Archive for February 2, 2010

Stephen Fry was right…

Posted in Biographical with tags , , on February 2, 2010 by telescoper

I’ve recently been reminded of a comment made by Britain’s only remaining National Treasure, Stephen Fry, in the Guardian a while ago.

“I don’t know about you but whenever I read a blog I do not let my eye drop below half the screen in case I accidentally hit the bit where the comments reside. 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,”

There’s also a similar piece by David Mitchell that expresses the same sort of view.

Let me say straight away that I’m not referring to the comments posted on this blog recently. I always enjoy reading the threads on here, even if – or perhaps actually because – they fly off at unpredictable tangents from the main point of the original item. I would never have imagined that Bob Kirshner’s guest post would have led to an in-depth discussion of lavatory seats, for example. I disagree with quite a lot of the opinions expressed, but it’s actually quite nice to give people the opportunity to get something off their chest, as long as they remain civilised – which they usually do.

So please keep commenting on here, and please don’t be scared to look at the comments either. Some of them may indeed be weird, but they’re not going to disturb your piece of mind. Stephen Fry and David Mitchell were referring   to the sort of stuff you often see on higher-profile sites, especially newspapers, where the online comments are filled with  drivel so moronic that it’s actually depressing to think that there are people lurking out there capable of writing it. These guys (Mitchell and Fry) are in the public eye and so they attract a great deal of comment themselves, much of it staggering in its inanity and abusiveness.

One might have expected a bit better from the readership of the Times Higher, an organ which I thought was read by academics and university-based professionals who presumably must have received some sort of education themselves before gaining employment that involves attempting to educate others. However, the comments following the piece I blogged about recently contains, as well as  some sensible reactions (both for and against my actions),  a few that are just puerile and others that barely conceal the writer’s bigotry. Clearly not everyone who works in a university is either articulate or rational. But then I knew that already.

One particular commenter, the presumably pseudonymous John Fitzpatrick, states

As for Coles, what an effete and bitchy little man he has exposed himself as. How he can face his students and colleagues after that is simply amazing.

Amazing it may be, but I certainly can and do face my students and colleagues, although I usually refrain from exposing myself. I’m sure they don’t all agree with what I did, but my conscience is clear. I don’t have the luxury of anonymity anyway.

The Times Higher asked me to contact them if I felt any of the comments were defamatory or abusive so they could remove them, but I replied to say I thought it was better to leave them all there whatever they said. In their own way, they speak  eloquently  for the very point of view they are trying to oppose…