Toby Young’s resignation as director of the Office for Students shows the perils of making supposedly funny remarks on social media.
Frankie Boyle can be funny in a way that makes you feel guilty about laughing, but you are not supposed to take it all seriously; he is being provocative for comic effect.
However few people, perhaps including Boyle himself, would suggest he should be appointed to a decidedly serious role by the government.
Take, for example, his rather rude tweet about the furore over the journalist Toby Young being made director of the Office for Students: “Obviously, Toby Young is a barely anthropomorphised testicle, but I do worry that his appointment is meant as a deliberate distraction.”
Young, author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, has now announced his resignation, saying he had indeed “become a distraction”.
During his earlier career, he had been a “provocateur”, making remarks that he now realised were “ill-judged or just plain wrong”. But he also accused critics of reducing him to a “caricature”.
The problem with this latter claim is that he drew the picture himself and deleting thousands of tweets was never going to erase it.
It’s a lesson for us all: what we say on social media can come back to haunt us.