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


Glass houses and stones

16 March 2009

There’s been a bit of furory in the blogosphere recently. A story involving a journalist, children, tragedy, and drunkenness.

Children, who survived the Dunblane shooting tradgedy, are now eighteen. Erm, that’s pretty much the story. The journalist writes:

A number of the youngsters, now 18, have posted shocking blogs and photographs of themselves on the Internet, 13 years after being sheltered from public view in the aftermath. In the days and months that followed the survivors, then aged just five and six, were the subject of overwhelming worldwide sympathy. But now the Sunday Express can reveal how, on their web-based social networking sites, some of them have boasted about alcoholic binges and fights.

I am not sure why this is a story – how are these kids, discovering drink and sex different to any other teenagers in the UK – how it this the shame of Dunblane survivors, thirteen years on? Are they supposed, because they survived tragedy, supposed to be exemplary? Regardless of what one thinks of this behavior, how are these things linked?

The editor of the newspaper has blamed bloggers for their inundation by complaints and refused to make any form of apology for their intrusion.

But maybe the journalist who wrote the exclusive story should remember that “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” – after scouring social networking sites for Dunblane survivors being teenagers she herself has been found: “Paula Murray Drinks” is the shock tactic headline used by one of those bloggers her paper despises. In her own words she’s been legless, fallen off the wagon, drinking large glasses of wine and posted pictures – over a social networking site (like those she scoured) drinking and drunk.

It’s one of those amusing blogosphere stories, but shows the hypocrisy of someone who quite clearly will stoop to the lowest of lows for a “story”…


F*cking Politicians

18 February 2009

So, apparently, politicians swear, what a shocker. First it was Boris, now it’s Peter…

Boris, apparently, said: “You … try and give the impression that I f****** tipped off David Cameron. You are trying to make me look like a f****** fool… This is such f****** bulls***”

…meanwhile the New Labour politician who was some time ago considered the cosmopolitan cappuccino-sipping New Labourite spluttered over his coffee when he heard the top brass of Starbucks rubbish the UK economy, and spurted out “Why should I have this guy running down the country? Who the f*ck is he? How the hell are they [Starbucks] doing?”

I’m not sure I know of anyone to whom the fact that politicians swear would be a shocker and, hey, we all let our guard down once in a while. Then again, maybe they’re spending too much time getting told to eff off by those foul-mouthed “white van men” as they persuade them to downsize their vans.


Postcode Lottery

17 February 2009

Postcode freakin lottery, gimme a frakin break. What a load of rubbish – I hear the phrase all the time and it’s  proponents complaining that it’s unfair.

A quick google search requires postcode lotteries of healthcare, recycling, disabled parking badges, rail refunds, even speed cameras.

This morning on Radio 4 there was talk of a ‘postcode lottery’ for autism care – depending which healthcare area you live in you get a different level of care. This followed a story on Planning (yes, not the sexiest of subjects) and a proposal to remove regional planning and leave it to local authorities to decide.

Now make up your minds – what do you want? Local autonomy or centralisation – because, whichever way you look at it autonomy will lead to some areas providing different levels of services by definition. If you choose to look at it by postcodes, that’s a postcode lottery. And the “dailymailirony” is that it tends to be the same people complaining about both things. Do they not see it?


Powell, Obama, McCain, Bush and Indigestion

19 October 2008

So Colon Powell has backed Barack Obama for US President. He had apparently been disturbed by the negative tone of Mr. McCain’s campaign, which has sought to promote the idea that Barack Obama is “palling around with terrorists,” as Sarah Palin so diplomatically put it (a Socialist palling around with terrorists nonetheless). Of course this is Sarah Palin whose foreign policy experience comprises her proximity to Russia (oh and Canada too) – although she’s never met Russian delegates (maybe she wouldn’t think Obama a socialist if she had?).

Not only that, but Palin has no idea what the Bush Doctrine is. Now then, Powell “once considered as a potential candidate for the White House himself, fell out with President Bush over being forced to make the case for Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq”. This is Bush, the conviction politician, who knew what he wanted and went for it – not because he listened to people, but because he listened to his gut:

Leaders make things happen and they don’t need to ask permission. Isn’t it the job of a good leader to think the big ideas, take the long view, and make his vision a reality? Well, yes, provided said leader has formed his thoughts through rigorous research, consultation with experts, and deep, careful thought. Bush’s method? “I’m not a textbook player,” he says, “I’m a gut player.”

