Posts Tagged Stephen Fry

Sledgehammer. Nut. Crack.

Sledgehammer. Nut. Crack.

I have had it to the back teeth with this terrorism lark.

First the authorities pussyfoot around the real potential terrorists for fear of pissing off some loudmouthed and very small section of the community, and then they set about wasting theirs and everybody else’s time in arresting someone who posts an off the cuff joke on Twitter. It makes you wonder if everything you post online is being watched by a team of jobsworth apparatchiks in some cold, grey office in Cleethorpes – the sort of person who has nothing better to do when they are not being told by their zealous pen-pushing bosses to focus both eyes instensely on the head of a pin.

Paul Chambers, the unfortunate tweeter at the centre of this silly storm, has since been banned for life from the wonderfully-named Robin Hood Airport – no great loss there, I suppose – and had to endure seven hours of questioning from uniformed – or should that read uninformed – imbeciles who didn’t even appear to know what Twitter is. Have these dimwits not heard of Stephen Fry, for pity’s sake?

The depressing truth is that many of those who wave their sticks around telling us all what to do are just as clueless, the sort of nincompoop that takes everything literally and has lost the capacity to process information in an intelligent manner. We might as well train monkeys to do these jobs.

It makes you want to… Hmm. Better stop there, eh?

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That silly twit again…

That silly twit again...

Our old friend Stephen Fry is at it again, moaning about the haters on the Internet. Well, boohoo. Someone needs to tell this chap being an arse-licking sycophant is not a prerequisite to sharing opinions on social networking sites and bulletin boards, and that out of the million people that are following his tweets there are bound to be few who might have something negative to say.

“I would not say that I lost faith in Twitter, I would say that I lost faith in my ability to negotiate it”, quoth Fry. Not knowing anything about Twitter, one might assume that our so-called national treasure is talking about something infinitely more complex and serious as opposed to a social networking tool that is essentially frivolous and worthy of no more than a couple of seconds of your time, if that.

He rambles on:

“I don’t know about you but whenever I read a blog I do not let my eye drop below half the screen in case I accidentally hit the bit where the comments reside. Of all the stinking, sliding, scuttling, weird, entomological creatures that inhabit the floor of the internet those comments on blogs are the most unbearable, almost beyond imagining.”

This is truly laughable. The very purpose of blogs – unless you are someone like Kim Jong Il preaching to his lackeys – is to create discussion, elicit debate, and – on occasion – strike up an argument. Critical commentary is central to the entire concept of online discussion, and if you don’t like what you see it is a simple matter of leaving things alone. These “stinking, sliding, scuttling, weird, entomological creatures” will continue to plague you so long as you continue to post your verbose and rather self-pitying lamentations, Mr. Fry.

And on:

“Their resentment, their desire to be heard at the most vituperative level, at the most unpleasant and malevolent, genuinely ill-willed malevolent, level is terrifying and I am very often simply not able to cope with that.”

It is not only the haters who “desire to be heard”, Stephen. There are also the serial whingers and moaners, people who say something and then throw a hissy fit if a bunch of complete strangers choose to be a wee bit critical rather than bow and scrape in praise of your banal witterings.

I do actually believe the misapplied label of “national treasure” has got to Fry’s head – for his attitude can only be described as precious in the extreme.

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What an, er, twit.

What an, er, twit.

Spinning off the still-rumbling story of Stephen Fry’s online stomp-off (and subsequent return) a number of journalists have lined up to have a go at Twitter, among them the Independent’s Nicholas Lezard (So you’re eating lunch? Fascinating, 4th November 2009).

There is little in this pointless article that makes any sense; it is no more than a simple case of shooting the messenger, an activity that has always been popular among hacks with no better way to spend their time. With its limit of 140 words Twitter may arguably be inconsequential, but it is just as much a valid medium as anything else – more so if it is your intention to make a quick point and fire across an interesting link. OK, you will never be able to tweet the complete text of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich or the libretto of Götterdämmerung, but that’s not really the idea.

Twitter can be used for a multitude of different things; some people use it to highlight important news stories, some use it to publicise their latest blog entry, while others merely wish to share their banal everyday activities with the world. I have no great desire to tell everyone on the entire planet about what I had for lunch or wax lyrical about the consistency of my stool, but some apparently do; this is not the fault of the medium, but the contributors themselves.

