I’m not saying Stephen Gately died because he was gay, but he obviously did.

16 October 2009

Jan Moir’s article for the Daily Mail this morning was – at the least – badly conceived and at worst homophobic and bigoted. It’s been a massive story on Twitter all day, and led to the Daily Mail pulling adverts from the page.

Jan’s article

Let’s start by pulling out a few snippets of what she said (I am selectively quoting here, read in context here):

The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again. Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this. After a night of clubbing, Cowles and Gately took a young Bulgarian man back to their apartment. And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy.

The reaction

Moir suggesting there was nothing “nautral” (her quotes) about his death has provoked a strong reaction:
It is “little more than ill-informed conjecture and sickeningly insensitive bad taste” and she “implies that there is something inherently immoral, dirty and wrong about same-sex relationships by dragging poor Matt Lucas [whose former civil-partner recently committed suicide] into her vile logic”.
• She insinuates “Gays can’t help but be hedonistic and do drugs, are rampantly unfaithful, unhappy and DIE!”
• Her train of thought is obscure: “Is Jan Moir really trying to link drug use with being gay? Or saying that civil partnerships will lead to death? Or what is she trying to do?”

What was she going on about?

So what was she saying? And what should we think about it?

Firstly she seems to dismiss that Gately died of natural causes. As far as I know she’s not a medical expert, nor does she have access to more autopsy information than the rest of us. Even the Daily Telegraph point out that this is like Chris Morriss’s Brass Eye “Genetically, paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me. Now that is scientific fact. There’s no real evidence for it, but it’s scientific fact.”

But more worrying is what comes next. She talks about his sexuality and clearly states she thinks there is something sleazy about his death. She points out that Gately and his partner had been out clubbing the night before. She points out they brought somebody back to their apartment. She makes accusation and innuendo that is very clearly bigoted. And implies that this caused his death. Now then Jan, it’s one thing to make unfounded medical claims that you know nothing about, but it’s another to make a thinly-veiled attack on gay relationships implying that they’re sordid, they result in drug taking and unhappiness and lead to death.

Finally she concludes that Gately’s death “strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships”. (I don’t know who she’s aiming this at. Has somebody said that Civil-Partnerships are more likely to be happy-ever-after than heterosexual marriages?) She links Gately’s death to that of Matt Lucas’s former partner. There’s a clear underlying tone that implies gay relationships are the cause of unhappiness and – well – death.

Moir has since issued a statement that she only wanted to point out that there are unanswered questions about his death (I guess she knows something that the coroner, his family and we don’t – I wish she’d tell us), and thinks that “In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones”. She is wrong. Firsty the the campaign against her was clearly not “heavily orchestrated” – the outrage on twitter was the result of many individuals showing disgust – even some Daily Mail website comments showed the same disgust. But – and this point is key – if this was what she wanted to say she should have done so without the undercurrent of bigotry, sordid accusations, wild medical claims and veiled implications that homosexual relationships are invalid. She’s a clever woman. She could have done so.

More reaction

The Daily Quail parodied her article wonderfully: “Some might say the death and the fact that the deathee was gay are unconnected. To them, I say: ‘no’. Look at the facts – he died, and he was gay. Therefore he died of gay. If a young, healthy man dies whilst suffering from a cold, obviously nobody would suggest that the cold had killed him, but with gay it’s different. Medical reasons, and that. Isn’t it? Yes, I think it is.”

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Follow-up, 7pm:

Two brilliant pieces by Charlie Brooker and Alistair Campbell

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mayolove

24 June 2008

Heinz has pulled it’s an advertisement for Deli Mayo after it received complaints for showing two men kissing. The advert is online here.

The advert shows:

Heinz’s ad opens with a family on a normal morning routine with a young boy and girl getting ready for school and their father preparing for the office.

The young boy and girl go to the kitchen to get their sandwiches, which are being prepared by a man with a New York accent, dressed in a deli serving outfit, who they refer to as “mum”.

When their father goes to get his sandwich he says to mum in the kitchen: “See you tonight love.”

However, mum barks back “Hey, ain’t you forgetting something?”, at which point the two men share a kiss. Mum then sends the father off with the words: “Love you. Straight home from work, sweet cheeks.”

The concept behind the campaign is that the product tastes so good, “It’s as if you have your own New York deli man in your kitchen.”

The Daily Mail of course chose to tell a rather more biased version of the story.

I thought the days of two men kissing being “offensive” had gone. Obviously not. And Heinz have bowed to pressure from a homophobic minority and pulled an advert which is an amusing play on the New York Deli stereotype. The ‘peck’ clearly has no gay context, yet Heinz have agreed with those who seem to think it has because they ‘listen to their customer’.

Why don’t Heinz listen to their gay customers who find their decision offensive. I’m sure there will be numerous blog entries on this. Left In Britain‘s is particularly good. This one and this one on the other hand seem to be rather blinkered to what the advert is about, or, more appropriately, is not about.

Ben Summerskill of Stonewall has called for a boycott of Heinz products and I’m certainly inclined to agree with him. He says:

Any nod at all to the very existence of homosexuality might be enough to have Mary Whitehouse twitching in her celestial bathchair, but the Heinz peck broadcast last week had not even been shown in front of the children the ad is claimed to have upset. (The Deli Mayo it promotes is so unhealthy that Heinz is not allowed to advertise it during children’s programmes.)

…the decision to withdraw the ad …seems to have been made under the quaint impression that it will cause no offence to Britain’s 3.6 million lesbian and gay consumers. Or any of their friends. Or families. Or colleagues.

Above all, Heinz’s prim retraction seems to have been made without any thought for the damage that might be done to its business. Popping into my usual Costcutter on the way home this evening, I look forward to missing out on my regular Heinz purchases, as many thousands of Stonewall supporters hope you will too.

Branston baked beans. Baxters soups. Buitoni spaghetti. Jardines tomato ketchup. Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Yum yum! They’re all delicious. How sad that for Heinz in 2008, beanz meanz bigotz.


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