GAY TIMES 86, October 1985

“Truth is the greatest enemy of fear and ignorance. Truth will surely conquer Aids, maybe within a relatively short space of time.”

Brave words—but from which paper? Believe it or not, it’s THE SUN. But, of course, this editorial rhetoric is nothing more than the usual empty cant. The Sun has no more regard for the truth than it ever had.

If The Sun had wanted to tell the truth about Aids, why did it headline “Cough can spread Aids”? Leading experts were quick to point out that there was no evidence to support such a wild claim. Professor Michael Adler said on The Jimmy Young Programme (Radio 2): “When you see me dying and everyone at the Middlesex Hospital dying who are looking after Aids patients then you can come back to me and say that I am wrong.” Even THE DAILY MAIL carried that. Did the Sun? No, it did not. Instead it said: “And whilst there is no proof it can be passing by kissing, the theory that it might be passed by mouth has not yet been ruled out by experts.”

We must also look at whether the SUN is reflecting reactions to Aids or it is it attempting to create them? Take the story it carried headed: “Aids scare empties pub.” It claimed that “terrified tipplers deserted their local after the landlord sent out a special invitation to gays.” But is it true? Well, we have only tie SUN’s word for it. Could it be that this detestable rag is trying to encourage a leper mentality towards gays?

Miriam Stoppard tried in her “Where There’s Life?” programme (ITV) to calm fears by talking to Aids victims in a sympathetic and sensible way. It was a moving programme, but it cut no ice with The DAILY EXPRESS’s TV critic. “Thanks doctor … but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he wrote, “despite what they try to tell us on television, maybe they will permit a sceptical public to take their own simple precautions.”

For “simple precautions” you can read mindless persecution.


Columnists in the British Press are overwhelmingly right-wing reactionaries. They all have a great deal in common, being pro-South African government, anti-women, pro-Thatcher and very anti-gay. Their attitudes seem to have been fixed when they were young and immature and are now impervious to change. Now that they’ve got Aids as a subject they can get all that phoney moralising off their chests.

“Stop this public posturing!” demanded John Akass in the DAILY EXPRESS. He was referring to the “powerful homosexual lobby” and the “gay publicity machine”— some-thing I’ve yet to see operating—and telling us to “change down to neutral” in our demands for equality.

As a regular consumer of the Fleet Street press, I can assure John Akass that any positive mention of homosexuality would be very hard to find. There’s plenty about homosexuality to be sure —you could almost say they’re obsessed with it —but all of it is either critical, mocking, censorious or titillating. Aids, says Mr Akass is the homosexual’s “private sorrow, their own exclusive sorrow. They deserve pity. What they do not deserve is air time and space for advertising” But where is all this pro-gay propaganda?

Never mind, facts need not get in the way of the message, and so we move to the outrageously inflated and pompous George Gale, also in the EXPRESS. “We are constantly invited to feel sorrow for individuals who suffer from the disease and for the homosexual community in which it particularly flourishes,” says the self-satisfied windbag. “Those who choose unnatural methods of sexual gratification choose thereby to put themselves at risk …It is more important to protect the lives of those who might innocently or accidentally catch the disease than to protect the reputation of those who have caught the disease through their own self-indulgence.”

Then we turn to the other self-appointed moralist, the Catholic martyr herself, Mary Kenny. She was writing in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH about the appointment by Manchester City Council of two officers to look at the question of discrimination against homosexuals. According to the blessed Mary there is no such thing as anti-gay discrimination. “In many artistic spheres, queers (as they are still called in the theatre—’queer as a coot darling’) are widely believed to be more gifted, more sensitive than straights.” She then goes on to say: “If prejudice against homosexuals is now a special problem in Manchester, it may be because ratepayers feel resentment towards councils who spend resources on ‘sexual orientation officers’.”

I wonder if Mary could be so hot under the halo because Manchester happens to be a socialist council? Or perhaps she’s just let her persistent smugness get the better of her.

Now we go to THE DAILY TELEGRAPH to greet the very wonderful Peter Simple, who took space to congratulate the Salvation Army on their campaign against the liberalisation of the anti-gay laws in New Zealand. “Let it stand firm. I am sure it will.” Mind you, in the same issue he was also congratulating the South African government for ‘standing firm’ against international opinion that it should dismantle apartheid.

On the ‘lighter side’, THE STAR’s Peter Tory says he’s had a message from “our delicate-natured Los Angeles correspondent Orville” who has exclusively revealed to him what the term “a friend of Dorothy” means. The incredulous Mr Tory, always first with the news says: “So there you are. Just another little lesson in the increasingly gay ways of this funny old world.”

If Mr Tory would like another ‘little lesson’ perhaps it could be in growing up.


Paul Johnson got his two-pennorth in with an article in THE SPECTATOR some weeks ago but is worth mentioning. It begins by castigating the press: “Since the Press Council was created, the conduct of Fleet Street, far from improving, has been worse, than ever. Never would I say that Fleet Street has been held in such contempt by the public, and justly so.”