Quite simply, if you don’t care to know that Stephen Fry has just deposited a particularly sticky turd in his gold-leaf lined lavatory, it’s up to you to decide not to follow his updates.

Taking Lazard’s argument to the ultimate extreme, one could justifiably examine some two-bob z-lister’s “autobiography” and conclude that books are bad; likewise you can take a pointless article by a lazy journalist and decide that there’s no point writing anything about anything at all.

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I know I really shouldn’t care, but… lol.

I know I really shouldn't care, but... lol.

Yesterday I wrote about the Stephen Fry Twitter hissy fit, and in extending this to talk about victimhood-seekers in general I threw in the name of Jordan aka Katie Price. Well, the folks at the Guardian have kept this non-story running, and surprise, surprise…

…yesterday Katie Price broke down in no-more-than-140-character sections, telling her “haters” to just attack her and get it off their, er, chest (her words).

So in what appears to be a game of Twitter victimhood poker, Jordan has called Fry. I cannot wait to see what is going to come next – is he going to go all in with the revelation that his maternal great-great-great grandfather was the cabin boy on the Amistad?

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Is this news?

Is this news?

Is it just me, or does anybody else find Stephen Fry rather annoying? Not content to serve us with a barrage of what can best be described as his self-indulgent tales of woe and misery, he now makes the news (though, I ask, is it actually news?) after getting into a hissy fit with some faceless critic on the Internet.

“Think I may have to give up on Twitter. Too much aggression and unkindness around.” Hmm. He’s lucky he doesn’t have me following him then, doesn’t he?

As much as I enjoyed his performance as Melchett in Blackadder, I have never understood what Fry has actually done to be elevated – in some minds, at least – to the status of “national treasure”. As far as I can see the man is no better or worse than any other comedian, the occasional florid witticism notwithstanding. He is hoisted up as some sort of intellectual heavyweight for no other reason than he appears to have an opinion on almost everything, though this opinion is delivered in what is admittedly a rich and soothing baritone.

If anything, Fry has shown a rather uncanny ability to make the most out of being a victim; from his admission of having bipolar disorder and his homosexuality through to his almost comedic breakdown on Who Do You Think You Are? where he revealed previously unknown Jewish roots, there is a clear pattern there. He is, in a sense, the almost perfect victim; it reminds me of a hilarious exchange on Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David, on being told that his manager Jeff had a gay cousin that escaped Nazi Germany, merely splutters “talk me about being ostracized. Gay Jew in Nazi Germany? He must’ve had a hard time. What a combo!”

When you throw in bipolar as well, you can arguably claim to have the full house. In terms of victim status, Stephen Fry is the undoubted market leader – unless of course you wish to include someone like Jordan, who has recently played her latest victim card in claiming that she was raped before she became famous. I can see no reason why we need to be told about this – or what we can possibly gain from acquiring this knowledge – but someone, somewhere, is lapping it all up.

OK, so Stephen Fry suffers from bipolar disorder. Yes, I feel sorry for the guy – but just don’t get why his fawning followers in the media feel the need to keep telling the entire world about it in the vain hope of expecting them to be nice to him on the Internet. It’s like a new discussion exit strategy – you can’t criticise me/him/her – I/he/she has bipolar disorder. It’s right up there with invoking Adolf Hitler or the Nazis (or both) when an argument isn’t quite going your way.

In a sense, Fry is the living embodiment of the spirit of post-Blair Britain, a Britain that is obsessed with the personal foibles of so-called celebrities and with it the mythologising of victimhood. It is the genesis of all of those rather cloying tributes to dead reality TV personalities; the Urquelle of those morbidly nauseating childhood biographies that one can find in abundance on supermarket shelves. Stephen Fry and the likes of Jordan, Kerry Katona and Jade Goody may be poles apart in terms of background and intellectual ability, but they are two sides of the same coin in that they have all profited from what I would consider a bizarre wave of manufactured public sympathy.

I just find all of this curious in the extreme, but then I suppose you need to be a victim – at least to some degree – in order to understand it. What this actually says about the British public, I couldn’t begin to imagine.

