larger. The gravestone should read: ME AND MY BIG MOUTH.

I suspect most of you will have heard of the shitstorm that howled about the head of Jan Moir, a journalist who wrote a beastly article in the Daily Mail about the death of Stephen Gately the day before his funeral. I don’t propose to stop and pick over the carcass of that epically ill-judged piece of gutter journalism. Its malice, stupidity, incoherent illogicality and crass insensitivity have been superbly anatomised by many others and besides, too much time has passed, a whole 24 hours at the time of writing and for the online world, which is still a child, a year is a decade and a day a whole month.

If I were to express sympathy for Jan Moir here some of you might think I had gone soft in the head. And yet I do feel sorry for her. There are those, there will always be those, who believe that she knew exactly what she was doing and that she is relishing her notoriety, that the sight of her name topping the Twitter trend lists will give her nothing but frissons of pleasure. I do not believe this. Yes, I expect that she will, in time, revisit her disaster. I dare say she will write the inevitable Vulnerable Frightened Piece in which she tells the world just how tyrannised, terrorised and victimised she felt; piling on the image of the concerned mum (if she is one) who was just trying to ask questions; the honest (and perhaps naive, yes, she’ll admit to that) journalist who sowed a doubt and reaped a whirlwind. Such articles always end with Serious Questions, in this case concerning the Future of Democracy Itself if it is to be left in the hands of the firebrands, hysterics and (Dark Hints) possibly sinister forces that patrol and control the internet. It will all be silly, distressing, disingenuous and ignorant, but then she is a tabloid columnist and that is her job. The reason I feel sorry for her is not that she is a journalist, or that she writes for the Daily Mail, I am quite sure she can do without my pompous, patronising sympathy. I feel sorry for her because I know just what it is like to make a monumental ass of oneself and how hard it is to find the road back. I know all too well what it is like to be inebriated, as Disraeli put it, by the exuberance of my own verbosity.

Poland

Only a week and a half ago I was asked to appear on Channel 4 news to comment on the Conservative Party and their decision to ally themselves in the European Parliament with the Polish Law and Justice Party, a nationalist grouping whose members have made statements of the most unpleasantly homophobic and antisemitic nature. I usually decline such invitations, and how I wish I had done so on this occasion. I think I accepted for the achingly dumb reason that I happened to be in the Holborn area all that day and the ITN news studios were just round the corner, so it seemed like an easy gig. The more probable explanation is that, as my father and squadrons of school teachers correctly reminded me throughout my childhood and youth, “Stephen just doesn’t think.” Anyway. Words tumbled from my lips during that interview that were as idiotic, ignorant and offensive as you could imagine. It had all been proceeding along perfectly acceptable lines until I said something like “let’s not forget which side of the border Auschwitz was on.”

I mean, what was I thinking? Well, as I say, I wasn’t. The words just formed themselves in a line in my head, as words will, and marched out of the mouth. I offer no excuse. I seemed to imply that the Polish people had been responsible for the most infamous of all the death factories of the Third Reich. I didn’t even really at the time notice the import of what I had said, so gave myself no opportunity instantly to retract the statement. It was a rubbishy, cheap and offensive remark that I have been regretting ever since.

Pages: single page 1 2 3 4 5 6 >

This blog was posted in Blessays and General Related topics: , , , , and

235 comments on “Poles, Politeness and Politics in the age of Twitter”

  1. MustangMarkF says:

    Firstly – a very well made apology regarding the Polish. As someone earlier said – just try not to make the same mistake again. As humans we are prone to mistakes and the best we can hope for is to try and improve our faults – we are not and never will perfect as there can be no such thing.

    As a new twit (twitterer- twitee?) I followed you as I find you to be entertaining with a social conscience close to mine. You maybe be a celebrety but when it comes to forming views on such important matters as mentioned in your blog I, like most use my own moral compass exckusively in deciding my views and I like to think that most use the same method – not forming a view because a celeb has the same view.

    As a charity worker I am fully aware of the nature of celebrety in publisicing a good cause or helping raise funds to support it. However, I have yet to meet a single person who has changed their mind on a issue because it is supported by their favourite celeb.

    I think that the press has wrongly credited you with creating the twitterstorm as they need a face that can be publicly identified to fit their model of the internet. Journalism, to me it seems, has yet to grasp the fact that the internet isn’t one voice but those of many people. As you said in the blog – you only commented on the issue when it was already a top trend. By feeling that you should not comment on an issue becasue you have many followers is to submit to the view that you were responsible for the strom. Clearly you were not. I look forward to continuing to read both your entertaining and your political comments in the future.

  2. daysofspeed says:

    “Contrary to appearances I have another life and do not spend all my time monitoring screens and detecting every twitch on the filament of the web.” Shame. I love the idea of you in a Steve Jobs style black turtle neck sitting in the Frycave monitoring the waves…

    It’s simple enough why so many people follow (small ‘f’) you. You are witty, erudite and never, ever (however ‘big mouthed’) insulting about the intelligence, or lack of, those who enjoy your brainfarts.

    You have no more power over me to retweet something than you have over deciding what I’ll be having for tea tonight. I think the phrase “follow” confuses many on twitter – maybe if it had been coined “prick an ear to” it would seem less hypnotic to those who don’t do the Twitter thing.

    The fact you almost managed to upset Poland by mistake just makes you even more human. Don’t be ashamed of appearing human old boy. Ever.

  3. KLK says:

    It is that over-sized heart of yours combined with your over-sized gift for speaking that gets you into trouble from time to time. But not with me. Keep on sharing the little nothings of your day please, as well as the occasional injustice that really resonates with you. And keep on being passionate and compassionate, including toward those who are less familiar with that latter state than we’d all prefer.

