GAY TIMES January 1992

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon

Woodrow Wyatt wrote in The News of the World (1 Dec): “We’re badly served by our broadcasting and Press commentators. Most are too stupid or too lazy to examine the facts behind the issues.”

Which brings me on to the newspapers’ coverage of Aids since the death of Freddie Mercury.

Britain’s “ignorant and lazy” newspaper commentators gave Freddie Mercury 24 hours to rest in peace before they proclaimed him the filthiest, vilest, most corrupt creature that ever walked the face of the earth. And why did they all think this? Because Mr Mercury was supposed to be a “promiscuous homosexual”. They were all agreed that Freddie deserved all he got.

“Freddie’s life was consumed with sodomy. He died from it,” opined Peter McKay of the London Evening Standard (28 Nov), while Joe Haines in The Daily Mirror wrote: “He was sheer poison, a man bent — the apt word in the circumstances — on abnormal sexual pleasures, corrupt. corrupting and a drug taker… Mercury died from a disease whose main victims in the Western world are homosexuals. For his kind, Aids is a form of suicide … his private life is a revolting tale of depravity, lust and downright wickedness.”

John Junor was, of course, on the front row of the gloating mob (Mail on Sunday, 1 Dec): “If you treat as a hero a man who died because of his own sordid sexual perversions aren’t you infinitely more likely to persuade some of the gullible young to follow in his example?”

The Daily Star (27 Nov) gave Dr Adrian Rogers space to exploit the tragedy for his own sick purposes: “How can people like this receive adulation at the same time as doing harm?”

Julie Burchill made some kind of point in her column (Mail on Sunday, 1 Dec), but it was so convoluted and contradictory that I’m not quite sure what it was. She managed to cloak her condemnation of Freddie under a veil of pretend concern for his family. She said that the only heroic thing he did was to keep quiet about his illness until the end. She thinks that although he was one of those blameworthy homosexuals (“We revile the West for taking this and other venereal diseases to the South Seas — yet must never mention the fact that homosexuals brought Aids over here”) he bore it “as though it were any other illness” and kept quiet about it.

Brian Hitchin, editor of The Daily Star, and someone who purports a member of the human race, went one further on December 3rd, when he suggested that people get involved in Aids work simply so they can meet the Princess of Wales: “It seems to me Princess Diana’s morbid fascination with Aids has hung a Royal Warrant over the disease and endorsed it as an acceptable and fashionable way of dying.” Is this man sane?

In fact, so much in agreement were the columnists on this particular issue that it was occasionally difficult to tell their products apart. Look at these two examples, one from Bernard Dineen in The Yorkshire Post (25 Nov) and one from Cliff Graham in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

Dineen: “Anyone who doubts the extent of homosexual promiscuity should examine gay periodicals such as The Pink Paper … Its advertisements make clear that caution is not in fashion. Yet any attempt to reveal the facts about gay promiscuity provokes an outcry from activists.”

Graham: “You should examine some of the gay magazines. The advertisements make it clear that caution is not in vogue. Yet if anyone dare to write about gay promiscuity he or she is shouted down by the activists and branded a ‘homophobe’.”

Dineen: “These shrill activists do a disservice to their fellow homosexuals by their pretence that they represent ‘the gay community’ when in fact there is no such entity.”

Graham: “The activists pretend to speak for the ‘community’ when there is in reality no such thing.”

Dineen: “Their pretence that Aids is some sort of badge of honour — recklessly living for today without thinking of tomorrow —is sinister and perverse.”

Graham: “By pretending that Aids is some sort of badge of honour these people anger ordinary people.”

I wonder if these two gents know each other? Or is the bigoted mind so narrow that it thinks only on one track using the same universal vocabulary of hate?

Martina Navratilova, of course, opened another bag of worms when she commented on the case of Magic Johnson, the American basketball player who has declared himself HIV positive. She spoke bitterly of the sympathy he received from the public that would have been totally denied to her if she had made the same declaration. In The Sunday Times (17 Nov) Barbara Amiel reported a “key moment” when Johnson appeared on a chat show and stated he was “far from being a homosexual”. “The audience cheered in response. Cheered! Why?” she asked, “I don’t think the homosexual community would be wrong in seeing that as the reaction of a society which still has a phobia about homosexuality … the studio audience reacted to Johnson in the way they might to any hero of theirs who reports that in spite of some adversity he is still one of them.”

