I have no issue with allowing Jan Moir to have said the disgusting, hateful, homophobic things which she did about Stephen Gately after his death. Nor do I have an issue with the Daily HateMail having the right to publish them. Freedom of speech after all means you must champion speech you dislike, as well as speech you like, but it does have other provisos too, which I believe the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) wilfully ignored. Its argument was as follows:
In a ruling, the commission said it was “uncomfortable with the tenor of the columnist’s remarks” but that censuring Moir, and the paper, would represent “a slide towards censorship”. It added: “Argument and debate are working parts of an active society and should not be constrained unnecessarily.”
The PCC’s director, Stephen Abell said the article contained flaws, but the commission had decided: “It would not be proportionate to rule against the columnist’s right to offer freely expressed views about something that was the focus of public attention.”
It’s a ridiculous argument. The PCC was set up because there is no such thing as absolutely free speech, yet now they conveniently champion absolute free speech, when their code was flagrantly breached? They have it entirely the wrong way around – censoring her would be the problem, not censuring her. For speech which is constrained there have to be consequences, which the PCC was set up to enforce. Yet PCC director Abell persists with a thoroughly absurd argument – the article doesn’t just contain flaws, but untruths, and in the name of denigrating Gately for his sexual orientation. I don’t think for a moment that an article can only be homophobic if it uses outright homophobic language; the subtext of her hate-filled rant couldn’t have been more homophobic. The PCC disagrees there too:
Gately’s civil partner, Andrew Cowles, said he was disgusted by the article and claimed the Daily Mail had broken the PCC’s code of conduct on three grounds, arguing that it was inaccurate, intruded into private grief and contained homophobic remarks.
The code says that the press must avoid making pejorative references to a person’s sexual orientation, but the commission said that Moir did not use any abusive or discriminatory language.
“While many complainants considered that there was an underlying tone of negativity towards Mr Gately and the complainant on account of the fact that they were gay, it was not possible to identify any direct uses of pejorative or prejudicial language in the article,” it said.
The PCC added that a distinction should be drawn “between critical innuendo which, though perhaps distasteful, was permissible in a free society – and discriminatory description of individuals, and the code was designed to constrain the latter rather than the former”.
So a homophobic subtext is now ‘critical innuendo’? Whilst it’s entirely possible that 25,000 could be wrong, that is the biggest disgrace of all. Whilst making Moir and the HateMail pay a price wouldn’t be unnecessary constrain argument or debate – her column contained neither, just underhanded homophobic slurs, and the PCC has impressively absolved itself of its own remit. If the quick way around it is merely not to use proscribed words in combination (ie. ‘fag’, ‘poof’, ‘homo’, ‘queer’) then the Commission and its code might as well not even exist.
Jan Moir’s homophobic Daily HateMail article is starting to bring up difficult questions:
The piece, by Jan Moir, has also prompted more than 1,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
A Met police spokesman said: “We have received a complaint from a member of the public.”
Moir defended her column saying suggestions of homophobia were “mischievous” and that the backlash was a “heavily orchestrated internet campaign”.
It’s awkward isn’t it? Was her invecive against Stephen Gately actually hate speech? I suspect it might have been, but is that the most important consideration? She clearly had an agenda in writing the article, as did the HateMail in publishing it, but does trying to prosecute her for it not make her a martyr and absolve the HateMail from being a regularly homophobic rag? Brendan O’Neill goes further:
The irony of the anti-Moir brigade is that it is witch-hunting Moir in the name of ‘tolerance’. She was intolerant, they say, and that is intolerable – therefore she can no longer be tolerated. The irony of expressing shrill intolerance of someone for being intolerant is lost on these illiberal liberals. In a sense, Moir hasn’t done anything particularly wrong; certainly she hasn’t done anything ‘evil’. Causing offence is a natural part of rowdy and testy public debate. No, the real problem arises when people politicise their feeling of having been offended, when they effectively argue that it is unacceptable for them to have felt offended and thus the offending party must be chastised. Offensiveness is a part of life; the politics of inoffensiveness is a threat to free speech and open debate.
Apparently attacking Jan Moir is a substitute for actually arguing why her attacks on Gately were wrong, why her ludicrous assertion that civil partnerships can be fatal was wrong, and justifying why her homophobic hate was wrong. O’Neill sounds very much like he’s advocating absolute freedom of speech, but maybe he’s not – maybe he’s just suggesting that the article didn’t cross the line between causing offense and inciting hatred. Maybe in that he has a point – Moir didn’t after all say that all gay people were evil, that Stephen got what was coming to him, or that gay equality should be rolled back; but hatred is rarely couched in such terms. It’s a seductive argument – liberal values should always have to be justified and rejustified – what I would ask though is why? Why should she be given a free pass to publish homophobic (which is clearly what it was) invective? Why should she not be held to account for it? Why should it have to be explained every time that homophobia is wrong and why it’s wrong?
