Stephen Fry has had a busy few weeks.
Apart from appearing on our TV screens every Sunday night (and various points in between) he’s campaigned against the Conservative Party’s association with a right-wing European parliament grouping and was a prominent disseminater of the disgust felt towards Jan Moir’s infamous Stephen Gately article.
In a blog post published yesterday, entitled Poles, Politeness and Politics in the Age of Twitter, he conflated the two issues to offer some reflections on his own actions and on the nature of online debate.
Intriguingly, he used the post to retract some of the “rubbishy, cheap and offensive” remarks he felt he made during a Channel 4 News appearance when he debated the Tories and the Polish Law and Justice Party.
While the blogosphere and Twitterverse is censorious about others, here’s a rare instance of internet self-flagellation.
Sure, it’s a couple of weeks after the event and complaints had been pouring in but, given the shrill nature of much of the online debate (yes, including over the Moir affair), it is refreshing for someone to come to the point where they admit very publicly they badly misjudged their remarks.
Here’s a taste of the Fry mea culpa:
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.
And his view of Jan Moir? Well, he still thinks the article was an “epically ill-judged piece of gutter journalism” but has some sympathy 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.