Except for an Agenda article by Andrew Lumsden and a couple of letters in the GUARDIAN, I could find no mention in the national papers of the worrying raid on Gay’s the Word bookshop.
The only other references I could find in the straight press were an article by Alison Hennegan in THE NEW STATESMAN and a news story in THE BOOKSELLER. With her usual perceptiveness, Alison Hennegan identified the reasons for the proliferation of gay literature over the last couple of years: “It has sprung from one overriding need: a hunger for truth after so many lies; and a determination that having once found the truth we would never again lose it to those with a vested interest in suppressing or controlling access to it.”
THE BOOKSELLER quotes Peter Strauch, department manager of Dillon’s University Bookshop: “We have been ordering books from American publishers for a considerable number of years, including titles stocked at Gay’s the Word. Other central London bookshops have also imported and sold these titles for a long time.”
Given this, isn’t it strange that Gay’s the Word should be singled out for special treatment by HM Customs and Excise?
Only when these book-burning philistines visit Foyles and remove their imports will I believe that the raid is anything other than a direct strike at gay communications.
The Tory-inspired DAILY EXPRESS just can’t leave Ken Livingstone alone. Their latest piece of crude propaganda was headed “The Great Dictator” and written by Peter Grosvenor. “Would Londoners, now paying rates for daft schemes to support gay movements, have voted so convincingly for Labour had they known Red Ken would be running the city?”
The answer to that, Mr Grosvenor, according to the latest opinion polls, is an overwhelming YES. So stuff that up your nostrils and sniff it.
As for Red Ken himself, well he refuses to back down on his support for gay rights simply for the sake of political expediency. He is reported in THE STANDARD as saying: “Being gay or Lesbian is natural for gay men and lesbians. This needs to be understood by the heterosexual majority. The GLC has endeavoured to recognise this in its policy.”
Obviously the Tories and their Fleet Street toe-rags don’t take easily to common-sense logic.
THE NEW YORK TIMES ran a major feature entitled “For Victims of AIDS, Support is a Lonely Siege.” It described the work of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a research, support and campaigning group in America.
On the one hand, writer Larry Kramer says: “We’re more responsible. Everyone in the gay community realises now that homosexuality is defined by more than what you do sexually. Being gay is a cultural tradition, a heritage to be proud of.”
But on the other hand, there is growing evidence of a drift back into the old ways of bath houses, cruising, sexual partnerings running into many hundreds and all the other things that seem, on current evidence, to encourage the spread of AIDS.
The Gay Men’s Health Crisis is receiving 30 calls a week from newly diagnosed AIDS victims. They think it highly likely that as many as 30,000 more cases are, at this moment incubating.
Depressing stuff indeed.
Writing in WOMAN magazine, ‘royal-watcher’ Anthony Holden says “the strains of the last 18 months are beginning to show on the Queen’s face.”
Part of the strain was the resignation of Commander Tresstrail “in disgrace” after his homosexuality was revealed.
Never mind the Queen, what I want to know is how Commander Tresstrail’s face is faring under the strain he’s been exposed to after his cruel and unnecessary martyrdom by the media monsters?
And if she was so concerned, why didn’t Her Majesty utter a single word in his defence?
Spike Milligan wrote a letter to NEW SOCIETY suggesting that “parliament should set up a central screening bureau for would-be parents. It would look into people’s records to see if they are drunks, criminals, violent and whether they can support a family.” He says: “Children are being born to drunks, drug addicts, masochists, sadists and even in the bizarre context of lesbians…”
Now hold on a minute Mr Milligan. Am I wrong in saying that you’ve spent more time than most in mental institutions suffering from manic depression? Isn’t your rather unstable state of mind well chronicled? But I can find no evidence of restraint on your part when it came to parenthood.
Many lesbians make exemplary parents and to have their parenthood dismissed by the increasingly unfunny Mr Milligan is, to put it mildly, stark, staring mad.
THE SUN (described by another Fleet Street journal as a “yobbo paper”) lived up to its image when reporting the attack on pop star Marilyn in Australia.
Marilyn was beaten up in a gay bar out there. THE SUN gleefully splashed it across the front page, with the comment from the Aussie police chief: “He isn’t seriously hurt — all he needs is a powder puff.”
But as far as gay-bashing goes, the antipodean thug still has a long way to go before he can equal the editor of THE SUN.
THE whingeing Michael Jackson is still going on about how gay he isn’t. After getting his mother to reassure the loyal fans that her weird son was not homosexual (on the grounds it was against religion), we now have his doctor making the same assertion in THE SUN.
All right, Michael. I believe it. The question is: do you?
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.
