Stephen Fry on Blog Comments, Twitter, etc.

Aug 13 2010 Published by under General

Really timely quote with some of the stuff I was talking about with others today.

You know there is nothing easier than writing an article against something, which is so simple. It writes itself. You just got to be angry about something and just got to puff and wheeze with indignation and fury and resentment and bile and malice and the thing writes itself and if you write anything that’s for something it looks sentimental and cutesy and you know so much… and so much harder to write, so much harder to write well. So all the successful columnists are… certainly in the British press are vicious and they’re good at being vicious and admirable and if you share their politics mostly their viciousness is something you can applaud. If you don’t then you just call them beasts and animals and revolting. It just gets so annoying. It’s such a pity and that’s one of the reasons I love the online world is that although that exists in abundance you can choose absolutely which part of the online world you want to live in. You can make your own kingdom in that sense, so things like Twitter or whatever I’m sure there are all kinds of Twitter you know clusters of people who have politics that I would find horrific and really just views that I would preposterous and impertinent, but I just don’t have to follow them and I can block them and I will never know they exist and that’s glorious.

And similarly as long as you don’t lower your eyes when reading a blog, as long as you don’t go down to the comment section where the trolls lurk, where the viciousness is because that’s… I mean there really is just suppurating, boiling seas of acid where if you just so much as dip a toe you’ve lost your limbs you know, just vileness abounding. Again, there is this resentment, “I will be heard and not only will I be heard I will offend.” “I will tear.” “I will lacerate.” “I will wound.” “I want the sensibilities of anyone who disagrees with me to be bruised beyond mending.” That kind of attitude is very strong on the net and for all that we can be advocates for the glory and the democracy that exists online we must be aware too that that dark side of humanity that just needs to be heard and can’t bear people like me for example who have access to greater numbers of followers on Twitter or whose website gets more hits and the more they see that, the more the web becomes a reflection of their view of the meanness and wrongness of society where somebody will get it all and others get none and then the more bitterness there is and I think it’s difficult because I don’t certainly want there to be aristocracy on the net. I don’t want there to be that. I think that whole beauty of it at its best is that there is genuine equality and genuine reciprocity between you know a Twitterer and his or her followers or between a blogger and their readers and that it’s not… You know it’s not an audience going to one site that is permanent and stable and is like the equivalent of the old models of the broadcaster, but that it’s much more fluid and the broadcaster becomes the broadcasted too, you know the TV station becomes the audience and as long as people believe that and behave as if that is true then there is real hope in the way information is going.

– Stephen Fry

Or better yet, watch and listen. Quote starts about 12 minutes in.

16 responses so far. Comments will be closed after post is one year old.

  • levin says:

    sorry but i can hardly be bothered to read or listen to this guy

    like most mentally ill people fry is narcissistic and actually rather boring. he craps on about apple most of the time and as far as i’m concerned deserves to be ignored

  • Hare says:

    He is perhaps, the world premier homolectual. 🙂

  • keith says:

    Hahaha. Thank you for proving his point!

    “…as you don’t lower your eyes when reading a blog, as long as you don’t go down to the comment section where the trolls lurk…”

  • josheral says:

    like most people that are mentally ill he is tiresome, selfish and a devout apple user. this isn’t about trolling – its a matter of fact that he wouldn’t dispute.

  • keith says:

    You just can’t stop yourself, can you? 🙂

  • Gavin says:

    Hi Keith! First I really appreciate the books on Flash you have written, and your blog. Also I agreed with you on a recent post about Kindle vs iPad – for anyone who likes antialiasaing, the Kindle display was obviously superior.

    Re. the general point of vitriol on blogs I would agree with Fry. However, he is also someone who has spoken out in support of the use of vulgar and profane language without the slightest regard as to who it might offend, so we must measure this against his comments.

    I find myself genuinely agreeing with the above comments about Fry. His ubiquity and popularity merit a close examination of his views, and I’m not sure I always like what I find.

