Matthew Norman: The Fry affair was Twitter's first JFK moment
Monday 09 November 2009
Which of us will ever forget where we were when we heard that Stephen Fry had resigned from Twitter?
Or what we were doing when news of his subsequent un-resignation gave those of us too young to remember the flavour of the joyous relief when Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich waving his piece of paper? Pray God Stephen's return doesn't prove another false dawn, but regardless of that fear the episode constitutes Twitter's first JFK moment. So soon after the event, it would be madness to attempt any analysis of the cultural, political and metaphysical implications. Historical perspective is required for that, and it may be years before Ben Elton unravels the full meaning in one of his brilliant novelised examinations of voguish modernity. What we can do today is doff the cap to another of Stephen's friends, the adorable Alan Davies. Casting himself as Jack Ruby, Alan went after brumplum, the assassin who, after expressing his love and admiration for Stephen, dared strike at his tweets for being "a bit boring". Alan's responses are a must-read for anyone too impatient to await the next Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations. You can't put a price on "you are a moron yourself", "why are you after stephen, dickhead?" and "what does that mean you prick?" In fact, this is his most polished comedic work since biting that tramp's ear outside the Groucho Club two years ago. Yet the special joy and consolation here, for those fearful about the future of newspapers, is that if we must go down, our final days will be spent as a service industry to Twitter.
As for Penelope Trunk, she provided the other Twitter sensation of the week with a tweet even Mr brumplum could hardly dismiss as dull. "I'm in a board meeting," the beauty read. "Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin". Her ensuing two-page Guardian self-justification, "I don't regret my Tweet", was a classic of sub-Jan Moir confusion. She had an earlier miscarriage, she reveals and didn't like that one nearly as much; anyway – and Bletchley Park is already working on this one – "Twitter is not a public forum". Ms Trunk ends on a note to confirm Tom Baker's Delphic utterance, after refusing to destroy the Daleks at the point of their creation, that out of all evil comes good. "I didn't think about any of this when I wrote my tweet," she concludes (and who'd have guessed from the quasi-Daviesian nuanced tone?) "But all the media attention has made me think a lot more ... I'm smarter for it." That's another thing about Twitter. It doesn't half do wonders for the mind.
I am dismayed by the sardonic reaction to the Prime Minister's assault on The Sun for trying to "become a political party". He said that right. The paper is outsourcing so much political coverage to Tory high command that cerebral new editor Dominic Mohan is rumoured to be sharing his salary with Andy Coulson. What people may not realise is that Brown has spent a decade pleading with the Daily Mirror to stop regarding itself as his personal house bulletin. It was in pursuance of this, and not to beg him to stay loyal as previously suspected, that Gordon summoned its editor Richard Wallace to No 10 during the failed Cabinet putsch in June.
Rants and ratings
Meanwhile, The Sun shocks and amazes by finding space to bash the BBC. This time it's over declining audience figures for the Asian Network, which a former presenter with no axe to grind argues are too small to justify the £25m annual cost. Still, at least those figures are public knowledge. We still await the first ones for SunTalk, where each day Jon Gaunt educates and entertains those with internet connections in their vans. One day perhaps, News International will reveal how Gaunty's doing, and whether he has breached that all important four-figure barrier. But breath-holding is not advised.
The history boys
It's mayhem on the Daily Telegraph's comment pages, with Andrew Marr delivering a swift counterstrike to Charles Moore's attempted demolition of his (typically excellent) book and TV series The Making of Modern Britain. It's always upsetting for us foot soldiers when titanic former editors fall out, but in this case less than usual. There's a pantomime quality to this that hints at one of those well over-rehearsed spontaneous X Factor spats between Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole.
Neither of these boys has the ego to take themselves this seriously, so they've clearly cooked it up for the publicity. After all, if Charles wasn't being self-parodic when he wrote that "history is surely an unprejudiced enquiry into past times", just think what a hostage to fortune he'd be making of himself with his Thatcher magnum opus to be published on her death.
Forgive the self-indulgence, but I must end with a couple of family announcements. My aunt Bernice has been elected supreme leader of Britain's Lady Masons, and we're all very proud. Whether it strictly qualifies as a media event is debatable, but there is no doubt about this one. My cousin by marriage Kevin Lygo, whom I have never met, has won the title of Britain's Highest Paid Public Sector Worker, last year's package from buoyant Channel 4 coming in at £1.14m. We're almost equally proud about that, and the begging letter is in the post. Although given the performance for which the Royal Mail's Adam Crozier earned his runner-up's £995,000, there may be nothing for it but to contact Kevin through Twitter.
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