The reporting of Aids continues at screaming pitch. The treatment given to the subject varies enormously and as you’d expect it was THE SUN that scraped the floor of the sewer. “I’d shoot my son if he had Aids,” was the headline over one of the most malevolently mischievous pieces of “journalism” I’ve yet seen. Given the criticism there has been over the deliberate panic created in the press over Aids, there can be no justification for giving three-quarters of a page to the opinion of some crazy clergyman to say (in large quotes): “If it continues, it will be like the Black Plague. It could wipe out Britain. Family will be against family. Nobody will trust anyone else and gun law will prevail.”
These are the words of Rev Robert Simpson of Barmston, Humberside. How THE SUN managed to find such a lunatic and why they decided to give such prominence to his opinions can only be put down to an evil desire to add to the hysteria. It was journalism of the most base and irresponsible kind, and there is nothing we can do about it—the Sun sails on impervious to criticism.
THE STAR, in its turn, ran one of those brave editorials saying: “Above all, the public must have a great deal more information about Aids, its effects and the risks of infection. Too many people are relying on rumour and stage door gossip about show-biz stars.” Which is rendered laughable by the fact that on the front page of the same issue is a story headed “Terror in Tinsel Town” which quotes from well-known medical experts like Linda Evans, Cher and pig-ignorant Joan Rivers, who seems to have little knowledge of the subject but an awful lot to say about it. “I have friends with Aids,” she screeches, “But I can tell you, there’s no kissing, no touches.” I wish she’d do us all a favour and shut her cavernous trap for a while.
THE DAILY MAIL carried a ghastly piece about American hysteria. It wasn’t so much an ‘objective report’ as a cover for the anti-gay feelings of the author, George Gordon. “America is gripped with fear, loathing and hysteria over the relentless increase of the killer disease Aids. What is terrifying its leaders is that the national mood is only a twitch away from focusing that hysteria on a human target—the millions of openly homosexual men who until now flaunted their gayness before the straight society.”
He goes on carping about the progress made by gays but is cheered to know that this is all being rapidly reversed. Then he says: “America is a deeply religious country, in which the fear of fire and brimstone is never far from the sophisticated surface”.” This, it seems. gives the born-again maniacs carte blanche to go on the rampage against those they see as the ‘originators’ of Aids. “The tolerant society is fast disappearing,” says Gordon, “Women, children and heterosexual men are catching Aids, and whether it is from contaminated blood or contact, it comes down to two primary sources—junkies using dirty needles and homosexuals.”
He tells us that Rock Hudson’s death, far from creating sympathy for gays has “aroused an awareness and revulsion that has swept the country.” George Gordon’s article ends: “The gay parades are over. So too is public tolerance of a society that paraded its sexual deviation and demanded rights. The public is demanding to live disease-free with the prime carriers in isolation.”
Now just a moment —let’s just look at what this man is saying. “Disease-free lives”? Humanity has never been free from disease and it never will be. What he means is gay-free. And that has implications that don’t bear thinking about.
NEW SOCIETY summed it up when they said that the Aids story is really one of “selfishness and fear”—which brings me on to the arch-practitioner of those two vices, John Junor, editor of THE SUNDAY EXPRESS. “Curious isn’t it,” he said of Rock Hudson, “the way he is being turned into some kind of folk hero? Elizabeth Taylor gushes about how much she loves him … others take their hats off and lower their eyes to the ground and talk about his courage … Mr Hudson may have had many qualities. In my view neither courage nor decency was amongst them.”
There are other human values too, like compassion and sympathy, I’d say Junor had them in about the same measure as a hyena.
At the more sensible end of the scale, NEW SOCIETY carried a large piece about what they called “the worst public health problem since polio and TB were defeated.” The author said, after looking calmly but not very hopefully at the state of research: “There is only one way to stop this disease from decimating the gay population, and possibly killing thousands of heterosexuals too: by altering people’s sexual behaviour.” The article is worth looking up and reading in full—it was in the issue dated 18th October.
THE latest gay play ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ had rather extreme love-it-or-hate-it reviews. Jack Tinker in THE DAILY MAIL loved it: “A triumph which packs its punches far and wide”. John Barber in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH agreed, saying he thought the play “the funniest as well as the most exuberant and perceptive and painful for years about sexuality, inversion and the disorders of modern love.” Irving Wardle in THE TIMES thought it “a revelation”.
But THE SUNDAY TIMES’ John Peter thought it “an entertainment for consenting adolescents. A long run might push homosexuality back into the ghetto from which it had a lot of trouble emerging in the past decade or two.” Michael Billington in THE GUARDIAN said it was “rather like Neil Simon re-written by Barbara Cartland.” Milton Shulman in THE LONDON STANDARD: “Such a soppy ending would have been derided as sentimental bathos had anyone dared write it about a romantically besotted heterosexual.”
Whatever the critics thought about it—and they’ve been wrong many times before—the preview audience on the night I was there were on their feet clapping and cheering riotously.
