Stephen Fry says those who oppose tearing down statues are 'ignorant of history'


Stephen Fry has said that those who oppose tearing down statues of historical figures with a racist past are ‘ignorant of history’.

Speaking on the Distraction Pieces podcast hosted by actor Scroobius Pip, Mr Fry said protestors who topple monuments – like the one dedicated to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol – are trying to ‘highlight’ history, not ‘airbrush’ it. 

Mr Fry, 64, suggested it was ignorant to get upset at such actions and blame it on ‘wokeness’, and those who do take issue with bringing down monuments are ‘the ones who are most ignorant of history’.

He made the comments as he agreed with the podcast’s host Scroobius Pip, whose real name is David Peter Meads, who said that ‘so many cultures’ have had more than two genders ‘for the entirety of their history’, and ‘[the idea of] two genders is a modern thing’. 

Mr Fry replied: ‘So right, it is one of the ironies of this kind of culture war, exchange, that it is those who are upset by and regard it as just wokeness or cultural Marxism or whatever else they want to call it – they’re the ones who are most ignorant of history.

‘They say ”oh, they’re trying to airbrush history by pulling down this statue” – no, we are trying to highlight history, trying to show what the true history of the thing is, what it bears, what language bears, what icons and statuary and images bear. 

Stephen Fry, 64, said it was ignorant to get upset at such actions and blame it on ‘wokeness’, and those who do take issue with bringing down monuments are ‘the ones who are most ignorant of history’

The toppling of the Colston statue (pictured) came amid a wider context of Black Lives Matter protests which spread across the world following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota by white police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020

The toppling of the Colston statue (pictured) came amid a wider context of Black Lives Matter protests which spread across the world following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota by white police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020

Mr Fry, 64, said it was ignorant to get upset at such actions and blame it on 'wokeness', and those who do take issue with bringing down monuments are 'the ones who are most ignorant of history'

Mr Fry, 64, said it was ignorant to get upset at such actions and blame it on ‘wokeness’, and those who do take issue with bringing down monuments are ‘the ones who are most ignorant of history’

‘And what our kind of story on humanity, what it really has as a history, and how recent so much of what we take to be absolute, in fact is.’

Mr Fry added that gender was a very good example, adding that the Greeks had a ‘very open sense of a third gender’ and they created the character of Hermaphroditus – the two-sexed child of Aphrodite and Hermes – which was a ‘very holy and sacred thing’.

Podcast host Scroobius Pip (David Meads)

Podcast host Scroobius Pip (David Meads)

He added: ‘It was really the Romans who didn’t like that. The Romans had a virile, militaristic – they were fascists, literally fascists, I mean the word fascist comes from the Roman symbol for power – the fasces, which was an ax with a bundle of rods tied in it which they would carry in their parades, their marches.’  

The toppling of the Colston statue came amid a wider context of Black Lives Matter protests which spread across the world following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota by white police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.

Demonstrations reached the UK, and people marched in Bristol in June and toppled the bronze statue of 17th-century transatlantic slave trader Colston.

He had played a major role in the Royal African Company when it shipped 84,000 Africans into slavery, including 12,000 children, but had a statue in Bristol as one of the city’s biggest benefactors.

In January of this year, the four protestors who toppled the statue were found not guilty of an act of public dissent following a nine day trial, in which they argued their actions were justified because the statue was so offensive.

In December, Fry called for the Elgin Marbles to be returned to Greece and replaced in the British Museum with an Artificial Reality ‘experience’.

The original Parthenon sculptures – which date back almost 2,500 years – could then be shipped back to Athens in a ‘classy’ gesture by the UK, he said.

He said: ‘I have this passion that we will return the Parthenon marbles to Athens… where they belong.’

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