From under the floorboards

I am very rarely ill, but this weekend I am definitely more than a little under the weather and incapable of any form of physical or mental exertion beyond stumbling the ten yards from bedroom to kitchen for more cocoa. So any blog postings today come with the caveat that the brain is not quite in gear… (and if that’s not an invitation to insult me, I don’t know what is).

Stephen Fry’s brain was most definitely operating in top gear when I saw him speak at a NESTA event on new media on Thursday. (Actually – frightening thought – perhaps it wasn’t, perhaps he was just coasting and is capable of being even more intelligent and erudite and charming?)

I’ve never been a massive fan of Mr Fry. I suppose I’ve always thought of him as a nice guy, and obviously bright and entertaining and ‘a good thing’, but I’ve simply never really paid him that much attention. I’m not sure I even follow him on Twitter, although seeing as he’s just attained Twillionaire status, I don’t suppose he cares.

So I didn’t turn up at Thursday’s meeting expecting to be starstruck – but I was. As well as being almost supernaturally articulate, he was self-deprecating and funny and open and just seemed like an impossibly nice and interesting human-being. Have a look yourself – http://www.stephenfry.com/media/ – to see the man in action, but here’s a taster, written up in a piece in the Guardian, which for some reason won my heart.

“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. 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.”

From under the floorboards, indeed. (With the obvious exception of people who comment on here about things like traffic lights and are generally reasonable folks. I’m talking about the people whose comments generally, these days, don’t make it past moderation because I am, frankly, fed up with their very existence).

There was of course more to the debate than criticising people who comment on blogs. Stephen said that he thought politicians would win plaudits on Twitter for openness and honesty, and just simply saying things like ‘I feel crap’ or ‘I messed that up’ and things along those lines. He is probably right, within the wonderful world of Twitter, but I think he underestimates the extent to which the mainstream media is waiting to pounce on us. Or perhaps the extent to which we fear that they’re waiting to pounce?

I do think he’s right with the general point he makes though. Given time, politicians may find that the experience of having direct and unmoderated contact with the public through new media forms like Twitter is a liberating one.

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