Friday, 16 October 2009

The Hate Mail oversteps the mark (again)

I was going to post a review today, but then, by accident, I happened to see this article.

There are reasons to hate the Daily Mail. Plenty of the them. It’s a nasty piece of rubbish that is xenophobic and misogynistic – the latter has a tragic irony, since it claims to be very much a woman’s paper and does, indeed, have a very large female readership.

It has a basic editorial policy of trying to give its readers a ‘daily hate’ – a diet of scandal and shock. Yet it is dangerous because it is perceived to be a ‘serious’ voice of ‘Middle England’ – politicians remain terrified of it.

I avoid it wherever possible, having grown up with the rag. But earlier this year, my new editor made the point that we should ‘know our enemy’, so to speak.

If ever there was an example of a really vile piece of bile, masquerading as journalism, then this is it. This is a new low even by the Mail’s very low, low standards.

Its author, Jan Moir, snidely suggests a number of things:

  • that Boyzone star Stephen Gately and his partner were having sex with other people;

  • that all gay men are promiscuous and have relationships like that;

  • that such behaviour is “sordid” and “sleazy”;

  • that that proves that civil partnerships in general are doomed and 'false';

  • that in some way, Gately got what he deserved, as it was an inevitable outcome of his sexuality.

The use of the word “natural” here has nothing to do with its real meaning in the phrase “natural causes”. Quite apart from the (obviously inconvenient) fact that the coroner has ruled that Gately did die of natural causes, it’s about suggesting that homosexuality is not “natural” and that gay relationships – in particular, civil partnerships – are not “natural”.

Even if – and this is not remotely certain – Gately and/or his partner had sex with the friend they took home – so what? It’s nobody else’s business; they were all consenting adults. And sex did not cause Gately’s death.

But even if they did, to extrapolate from that that civil partnerships are somehow doomed or wrong, is staggering. Moir has penned no comparable article suggesting that, because some people in heterosexual marriages have sex with other people outside that marriage – sometimes together with their spouse – then the institution of marriage itself is doomed or false.

Facts are noticeable from this piece only by their absence. For instance, unfortunately, seemingly healthy young men do die suddenly.

Gately did not die from smoking cannabis – although this is something else that the article implies (along with the suggestion that drugs are part of that gay lifestyle that is not “natural”). He didn’t die because of sex, because of sexuality or because he might have had the temerity to have been enjoying himself.

This is, quite simply, a piece of utter bigotry.

And only yesterday, a report elsewhere described a recent homophobic hate crime in the centre of London that has left a man dead, after “police warned that homophobic crimes in the capital are on the increase. They have gone up by almost 14% – an extra 39 offences – since April in the Metropolitan police area, and there has been an increase nationally.”

Particularly in that context, such an article, which seeks to demonise gay men and gay relationships, is even more irresponsible and reprehensible, giving succour and a false, grasped-at sense of justification – as these things always do – to the writer’s fellow bigots.

If there is anything positive to be gleaned from this, it’s that the overwhelming majority of those responding to the article online have done so in terms of disgust at what the Moir has written.

But there are things that people can do. We can, of course, complain to the Mail. We can complain to the Press Complaints Commission And best of all, we can absolutely refuse to buy this despicable rag.

• 4.45pm update: In the last few hours, most of the advertisements on the page have disappeared. A Facebook group has been started to target advertisers and point out that any connection with the rag could damage them.

The headline of the piece has also been changed, from "Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death" to "A strange, lonely and troubling death."

No comments:

Post a Comment