THE panic the press has tried to create over AIDS is irresponsible in the extreme. There seems to be no conscience amongst the journalists who have been orchestrating this hysteria.
It started with the tragic death of three babies in Australia who had received HIV-infected blood: “Last night a major hunt was under way for more blood donated by the man, a practising homosexual,” announced THE DAILY MAIL. Queensland Health Minister Brian Austin was first among many who said: “These children appear to be the innocent victims of the permissive society Australia is becoming.”
Here we go, I thought, could this be the slippery slope, the excuse for a backlash we’ve been expecting?
Well, THE TIMES was quick to add fuel to the fire, in a scaremongering editorial: “The infection’s origins and means of propagation excites repugnance, moral and physical, at promiscuous male homosexuality — conduct which, tolerable in private circumstances, has with the advent of ‘gay liberation’ become advertised, even glorified as acceptable public conduct, even a proud badge for public men to wear.”
So, it’s all our fault is it? Overlooking the fact that gays are the victims not the originators of AIDS, THE TIMES continues: “Many members of the public are tempted to see in AIDS some sort of retribution for a questionable style of life.”
THE OBSERVER reported that Australian MPs were “demanding that the blood donor be charged with manslaughter”. While THE STANDARD was happy, I imagine, to report “Homosexuals in Sydney are being attacked by people who blame them for a nationwide outbreak of the often-fatal disease AIDS.”
THE TIMES, indeed, couldn’t leave the subject I alone and said that in Germany a “leading virologist” was predicting that “10,000 Germans could be expected to die of AIDS in the next six years.” This was followed up in their medical briefing with the unbelievable question “Is it wise to share a lavatory with a homosexual?”
THE TIMES also gave voice to a shameless bigot called Digby Anderson, anxious to take hold of this handy new weapon to with which to bash his pet hates: “It is no longer for the sceptics to show that the permissive revolution was a mistake: it is for its increasingly beleagured supporters to justify its continued incorporation in law and welfare provision.”
The right-wing SPECTATOR was moved to allow the following: “Given an inch, the homosexuals demand all. Granted legality, they have advanced boldly, noisily, immodestly, without shame, flaunting and organising themselves, proselytising vigorously, demanding ever-fresh ‘rights’, privileges, hand-outs, immunities, special representation.”
From the dangerous to the ludicrous as THE GUARDIAN said: “Police in New South Wales are being issued with plastic gloves because they fear the disease (AIDS) could be passed on by erring motorists.” If you can make sense of that, you’re a better man than I am.
Conjecture, half-truth and sensation are the last thing we need in a situation like this, which is why I was so angered not only by the half-baked things being said in the newspapers but also the BBC TV NEWS stating categorically: “20% of homosexual men are carrying the AIDS virus.” How the hell could they have arrived at a statistic like that? They mean, presumably, that 20% of gay men who’ve been treated in STD clinics have the virus — which is very different.
THE OBSERVER tried to make some kind of amends by carrying a moving interview with the mother of an AIDS victim whose son had been rejected and reviled because of his illness. After he died she ‘asked the specialist who had treated him whether he would have a word with her son’s boyfriend. This poor man wanted to know whether he was likely to get the disease, too. ‘Not unless he’s been up to the same shenanigans and has been mixing with the same company,” said the doctor. “That was the level of his counselling”.
Are you scared yet? I can tell you that the events of the last month have put the wind up me good and proper.
If I’d known there was going to be a gay TV festival last month I would have alerted you to it. It started with a chat show hosted by FRANK DELANEY (BBC2) in which Alison Hennegan had a ding-dong battle with Julian Mitchell (author of Another Country) over whether gay literature can, or should, be regarded as a separate genre. Result: Hennegan victorious, Mitchell mincemeat.
BEING HOMOSEXUAL an American documentary about gay life in the USA was tucked away at midnight on ITV whilst the OTHER HALF episode about Sir Angus Wilson and his boyfriend was repeated on BBC1. Channel 4’s JUST SEX series featured a programme about attitudes to gay sex and featured gay photographer Bob Workman. It also had a middle-aged man who averred: “It revolts me and I don’t know why.” Much of the same came from Richard Ingrams, editor of Private Eye who turned up on BBC2’s critics programme DID YOU SEE…? Discussing the aforementioned Just Sex, he spewed out his usual contorted logic regarding ‘homosexualists’ and was then thoroughly shamed by the two women on the panel. Later that week he missed being sent to jail by inches. Never mind, perhaps next time. He’s got a lot of crimes to answer for.
The came DIVERSE REPORTS on Channel 4 featuring the come-back of ex-Gay News editor Denis Lemon. Subtitled What a Difference a Gay Makes, it paraded an abysmal show of prejudice, confusion and lamentable ignorance on the part of the great British public. There, inevitably was Rugby council leader Gordon Collett gabbling absolute claptrap which seemed to leave even him foundering to make sense of it.
Finally, FORTY MINUTES (BBC2) covered the subject of ‘Rent Boys’ —a sordid little picture of self-delusion and excuse. They all said they really didn’t want to do it, but they “had to”. The ‘punter’ who was interviewed (and there seemed something particularly perverse in someone wanting to declare their ‘shame’ on TV) said he was “disgusted” but felt he “had to” keep on doing it. Oh dear.
THE GUARDIAN is anticipating that the Gay’s the Word trial will be “the biggest of its sort since the obscenity charge involving D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. Nicholas de Jongh had a background piece which turned up fascinating snippets like “Eight years ago Customs and Excise seized an edition of the work of Thomas Rowlandson, apparently unaware of the fact that the originals were hanging in the George collection at Windsor Castle.” He says that Gay’s the Word is supported by MPs, the NCCL and “a battery of writers and publishers of all persuasions.”
Meanwhile a letter in the DAILY TELEGRAPH also revealed an interesting (but irrelevant, I know) fact. Apparently one of the books the Customs philistines snatched was written by a 15th century woman called Christine de Pisan who, according to the correspondent, was “a Whitehouse of her day and fought valiantly against the obscene and depraving.”
It seems the men at the Customs had better watch out that their collected stupidity does not appear in a volume under the title “Customs Cock-Ups” — I’m sure it would be a weighty tome.