    Your tweets are like little bon-bons in my day and are magical for being so unselfconsciously you :-)

    Sounds like you could use a hug, so am sending you a great big virtual one.

    Kim

  4. BrumPlum says:

    I admit to having beeen taken aback just a little bit when I heard your “rememebr what side of the border…” comment on TV a few weeks ago re the Polish homophobe – you have your Hungarian Jewish heritage, I have my Polish catholic heritage and these two worldviews are often at loggerheads! Though I like to think that both you and are are above those stereotypes and so I felt your comment was a little beneath you.

    That said, we all say things we think sound clever at the time without considering all their ramifications. I also recall your interview with the BBC in which you lambasted the poor journalist about the MPs’ expenses scandal and made a (valuable and extremely on-topic) comparison with journalists’ own expense culture. Well said, even if it did drag on a bit and it sounded as if you were exonerating the policial classes!

    There is, however, a major difference between your utterances on those two occasions and the Jan Moir débacle: her tirade was in writing, and any editing of thought and presentation thereof was entirely in her power: she was not put on the spot time-wise or circumstance-wise to come up with a bon mot or other pithy comment that might not be offensive and crass without considering ALL the implications. Yes, I think that many people’s reactions have gone far too far, and perhapos she wasn’t QUITE as ill-meaning as it appears. However, she and her editors had the time and opportunity to consider all the ramifications of her words and presentation and make changes before the item was first published – not so easy when you literally have a light shining on you and a camera thrust in your face!

    Of course it’s a sign of your immense class and her immense lack of any class that you see the need to prostrate yourself and beg forgiveness while she just dug herself in and refused to accept any blame. And of course the Mail backs her all the way, too (despite changing the title of the piece once it hit Twitter)! Incidentally, that column dealt with more than just the Gately story, and my own view is that her comments about the Nolan sisters resuming their singing careers were no better judged. It strikes me that Moir is in no position to attack middle-aged women for having hips and waists, and otherwise appear no longer to be 20-somethings!

    On another point, of course you are not a political-system animal and I can understand your reluctance to wish to put yourself forward as representing anyone other than yourself. However, you do express yourself much better than most, and there are more than enough people who agree with what you say for your voice to be truly representative.

    I do find it amusing when ill-informed journos think of us, your Twitter followers, as your army of clockwork sheep you need only wind up and release into the wild to cause havoc and mayhem, but as a couple of comments have already said, the fact that we choose to follow you means we’re likely to agree with you on many issues anyway, and when you draw our attention to something, it’s more than likely that we’d all want to do something about it!

    Good luck with your future endeavours, I’m enjoying Last Chance to See and I look forward to the new series of QI due soon!

    Oh, and like all your Twitter followers, an @ reply from @stephenfry to @brumplum would make not just my day bgut my year!

    Thanks for… being!

  5. 6000 says:

    Perhaps it wasn’t you that began the whole anti-Jan Moir revolt on Twitter, but you certainly didn’t step back from egging it on, now did you?
    The more I read her article, the less I am convinced that there was anything seriously wrong with it.
    Sure, there was nothing very pleasant in there, there were conclusions that should not have been drawn – the odd allegation that probably shouldn’t have been made, but those crying out that this was “hate speech” and the like are being dramatically over-sensitive.
    21,000 complaints to the PCC later, she’ll hopefully have learnt her lesson – to not air her personal views on sensitive subjects in public again.
    To me, this appears to be a storm in a molehill – one that you happily stood by and fanned the flames.

    You claim that with Twitter, you have this great power that you never wanted, but you willingly used it in this case. How many of your sycophantic followers actually read the Moir article before jumping on the Fry/PCC bandwagon?
    Were you involved with the Ross/Brand/Sachs incident at all?

    I think we should be told.

    6k.
    6000.co.za

  6. andrealein says:

    Thank you for a wonderful blog.

    „But maybe the very fact that I have so many followers now disqualifies me from stating the sort of opinions all others are free to – as if I were a member of the royal family.“

    This is a very sad thought though and I very much hope that it won’t have too much impact on your future tweeting. I often, but not always agree with your opinions. Nevertheless I ALWAYS admire your openness and authenticity and that I can rely on you being guided by good intentions.
    Of course I know that there are people who don’t or don’t want to see that. Because of that apologising certainly is a good thing and this blog a very important one. But you shouldn’t blame yourself too much. Seems like the media and especially Twitter can be really difficult to handle sometimes. Still the amount of joy and inspiration that you bring to me and everyone is so much higher than any of these little misunderstandings that simply can happen.

    Andrea xxx

  7. Dimension of Mind says:

    A very well written blog post Sir highlighting that despite your God-like stature in the media world, you’re still only human. Could have been worse of course, you could’ve have gone all Basil Fawlty and started saluting, silly walking, doing bad accent, etc. I’d say you got away lightly : )

  8. michael says:

    Thanks for writing it all out! the internet does seem like a scary mess to me sometimes…

    these words (and others you’ve said):
    _________________________________________________________________
    “I contend that Twitter users are not sheep but living, dreaming, thinking, hoping human beings with minds, opinions and aspirations of their own…too self-respecting, independent-minded and free-thinking to have their opinions formed or minds made up for them …”

    and “I don’t propose to put it to the test by urging my followers to sign a petition to bring back the death penalty or have Jan Moir sued or some other cause of which I do not approve, just in order to see whether I can bend them to my evil will,”
    _________________________________________________________________

    over time have earned my trust in you, (i do trust you), and not many people are able of getting me to trust them. (which is more my fault than theirs, usually… sometimes i think everything online is fake and everyone is a robot. so it can take a lot of shaking me by the shoulders to get me to come round)

    i’m deeply sorry that you have to worry so much about what you say. i have no idea what that’s like. however, if your time on twitter also brings you some happiness, laughter, love, comfort, that is a good thing. (well that’s what i tell myself when i delete everything and hide :) )