So there we have it. Bush listened to his gut and went to war in Iraq. Great.

So there we go – Barak Obama who offers a “calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach” or McCain supported by pro-Iraq advisers – offering Bush’s gut something to think about. Surely, Dubbya, it couldn’t have just been indigestion when you were listening to your gut could it? I know who I’d be more inclined to believe.

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I think this review means I now have to read Bob Woodward’s “The War Within” – not sure if that’s a daunting or exciting prospect.


Observer interview with Ken Livingstone

23 June 2008

Sunday’s Observer carried an interview with Ken Livingstone. Interesting to see what someone does after the most personal job in politics for eight years. Read it here.

The interviewer reflects on the eight years as Mayor:

He has an eye for detail, he delegates well, and he gets things done. Even his worst enemies agree that he was hugely instrumental in London winning the Olympic bid, throwing himself behind it early on, and whatever you think about the congestion charge system, it’s not that it doesn’t work. The question of his Blairesque ‘legacy’ is still up for grabs, but it’s down to him that Crossrail is finally going to happen and by anybody’s measure there’s a whole lot more buses on the roads. You even occasionally these days see a copper on a mountain bike rather than a panda car – he’s very proud of the fact that he’s ‘the first politician in 30 years to get policemen back out on the streets’.

The new Mayor has not yet received – the same reception. The Mayorality is a political position unlike any other in British politics – the Mayor is the executive power, a single person, there’s no cabinet or government, the buck stops with him. The Ken Livingstone style was very different to the Boris style – he got advised by people and retained key decisions whereas Boris delegates to deputies.

The interview also talks about Livingstone’s outspokenness:

But then it’s his outspokenness, his anti-politicianness, which has always endeared him to the public. He says it how he finds it, and has a talent for insults like no other. When I ask about Veronica Wadley, editor of the Evening Standard, which campaigned against his re-election, he calls her ‘pure evil’. And he refused to compare Amanda Platell, the former Tory spin-doctor and now Daily Mail columnist, to an attack dog ‘because that’s unfair to attack dogs’.

The interview discusses Ken Livingstone’s love of London, and politics:

‘I could never leave. I love it here. It’s where I want my children to grow up. When people say to me, “You shouldn’t have lost to Boris, it’s not fair”, I say to them, “If someone can remove you from political power, you shouldn’t be there. This is the life that we have chosen.” That’s a line in Godfather II when Hyman Roth says, “Mo Green was like a son to me, but when he was killed, I didn’t complain because this is the life we have chosen.” And these are the rules.’

It goes on to discuss the importance of personal and political loyalty to Livingstone, which damaged him – for example his support for Lee Jasper despite criticisms and accusations against him. It appears the new Mayor is being quicker to try and prevent such accusations when concerns over inappropriate comments by his own team have been raised (however it came about).

The interview also touches on what Ken Livingston is doing now – including his turning up at Mayor’s Questions at City Hall to see how his successor is doing, which has led to this response from Tristram Hunt:

Livingstone was a great mayor, but his era is over. Either Ken should go and play with the forces of international capital for which he expressed such admiration during his time in City Hall. Or, like a Cricklewood Cincinnatus, he should tend his garden and feed his newts, having served his civitas well.

Hunt also says that

Despite Boris Johnson’s recent clanger over the Olympics memorandum of understanding – which he claimed didn’t exist, when it was up for everyone to see on a government website – the new mayor has not thus far proved a disaster”

(which I assume is not a measure of success thus far).

The difficulty being Mayor is that you deal with big, strategic issues. You are the leader showing the way to go, you are, generally, not empowered by law to get on the ground and change some of the big things (but have the greatest influence over transport and policing). The main power is to influence and direct others. The approach Mayor Johnson is taking is more collaborative and may work, but only if he shows leadership and an absolutely clear theology behind what he is doing. Livingstone’s was clear, but criticised for being divisive. How will the new Mayor’s work?


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