Although AIDS stories have now been mainly relegated to the inside pages, still hardly a day goes by when the papers don’t have something to say on the subject. And some of the angles they choose are nothing short of bizarre. What THE SUN lacks in restraint it more than makes up for in lunatic AIDS stories: “Gay club keys are blacked in AIDS scare.”
Then the ‘LIE FACTORY’ (as The Sun has been dubbed by its own workers) told us: “Black magic herbal remedies used by witchdoctors in Africa could cure AIDS.”
Which is fine except for the fact that in Africa AIDS really is an epidemic, which doesn’t say much for the efficacy of witchdoctors.
Leaving the SUN aside for the moment (and that’s a temptation) there have been a spate of “responsible” attempts to put right the damage the press has done. “AIDS: The Truth” said the DAILY MIRROR earnestly. “Panic is sweeping Britain over the killer virus AIDS” it began, as though the Maxwell mob had nothing to do with it. Meanwhile in equally sombre tones the NEWS OF THE WORLD tried to be informative: “AIDS continues to spread like a raging bushfire” —very cool, calm and reassuring I must say. The SUN tried to whip up . . . er, sympathy for AIDS victims with the gentle headline “I’M DYING OF AIDS!” In an interview with AIDS-sufferer Bill Ayres, THE SUN says: “Bill insists that his sexual lifestyle is similar to nearly all the homosexual population in Britain. He has lost count of how many sexual contacts he has had, some weeks just a couple, others ten or more. The total runs into thousands.” The same man appears in THE DAILY MIRROR saying “I’ve lead what you’d call a fast life. So what?”
The papers, of course, lapped this up, giving their readers a vicarious thrill while inviting their revulsion. Yes, those of us who want to survive know we have to adjust our behaviour—I hope we do, anyway—we don’t need the Sun with its hypocritical tut-tutting to tell us.
The same self-righteous message, all wrapped up in pomposity, emerged from THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: “However uncharitable it is to gloat over the sufferings of the principle victims of AIDS, homosexuals, it is unfortunately not without historical precedent that the public should look askance at the harbingers of new and virulent diseases. Homosexuals would best serve their interests as individuals and those of society as a whole by learning the lesson of unbridled promiscuity and observing a more regular lifestyle.”
Quite ironic, really, to find yourself being lectured by journalists, surely themselves among the most irresponsible and immoral section of the community. The holier-than-thou tone makes you want to throw up.
THE TIMES devoted a large amount of space to “AIDS: the facts, the fears, the future.” It was constructive and admitted: “AIDS has fuelled, not triggered, the increasing homophobia seen in recent years in the press. Curiously, and by contrast, radio and television have been a great deal more constructive in their approach.” And this is true. ‘Weekend World’ (ITV), ‘TV Eye’ (ITV), ‘Newsnight’ (BBC1), and ‘Medicine Now’ (Radio 4) have all given balanced and calm reportage. The exception must surely have been ‘The London Programme’ (ITV) which betrayed the trust of those who took part and produced a real frightener, with a blame-laden, finger-wagging approach to London’s gay community, chastising them for their ‘Bacchanalian ways’.
THE SUN, ever-anxious to keep us up to date with informed opinion on the subject, quoted an American psychologist, Paul Cameron: “All homosexuals should be exterminated to stop the spread of AIDS. It’s time we stopped pussy-footing around.” No doubt Kelvin McKenzie will be offering this man a job as a leader writer. In the EXPRESS, West Sussex County Councillor Bruce Hay urged that “homosexuals should carry identity cards to help the emergency service identify potential AIDS sufferers in accident cases”.
And just before I wipe my arse on THE DAILY STAR, I thought you might be interested in another example of its “humour”. “Whilst we are on the subject of British Airways, cabin staff are alarmed that they may catch AIDS from the 25 per cent of their number who are claimed to be gay. Seems their slogan should be ‘Fly the Fag’.”
With beautiful irony THE GUARDIAN revealed that THE TIMES has an epidemic of its own—three suspected cases of legionnaires disease have been found in the building. This is obviously a visitation from God sent to punish Fleet Street for its wicked lying. Hopefully the Times plague will spread up to the Bouverie Street bovver-boys at the SUN and strike them all down. Nobody deserves it more than Mr McKenzie and his pack of liars.
In THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, Peter Simple, he of the limitless bile, told of “a newly developed sector of the discrimination industry” —heterosexism. He quotes Annie Hughes, of the Advisory Centre for Education as saying: “even the most forward-looking authorities and schools ignore blatant discrimination against and, harassment of lesbian and gay students. The education system has a responsibility to take into account that there are many homosexuals in every school – with a possible frequency of 1 in 10.”
This extremely dubious figure,” says Simple is, of course, “part of the propaganda apparatus of those who, for whatever reason, are continually nagging away at us about this subject… her statement that it is hardly ever mentioned in lessons is pernicious. Why on earth should it? Homosexuality grows by proselytism.”
Peter Simple obviously subscribes to the idea that there is a large conspiracy going on and that no-one is really gay – we’ve all been persuaded into it by this fifth column of corrupters for reasons which aren’t quite clear. But who corrupted the corrupters?
His views represent the classic insecurity of straight men. They’re scared to death by homosexuality, probably because deep down they know it’s present somewhere in their own personality. Simple is the loser, of course. His view of humanity is so narrow and his heart so twisted by hate that it makes me shiver to think what he must be like.
There was a report in NEW SOCIETY of the progress being made in West Hollywood—the world’s first gay city. The recently-elected council of gay men and lesbians seems to be doing an excellent job, not only of protecting and promoting gay interests but those of the other residents, too. “The new city council was elected by an unlikely alliance between ‘greys’ and gays—singles and seniors.” Their common cause was to rid themselves of exploiting, parasitic landlords, and get some kind of rent control.
There are also efforts afoot to give gay relationships legal status. “The baroque circus, with AIDS as the skeletal ringmaster cracking the whip, has given gaeity a bad name, which legitimacy might improve,” says the author of the piece, Sasha Moorsom, and asks: “Where West Hollywood leads, will Islington be far behind?”
We can but hope.
The biography of Lord Mountbatten by Philip Ziegler was serialised in THE SUNDAY TIMES. The question it posed in one episode was: was Dickie gay? As “proof” that he was not, Ziegler says: “He loved the company of women, sought their affection and had an almost irresistible urge to use them as confidantes” and “his riding companions were usually invariably female.”
Now all this also applies to me (except the riding). I love the company of women and have lots of female confidantes. But please, Mr Ziegler, I am gay.