The Labour Party passed its gay rights resolution. The DAILY EXPRESS, SUN and MIRROR all quoted the single opposing speaker to the exclusion of everyone else. Meanwhile the SUNDAY TELEGRAPH told of the “increased commitment” to gay rights of 10 of the 32 London Boroughs and a growing number of Northern councils, like Manchester. “Council officers say the spread of the deadly disease Aids… has sharpened rather than undermined their commitment to helping the homosexual community.”
The LONDON STANDARD reported the issue of the GLC’s “Charter for lesbian and gay rights”. It quotes Ken Livingstone as saying: “Any statement about our grant for the gay and lesbian community was taken up by the gutter press who systematically tried to distort and twist what we were doing.”
THE DAILY MAIL is angered that Hackney council is giving gays “the same rights as married couples over council homes”. “The risk of encouraging people to claim homosexual relationships was obvious” it quotes. All these authorities just happen to be Labour-controlled. So, just to demonstrate that I am not biased I can report that THE DAILY EXPRESS told us of the Government’s contribution to the welfare of gays: “Government secretary Kenneth Baker is pledged to cut grants. Schemes thrown back include the GLC’s Lesbian and Gay Centre … Lord Elton promised that the clampdown would not affect genuine (sic) voluntary groups.”
Thanks a bundle Mrs T.
Some favourite gay films have found their way on to the telly in the past few weeks: ‘Victor/ Victoria’ and ‘La Cage aux Folles’ gave an exuberant portrait of the funny side of gay life, whereas ‘Fox and His Friends’ and ‘Nighthawks’ could easily depress the hell out of anyone. According to THE SUNDAY TIMES, Channel 4 has relented on its ban on Derek Jarman’s ‘Sebastiane’ and will broadcast it after all with only one minor cut.
Sarah Kennedy led a heated debate on gay rights in her ‘Daytime’ programme (Thames TV) in which the literally hysterical homophobes in the audience humiliated themselves with an incredible show of hatred and irrationality.
An ‘Open Space’ slot on BBC2 entitled ‘Plague on you’ was given over to an attack on Fleet Street’s coverage of AIDS. Ex-Fleet Street editor Derek Jameson and that puffed-up windbag George Gale of the Express condemned themselves with their own words. Jameson came over as a coarse, vulgar and thoughtless chump, as you’d expect, and Gale turned out to be an intellectual of the Adrian Mole variety, with about as much depth as a pancake. Lovely stuff.
Robert Baldock did a report on the Hippodrome’s gay night for NEW SOCIETY. It read rather like an anthropologist’s description of some newly-discovered tribe. I suppose this is explained by the conclusion he reaches about the ghettoisation of gays for profit. “The fact that there needs to be a ‘gay night’ at all indicates how hollow has been the social integration of the homosexual,” he writes, “… what 2000 years of homophobia did not succeed in doing, several years of freedom (under surveillance) have achieved: the domestication of the gay and the consignment of gay life and culture into a gilded cage … Sexual liberation has liberated people to make money out of sex. Gay separatism is a profitable business. The Hippodrome, despite the air of tolerance, is no welfare centre. ‘Tolerance is intolerable’, says Jack Land, the French, Minister of Culture, it is only a subtle, unadmitted form of racism.
Two gay departures from our telly screen last month. First of all, the curiously lifeless drag queen disappeared from EASTENDERS and Channel Four’s gay-ish sitcom BROTHERS ended its run. My favourite line from that show came when Cliff, the gay brother, had been beaten up by queer-bashers. His other brother explained: “Homophobes do not like homosexuals. They are not homosexuals.” To which camp and razor-sharp Donald retorted: “Don’t be too sure.”
Well, now we have to turn to this month’s parade of homophobes and gay-bashers, and a motley crew they are, too.
We start with Bernard Manning (who is now making his farewell appearance in this column). Did you see the much-trumpeted appearance on the embarrassing Joan Rivers show? It had obviously been heavily edited because gone were the jokes about Aids and sticking-tongues-down-throats. But it was still offensive enough to leave the other guests sitting on their settee looking extremely unhappy and unamused. Perhaps Mr Manning should be given more air-time—his own vileness would ensure a rapid end to his seedy career.
The annual attempt to get an ordinance passed in New York to outlaw discrimination against gays was commented upon by two British columnists. In THE TIMES, John O’Sullivan deigned to concede: “Tolerance yes, rights no.” He wrote: “The central question can be simply stated: is discrimination against homosexuals so widespread and damaging that it can and should be prohibited by legislation with all its potential for perverse and unintended consequences?” He concludes that “Most people hope their children will grow up heterosexual. If they can influence their sexual development in that direction, they will do so.”
This argument totally ignores the fact that there is no hard evidence to show that sexual development can be controlled one way or the other, so what form these “influences” would take doesn’t bear thinking about.
