GAY TIMES March 1988

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

A new and evil twist has been added to the tabloids’ ceaseless war against homosexuals – they have tried to blame the whole gay community for the murder of a child.

The tragic case of Stuart Gough, the newsboy killed by Victor Miller, was played for all its worth by THE SUN and THE STAR with a heavy emphasis on the fact that the murderer was a gay man. For several days they dwelt on Miller’s gay background and tried to infer that the way he lived and behaved was typical of gay men.

Then THE SUN (6 Feb) picked up a story from Capital Gay alleging that Stuart Gough himself was gay. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Capital Gay using the story, The Sun once again grabbed the opportunity to display its miserable, sickening hypocrisy.

“The claims were made,” it says, “in the weekly freesheet which caters for London’s sordid homosexual scene.” But the claims were then inflated by The Sun into something so big that the pain caused to Stuart’s parents must have been magnified ten thousand time. But if The Sun, as it claimed, was really concerned about the dreadful agony of Stuart Gough’s family, why didn’t it leave the story alone as every other newspaper did?

But no, the following weekend, The Sun’s sister The News of the World said just about the same thing in an editorial.

Not content to leave it there, The Sun then “spoke its mind” in a full-page editorial (10 Feb). This editorial was a turning point in the growing campaign aimed at destroying everything that gay people have achieved over the past ten years. The 10 February editorial stepped over the bounds of reasonable comment, it broke all standards of journalistic decency and was an all-time low, even for The Sun. Despite the fact they made available a prominent right of reply (12 Feb) there is no doubt in my mind that The Sun’s editorial should never have been published in that form in the first place. Anti-gay comment is one thing, but this kind of insidious appeal to base ignorance is totally unacceptable.

The editor tried to infer that it was homosexuality itself and not just one homosexual man that was to blame for Stuart Gough’s death. The title “When the gays have to shut up” was incorporated with a picture of the dead boy. Despite the fact they said: “No-one in reason can blame the homosexual community for what happened” – this is precisely what The Sun sought to do.

Having worked its readers up into a frenzy of indignation about the murder by describing Stuart’s funeral in great detail, The Sun went on to insinuate that it was “homosexuals” who were responsible for the murder and not just an individual psychopath. There then followed a catalogue of complaints against us. Apparently, homosexuals now “regard themselves as superior” and “want preference for jobs” and “they believe it is THEY who are normal and the rest of society which is perverse.” A whole shopping list of reasons why any decent Sun reader should detest homosexuals and damage them if at all possible. The problem is that none of it was true. The Sun regurgitated all its self-created myths about the gay community. It is The Sun who make all these claims about wanting ‘preferential treatment,’ not us. They even had the bare-faced cheek to say: “The age of the witch-hunt is gone for ever”.

That might be so in the civilised world, but in the sordid and disgusting world of The Sun, witch-hunting and scapegoating are still an everyday currency.

Where its anti-gay campaign will progress from here is frightening to contemplate.

Sorry to have to bother you yet again with the unpleasant subject of Peregrine Worsthorne, but he has returned to homosexuality as the subject of his appalling SUNDAY TELEGRAPH ‘signed editorials’.

On 31 Jan he proposed the contention: “Closet or coffin: the dilemma posed by Aids” and went on to say, more or less, that homosexuals had better stop being homosexual or they will, inevitably, succumb to Aids. As far as Perry is concerned, the choice is stark: celibacy or death. He doesn’t seem to have heard of safe sex or monogamous gay relationships — which shows how deeply he’s thought about the subject. His whole drift was the usual muddle of inconsistency, fallaciousness and — I have to say it — downright incoherence. The following week he was at it again, using Clause 28 as a jumping off point for encouraging the Government (and everybody else) to be as reactionary as they possibly could. The piece rambled on in a most alarming fashion and it became evident before the end that Mr Worsthorne had either composed it whilst under the influence of Vimto or he just didn’t know where his argument was going.

I wonder if The Sunday Telegraph would publish Peregrine Worsthorne’s ramblings if he didn’t happen to be the editor?

The pattern is now well-established, it goes like this: a public figure makes an ignorant statement on homosexuality or Aids and the newspapers then queue up to repeat the sentiments endlessly. After Anderton, Archbishop and Rabbi we have the Princess Royal showing how crass and insensitive she can be and John Selwyn Gumboil demonstrating his own transparent politicking at the General Synod (the message beneath the high moral tone being: let’s smear the Thatcher-hating bishops by calling them queer-lovers).

Opening the International Aids Conference, the Princess Royal scrapped her prepared speech and substituted what seemed to be an editorial from The Sun. It was, needless to say, greeted with delirious cheers by the British Press. “Bravo, Princess Anne”, wrote THE DAILY EXPRESS (28 Jan), “Why on earth should homosexuals (the main carriers, whose sexual practices and promiscuity are tailor-made for transmitting the disease) regard themselves or be regarded by others, as victims? We do not talk of ‘syphilis victims’ or ‘gonorrhea victims’. We regard the majority of those who contract these diseases as suffering the consequences of their own voluntary acts. It is surely the same with Aids. To suggest that … Aids is ‘no-one’s fault’ because it is the ‘result of a virus’ is absurd.”