Ms Amiel is of the opinion that while “Aids is caused by a virus, the epidemic is caused by a lifestyle — promiscuity.” She says that putting the emphasis on condoms instead of self-restraint is the wrong approach. She should try telling that to the person who acquired HIV through a single sexual contact.

The press has been trying very hard this month to reconstruct the “gay plague” mentality without actually using that phrase. There have been several articles reassuring heterosexuals that they are not at any significant risk. The Sunday Express (1 Dec) told its (straight) readers that they were 25 times more likely to die falling from a ladder than from Aids. In The Daily Mail (2 Dec) Geoffrey Levy told us: “In the West, Aids always has been and always will be a disease primarily contracted by, and circulated among, practising, promiscuous homosexuals.”

In The Independent (2 Dec), William Rees-Mogg was once again attempting to twist and manipulate the Aids tragedy into a tool for his ceaseless evangelising. He maintains that Aids will continue to spread because people are not monogamous. He admits they never have been and probably never will be. He even admits that this “promiscuity” is often motivated by “the search for the ideal partner”. What’s this — are we at last getting down to the nitty-gritty of why it isn’t good enough simply to say “Thou shalt not”? Have we found someone who has recognised that human life is not that simple and human relationships not that convenient?

But Moggy is not being suddenly human — he’s just riding his religious hobby horse again. He wants us all to be good Christians and then, it seems, we’ll be cured of our pesky need for love and intimacy.

It took an editorial in The Independent (17 Nov) to put things in a bit more perspective. “Heterosexual smugness will be the real killer,” it announced. “Only when we rid ourselves of the idea that Aids is a ‘price’ to be paid, that some victims … are ‘innocent’ while others are ‘guilty’. But we need to be rid of the idea now: It cannot be said too often that Aids is a disease and it is possible to get it from a single unprotected encounter. Apportioning guilt to people with potentially fatal infections is not just morally repugnant; it is also foolish.”


November 24th –  The countdown to Armageddon began when The Independent on Sunday’s front page announced OutRage!’s plan to distribute “OK to be Gay” flyers at a London school on the following Wednesday. The loS dredged up Stephen Green of the Conservative Family Campaign to say: “Homosexuals always want new recruits because homosexuality is not something you’re born with, it’s acquired behaviour.”

Monday 25th — two days to Armageddon: The Daily Mail reported that Education Minister Tim Eggar “completely condemned any campaign which promotes homosexuality”. The National Family Campaign (a tiny bunch of religious fanatics who inflate themselves by use of such grand sounding titles) said that OutRage were “trying to indoctrinate and corrupt young children”.

Over in The Independent, a major feature by Neil McKenna, looked at what it is like to be a gay school child in 1991, Not much better, it turns out, than it was in 1891. An equal opportunity adviser with a Labour local authority was quoted as saying: “Sexual orientation is effectively swept under the carpet — there is an atmosphere of hysteria which is very different from how teachers and schools approach racism and sexism.”

Talking of hysteria, enter the profoundly loony Paul Johnson. He’s still trying to push his self-invented concept of “liberal fascism”, He said in The Daily Mail that “liberal fascists” (or “moral terrorists”) use “jargon to create loaded images”. Presumably he means jargon like “liberal fascists” and “moral terrorists”. He also elevated Peter Tatchell to the status of public enemy number one: “We should tell the Peter Tatchells among us that, if they want to play extremist games, they must take a one-way ticket to the USA.”

Under that reasoning, Paul Johnson ought to bog off to Iran, where he could wallow unfettered in the righteous cruelty of which he seems so fond. He might even get to stone a few gays to death. He’d like that.

Armageddon minus one found The London Evening Standard also taking pot shots at the re-demonised Peter Tatchell. It reported: “Leading gays join in attack on Tatchell school tactics.” Matthew Parris, ex-Conservative MP and now leading gay rentagob for the right-wing press, said: “I disagree with some of OutRage!’s aims and most of its tactics.”

Robin Squire, a current Tory MP and Stonewall supporter, said: “OutRage! have been associated with stunts which are more likely to provoke a hostile reaction than a sympathetic one. It is acknowledged that I believe in using Parliamentary and constitutional means to achieve our aims, but I think OutRage! stirs up intolerance, and I do not welcome this.”