  9. michael says:

    * correction: i mean AFTER i delete everything and hide, that thought brings me back around..sorry.. lol

  10. Judi says:

    As far as the jan moir article is concerned I think your comments and your “egging on” people to complain about the article was well done and I think you and others aught to be commended for it. The whole article was typical of the opinion of someone who has absolutely no idea what she is talking about and shows the ignorance of a total and screaming homophobe. I hope retribution is swift!

    As far as the comments on Poland is concerned – oh dear! Stephen Fry. Go into the corner for 10 minutes and do a million lines – ” I really must be careful what I say” Seriously, we’ve all done it. We’ve all blurted out something that we later regret. As MustangMarkF says “We are not and never will be perfect…” and I quite agree. Learn from your mistake and dont do it again. And besides, picking fights with countries isnt a good idea, is it…

    Still love you Mr. Fry! xxx

  11. Hils says:

    I read the whole blog and was so moved to respond I registered on your site just to enable me to do so.

    THIS blog account is exactly WHY you have so many followers; and EXACTLY why I urge you to keep on tweeting – the good the bad and the ugly. It is all very welcome. The honest sharing of your humanity comes across in every tweet.
    (Plus, you are correct in thinking I would not slavishly follow your every twitter whim…LOL – as you say – most folks can spot an ingenuous motive from 10 paces. It will be quite comical when Politicians try and use it for political ends…but I have no doubt they will try. Very funny indeed. :-))

    This blog article contains a real sense of genuine sincerity, which is quite rare. I yearn for signs of genuine sincerity ‘out there’ – hence my joy at being one of your twitter ‘followers’.

    Thankyou for writing this blog article. It is more evidence of your openness, your intelligence, your eloquence at conveying nuance and feeling and your compassion.

    Apologies if this sounds like a sickening sycophant pawing at your feet. LOL. I don’t wish it to come across as such.

    I actually genuinely mean what I said – and I cannot think of another human being (that I do not know personally) who I would want to say any of this to.

    I think you are marvellous *sends big hug*
    Keep on keeping on!!
    PLEASE.
    (and no – dont expect me to follow a tweeted link supporting the return of hanging! LMAO)

  12. yvonne14 says:

    i WAS TOTALLY DISGUSTED IN THE DAILY MAIL THIS DEVASTATING NEWS OF STEPHENS DEATH IS ENOUGH FOR HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS TO COPE WITH
    SEEMS THEY ARE NOT A CREDIBLE PAPER THEY SHOULD BE SUED TO MAKE A STORY OUT OF SOMEONE ELSE.S GREIF IS TERRIBLE
    STEPHEN GATELEY WAS A GREAT ENTERTAINER AND A LOVELY PERSON ALWAYS SMILING .
    as FOR THE DAILY MAIL DISGUSTING

  13. The Jedi Doctor says:

    Dear Stephen,

    This was a brilliant blog, and I’ve now written two responses, having lost the first to the Omni-Powerful Ether-Twit in the Sky (congratulations if you’ve broken him as well). This was important enough, though, that I rewrote it, as best I could.

    I was born into the Twitter-world in late September in an effort to follow local up-to-the-minute forest fire evacuation reports. That afternoon, I realized that Twitter was a beguiling distraction for my up-to-that-point grossly isolated lifestyle. I discovered that you were a prolific Tweeter, and began to follow your twitterings as a means of escapism, as well as a bit of company. Very quickly, I found myself amidst a fairly tight-knit, welcoming group of Fry-following-friends with many similar interests. Without your popularity, I know I’d still be holed-up in my room, sans friends, communication, inspiration, etc. So, I’m obviously indebted to you for that, if nothing else!

    But, on a more universal level, I think you’ve hit the rhetorical nail on the head with your (please excuse the phrase) decision “flip-flopping.” This is why you must not “shut the fuck up!” By changing decisions so quickly from one to the next, you are quite possibly showing everybody what makes you such a wonderful person and someone to admire.

    The brain doesn’t just receive new information at intervals, then compute at certain other intervals, then check for continuity, then keep itself on the same course. It’s an ever-changing machine. It’s always experiencing and perceiving new information, and synthesizing everything as it goes. I doubt most people are aware of the many different ideas they are having all the time. They’d probably feel traitorous.

    Your acknowledgement of big decision changes goes to show that you are extremely intelligent, sensitive, and open. I don’t know if we could ever be so lucky to have a politician who admitted to or followed those processes, but seeing it all is an honor for everyone who does witness your thoughts, antics, impulses, apologies, mistakes, and especially humanity.

    So, for the sake of the world, Stephen, PLEASE do NOT “shut the fuck up!”