The same subject was tackled in a much less restrained manner by the ranting redneck George Gordon in THE DAILY MAIL. Mr Gordon has featured in this column before, assuring us that “the gay parades are over” but now having to concede that this proposed ordinance has brought gays out into the streets again.
“The bill will add sexual deviance to the list of categories—race, creed, gender, marital status and national origin—protected under the city’s anti-discrimination laws. The big question is why?”
Mr Gordon tells us that the idea is “an insult to the Jews and Hispanics and anyone else on the anti-discrimination list and it is totally unnecessary as legislation unless one feels that the cause of homosexuality, repugnant to the majority of the population, needs some sort of special encouragement.” He goes on to say (and quotes others as saying) things like: “The idea is almost a poisoning of young minds” and “I have a duty and a right to protect my children from sexual deviants. If their teacher was gay, and in my mind that means a carrier of Aids, I would want to yank him straight out of the class… they are trying to force me to accept a lifestyle I find revolting.”
George Gordon is a bigot of the first order and I’m sure he feels at home in America. He isn’t merely anti-gay, he is unhinged on the subject. But much more worrying is that THE DAILY MAIL should give so much space to such a slanderous attack.
Who was it that said statistics are the lowest form of information? I can’t remember, but they’ve got a point.
NEW SOCIETY told us that during a survey of 1500 teenagers, one of the questions asked was: “Are homosexual relationships right or wrong?” According to the magazine “56 per cent of boys questioned and 37 percent of the girls thought homosexual relationships were wrong.”
But surely if you look at that another way it means a gigantic 63 per cent of girls and a respectable 44 per cent of boys thought that gay relationships were perfectly OK? Given the relentless anti-gay propaganda they are exposed to, I’m astonished that any came out on our side.
Statistics have also exercised the already troubled mind of Peter Simple, the strange columnist in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH. “When the great hullabaloo about homosexuality erupted 30 years ago the figures generally accepted by homosexuals themselves was five percent. This has now risen to 10 per cent and shows signs of rising further.” But hasn’t Mr Simple said all this before? He says he is “bored into the ground by ghastly homosexual pressure groups.”
So long as he is bored six feet into the ground, I’ll be happy.
And still with THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, we were given the result of a Gallup poll on the subject of Aids. “Almost one in three adults in Britain believe it is unsafe to associate with anyone suffering from Aids, even without intimate physical contact”. But didn’t that mean that the majority didn’t think it as unsafe? And given Fleet Street’s mischievous campaign of misinformation, I find that quite amazing.
The statement: “The Government would be spending more money on Aids if the disease didn’t affect mainly homosexual males,” drew a 53 per cent agreement rate.
Which shows you can fool some of the people some of the time.
And speaking of the long-awaited Government education campaign—did you see it? Despite the fact that something like 85 percent of the victims are homosexual men, the word homosexual was mentioned only once. The ‘frank’ advice about sexual practices referred to “rectal sex”. The trouble is that an awful lot of people haven’t a clue what rectal sex means, let alone what “lipid membranes” or “T-helper cells” are.
The advertising manager of this magazine, Terry Deal, was quoted in THE GUARDIAN as saying that the Government was “shirking its responsibilities for telling people the specific truth about Aids and was going to use general information about the disease to counter the untruths which had appeared in the popular press.”
Alexander Chancellor summed up the dilemma in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: “If the Government fails to deal with the sexual realities it will be rightly attacked. If, on the other hand, it emphasises them unduly, it will be no less fiercely criticised.”
NEW SOCIETY was less mealy-mouthed. “Cowardice over AIDS” it said. “Anyone with an ounce of empathy will relate to the terrors of the gay community. Even now, in London, one in three homosexual men presenting themselves at clinics for sexually- transmitted diseases have the virus. Anything that lessens the spread, whatever temporary trauma it causes the Mary Whitehouse brigade, must be justified.”
THE LONDON STANDARD published a letter from Elizabeth Bridgett of London El. “I am inclined to pay heed to the theory that Aids is one of the last great apocalyptic plagues, bearing in mind the Bible’s contention that the Creator doesn’t like sodomy very much.”
Oh, so the superstitious brigade have changed their tune have they? At first it was “homosexuals” who were being punished, until the flaw in the argument was pointed out: lesbians are homosexual and Aids is almost unknown to them. So now it’s been boiled down to a specific act: sodomy.
But it seems to me that the wonderful old “Creator” doesn’t like a lot of things, if recent events are anything to go by. He certainly can’t like children very much when He sends earthquakes to flatten maternity hospitals and increases the incidence of infantile leukaemia.
Mrs Bridgett and her ilk can keep the Creator. He’s not very nice if you ask me.
After last month’s SUN feature about gay parents, Deirdre Sanders printed a letter from the parent of a gay man who wrote in protest: “Gay people need love and understanding from their family, not to be condemned as monsters. I’m sure there are a lot more families like ours which are prepared to support their child with help and understanding.”
