Vilification? Vindication?

27 October 2009

A couple of things have been causing a fuss this last week, there’s been a lot of fuss about the BNP’s appearance on Question Time and ongoing debate about Jan Moir’s article in particular.

Earlier this week I was convinced that Question Time was the wrong format if you thought it was going to show the BNP up. Well, was I wrong? I think it’s fair to say that the normal Question Time format was abandoned. People agreed it was a five against one kicking of Nick Griffin with Dimbleby and the four panelists directing their views very clearly. Even Griffin agrees. The questions chosen were challenging Griffin – there was nothing on the Postal Strike, for example, which would have clearly appeared at any normal Question Time. I’d agree that a low key grilling on Newsnight would have been better and less sensational. People, though, seemed to agree he performed badly, even his adjacent pannelist said he was creepy.

Which, incidentally, is what Griffin called gay people. Or at least, he said most people (particularly christians) find the sight of two grown men kissing “…really creepy”. Now this was in response to a question about whether the Daily Mail should have printed Jan Moir’s article (which I have posted about here and here). Moir, of course, ‘clarified’ her story on Friday. Apparently. Not only did she only actually apologise to Gately’s family for the timing of what she wrote, not the content, there are many people who think she’s trying to rewrite history, not clarify what she meant.

And when she says her “observation that there was a ‘happy ever after myth’ surrounding such unions was that they can be just as problematic as heterosexual marriages” I’d have to question who actually promulgated this myth about civil partnerships all ending happily ever after? As a Twitter follower of mine said “No-one. The myth itself is a myth”.

So what of these two stories? There’s something as worrying about the acceptance of public pronouncement of such views – whether they’re racist or homophobic – as there would be if they were silenced. The debate about whether the BBC or Daily Mail should have allowed publicising of such views is as worrying as the fact that they did. Because there’s freedom of the press, but there’s also a need to think about the way you say things. Whether it’s the way you question a BNP member on TV, or the way you express uncertainties about a death, there’s a responsibility. I’ve already posted on the implications of publicising ‘hate’ – the increase in homophobic attacks and hate crimes and implication of acceptibility by what people write, or the BNP appearance on Question time being “the trigger that turns into an attack”. And sometimes maybe you have to question whether it’s actually the right thing to do, to use the right you have. Or whether, for the benefit of your business, your medium, the public at large (people have been vocal in saying the BBC should take it’s share of blame for any increase in racist attacks, and there’s been concern that BNP membership will increase), you should think twice about whether you use the right you have to say what you want. Or whether you should think twice before you make a decision – whether you think about the implications before you say it. Because the responsibility is in your hands. Will your actions be vilification or vindication for people’s actions? And, frankly, is it really worth it?

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A comment on hate crimes

21 October 2009

Last week I posted about about an Daily Mail comment piece by Jan Moir with an undercurrent of homophobia and thoughtless premise. This week the BBC are reporting that homophobic crime in London has risen by nearly a fifth, according to the latest figures on incidents reported to the Metropolitan Police.

The article says that while it’s believed that more people are reporting homophobic crime that’s most probably not the only reason for the increase. The increase is real. And it’s happening. “I don’t know why it’s happening but homophobic crime is definitely increasing,” says Kate, manager of gay pub George and Dragon in Hackney Road – reports the BBC. Just last week Ian Baynham died after a homophobic attack in front of many people in Trafalgar Square, right in the heart of London. Patrick Strudwick, writing on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free pages today also argues that the increase in hate crime is real, and not just a product of greater degree of reporting and measure of Police success.

It’s not that long ago that David Morely was killed on London’s South Bank and just ten years since the Soho pub bombing.

It’s important not to be complacent about hate crimes and homophobia. Jan Moir’s article and dismissal of gay relationships, and the others that still appear, does nothing but continue to undercurrent of homophobia – it does nothing to fight hate crimes and arguably fosters them. Hate Crimes need to be fought against and clearly unacceptable. People who take a laissez-faire attitude to homophobia need to consider what impact this can have on people who feel that hate crimes are justified, are OK.


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