  • Paul says:

    LOL I have a strong feeling this is in response to the wild comment flame war going on in the iPad & Kindle screen post. They’re two different devices with different purposes, the sooner people accept that fact the sooner they’ll be happy with purchasing either, or both.

    Commenters can indeed be vicious, sometimes it’s intentional and sometimes it’s just voicing strong opinions, but the power of anonymity can often bring out the worst in people online. If there’s one thing to learn I think it’s just not to take it personally.

  • One day all us internet people are going to go outside, and find that once we get to know all of your neighbors it works pretty much the same way as the online world. I’m not 100% sure what the correlation is between online behavior and behavior, but I do have a theory…

    • Alan says:

      The ugliness comes with the ‘joy’ of anonymity – the very idea of expressing vicious rhetoric without any social or legal repercussions is part of the ‘fun’ of trolling. Pretending to be what you are not in the online world allows an individual to present lies as facts, opinions as facts, bigotry as facts, and ignorance as a way of life. Civil discourse is shunned on the whole while one loads the next rapid malformed word aimed at undermining an article, place, person, race of people, country, point of view, image, religious doctrine, or someone’s death.

      But the vicious anonymity is simply a reflection of what some individuals would enjoy doing in life if they could get away with it – so in a round about way, the trolling / online bullying bleeds out into the world resulting in real emotions, real events, and real anger. So yes, once people start going outside again they will be reintroduced to the world, but they will reintroduce the world with their small minded pettiness and verbal violence that one day a neighbor with probably find a hammer buried into his skull simply for pointing out that he rather likes the Kindle over the iPad for reading electronic books…

  • Hi Keith,

    I’m a long time RSS subscriber to your blog. I’ve always enjoyed your posts and typically open them in a new window to read the insightful comments by your other readers. I’ve been a little behind on my blog reading so when I opened your Kindle/iPad post, I was suprised to see the the size of the scrollbar on the right indicating tons of comments (my first thought was “I wonder what site this post got picked up by”). It’s fascinating to see how atmosphere of the comments can quickly change based on a deluge of traffic. I kind of wish I could have seen the comments that your typical reader would have left. Thanks for all the great posts and insights you have provided.

  • Isaac says:

    This is perfect. Thank you.

  • tomsamson says:

    Great, talk negatively about people who disagree and you can then put everyone who disagrees into the same group, no matter if one is just a poster of hate speech or the other is doing well thought out replies which just have a different view.
    He is off, it is just as easy to write something purely positive which is nonsense as it is to write something full of hatred which is nonsense and equally its difficult to write something clever and/or sensmaking in either direction.
    Yes, the internet if full of comments which are unjustified praise or hate speech, but that doesn´t mean any feedback and discussion is vein and it would be the best to all not listen to each other, communicate and come to common sense and consensesus but rather become so filled up of ourselves that only very few select voices should count to us, in extreme cases only our own.
    In some cases its also public service to point out some points as true or false or add additional points to a topic, shouldn´t that be more what blogs are about than pure ego masturbation?
    Hm, dunno 🙂

  • Alex Nino says:

    ooh my goodness, it was a bit deep for me today Friday afternoon but still interesting… An egocentric compressed frustration, that’s the coral inside our human bodies, hehehe, cheers!

  • Mijalikaidis says:

    “I don’t certainly want there to be aristocracy on the net.”
    Yes he does, that’s why he mentions it. He derives from the value he gives or takes to the two types of people he refers to.
    Two measures will apply to the people that take part of the web from now on. The kind Fry will allow and the kind he can’t stand but he can’t do a thing about it so he has to belittle them using gross generalisations.
    He even slips to complete narcissism by the end of the rant by going to a “listen to your own voice it’s the one that counts” meme. Getting old Fry, getting old and full of hot air.

  • Anthony Pace says:

    Very intelligent.


    Although I know by saying this I will be the vile commenter that he talk about, I can’t get past his nose.

    I can’t believe that it’s in style for actors to have their noses broken and leaned to the side, in order to provide them character on screen/stage, in addition to reducing the overall size. He needs to get it fixed.