But days later dreadful Deirdre was at it again: “My gay dad-in-law threatens blackmail”—casting the gay man yet again as the villain.
I don’t suppose people read agony columns to hear about well-adjusted individuals. But then again, I don’t suppose many well-adjusted people read The Sun.
When two people love each other, surely it is a cause for celebration? Love is good and valuable and worthwhile whatever the sex of the people involved. There can be no doubt that there was love of a sort between comedy duo Les Dennis and Dustin Gee. In an interview in THE MIRROR about life without Dustin, Les Dennis says: “It was a double grief in losing my closest friend and what we had professionally.”
But he still has to make sure that nobody gets the impression that it was anything other than platonic. Even though Dustin Gee was gay (“He was quite open with people about the way he was”) Les Dennis still feels the need to say: “There was this awful story about me and Dustin living and laughing together, suggesting we shared a house. It was absolute rubbish. I had a ground floor flat and Dustin had one two floors up.”
How strange that people are so defensive that they have to decry “living and laughing together”. This little rider surely devalues a touching relationship. For whilst the Mirror makes much of the love between Les and his wife, it seems to suggest that Dustin’s kind of love was something less than desirable.
I think it’s sad.
What’s a gay life worth? Not much if a recent court case at the Old Bailey is anything to go by.
According to THE CHISWICK GUARDIAN a man called Peter Fennell, a soldier of Ivy Crescent, London W4, kicked a gay man to death a few feet from a police station. What had the man done to deserve such a violent end? “He touched me… I went berserk”, said Fennell. This brute was jailed for four years, which probably means he’ll be out in two or less.
Haven’t we heard all this before? Or did Harvey Milk die in vain?
Eddie Shah’s fuzzy newspaper TODAY, carried the text of a speech by Noman Tebbit, chairman of the Conservative Party and, I’m told, an extra in the film “Zombie Flesheaters”. Mr Tebbit says that all the ills of the present day stem from the permissive sixties. “Legislation on capital punishment, homosexuality, abortion, censorship and divorce – some of it good, some of it bad – but all of it applauded as ‘progressive’ as ushered in in quick succession, leaving an overwhelming impression that not only were there going to be no legal constraints but there was no need for any constraints at all. Tolerance for sexual deviation generated a demand for deviance itself to be treated as the norm,”
Commenting on the speech THE GUARDIAN said: “There are two things wrong with what Mr Tebbit is saying. First, the problems are about things that are happening now, not twenty years ago. After seven years of Conservative government it is pretty pathetic to blame the wrongs of today’s world on the Wilson era… Was it really a debasement of standards to legalise homosexuality? Mr Tebbit’s speech came close to being outright anti-gay”
The Guardian believes that Mr Tebbit is “testing popular temperature to see how a general slagging off of liberal values will go down electorally.”
Hopefully it will go down with all hands.
The Press Council’s rejection of my complaint about THE SUN and its notorious “I’d shoot my son if he had Aids” story has taught me a bitter lesson – never make a complaint to the Press Council, My disturbing conclusion is that this complaint might have done more harm than good because now The Sun can crow that it has ‘official confirmation of how responsible and balanced its coverage of Aids has been.
The story complained about was, to my mind, a classic example of the sensationalism, exaggeration and distortion that has led to the present climate of hysteria. The Press Council maintained that the article would not provoke “discriminatory action against people with Aids.” This is clearly nonsense. As Anna Durrell, another complainant about the same story, pointed out, the article implied that the only way to stop the spread of Aids is to kill people who have it.
My advice to people who are angered by the continuing scaremongering in newspapers and magazines is to forget the Press Council and find an alternative way to complain. There are lots of ideas in the “Right to Reply” pack which is available for £2.95 from The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.
To illustrate how newspapers feed off the myths they themselves have created about Aids, let’s look at some of the stories that have appeared during the past month.
The CHISLEHURST TIMES reported that Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World is being held this year in Chislehurst Caves. “Sex Show in Caves Plan” said the headline in the paper and quoted a local councillor, Mrs Joan Bryant, as saying: “Ordinary people have got to use these facilities and I couldn’t be more alarmed. Aids may fester in the drains and sewage pipes.”
The STAR gossip columnist, Peter Tory—a man hardly noted for his sensitivity—reported that: “It is proving difficult to sell the late Rock Hudson’s house.” The reason—you’ve guessed it. “People are just spooked by Aids. I don’t know whether they are afraid of catching it from the door-knobs or what. But they just don’t want to know.”
THE DAILY EXPRESS told us that “Two prison officers wore green ‘space suits’ to flank an Aids prisoner in court yesterday. As well as the protective coveralls, the officers had respirators available, they did not carry them into the dock.”