Just about all the other tabloids thought the Princess had been “right to speak out”. “At once a whining chorus of various vested interest pressure groups condemned what she had said on the grounds that all Aids victims are innocent. This is not true and the Princess was right to say so,” said THE LONDON EVENING STANDARD (27 Jan).

To complete the pattern we have the correspondence columns, written in the main by what seems a screaming mob of half-wits, unable to think about any issue beyond hanging, birching, deporting or persecuting. Just one example from THE NEWS OF THE WORLD (7 Feb) sums up the sentiments: “Britain must follow the example of Sweden and build an Aids Alcatraz. A remote island must be put aside … Surely the time is near for some kind of restriction on homosexuality.”

So, who’s next in the queue for a bit of easy front-page coverage? See this column next month for details.

Vying with The Sun for the title of most hysterically anti-gay newspaper in the country is, of course, The Star. Not noted for its restraint in matters of racial or sexual tolerance it carried a four-and-a-half inch headline on the front page of its February 5th issue saying simply “FILTH”, the sub-heading was “Get this garbage off TV.” It seems there was a “storm” over an upcoming episode of EastEnders, but as I saw or heard no other reference to the matter I assume the storm was taking place in the dirty mind of the journalist who created the ‘story’, Michael Burke (you can say that again!).

The offending storyline features Barry asking Colin for the loan of £200. Colin says something to the effect “I want you and need you, but I won’t pay for it with you. Besides, how many ‘favours’ does £200 buy me?”

Anyone who knows the characters will realise that Barry has been sponging off Colin for some time now and that Colin has behaved honourably throughout. However, as far as Mr Burke is concerned Barry now qualifies as a “rent-boy”. Surely overstated even by The Star’s hysterical standards.

However, having suitably misled its readers, The Star then set up another of its foregone-conclusion phone-ins (at 38p a minute on those notorious 0898 numbers it’s quite a nice little earner if you’ve got thousands of imbeciles willing to be duped). Surprise, surprise: 83 per cent said they thought the scene should not be shown, with 17 per cent in favour.

Hopefully the BBC will stick to its guns and refuse to be bullied into accepting The Star’s disgusting double-standards.

Acres of newsprint have been devoted to the discussion of Clause 28. The papers came down as you’d have expected: the tabloids unanimously in favour, with The Independent, Guardian and Observer strongly against. The Times was editorially with the clause, but gave space for opposing points of view, as did its Sunday sister. The Torygraph, as you’d expect, backed the clause with only the mildest reservation.

The usual Thatcherite apologists sprang to 28’s defence to the man. Paul Johnson, George Gale and all the other pompous propagandists who pass themselves off as independent commentators on the state of the nation. They are, in fact, as hide bound by Tory party dogma as any back-bench lobby-fodder.

Then came the smug middle-aged, middle-class men of the I’m-alright-Jack persuasion using their access to the press to excuse the inexcusable and make a case for the unforgivable. Like Keith Waterhouse in THE DAILY MAIL (28 Jan): “The Gay Rights movement … is a sham and a fraud in that since 1967 gays have had rights coming out of their ears. Show me a gay who claims to be persecuted and I will show you a gay who is trying to screw a grant out of the local council.”

Or try this one from John Akass in THE DAILY EXPRESS (1 Feb): “What is lacking in the piercing protests of the Clause 28 agitators is any evidence that homosexuals are being persecuted … The British public seem to find homosexuality oddly amusing. This might be irritating but it is not the stuff of a pogrom.” And then there was Ferdinand Mount in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (29 Jan): “Clause 28 or no Clause 28, there is no witch-hunt on against homosexuals or against anyone else. And if there is one thing which is almost as bad as a witch-hunt, it is a witch-hunt for a witch-hunt.”

With this kind of complacency you can almost be certain that at this very moment there is some crackpot Tory backbencher formulating a similar clause to slip into the Broadcasting Bill when it comes before parliament later this year.

The increasingly repellent behaviour of the tabloid press in this country has itself been headline news this month. Ann Clwyd’s Right of Reply Bill died before it even got discussed in the House of Commons, and I fear that Bill Cash’s Right to Privacy Bill will go the same way. But at least they have given notice that it is more than just the gay community who’ve had their fill of the rampaging spite and inaccuracy of newspapers.

There are, it is thought, rumblings from within the Government that legislation will be formulated in this area, given that self-restraint does not seem possible for the trash end of the press.

I still have grave reservations about legislation controlling what newspapers may print, but after the outrageous case of Martin Bowley, the judge whose career was destroyed last month by The Sun and The People simply because he was homosexual, statutory restraint does not seem unreasonable.

Ray Mills, THE STAR’s “Angry Voice”, says that he has received an anonymous letter from a “warrior of the Woofter Resistance” (9 Feb). The letter said: “This is just to say that I am of the belief that you should have been shot at birth, yours sincerely, one of the many homosexuals pissed off with you.”

Mr Mills seems to be quite upset by this rather mildly expressed opinion (shared, I am sure, by many readers of this paper). Given that elsewhere in his column he refers to other people as being “disgusting sodomites”, “deformed creatures of the night” and “black bastards” he can hardly claim to be the epitome of politeness, can he?

As they say in the trade: if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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