    With absolute love, gratitude, and exceedingly sore fingers,

    Erin ( @TheJediDoctor / @JediDoctorFrys )

  14. ladyfromhamburg says:

    Dear Mr. Fry , no Stephen if you allow,

    First of all I wished (again) I could find all the words I would use in my own language to comment but I’ll try my best and hopefully will avoid anything which is distorting the meaning.
    Every individual is always threatened by danger. The danger to use words that are inappropriate, ill-conceived,, a bit ambiguous or really mistakable or in the worst case: they are definitely wrong. As we all are no computers but human beings it is understandable for most of the people when occasionally statements or reactions are possibly unpleasantly worded. Sometimes it’s not even necessary to apologize sometimes it’s a must. The greatness is to recognize when it’s possible to sit things out and when you have to react. I’m very proud that you decided to react and to apologize but I didn’t expect anything else. You are a very kind man who never has the intention to hurt anybody and I can imagine that sometimes you really would like to spank yourself when it happened again – this failure in keeping your mouth shut. Believe me, as long as you are able to see you as you are (you analysed yourself with meticulous precision) there is no reason to worry. You will continue trying to avoid such spontaneous comments without thinking, you will succeed many times and you will fail again when circumstances don’t allow anything else. There are only two possibilities: You shut up your mouth completely (which is impossible) or you take the risk.
    Have you ever tried to find out why so many people love you, support you, follow you, etc…?
    One reason is that you are an individual like them, not without fail but with heart and soul and able to recognize when you made a mistake. They admire you despite AND because of your daily struggle with yourself! They love your sincerity and authenticity! As you are – in addition – a man with a copious knowledge and with a non-ending list of positive characteristics – many look up to you and try to find a kind of guidance. So that’s your responsibility: to show them what is wrong and what is right. You did (see above).
    And don’t forget that it’s often so important to have a voice that is listened to!

    Regarding a political function. I agree with your own statements..
    Twitter: an addition to all communication media we have but with tremendous speed and enormous cruising radius. Hope you’re right regarding the democratic idea.
    Jan M. : can relive what you mean, nevertheless …

    Stephen, thanks a lot for your today’s blog. I followed you the last 12(?) years and I will continue

    Best wishes
    Michèle

  15. teakates says:

    Some people are hysterical in this world. Daily Mail readers are hysterical. Their writers play on hysteria to make money. Only these hysterical people are not shocked by Jan Moir’s article because they are now so accustomed to the horrific shock magazines that keep multiplying to fulfill the hysterics’ desires.

    You are not hysterical and the few of your other twitter-followers that I know are not hysterical. We read the headlines of tragedy but do not delve into the needless gruesome details of Jan Moir’s and Daily Mails. The fact that rape, murder, and injustices are rife in the world are horrors enough for us – we do not relish the precise body count and moment-by-moment replays of inhumanity as the Daily Mails and their readerships do.

    The non-hysterical think for themselves and are not driven to public outcry based solely on the influence of celebrities or writers. We have busy lives and self-respect. We can read about a celebrity’s life but not mistake it for any influence on our own. We form friendships, not bonds of psychosis with thousands of other faceless, antagonistic shut-ins. For us, the internet is a way of accessing information, friends, and family not within our close reach.

    The reason we feel the need at times to correct the media or public personalities is when the Daily Mails and Jan Moirs send out rallying cries to the hysterical mob that are pure bloodlust, making a scandal out of death and grief, or fuelling prejudice. It is worth curbing these excesses when it relates to those who are dead.

    Jan Moir can recover from this – Stephen Gately has no hope of correcting the damage she has wrought on his reputation with her unfounded speculation. Hystericals seem to have no respect for the dead and all sympathy for Daily Mail journalists who slander the dead. This deserves to be protested.

    I think you may need to devise some way of making your Twitter private, Mr. Fry. Only those with clear identities belonging to your fan club allowed as followers, perhaps? Leave the press and their followers to find another scapegoat.

    Love and cake,
    teakates x

  16. Len says:

    Twitter is, of course, just one tendril of a vast weed of Internet-based media that are changing the way we receive and disseminate news and that we organize protests and respond to events. There’s also Facebook and blogging and YouTube and podcasting and, I’m sure, a hundred things I’ve yet to encounter. The recent (or, as you would have it, correctly, somewhat distant) protests in Iran attest to something going on that is new and powerful. This is all still developing, and here in the US, reactionaries have to tended to stick with radio and TV as their modes of communicating their political ideas, to some extent because they are already well organized and the information tends to flow in one direction. The more liberal areas of our culture tend toward less organization and information leaps in every direction simultaneously in those precincts.

    Newspapers and magazines have been under a kind of assault since Marconi, and the ferocity of that assault has increased in the digital age. Those older outlets, and now TV and radio, too, are like Lear, no longer powerful and wandering on a heath on a stormy night. Can we expect rationality from them yet?

  17. msmarmitelover says:

    I’m really glad you wrote this. I was very excited when us on the twittersphere managed to overturn the trafigura injunction but I felt things got very personal and rather out of hand with Jan Moir’s article.
    I think we have to be careful with this people power, not use it willynilly. If everytime someone wrote an article we didn’t like, there was a campaign, people would not take Twitter seriously anymore.
    As a woman I felt quite distressed at some of the mysogynist comments written about Jan Moir. People threatening to publish her home address must have been very frightening for her.
    Of course I am totally against any homophobia, but we all know what the Daily Mail is like. I’m a single parent, and women of my ilk have frequently been accused of every broken Britain malaise, forgetting totally that single parents and their children are some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country. Be interesting to see if the Twitteratti manage to get as bothered about those sort of articles. I doubt it.
    There are fashionable causes and unfashionable ones.
    More importantly, the murder of a gay man in the centre of town last week by teenagers is where our ire should be directed. My teenager, just like the others, uses the word ‘gay’ for everything soft or emotional or just plain nice. As in ‘that bag is so gay’.
    I don’t actually think Jan Moir is a homophobe. She’s just a writer trying to make a living, in sometimes a quite dodgy way.
    Worse was her article vaguely blaming the mother whose daughter was killed by her lorry driver boyfriend for …well I wasn’t quite sure…for having a boyfriend? ever? for allowing her daughter to do an overnight trip? after an 18 month relationship in which the girl had started to call him dad?
    Maybe she will think a little harder in the future about the damage and hurt her words can cause.

  18. traveIIer says:

    Many will come and either fawn over you for your lovable fallibility or chastise you sternly for your sticky beak. I will simply thank you for “prolix”, which I shall be using in scrabble at the first opportunity.

  19. cheesemeister97 says:

    Shocker – Stephen Fry outed as just like the rest of us!

    I wouldn’t beat yourself up about a slip of the brain. Your apology is out there for those who wish to accept it, and auto-copulation is there for those who don’t. You, Stephen, are what I feel I can only aspire to be. You are a force, one who may not wish to be a ‘force’ of any kind, but you have found yourself in that position because of the way you can communicate your ideas in an erudite manner, rather than a ranting stream of bullshit, which is all some who are given the chance to publish seem to be capable of at times. And how admirably you wear your mantle.

    I can’t even count the number of times it seemed that my mouth was somehow connected to my arse. The shit that poured out and too late the little light comes on to warn of a faux pas, followed (at some point anyhow) by the mandatory grovel.

    It just shows that anyone, no matter how educated or publicly deified, can say something with the best intentions, and yet somehow the wrong words tumble out as the brain drops into neutral whilst the mouth continues to freewheel. Take the example of President Obama; talking about his bowling prowess he blurted out the phrase “like the Special Olympics or something.” He didn’t mean to offend, but ultimately it was the wrong choice of words.
    We all knew he didn’t mean to be offensive, but his status elevated the whole thing from a slip-up anyone could have made to a feeding frenzy for the media sharks.

    Unfortunately it is the curse of celebrity, to have those who hang on your every word, but also those who wait to hang you on your very words. And people wonder why I’ve never wanted to be famous!

    Keep being as you are, never second guess yourself. The right to free speech is also the right to free drivel, and if there is one thing all humans have in common, it’s a love of blathering. Outside of the printed word, I believe Eddie Izzard put it best – “70% how you look, 20% how you sound, only 10% is what you say.”

  20. sandraregina says:

    6000 – actually, I read the article first and then read (some) of the tweets out there. It turned my stomach. It might not be full on ‘hate speech’ but it was still repugnant.
    And sincere apologies for ill-thought and poorly worded statements are always welcome, over flustered protestations of innocence.

  21. JonSHarvey says:

    Prompted by your blog posting, I was reflecting on ‘courtesy’ as I did one of my 30 minutes of thrice weekly aerobic punishment. Saying sorry is a deep act of courtesy. I believe that we are, when all is said and done, highly cooperative animals and the courteousness of saying sorry evidences our true nature. As a consequence saying sorry is profoundly influential – because it reverberates & resonates with our being.

    The British Psychological Society’s blog had this research report recently:

    ” Seeing one person be rude to another can stunt a person’s creativity, impair their mental performance and make them less likely to be civil themselves. Christine Porath and Amir Erez, who made this finding, say it has profound implications for the workplace, where rudeness has been described by some as a modern epidemic….”

    http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2009/05/harm-caused-by-witnessing-rudeness.htm

    I would suggest (without scientific foundation though) that seeing someone else’s decent & courteous actions does the opposite too.

    This is why it is great to see what you say, do and write, Stephen. Simultaneously you affirm our cooperative nature and help us all resist plummeting into the 9 levels of rude and crass Hell. Please keep it up! Thanks.

  22. macclaine says:

    I must protest your disparaging comments to yourself. Yes, you might have made some impolitic comments, which you apologized for; that is already more than most might do. But you have proffered a point of view and perspective that far outweighs whatever verbal faux pas you might have made.

    You have hit on several of the points that make twitter, and other social media services, so fascinating.. and so dangerous. But out of the chaos there sometimes comes a voice of reason, or if not exactly reason, at least goodness, and we all need to see/feel/experience more of that. Twitter is still young enough that we are allowed to view those individual voices of responsibility and common sense, but it will not be that way for long, and we should savor it while we can. Much like giving oneself your own nickname, as soon as the media tries to use twitter to control information and messaging it will become a parody of itself and the genuine thinkers will drift away to the next estate.. so enjoy the validity and sincerity while you can.

  23. Laila says:

    This blog saddened me a little, although i understand everything you are wanting to explain, it makes me sad to think that just because you have a lot of followers, you feel that you can no longer just say whatever pops into your head at anytime like the rest of us. True you do have influence, but i too believe that not every one of those followers will immediately agree with everything you say, and therefore march over other opinions just to be supportive. this sounds a little harsh but i assure you its not meant to be, if anything its meant to be reassuring, with the thought that just because you have said something doesn’t mean 860,000+ tweeters will suddenly be blinded fixed on one side of whatever argument might be being discussed! People will always have their own opinions surely they will always too be influenced by those around them from time to time, but they will in the end form their own view. If we don’t listen to other points of view how are we meant to decide what we believe is just and unjust? only those disinterested in actually having/wanting to understand a situation and form an opinion will follow blindly what another says!

    The thoughts that you share with us through whatever form of communication it may be, whether they be ones that are formed and instantly shared or ones like those in this blog that are more thought over……these thoughts, utterings and opinions are what make us cry with laughter at the happenings of your day, cheer in support of a football team, gasp at the wonder of a twitter-fall, force us to think with compassion about what we can do to help others. true though that sometimes they make us wonder what on earth you were thinking? make us disagree with you about things. but i for one would certainly have it no other way!