I’ve seen similar commentary suggesting that being intolerant of her intolerance makes us worse than her. I don’t buy the argument for a second – I would on any occasion that she was threatened in any way or if violence were advocated, but I’ve not seen such comments. The vast majority of the attacks back on her represented common sense disgust at a homophobic attack on a man unable to defend his reputation, but I accept it did miss the greater point. Daily HateMail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre, the man ultimately responsible for authorising the article for publication, remains the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) editors’ code committee. He runs an overwhelmingly homophobic tabloid newspaper, yet is also responsible for the means of redress against journalistic homophobia – Jan Moir is actually just a bit player in this story.
There are obvious limitations to free speech – there always have been, but I’m not suggesting that her anti-gay speech be banned; her freedom of speech comes with responsibilities and consequences. In a society now largely gay tolerant (if not necessarily friendly), the right solution was to go to the sponsors underpinning the article’s publication and make the case to them that their active or tacit support of Moir’s article would have business consequences for them. They apparently agreed (how many large businesses want to appear homophobic these days?) and their departure caused an impact on Dacre’s business; he won’t be thrilled with that, or with her. The nature of social media means however that this highly effective online activism is unlikely to coalesce into a larger movement – that’s regrettable, because the means are now there to bypass outdated (and ineffective) structures like the PCC, and hold bigots to account (not to mention toxic waste dumpers). We do need to constantly talk about where the line needs to be drawn with freedom of speech – but I remain highly impressed at the stand the Twitterati (and others) took against naked anti-gay hatred last week.
Homophobic Daily HateMail columnist Jan Moir would like you to believe that it’s mischievous of those of us who seem to be part of an ‘orchestrated internet campaign’ to believe her hatchet job on Stephen Gately had ‘homophobic and bigoted undertones’. Does that make Stephen Fry ‘mischievous’? What about Phillip Schofield? A selection of Tweets:
Schofe Sat down to read up on the day. Dear God Jan Moir I hope when you lie in your bed tonight reflecting on your day you feel utterly ashamed
stephenfry …mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.” UNDERTONES??!
Let me refer you to Charlie Brooker, who has a way with words, particularly for filth like Moir:
It has been 20 minutes since I’ve read her now-notorious column, and I’m still struggling to absorb the sheer scope of its hateful idiocy. It’s like gazing through a horrid little window into an awesome universe of pure blockheaded spite. Spiralling galaxies of ignorance roll majestically against a backdrop of what looks like dark prejudice, dotted hither and thither with winking stars of snide innuendo.
Read the whole thing. It’s a great piece, and as usual he’s right about absolutely everything. Fortunately the outrage has caused HateMail sponsors Marks & Spencer and others to withdraw from the online page at least, suggesting she’s caused considerable damage to her employer, who might think twice in the future before printing an article quite so horribly hateful again. There’s simply no money in it after all. A national newspaper, even a rag like the HateMail can’t really afford over 1,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission either.
What an odious cow. I sincerely hope she loses her job.
Many of you will today have been exposed to the filth that is Jan Moir’s article, insinuating that Stephen Gately died because he was gay. Want a taster?
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. All that has been established so far is that Stephen Gately was not murdered.
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.
After a night of clubbing, Cowles and Gately took a young Bulgarian man back to their apartment. It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta with 25-year-old Georgi Dochev was not what was on the cards.
Cowles and Dochev went to the bedroom together while Stephen remained alone in the living room.
What happened that night? Only Gately’s civil partner, Andrew Cowles, left, and Georgi Dochev, who they took back to their apartment, know the truth
What happened before they parted is known only to the two men still alive. What happened afterwards is anyone’s guess.
A post-mortem revealed Stephen died from acute pulmonary oedema, a build-up of fluid on his lungs.
Gately’s family have always maintained that drugs were not involved in the singer’s death, but it has just been revealed that he at least smoked cannabis on the night he died.
Nevertheless, his mother is still insisting that her son died from a previously undetected heart condition that has plagued the family.
Another real sadness about Gately’s death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.
Be gay? Sleaze! Be gay and get married? DEATH WILL SOON FOLLOW! Gays can’t help but be hedonistic and do drugs, are rampantly unfaithful, unhappy and DIE! Evidence? Who cares about that? Coroner’s reports? Who needs them? Secrets are being kept! That’s what gays’ families do!
But hold on a minute. I’m gay. I’ve been sleazy in my time, but since when has a consensual sex life a bad thing for anyone – straight or gay. I’m also married, and I haven’t died yet. I’ve been married for nearly 4 years, been together with the same man for nearly 8, but I’m confused what this ‘happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ is. Where did it come from? Is it spread round the watercoolers at the Daily HateMail? Was it something Tony Blair evangelised about one day when drunk?
Enough. This vile homophobia must be smashed. Complain about this odious cow to the Press Complaints Commission here. Article 12 of the code has been pretty thoroughly breached, and she and the HateMail must pay a price. Far be it from me to suggest a flashmob outside the Daily HateMail, where we all tear up copies of the rag (but who’s with me?) A retweet from Charlie Brooker says it all I feel: