“Look out, look out, wherever you are – Rupert’s coming to find you.”
That’s the message to gays who think they’re safe in the closet—and you don’t have to be a celebrity to find yourself on the end of the tabloid exposé machine. This month’s list runs from Elton John through Harvey Proctor, Russell Harty and even a vicar from Peterborough. Rentboys, agents provocateurs and sneaking, slimy journos have been colluding this month to ruin the lives of honest citizens.
There have been a record number of front pages over the past few weeks in THE SUN, THE STAR and DAILY MIRROR, devoted to “Naked Arab Boys”, “Gay Mag Boys”, “Rent Boy Riddles” and “Elton’s Mock Wedding to a Man”. The grotesque thing about the sickos who run these rags is that if they miss the story themselves, they moralise about the other papers who beat them to it. “Even if the stories are true,” says Alix Palmer in The Star (4 March) about Russell Harty, “why should they alter our judgement of someone who, from time to time, occupies our television screen? Either he entertains us or he doesn’t.”
Fine words—except that I haven’t the slightest doubt that if The Star had been offered the dirt by the greedy little git who went to the News of the World first, they’d have snapped it up.
The Daily Mirror (4 March) said: “He [Harty] sticks in my mind as the most charming, wonderfully amusing and genuinely interesting star I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.” Once again it’s good to see the Maxwell mob decrying the News of the World’s penchant for paying rent boy sneaks for the sordid details. But wasn’t it only one day later that THE MIRROR carried the front-page headline: “Naked Arab under MPs Bed”, exposing Harvey Proctor’s holiday fling with a Moroccan youth?”
Peter MacKay explored the whole phenomenon of these latest revelations in The London Evening Standard (2 March). “The rotten little creeps who have been parading through newspaper offices are unfit for any kind of work that does not involve self-absorbed acting out of tedious fantasies about themselves. An appallingly hypocritical theme has been developed which is designed to cast sympathy on the rent boy and greater odium on his alleged client. This is the old ‘fallen woman’ gambit. Having spouted the details (no doubt for gain) the rent boy suggests that male prostitution was his only way of making ends meet (so to speak) in the cruel Thatcher economic climate. The News of the World said of their latest squealing, pig-tailed rent boy: ‘Dean is now unemployed and has given up his life of vice.’”
The Star (March 5) offered, a different explanation: “If you have been wondering why these verminous rent boys have been emerging from their lairs to tell their stories, it is because business is at a standstill. Aids has deprived them of a living, so they have been making a buck by selling their sordid kiss-and-tell memoirs—or should that read spank-and-tell?”
Perhaps the whole thing was best summed up by Derek Jameson in Today (7 March): “The shame falls not on the head of those betrayed but rather on those who open their purses to these scavengers. I feel more guilty than most. I once edited the News of the World.”
Less understandable was The Guardian’s decision to run a court report (4 March) about a cottaging incident: “A vicar tried to solicit a plain clothes police officer for immoral purposes in a public lavatory.” The unfortunate clergyman’s full name and address was published. The Guardian is supposed to be the champion of liberal values, and yet it acted in concert with the police to make the victim of this entrapment suffer even more. What The Guardian failed to ask was what a plainclothes policeman was doing, hanging around in a public lavatory, if he wasn’t acting as an agent provocateur. Nor did they ask whether setting out to destroy the lives of good citizens is the best use of police resources at a time when there is an explosion of violent and murderous crime.
It was Francis Williams who said: “Newspapers indicate more plainly than anything else the climate of the societies to which they belong.”
Which is bad news for gay men, because if what appears in newspapers is genuinely a reflection of society’s attitudes to us, we are in for a very rough time indeed. The News of the World invited its oh-so well-informed readers to say what they thought about Aids, and apparently half those that replied thought that “homosexuality should be made an illegal offence” (sic). But the majority also said that carriers should be sterilised and given treatment to curb their sexual appetite, and pregnant women who have the virus should be compelled to have abortions.”
Anyone who took even two minutes to think about these questions would realise how stupid and dangerous they are. What on earth do these polls of pathetically ignorant people, compiled by alarmingly unenlightened journalists signify? All they tell us is that the British population is grotesquely ill-informed and their lack of knowledge is being encouraged by these mischievous newspapers
Where it all may lead was explored in a feature in Today (24 Feb) headed “Big Brother Aids”. This article faced up to the prospect that I imagine has played a part in the nightmares of many gay people, of enforced isolation for those carrying the virus and, eventually, others in the “high risk groups”. Today says that the social consequences of such action would be “colossal”. “Huge numbers of people from every level of society would simply vanish from their jobs. Those who refused to be isolated would be criminals, hunted by specially formed Aids squads, and a fugitive underground would develop. The material cost of implementing this plan is incalculable, but the social cost is quite clear. It would mean, quite simply, that Britain would become a police state.”
An unexpected and consistently enlightened source of information on the Aids situation is The Financial Times. In its issue of 13 March it carried a guardedly optimistic piece which seemed to suggest that perhaps the dreadful predictions aren’t all going to come true. Statistics from America show that the rate of spread of the disease is slowing. In January 1982 it took five months for the number of cases to double. In December 1986 it was taking 13 months for the cases to double. This still represents tens of thousands of people, though, and the carnage will continue, so there is certainly no cause for complacency.
Another difference between the American experience of Aids and the British one is the attitude of agony aunts. In this country the advice-givers are by far the most liberal aspect of the press. They are well-informed and sympathetic to the problems of gay people. Contrast this with a woman called “Dear Dotti” who wrote in America’s Weekly World News (20 Jan). “Dear Dotti: I am a gay man and I’ve just learned that I have Aids … I’m so depressed I’ve seriously thought about blowing my brains out. I don’t care whether I live or die.”—Dotti replies: “Neither do I.” Yuch!
Now, it seems that even scummy, crummy, lowlife magazines like Titbit (Feb issue) feel that they are in a position to slag off the gay community. In a two-page lead article headed “Poofter’s Paradise” this outdated, smelly pile of garbage trotted out all the myths, distortions and political manipulations that we’ve grown tired of hearing over the past few years. Written by some money-grabbing creep called Jill Bedford, the article consisted of column after column of Mills-type abuse which we’ve become inured to and which I refuse to reproduce here. The author cites one lying newspaper article after another as justification for her rant but, in the end, says nothing that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before.
The editor of Titbits stands accused of allowing this kind of unjustifiable language into his columns without granting a right of reply to those who have been attacked. He should be ashamed of jumping on the sordid bandwagon that is inexorably leading to violence and prejudice against innocent gay people.
How on earth do sensible people remain loyal to certifiably insane churches? What is it that makes ordinarily intelligent individuals give credence to the ravings of crackpots? In The Sunday Express(1 March) we have The Rev. John Banner of Tunbridge Wells opining that “homosexuality and rising crime are due to women’s lack of control over children.” The raving Rev claims that women belong “at the kitchen sink” and says: “Children used to women refuse to would not react to men and this could lead to homosexuality.” Can you make sense of such bilge?
Then we have Cardinal Basil Hume, spouting off to an “audience of parents” in Greenford, Middlesex. According to The Ealing Gazette (20 Feb): “When parents asked him to take a strong stand against the teaching of homosexuality in Ealing schools he replied: ‘The Catholic stand on this is clear. Sexual relationships are only permitted in marriage. Tolerance is not the accepting of what we know to be wrong but showing sympathy and understanding for those who live differently.’” In other words, the silly old duffer doesn’t know what the devil he thinks.
At the same meeting, the waffling of the Cardinal was put into deep shade by Professor Anthony Pinching, an Aids specialist who condemned anti-gay prejudice in no uncertain terms, calling it “a most un-Christian way of encouraging the belief the killer virus was always someone else’s problem.” That will have ruffled the cosy complacency of the intolerant “parents” who had obviously gone along to the meeting for a spot of genteel gay-bashing, and whose depth of selfishness is sometimes quite breath-taking.
Catholic reactions to the Aids crisis in America have been brought to a head by the revelation that as many as “20 percent of Catholic priests are gay and half of them sexually active”. The Sunday Times (22 Feb) told of how the Catholic Church puts its much-vaunted ‘compassion’ into practice. “In Houston, a doctor who has treated eight priests with the disease says that ‘three of them were ejected, just told to leave’ when they informed their superiors of their illness. Four others had decided to leave the Church quietly … Increasingly the Roman Catholic church appears to be closing its doors on Dignity, an organisation which attempts to keep homosexuals within the church, although there is still room for another organisation, Courage, which attempts to counsel homosexuals either to lead a chaste life (in the case of priests) or become heterosexual.”
It was Charles Moore, writing in The Daily Express (6 March) who said: “Labour is the pro-homosexual party. Until recently its preoccupation with ‘gay rights’ was considered a bit of a joke. Now it’s beginning to stir up real rage.”
But is it really gay rights that is stirring up the rage or is it the relentless newspaper campaign of disinformation?
Let’s face it, there have been an unprecedented number of anti-gay headlines over the past couple of years and it is difficult to know who has the real preoccupation—the Labour Party or the newspapers. There is irrefutable evidence that most of the coverage of Labour’s support for gay rights has been either wild exaggeration or simple lies. The Association of Labour Authorities even went so far as to issue a list of examples, from national newspapers, of “loony left” stories showing each one of them to be outright invention.
Strange, isn’t it, how this report hasn’t been mentioned in any of the tabloid newspapers?
Now Labour—and many of its staunchest supporters—are left in a dilemma. Is the party, as some would have us believe, really distancing itself from its commitment to helping gay people, or is it just another Tory plot to cause in-fighting and bitterness within the ranks? The right-wing press are laughing up their sleeves at all this soul-searching, happy in the knowledge that they are almost entirely responsible for it.