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“A cognitive malaise”

"A cognitive malaise"

For all of the dross one can find online – badly written articles, fansites dedicated to the fictitious lives of soap characters, spam advertising – there are some gems out there on the Internet. One such gem is the article published today by writer and physician Raymond Tallis that provides an startlingly accurate critique of the celebrity culture that in slowly infecting the cultural fabric of Western society.

I could not have described this phenomenon any better:

This is the celebrity culture, and some will tell you that if it makes you vomit or rage, “just get over it”. Even King Canute (that one-factoid celebrity) gave up when he saw the ice-cream vans floating in the sea. Besides, there are, surely, worse curses: violence, greed, poverty and — looking farther afield — civil war, dictatorship, plague. Even so, celebrity is a curse […] It is a cognitive malaise that affects us all.

Tallis namedrops the usual suspects: Amy Winehouse, whose undoubted talent pales into insignificance against the dark backdrop of her sordid private life; Katie Price aka “Jordan”, an uncouth nonentity whose claim to fame has little or nothing to do with any form of talent, and Victoria Beckham, a feckless nobody who has somehow been elevated in some very soft minds as the queen of what is bright and beautiful. He fails however to mention the late Jade Goody, who inspite of her utter gormlessness was some presented as the nation’s latest official celebrity culture martyr.

The celebrity culture is a black hole sucking up light. It is not only a manifestation of the cretinisation or tabloidisation of our culture but further cretinises it.

Most of us with more than a single brain cell know that such individuals are total nobodies without their publicists and agents; the problem is that while even twenty years ago people like this would have had their fifteen minutes only to rightfully fade away into deserved obscurity, today there is so much money to be made that they are more often than not set up for life. This of course means that they are continually able to buy their way back into the limelight. Perform some inane act. “Write” a book. Get commissioned by the BBC to get sent around the world at the licence payer’s expense to talk about things they clearly know sweet bugger all about.

Why must we have Steven Fry tell us about endangered species? OK, he may have a passing interest in the subject, but is he there because he is a naturalist, because he is educated in the field? Or is it because we simply know his face? Instead of sending Fry to the back of beyond, the BBC could have spent a fraction of the cash and employed someone with a real qualified interest – someone who, perhaps, could become the next David Attenborough. Instead of sending the “comedy Brit abroad” Paul Merton to India, they could send someone with a genuine cultural interest; instead of having someone like Tony Robinson host all of these programmes on ancient history, they could provide us with a real historian.

Stephen Fry: A comedy Attenborough?

Stephen Fry: A comedy Attenborough?

I am actually waiting for the next documentary feature on the First World War to come out, which would be fronted by the team from Blackadder goes Forth. We would have Lieutenant George fill us in on the life of the upper classes, old Slackbladder himself provide us with tales of the regular professional soldier, and General Melchett would give us the gen on what things were like for those who sat far behind the lines. Of course, the louse-ridden Baldrick would give us a gritty take on what life was like for the rat-eating regular Tommy. The actual educational value of such a project like most of this sort of expensive guff would be minimal, but it would certainly draw in the viewers – and perhaps an expensive covershoot and interview for the Radio Times.

Of course, this is at the high end of the scale; at the bottom of the pile we have those who have got to where they are for no real reason at all. If you work hard doing a decent job for most of your life, you will simply remain one of the crowd; however if you perform fellatio on a professional footballer or happen to be the publicity-hungry girlfriend of an alleged rapist, you can – with the right publicist, of course – become a celebrity in your own right. I am not just making this up, of course: I will have to admit to having heard of both Rebecca Loos and Abi Titmuss. They even have names that suit; you cannot make any of it up.

Of course, one could justifiably argue that the fact the likes of Raymond Tallis (and me for that matter) are spending time writing about this stuff is proof that those of us who would consider ourselves critics of this nonsense have also been infected with the virus. It is perhaps galling to admit, but it is true that one has to absorb part of something to be in the position to offer a critique of it, let alone outright condemnation.

At least I am able to draw the lines; what scares me is that we are witnessing a generation who have grown up on this rubbish and know little better. The fact that many young people admire the lifestyle of these media-manufactured oxygen thieves is even more terrifying; it does chill me when I see one of those documentaries where a six-year old girl – with all the genuine honesty of a six-year old – tells everyone that she wants to be like Jordan when she grows up.


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