Having just finished Jon Ronson’s excellent book, ‘So! You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Huh?’ I’m all over this latest Stephen Fry Twitterstorm story like a rash.
One of the many points Ronson makes in his book is that it’s often those who allow themselves to be cowed by the outrage crew who suffer most. A figure like Max Moseley, he argues, simply didn’t feel shame and therefore emerged unscathed from his shaming episode. “As soon as the victim steps out of the pact by refusing to feel ashamed,” says Max in the book, “the whole thing crumbles.”
Which brings me to Stephen Fry, who last night told an outrageous joke likening a BAFTA-award winner to a bag lady. The subsequent outcry is such that he’s deleted his Twitter account.
Now, disregarding the fact that he’s often flouncing off Twitter, it’s clear that Fry is upset by the reaction, when — if you ask me — he shouldn’t be. Because surely if you tell an outrageous joke, part of the effect is the outrage? Fry has the safety net of being personally acquainted with the target of the gag, with whom it’s a bit of bantz, so he can rest easy knowing there’s no high-status bullying stuff going on; everybody else can fuck off, can’t they?
So Stephen, I can see that you’re coming from a place of ‘this is a disproportionate reaction to my outrageous joke’, but even so, it’s not like you’re going to lose your job. No one will die. What you should do is laugh at the offence-takers. Enjoy the ride. And by doing so you’ll strike a blow for those less powerful than yourself, the ‘innocent’ victims also mentioned in Ronson’s book, who have had their lives virtually destroyed by keyboard warriors wielding digital pitchforks.