British actor, comedian, and TV personality Stephen Fry has quit Twitter, blaming his departure on people who are “offended on behalf of others.”
It’s not the first time Fry has thrown a strop over online criticism and quit — or threatened to quit — a social media platform. The actor & comedian quit the picture-sharing site Instagram last year, and has previously threatened to quit Twitter because of “aggression and unkindness” on the platform.
It’s hard to feel sympathy for Fry, who isn’t above doling out “aggression” on social media himself. He once told his two million Twitter followers that Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos — then a columnist for The Telegraph — was a “cynical, ignorant f***!”. Fry’s comment is, of course, completely true and accurate, but you can’t attack others for being aggressive on social media when you use language like that.
Nonetheless, Fry’s latest fall-out with social media, which followed days of attacks from feminists after he joked about a female fashion designer’s appearance, is slightly different to his other outbursts. He specifically blames the professionally offended (also known as “social justice warriors”) for poisoning the well of social media. In a post on his personal blog, Fry wrote:
Oh goodness, what fun twitter was in the early days, a secret bathing-pool in a magical glade in an enchanted forest. It was glorious ‘to turn as swimmers into cleanness leaping.’ We frolicked and water-bombed and sometimes, in the moonlight, skinny-dipped. We chattered and laughed and put the world to rights and shared thoughts sacred, silly and profane. But now the pool is stagnant. It is frothy with scum, clogged with weeds and littered with broken glass, sharp rocks and slimy rubbish. If you don’t watch yourself, with every move you’ll end up being gashed, broken, bruised or contused. Even if you negotiate the sharp rocks you’ll soon feel that too many people have peed in the pool for you to want to swim there any more. The fun is over.
To leave that metaphor, let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know. It’s as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined. It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists … the ghastliness is absolutely the same. It makes sensible people want to take an absolutely opposite point of view. I’ve heard people shriek their secularism in such a way as to make me want instantly to become an evangelical Christian.