    You are human… the same as all of us. The same way thoughts fall out of our heads onto paper or screen, is as much true for you as us! and there are a great many who willingly preach at us, without nearly as much thought and feeling and humanity. so if there are to be found some few mutterings that are said with less thought than the vast majority…….

    Well i think it is only right that they be forgiven =)

    Much love

    Laila

  24. horsetrix says:

    Dear Mr Fry, while I applaud your sentiments in your apology to Jan Moir, I personally cannot claim to have reached that stage yet. If, instead of justification she offers a complete apology for her “article”, I might find myself feeling a bit of sympathy for her. However, at the moment, I’m saving my sympathy for the people who were deeply, deeply hurt by her article.

    You, on the other hand, are quick to apologise for your gaffe, made under circumstances a million miles removed from her written piece and that’s the difference.

    Keep tweeting, blogging, rambling…whatever. For most of us, we utter the rare nugget of gold amongst the mountain of dross, with you we get the rare piece of dross amongst the mountain of gold nuggets.

  25. Soph says:

    I can’t say I know a whole lot on this subject but I hope my blog post is atleast a worthy one. I do admire you, deeply for apologising. However, we all make these niggly mistakes. The difference is when you slip up, alot more people know about it. Which must make it 100 times more tough for you to handle. I do sympathise. Guilt and regret are a horrible feeling in the stomache. From what I could tell, by your reactions to these allegations you didn’t realise the impact caused from what you had said. I didn’t doubt you for a second, you didn’t mean it and that much was crystal clear.

    The mere fact that you’re now apologising suggest to me you feel terrible about the comment. Your good nature and kind heart won’t let you rest. I hope now you’ve made it clear to all that you didn’t mean what you said and in your head you can draw a line in the sand over this matter. : ] You don’t deserve ever, what you put yourself through. And you need to keep hold of that thought and keep it tight.
    Sophie xxxx

  26. JonSHarvey says:

    broken link – here is the one that works:

    http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2009/05/harm-caused-by-witnessing-rudeness.html

    (pesky missing ‘l’ !)

  27. AlfnPolly says:

    Wow Stephen you really do beat yourself up a lot! As many before me have said, you are only human and are as entitled to your opinions as everyone else. No one will think you have gone soft for apologising, it only means that like the rest of us you wish you could zip it from time to time. Remember, people like to have scapegoats and thats all thats happened here. Many many people were outraged but you have been singled out. AS I tell my children, try to only worry about ‘the people that matter’ and not every other Tom Dick and Harry! These frenzies blow over very quickly but the adoration the world has for you will be here a hellava lot longer!! Remember, there’s more people with you than against you! Big hugs xxxx

  28. Oscar The Grouch says:

    Great blog and nice to see your apology – to err is human and all that, so I hope you continue to tweet on a regular basis.

    As for the comments by “6000″ earlier today with your dreadfully mixed metaphors (a storm in a molehill, for goodness sake!), I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion. For your enlightenment, to highlight the fact that you are, in my opinion, a complete numpty, the Sachs/Ross/Brand issue happened at the end of October 2008. How many followers do you think Stephen Fry had on Twitter at that time, considering he had only been tweeting for a few weeks at that point? More or less than the current 860,000? Did you research your question before you posted it, or simply pick a topic out of the air? Did you actually read the whole blog, where Stephen highlights the Moir issue was something he was only involved in after it had already become a concern for other tweeters, or was this just an attempt to promote your own, rather sad (again this is my opinion), blog?

    I know Stephen is big enough to fight his own battles, but do we have to suffer idiots like 6000 and their poison?

    Stephen, I enjoy reading your bloggs and tweets and your popularity should not prevent you from having an opinion, even if you have to apologise for it afterwards!

  29. holbolrob says:

    “So I should shut up. That seems to be the only sensible thing to do. I should shut the fuck up.”
    I beg, beseech, pray, entreat and demand that you do not Stephen. I agree that sometimes it is wise to stop and consider before you say certain things, but with a brain as fast as yours it’s understandable that you’ll make mistakes. (It reminds me of something Dumbledore says: “I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being – forgive me -rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”)
    But you cannot deprive us of your thoughts and opinions. What if Wilde hadn’t recorded his thoughts? What if all those people we look to for inspiration, for evidence or even simply for laughter, were afraid of their influence? Where would we be then?
    I know where I would be without the ability to read something you’ve written or watch something you’d done. I’d be a lot worse off. I was the girl at the Criterion who thanked you on behalf of the teenage world for being someone we can turn to in our moments of despair. Where will we be, Stephen, if you “shut the fuck up”?
    Best Wishes.
    Holly x

  30. Laura says:

    I fear this is a bit of a futile thing to say, but try not to worry.

    Everybody says stupid things sometimes. And people who are often on television sometimes say stupid things on television. In cases like yours, the world forgives them and moves on. I guess what I mean by “in cases like yours” is in the case of people who are well-known and known to be decent people. You have publically said so many good things, so many fair, generous-spirited, sensible things, on everything from rainforests to HIV to mental illness to America to endangered species. All of that more than outweighs a silly remark in an interview that hardly anybody saw. (I didn’t see it, and neither did any of my friends and family. Even with a Stephen Fry appearance, the majority of the population don’t crowd around their television sets for the Conservative Party on international politics, interesting and worthy as all that is.) There’s been no Moir/Ross-and-Brand-esque furore that I’ve seen. It’s just not on the same scale.