The “Aids prisoner” in question was, it turned out, simply antibody positive (this was not what the Express said, they don’t seem to have grasped the difference between being antibody positive and having Aids). “He has been treated like a leper while on remand in Leicester Prison. His food was passed to him through a hatch and everything he touched, including reading material, was burned.”
The Express also told of the “scandal” of three “Aids victims” (once more, they meant HTLV-3 positive) being allowed to “mix will other prisoners in at overcrowded, under-staffed, top-security jail.” A spokesman for the prison officers is quoted as saying: “Needless to say, the other prisoners don’t know. You can imagine what would happen if they did.”
The MAIL ON SUNDAY tells us that “insurance firms are considering ways of identifying Aids victims who apply for life insurance.”
The catalogue of appalling ignorance, the frightening over-reaction and cruel prejudice continues to grow. It must have started somewhere. Someone must have fanned this panic. For the culprits I think you need look no further than Fleet Street and Wapping.
Commenting on the Government’s advertising campaign on Aids, NEW SOCIETY says: “Isn’t there something missing here—like homosexuals? They do, after all, account for 90 percent of the 305 Aids cases recorded in Britain so far. Yet the word ‘homosexual’ features only once in that ad and in a negative context: ‘Does Aids only affect homosexuals?’ it asks. No. If your eye happened to jump over the ‘only’, you would get a message that was the precise reverse of the truth.”
In the face of all the anti-gay propaganda which newspapers carry, I wondered whether they actually have formal policies of homophobia, or does it all stem from the ignorance and prejudices of individual journalists?
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH is quite open about it. When it announced its ‘new look’ a few weeks ago, the editor, Max Hastings, wrote: “The Daily Telegraph’s political commitment to the Conservatives as the only party currently fit to govern the country remains undiminished. So too does our belief in traditional moral values. There will be no sudden discovery of enthusiasm for Gay Lib in the columns of the Telegraph.”
Well, at least we know where we stand there. But what about THE DAILY MAIL which published that grotesque and slanderous piece by George Gordon last month? I asked the Assistant `Managing editor of the paper, Mac Keene, what their policy was about homosexuality and the reporting of Aids. “The Daily Mail does not have what you call a ‘policy’ towards homosexuality or Aids, just as we have no ‘policy’ towards deaf people or towards diptheria. We cover news stories on all subjects factually as they arise.”
Factually? You will remember that George Gordon’s article contained the sentence “If their teacher was gay, and in my mind that means a carrier of Aids, I would want to yank him straight out of the class.”
And now we have ‘Lord’ Frank Chapple, posing as a journalist, writing in the same paper that Aids is a “homosexual-induced epidemic”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘induce’ as “Bring on by artificial means”. Is Frank Chapple inferring that gays somehow created Aids?
I asked ‘His Lordship’ this very question. He replied: “Let me ask you a question. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if homosexuals stopped spreading the disease?”
My answer is yes, I do. I also think that it would be a good idea if those who have access to the mass media stopped spreading clap-trap about a serious and tragic issue.
On telly we have another American sitcom tackling a gay theme. Kate and Allie (Channel 4) concerns two divorced women who set up home together to save money, and as a mutual support system. In one episode this month the two women decided to pose as a gay couple in order to avoid paying a rent increase. (The serial is in a part of America where gays are recognised as having rights.)
The landlady who demanded the increase was very happy that her tenants were gay because so was she, and she produced her lover to prove it. From then on the misunderstandings and embarrassments that stemmed from the initial lie snowballed.
Kate didn’t like the deception because she had come to like the two lesbians and didn’t want to hurt them. And besides, she wailed, although she hadn’t done much with her heterosexuality lately, she didn’t want to give it up.
As is the fashion in these rather syrupy sit-coms, they came clean —and everything turned out right in the end. The two gay women made friends with the two straight women, there was a little homily about tolerance working both ways and they all ended up at the gay centre having a wonderful time.
Although these American series have a constant undertow of schmaltz, they are invariably good-natured. The gay theme was handled sensitively and the gay characters given a full range of expression and dignity.
Our home-grown comedy shows are crude by comparison—they only seem to be able to present gays as mincing hairdressers or silly waiters. Which says a lot about the state of things here.
Now for the case of the invisible gay customers. It happened at Lucky’s, a restaurant/cocktail bar in West London which operates a gay night each Sunday. In an advertising feature in the WEST LONDON GUARDIAN we are told “There’s never a dull moment at Lucky’s … with our new kid’s disco on Sunday afternoon. On Monday and Tuesday nights you can tune in to Lucky’s jazz-band. Wednesday it’s Ladies Night … Thursday, Friday and Saturday disco nights … something for everyone.”
Everyone? What happened to Sunday night? It seems to have disappeared. Along with a very lucrative band of Lucky’s customers.
