Was Stephen Fry right?

Clare Balding’s lovely, isn’t she?

She’s great with guests on her chatshow, clearly knows her business as a sports reporter, and probably doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. You wouldn’t imagine she’s describe someone as a ‘bag lady’ at a major event.

Apart from when she suggested Liam Treadwell use his Grand National winnings to get his teeth fixed.

They knew each other, the words probably sounded great in her head – but most people watching weren’t in on the joke, and some took offence.

Which is where Stephen Fry went wrong on Sunday at the Baftas. Joshing with a chum only works when everyone else is in on it or not privy to the conversation – otherwise it looks mean-spirited, cruel and all rather pointless.

Back in 2009, the only opprobrium Balding had to face was from the media. Now we have excitable people on Twitter, all ready to pounce and give their opinion whether wanted or not. And our news outlets are so desperate to fill the silences they’ll quote those tweets ad nauseam, whereas what everyone most likely wanted to do was just move on from it.

But Fry is wrong in his post explaining why he’s taking a break from Twitter.

“Oh goodness, what fun twitter was in the early days, a secret bathing-pool in a magical glade in an enchanted forest. … But now the pool is stagnant. It is frothy with scum, clogged with weeds and littered with broken glass, sharp rocks and slimy rubbish.”

Stephen, it’s always been like this. Not the Elysium of your mind’s eye.

Absolutely everyone on Twitter has some axe to grind or an angle to take or an agenda to push. That’s why they’re on Twitter.

Please don’t try and paint it as Rome before the Barbarians arrived. Bit elitist, that.

And get someone to read your jokes next time.

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