    I, for one, really respect you for making a public apology – that’s not easy to do. And, now you’ve apologised, those who saw it and were surprised will know you didn’t mean it and it was all just a silly accident. We can all move on, and I very much doubt that anyone will love you any less. As I said, we all say stupid things without thinking.

    It’s fine, honestly. Give yourself a break.

  31. dean says:

    Do carry on unabashed. Your occasional mistakes are such a small fraction of your prodigious verbiage it’s quite delightful, like spotting a rare bird. I saw you on the news and actually enjoyed the Polish foot-in-mouth moment, it was so thoroughly and unexpectedly pointed. You were of course confronting the Conservative party with the implications of their new-found Fascist friends at the time, and my guess was that your blood was understandably up. My Polish friends all loved it.

    In this post your apology is well-formed and fluent, and on that basis alone, there is no danger of you ever moving into politics. We couldn’t cope with the sight and sound of a politician doing that, it would be too strange and voters would assume that we had passed into another dimension entirely.

  32. spermologer says:

    Somewhere Germaine Greer wrote, ‘The essence of pleasure is spontaneity.’
    That’s what twitter is about, isn’t it, ‘Annihilating all that’s made/To a green thought in a green shade’.
    Keep those thoughts coming please – they’re a creative pleasure for this reader and, hopefully, that tweeter.

  33. Laura says:

    PS. I would be sad if you stopped tweeting. To me, Twitter seems to make the whole transaction of “celebrity” (ie. you) and “fan” (ie. me) a lot more human. You can tell me what you’re up to – and even though you’re not specifically addressing me, and you don’t know me, you’re addressing a collective that includes me. I can send an @reply and, who knows, you might even read it.

    On Twitter, everybody has a voice and everyone’s opinions are, in a sense, equal. The difference is in how many people hear that voice, ie. the number of followers. Your huge swarm of followers gives you power to influence things in the real world – people sign petitions and lobby their MPs when you tweet to alert them to something important. At the same time, you have to deal with people lashing out when they disagree and journalists taking the piss. Is the power to change things and the fun of tweeting worth the aggravation? That’s your decision. I really hope that no negative response has the power to upset you to the extent that you’d rather just keep quiet.

    Sorry – this is my second essay on your post! I didn’t originally see the other pages.

  34. exoskeleton says:

    I’m glad you’ve considered Moir as a human being. Also, this was a perfect venue to explain yourself regarding Poland and I appreciate the honesty. I don’t always agree with the views you tweet, but I value the fact you’re able to share them anyway.

    Also…I bet that old Prentiss McCabe consultancy would go nutty for Twitter. :)

  35. harryb22 says:

    I totally agree with your opinions of Jan Moir.I too read the article with amazement.However nobody seems to have picked up on Harry Hills dated remarks about the wonderful Nigel Slater on Saturday night.”Oooooo chase me” would also seem a nasty homophobic phrase.

  36. MissSmith says:

    Bla bla bla

    Tell me why it’s always like that: people make critical statement on public TV channel and then say sorry on private blog website that nobody even read?

  37. GigglesaGiggles says:

    There is not one of us who does not, at some point, wish for a rewind/erase button. Imho, there is a huge difference between words that slip out ahead of brain engagement, and an article, written, polished and published.

    As my own mouth forgets to wait for my brain, I have a huge amount of sympathy with you. That you were man enough to apologise with such sincerity is one of the many reasons you would be a crap politician. Are you a loss to politics – yes, thankfully. :-)

  38. tui says:

    Well, i haven’t got much to add to the table which hasn’t been already said, far more eloquently than i ever could have said it, but lets give it a go anyway! ;)
    Stephen, it totally sucks (as eloquent as i get) that every time you tweet/say something that may possibly offend it is magnified to the max because you are who you are! Then for weeks after wanna be talentless hacks think it is clever to dig up old ground, use your words, as they can barely think of anything worth reading for themselves to attack you further. I am so full of rage at the moment i may explode!
    I know it is easy to say, but try not to beat yourself up about it. You have publicly put yourself on the line, apologised and put you point across calmly and honestly, which is a damn sight more than most in your position would do!
    From what i have seen of this world genuinely good guys who make an honest mistake get shat on. And unfortunaltely for you, you are the biggest genuinely good guy i know of!
    Remember you have us lot on here who will defend you till the end…well i know i will :)
    Please never stop tweeting, only thing that makes me smile most days!
    Love, respect & hugs more than ever
    Sarah XxX

  39. artatac says:

    It is so refreshing to have your witty, always thought provoking blogs. We have enough ‘views’ from people who would not dream of telling you what day it is without checking with their pr department! The occasional trip only confirms you as human! keep it all coming!!

  40. inckognito says:

    I’m not quite sure that I would have written such an honest blog and come clean to a good deal of people if I were in your shoes! And you did.

    Stephen, I don’t know about the physical courage but the MORAL one you definitely have! And it’s so rare, I think!

    Someone great (probably, Forster but could be mistaken) said once: “I would rather be a coward than brave because people hurt you when you are brave.” That is so damn right!
    To some extent, I can pretty guarantee that there will be a few newspaper articles after your blog which (I hope!) you will never read because I feel journalists will be trying to distort all the text and the image of the whole situation as they usually do! Let’s hope I’m wrong…

    I know one thing about you, Stephen, – you are KIND. That’s enough for me to follow you in all senses and believe you.. Thank you!

    Lots & lots of love,
    Elena (@inckognito)

  41. jason says:

    Hi Stephen,
    I just read your blog, all 6 pages, yes unlike some I actually do real…lol. Thank you for the blog, very good and interesting, for a start I am sure the Polish community will be pleased about the apology, as I read on I see you start to worry about what you tweet.