Writing in NEW SOCIETY, Jeremy Seabrook warns against the dangers of dismissing The Sun as “a ‘comic’ unworthy of serious attention.” He makes a convincing case to explain the Sun’s popularity. “The details of the horror stories are not important; it is their cumulative effect which counts.”
And, indeed, the cumulative effect of their relentless homophobia counts against us very dearly.
There can be little doubt that The Sun now has a settled and co-ordinated anti-gay campaign under way. Their coverage of gay issues is so relentless, so grindingly negative that no-one can avoid the conclusion that at some stage the reporters must have been briefed to dig as much gay dirt as they can. And if they can’t find any dirt, then they should soil the truth. Let’s look at some of this month’s offerings from the pages of that ghastly rag. To start with, I have mixed feelings about the question-and-answer interview with Jimmy Somerville which appeared in THE SUN (22 Dec). One half of me says it’s good that Jimmy should be asked questions which some of his fans must long to know the answers to. (“How bothered are you about Aids”, “Have you ever made love to a woman?” “Have you ever dressed up in women’s clothes?”). But the other half of me wonders what the purpose of these prurient questions were. Do they raise consciousness or do they just reinforce misunderstandings and misconceptions? I don’t know, but I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable about it. Especially given some of the other stories that the Sun has carried over the past month.
For instance, Rock Hudson’s house was the star of another of another of the Sun’s Aids misinformation pieces. Apparently the dead actor’s house is still up for sale and no-one will by it. Hudson’s butler is quoted as saying: “They seem petrified of touching any of Rock’s belongings. They won’t even have a glass of water or a cup of tea because they have to drink from Rock’s glasses or crockery…” The whole tone of the story gives credence to the superstition that Aids somehow something more than just a disease that it has supernatural powers that allow it to linger in wait for the unwary. Some hope for the Government’s weedy education campaign in the face of such powerful misinformation.
29 December and THE SUN treated us to quotes from “tough guy” rock singer Gary Moore. “I don’t know how people can like the Communards. That guy Somerville has done for gays what Sam Fox did for feminism. He’s not exactly the acceptable face of gayness, is he? If anyone was undecided in their attitude to homosexuals, Jimmy Somerville would make your mind up for you – against them. He’s an ugly, no-talent creep.”
On 30 December, Jimmy was in THE SUN again, this time chiding The Pet Shop Boys for not coming out of the closet. “They have to be more upfront. It’s their duty to other gays. I don’t associate myself with the Pet Shop Boys because they still won’t publicly admit they’re gay. It really annoys me that they call their album Disco but don’t admit its relationship to gayness.”
On 6 January The Sun treated us to “What Fowler will see in Gay City where one in 15 has Aids”. The story by classic scab journo Neil Wallis began: “Health Secretary Norman Fowler is going on an Aids fact-finding mission to San Francisco later this month.” What Mr Fowler will see is a Sun reader’s nightmare come true. “Gays wear one of 14 different coloured handkerchiefs in the back pocket of their Levis. That signals to the world the particular perversion they prefer… It’s claimed that promiscuity among gays has stopped, but it’s only a claim! ,,, In Frisco today freak means old-fashioned, long-haired hippies advocating love between the sexes. It doesn’t mean out-of-the-ordinary. Well, it couldn’t, could it?”
And so it goes on. I’d just like Mr Wallis to know that if he goes to San Franciso and the powerful gay community gets to hear about it, he’s likely to leave more than his heart there.
On 12 Jan we were regaled with a silly (even by The Sun’s standards) non-story about a group of very minor TV stars going out for a “night on the town” in Manchester and ending up in Napoleon’s gay club. “Burley telly Sergeant Major Windsor Davies didn’t care much for the company of “the lovely boys” and did “a quick about turn”. The Sun tells us that the rest of them “brazened it out for a while. If The Sun is trying to tell us that these showbiz innocent had “accidentally” went to Napoleon’s with no previous knowledge of its style, they can go and tell it to the Marines.
More worrying though is the nasty twisting of a story about a gay group in Cambridge (18 Jan.) advising its members not to be tested for HIV infection. Anyone who has heard the whole story will know that this is sound advice, but in the hands of The Sun leader writer gay groups become “an evil force in the land” and gay activists “deserve to be treated as pariahs. They deserve to be locked away where they can do no more harm.”
On another page in the same issue there was a story about a police swoop on a cottage in Victoria Station in which, according to THE SUN, “police have arrested 68 gays in a massive anti-vice swoop.” An un-named “commuter” was quoted as saying: “It was a degrading sight to see evil middle aged men preying on young boys.”
The Sun has also told us over the past month that nasty lesbians are tormenting poor, innocent drug-pusher Rosie Johnston in prison, they also called for the shooting of the Barlinnie jail protestors and asserted that the National Union of Journalists was trying to create a totalitarian state for daring to fine their wonderful reporters. Talk about seeing the world through a looking glass—it seems The Sun has this wonderful facility for turning everything inside out and making it into the opposite of what it really is.