One can’t argue with that. The thrust of Mr Johnson’s article concerns gay matters. Paul Johnson doesn’t like homosexuality. “The great majority of Christians and Jews, for example, continue to regard it as evil and many believe criminal sanctions should be restored.” And how does Mr Johnson know what “the great majority” thinks? He doesn’t make clear, but he goes on say that and says as much as he despises the press and resents its intrusion into people’s lives, he’ll make an exception for the coverage of Aids “It is clear then that the Aids outbreak and other consequences of homosexual promiscuity, are matters which the press must explore and discuss, distasteful, difficult and contentious though they are. All kinds of precautions, including the re-imposition of the criminal sanctions abolished in 1967… are areas for debate.”

In the following issue, Julian Meldrum wrote to the editor, suggesting that only person who should be locked up is Mr Johnson. I’ll echo that.

I don’t want to deny anyone the right to their opinion, but I must say that reading some of these columnists is just about the equivalent of putting two fingers down your throat.


The Tory press has often used homosexuality as a means of “tarnishing” the image of the Labour Party. The habit is well illustrated by an article in THE DAILY EXPRESS headed “Gay Lib poses new threat to Labour hopes”. The article said that “Labour is facing an embarrassing new storm, this time involving the gay rights movement at next month’s party conference.”

Apparently, because there are a couple of gay rights motions likely to get on to the agenda, we are going to inflict as much damage on the party as Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn and the TUC conference put together. This is the gleeful hope and opinion of the Express’s political editor John Warden.

It didn’t stop the TUC conference overwhelmingly passing their resolution in favour of gay rights. THE SUN reported this by quoting only one speaker at the debate which was, of course, Frank Sweeney who said: “Gay people are absolutely vile. They corrupt anything and everything they touch.” Not a single word of support was reported.


THE BOOKSELLER carried an article by Charles Clark, copyright adviser to the Publishers Association, which he submitted to the PA’s Freedom to Publish Committee. It concerns, of course, Gay’s the Word and HM Customs and Excise. He says the case against the Customs would make “hilarious reading” if the proceedings did not, as they do, concern a hundred individual charges against the eight directors of GTW. “But,” he says, “The publicity surrounding the behaviour of the Customs in their action against GTW may well provide the PA and the Booksellers Association with the right opportunity to press the Government for a review of the Customs’ powers, procedures and practices.”

No doubt HM Customs are kicking themselves for opening this particular can of worms.

GAY TIMES 99, December 1986

AIDS is once more big news and we are subjected to the sad spectacle of the newspapers trying to convince us that at last they are taking the matter seriously. Their new-found ‘responsibility’ is quite pathetic to behold. The tabloids put on their poker faces-and then sum up an immensely complex subject in three paragraphs. The problem is that the so-called serious treatment is almost as bad as their previous disgraceful behaviour when Aids was just ‘the gay plague’.

Ben Elton, who has a column in The Daily Mirror had the courage to criticise his own paper (10 Nov) for trying to encapsulate such a complicated thing into a brief question-and-answer format. “I thought it unwise to publish such vague ‘symptoms’” wrote Mr Elton. “Apparently, Aids symptoms include dry throat, diarrhoea and fatigue. I get the same effect from six pints of lager and a few fags. Last week surgeries everywhere must have been crammed with hungover people holding The Mirror and thinking they were going to die. I’m not being flippant. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

And a little knowledge is still what the papers are giving their readers. And for all their alleged concern The Daily Mail still managed to carry a critical front page lead (Oct 30) about Manchester City Council’s planned response to Aids. The Council had said that they intended to support and help victims of the disease in their employ and do their best to try and stop ill-informed colleagues making life even more miserable for them. The Tory leader of the council Joyce Hill was given the lion’s share of space to say: “It is not fair to ask a family man to work alongside an Aids carrier without even letting him know he could be at risk. The council should get its priorities right, this is not the kind of thing it should be wasting money on.”

Can you believe what you are reading? Are the people who produce The Daily Mail really so heartless, so ignorant and such downright bastards that they think efforts to help sick people are wrong? Yes, I’m afraid they are. For was it not the DAILY MAIL that gave arch-Tory propagandist Paul Johnson a full page (Nov 4) to return to his favourite subject? “Aids: The danger Labour ignores at Britain’s peril” was the headline over an article which was, as you’d expect from Mr Johnson, full of distortions, unconvincing overstatements and back-to-front conclusions. According to Mr Johnson, you can forget about the conspiracy theory that Aids was created in an American laboratory —no, it is the Labour Party who are to blame for the whole Aids situation because they have supported gay people. “During the past five years, while the evidence of the Aids peril has grown, the Labour Party has step-by-step committed itself to policies which place homosexuality on a moral par with normal sex and encourage its expression.” Mr Johnson rants on and on about “homosexual militants”, “pro-homosexual propaganda” and so on. He concludes: “On the issues of Aids and the homosexual connection, Labour is playing politics with human lives. As the public grasps this fact, there could be an awesome political retribution.”