    This worries me, ok so I am not a celebrity and true I don’t “really” have to watch what I say, but never the less, neither do you. What I am trying to say is, that I and I am sure many more of your followers here and on twitter do not feel you need to change in anyway to “watch” what you say. Just bee yourself, that why we love and follow you. I personally enjoy your comments and blogs, I am not influenced by you I make up my own mind on thing. For example the Moir stories, I totally missed your tweets and was pointed out these on facebook, only then I tweeted them on twitter and later on saw you have already mentioned this. So you see, even though I am very fond of your I don’t follow your every word on the internet. (not meaning that in any rude offensive way). Yes, you are a celebrity and the press will always use you and other well know names as a point of reference. But sadly that is life, or dare I say only human.

    Anyway, I am rambling on now. In short, continue as normal, be yourself and lunch is on me one day ;-)

    Take care… Jason (aka Jason_pendragon on twitter use to be jason koen)

  42. rasmaestro says:

    Nicely done, Stephen.
    Anyone who knows you, or even by way of all the publicity, knows of you, should not accept that odd statement as a genuine sentiment and would at least double-check your intentions. It would be the responsible journalistic method, to critically check one’s sources.
    Apology accepted – and anyhow exactly because of Twitter, your apology will be so much better distributed, understood, and recognised.
    Cheer up and chin up, you’re OK!

  43. jason says:

    PS: I did forget to mention in my little speech (as above), I also do owe you an apology. One evening last week, not sure when I too was one of the gits who asked you to RT for me, yes I admit I had a few drinks and enjoyed a bit of South African folk music, so I found an old SA song and asked you to RT for me. Reading back at your blog I can now see how I used you are a “public service” and this is not what you are and I was very wrong. I apologise for this, I hate upsetting people or putting someone in difficult position. No hard feeling I hope. Xxx (@jason_pendragon)

  44. bjohnson says:

    I understand why Mr. Fry apologized, but I don’t think Mr. Fry’s comment was out-of-bounds. The comment was historically correct and the data is important to the formulation of an opinion, much less a course of action. Furthermore, Mr. Fry could have easily, and justifiably, wandered off into the territory of Polish anti-semitism apart from Germany and the Nazis. That is well mapped territory and we shouldn’t put aside what we’ve learned.

  45. Elifant71 says:

    I hope that you have a quiet week, but please don’t loose your voice. We might not all concur with your viewpoint at times, but in the past and future alike I know that your viewpoint comes from intelligent and reasoned diagnosis which allows me a fortunate follower to address my own viewpoint and determine myself whether it be right, wrong, or indifferent. Everyone is entitled to their thoughts and opinions regardless of who they are-rich, poor, politician or commoner, or even left or right. This is what makes human and aids in the evolution of the human race. So I say keep on challenging us, make us stand up for ourselves and our own intentions and viewpoints there are few out there now a days that give us this gift and it is one that we all need desperately if we are to reach the next level of humanity!

    Thank you Stephen Fry!

  46. mrblondienation says:

    As a wise and Wilde man once said “It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution”
    Don’t be too hard on yourself,
    You are loved.
    BN.
    x

  47. katusmaximus says:

    Oh the pain! Life really should have a remote control so we can rewind and dub over some of the things we’ve said and done – but it doesn’t :(

  48. nogoodgirlo says:

    Re. Poland : LMAO! Sorry Stephen x x x

    (No malice or offence intended)

  49. Gaina says:

    Stephen, your ‘big mouth’ is attached to a sensitive soul and an awesome intellect so don’t ever apologise for anything that comes out of it! ;-).

    I’m not sure what offended me more about this whole thing with Stephen Gately – Jan Moir’s original article or the patronising tone of the ‘apology’ that simply insinuated that we were all being over-sensitive.

    It takes a….’special’ type of arrogance for person to even seriously contemplate writing the utter nonsense she came out with in the first place. Honestly, I am certain she will continue to feel completely justified in her vile bigoted opinions until the day she dies. Such is the level of her arrogance.

    That’s the difference between you and Ms Moir – you CARE about what comes out of your mouth and the effect your words have on other people whereas she just cares about foisting her ill-judged opinions on others (although in the case of Daily Mail readers, I think she’s merely ‘preaching to the converted’).

    Thanks to the good old ‘interwebs’ I’ve managed to read your comments about Auschwitz in context and I think I understand what you were trying to say (and you didn’t say anything that wasn’t true).

    I think your comments just illustrated what Stanley Milgram set out to prove with his ‘Obedience to Authority’ experiments – that no one nation or race has the monopoly on Nazism (I’m sure you know that he had a personal interest in examining this because he himself was Jewish), and experiencing Nazism does not automatically make a person immune to subjecting others to that kind of treatment either.

    I really am disturbed that neither of the other major parties or the media in general are making as much of this worrying alliance as they should be. If I was ever considering a Tory vote (ooh! look at the pretty pig flying past my window!) then that alliance would definitely make me think again.

  50. Beach Bum says:

    I avoid celeb blurb as a rule but I quite like Poles so wound up here.”I am always around, following the conversations and noting the suggestions, corrections and criticisms”. Less words, more pictures – otherwise very good. Stay stoked.

Leave a Reply

AUDIO BOOK

Available from Apple iTunes Store.

Audio Book Link

Read Stephen’s previous blogs

The Dongle of Donald Trefusis

Dongle of Donald Trefusis

The new audio series of Professor Donald Trefusis.

Join CLUBFRY and make friends