The Times carried an interview with Margaret Jay, director of the National Aids Trust. Of the leafleting campaign she said: “I think children ought to be told that there are various, equally acceptable ways of expressing sexuality. The difficulty lies in expressing one form in isolation. I am not saying that children should be encouraged to explore homosexuality, but they should be taught that different forms of sexual expression are acceptable and, yes, gay sex education must be included. You have to start young, in primary schools … Sexual education is much broader than that and it should be mandatory in schools and not left up to the discretion of individual governing bodies.”

Well, at least here is one person who can see the wood for the trees. But back to the real world of screaming “moralists” and political axe-grinders.

Wednesday 27th: judgement day dawned. The birds sang. Did they know that today the world as we knew it was likely to end in cataclysm? Did they have any inkling that at lunch time, Haverstock School was going to be leafleted by OutRage!?

Somehow the world continued to turn, and we eventually managed to reach Thursday 28th without the country being consumed in civil disorder and mayhem.

“Lesson in liberation flops” crowed The Daily Mail, although its story did not support the headline. It quoted one 16-year-old girl as saying: “They have a perfect right to be here. Our school is very good at teaching us not to be racist or sexist, but I feel we ought to be taught more about this.” However, a mother who kept her children at home said: “I have nothing against gay people but…” (oh yes, always a ‘but’) … “but I don’t want them approaching my kids at the school gates.”

According to The Daily Star the children were given “gay sex pics”. An onlooker, Edward Atkinson, was quoted in their story as saying: “What they’re preaching is straight from the devil.” This was the same Edward Atkinson, pictured in The Independent, with a poster reading “Do Not Offend The Lord Our God Any More. He Is Already Much Offended”. He was handing out leaflets aimed at indoctrinating children in the ways of religious bigotry.

According to Today “Furious parents kept their children at home yesterday when gay extremists confronted school pupils with explicit leaflets promoting homosexuality.” That one sentence contains just about every distortion you could possibly wring out of this particular story.

The Sun said there was a “storm”, although the TV film of the demo revealed a pretty calm and placid scene. According to the papers, parents were beside themselves with fury, whereas the children seemed quite unconcerned. The Daily Telegraph quoted children as saying: “Homosexuals at school are too frightened to talk about it. Maybe this demonstration will change that,” and “There’s nothing wrong with homosexuality.”

It seems the kids at Haverstock School have little to learn from OutRage’s leaflet. Perhaps the “gay extremists” time would have been more effectively employed leafleting frenzied parents or, better still, journalists as they left their offices for the wine bar.

They might have cornered Richard Littlejohn who writes a knee jerk column in The Sun. He said, somewhat predictably: “Peddling such propaganda in the wake of Freddie Mercury’s death is rather like telling people drinking and driving is perfectly acceptable on the day of a multi-fatality motorway pile-up caused by a drunken motorist.”

Such cynical distortion is a trait Littlejohn shares with that other master of deception, Bernard Ingham. Now this is a man whose opinions of propaganda and disinformation we have to take seriously. He is, after all, an accredited expert having spent ten years creating exquisite lies for Mrs Thatcher.

And to show that twisted minds think alike, he made Littlejohn’s point again in The Daily Express: “After Mr Mercury’s death, Dr Patrick Dixon, director of Aids Care Education and Training hoped that ‘we may be able to protect a generation by convincing children in the classroom that Aids is for real”. Oh no you won’t — not if OutRage have anything to do with it.”

Peter McKay of The Standard declared that: “Now we’ve got to endure the ululations of gays who say we are not tolerant enough of the sexual practices that are killing them. Well, forget it boys. Sort it out for yourselves.” We’ll sure miss your help, Mr McKay!

John Smith of The People said that OutRage! was telling the children “fibs”: ‘To start a campaign which implies that our schools are packed with secret homosexuals silently screaming to come out of the closet is just another gay fairy story.”

This kind of belligerent, heterosexual chauvinism was most clearly illustrated in a letter to The Standard, from Essex person Kerstin Griffiths: “If we wish to preserve the family, schoolchildren should be taught only about normal, healthy relationships between man and woman, husband and wife, the happy way of life for the vast majority.”

Leaving aside the issues of wife-beating, child abuse, divorce rates. one-parent families etc, then Kerstin’s point is that if you’re straight, you’re great.

I’m afraid the evidence under our noses tells us it ain’t necessarily so.

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