Mr Johnson might well be right. No doubt he will work day and night to make sure his prediction comes true. What he forgets is that he, too, is playing with human lives, but they are only homosexual lives so they can, in his reckoning, be discounted. Paul Johnson is a sad and cynical man. His shocking use of a terrible tragedy to score cheap and easy political points makes me feel sick.

But at least Johnson’s thinking is his own. For now we have that other right-wing columnist Woodrow Wyatt in The NEWS OF THE WORLD saying precisely the same thing. “Some Labour councils encourage Aids with grants to homosexual centres. So do Labour education authorities telling children that homosexuals living together are as stable as married couples. They also encourage children to experiment with sex. This is murder.”

It would be too much for Woodrow Wyatt and Paul Johnson to understand that unless gay people are encouraged to feel secure as members of society and able to get together occasionally for mutual support then they will become unreachable with the vital information about Aids. The reason so many gay relationships are unstable is precisely because of the bigoted attitudes of people like this. Important points such as these cannot be considered by Johnson, Wyatt et al because they are not really engaged in any kind of constructive discussion, they are engaged in propaganda. But by far the biggest tragedy—and there is overwhelming evidence of it happening already — is that Aids will become a party-political issue. Right wing puritans are already jumping on the bandwagon with their irrelevant moralising, carelessly ignoring the enormous human suffering involved. Foremost amongst these is the staggeringly obsessed Dr Adrian Rodgers of Exeter, who pops up with depressing frequency on TV and in the papers with his strident calls for the re-criminalisation of homosexuality and imprisoning of people with Aids.

If the issue is used to score cheap political points I fear that what is now a huge medical problem could turn into a social catastrophe. This is a problem for the whole human race and not one to be used by politicians as a tool to retain power. And not only are our local minor politicians using Aids like this, it is also emerging as an ideological battleground for East and West. The SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (Nov 9) said: “Whilst the rest of the world frantically endeavours to find a cure for the plague of Aids, the KGB is using the disease as a cynical campaign of disinformation against the West”.

My advice to all the Fleet Street “thinkers”, the destructive so-called moralisers and the super power plotters, is to put aside dogmatic stances and face up to Aids as a tragedy for the whole of mankind. This disease doesn’t care whether your politics are red, blue or candy-striped.


Remember Mills, The Star’s so-called “angry voice”? He’s the man who has, since his column started some months ago, managed to contravene every single article of the National Union of Journalists code of ethics. He is racist, homophobic, anti-women—in fact, if you aren’t a white, heterosexual male you are fair game for Mills’ fascist rantings. And he doesn’t hold back. Indeed, the columns are almost unbelievably crude. The fact that a national newspaper sees fit to print such stuff speaks volumes for the rapidly declining state of the British Press.

Now we discover, courtesy of the London listings magazine City Limits (Oct 30), that Mills is, in fact, Ray Mills, the deputy editor of The Star. He is known to his colleagues as “Biffo”. Mr Mills thinks this is an affectionate soubriquet after the cartoon bear but, in fact, it stands for Big Ignorant Fat Fucker from Oldham, according to an ex-member of the Star’s staff quoted in City Limits.

I suggest that Gay Times readers could make life a little more difficult for the obnoxious Mills. I already have a complaint lodged against him with the ethics council of the NUJ and I suggest others make similar complaints, either to the NUJ or the Commission for Racial Equality when appropriate.

And finally, a world to Mills’ colleagues at The Star: your silence in the face of this journalistic abomination is almost as bad as Ray Mills’ own stirring up of racial and sexual hatred. His violent words will soon incite violent action. Are you going to sit by and let innocent people take the brunt of Ray Mills’ abuse of his access to the press?


The plot of Channel Four’s gay film Consenting Adult (Oct 28) was a familiar one. Young son comes out to comfortable middle-class parents and the family goes into crisis. This was a better than average rendition of the theme, given that it was an American TV movie. Tear-jerking performances from Martin Sheen and Marlo Thomas, playing doting parents who can’t accept that their son has apparently changed overnight from the American dream to the American nightmare. There is much soul-searching before mom and pop really believe their son’s assertion that his homosexuality is “true and getting truer all the time”. Indeed, by the end of the story pop has to send the mandatory “I love you son” from beyond the grave in the form of a letter which he couldn’t bring himself to post while he was alive. Mom agonises a bit more before she decides that she might as well get on with it and invites son and lover home to dinner.

Although it was played as a weepy, the film managed to make a very important point which we’ve failed to get over in political debate. It demonstrated that there are two distinct kinds of homosexual: the gay bogeyman created by the newspapers (who appears to spend his wholetime preying on children, spreading diseases and eating up the entire rate precept) and the real flesh and blood person who has all kinds of hopes, and fears and dreams just like everyone.