But who are the people behind The Sun? I ask this question because I am genuinely curious to know what sort of men they are. Are they really as nasty, greedy, violent, treacherous and downright rotten as their writings suggest?
Over the past few months The Sun has pursued the gay community and gay individuals with the ferocity of a shark in a feeding frenzy. Their editorial condemnations of us become more and more extreme—whether it be exhortations to James Anderton to “treat the perverts with the contempt they deserve” or calling for the locking up of gay rights activists because they are an “evil threat to society.” Some of their news items wouldn’t disgrace the pages of the National Front’s organ Bulldog.
They are very fond of calling anyone in public life who is vaguely ‘liberal’ “enemies of the nation” and “fifth columnists”. Indeed, anyone to the left of Mussolini is considered a communist infiltrator. And although The Sun has become something of a music hall joke, it is far from funny for those who are its victims. It won’t do any more to write it off as a silly comic not to be taken seriously. Four million people in this country take it seriously enough to shell out good money day after day to read the filth that mad Murdoch’s running dogs churn out. The Sun is a serious threat not only to the quality of our lives but now to our very existence, because the Sun’s baleful influence extends far beyond its own pages. Its complete lack of ethical standards has ensured that the other papers have had to follow it down into the gutter in order to survive the vicious circulation war.
I am not alone in my fear of the uncheckable abuses perpetrated by The Sun and its imitators. Jeremy Seabrook wrote in THE GUARDIAN (22 Dec) of the sinister purposes behind The Sun’s apparently cheerful populism. “What we are living through is a sustained attempt to resurrect the mob. The newspapers and the junk videos portray people, in the language of The Sun, as dirty rats and filthy swine, as animals and beasts; a vast human bestiary has been reinvented which systematically represents people as corrupt, treacherous and venal in contrast to whom, in this simple Manichean world, the good is represented by money.”
Seabrook tells us that papers like The Sun are creating an atmosphere that will pave the way, after Thatcherism has failed, for something far worse. He says that as the country disintegrates financially and socially the door will be open for the fascists to take over. This is where the frightening picture of life in this country presented by the popular press comes in. If Joe Public can be convinced that the country they love has become a “cesspit” of degradation then the new Fuhrer will have an easy cruise to power. Aids is providing the terrible tool for this end to be achieved. “Britain which is increasingly unrecognisable as the familiar and loved home place has become more and more like the future site of the second coming of those brutalities which we went to war to defeat less than half a century ago,” wrote Seabrook.
We have to recognise that the real enemy of the people is The Sun newspaper and all the others that aspire to be its clones. And yet we are powerless to stop this wilful distortion. The freedom of the press was once sacred, but Rupert Murdoch and his evil crew have made the concept of a free press into a sick joke. Press freedom in the hands of the seekers after wealth has become an insidious 1icence to distort, persecute, incite hatred and generally brutalise readers. If any attempt is made to stop this undemocratic abuse of their enormous power the papers instantly cry “censorship. The ruthless and unscrupulous men behind The Sun are the real fifth columnists in our country, undermining all traditions of tolerance and debate. They must be curbed—for all our sakes.
Newspaper correspondence columns are fairly predictable, each paper having its own style. THE MAIL and THE EXPRESS voice the opinion of middle-England, the retired middle-classes and the aspiring working classes. The letters pages in these papers have an unhealthy preoccupation with the death penalty, with ‘dole scroungers’ and ‘teenage layabouts’. They write in endlessly about how disastrous Labour is and how utterly heavenly they consider Maggie to be. They have simple and painless answers to all the world’s most complex problems—painless for themselves, that is. For other people it usually involves death or imprisonment.
It was not surprising, then, to find the correspondence columns filled, day after day, with letters supporting James Anderton, the only chief constable with a hotline to God. And this particular crop of letters was even more bloodthirsty than usual. So much hatred poured from them that I eventually became too depressed to read any more. It began to seem that if Margaret Thatcher were to legalise lynching for homosexuals tomorrow, her opinion poll rating would race ahead.
Then, suddenly, cracks began to appear in what had seemed almost unanimous support for the Mancunian Prophet. Even old John Junor in The SUNDAY EXPRESS (21 Dec) was moved to write, during one of his weekly diatribes against gays: “There is about him (Anderton) an unctuous self-righteousness which makes me wince. Nor do I warm to his pronouncement that he said what he did because he had received guidance from God …In view of everything that has happened, would not Manchester be a better place from a police point of view if Mr Anderton were to receive further guidance from God to hand in his resignation, too?”
Dennis Hackett, the new editor of TODAY wrote (23 Dec): “I have now begun to wonder whether it could be that Mr Anderton is not, after all, on a direct line to the Supreme Being, but is in fact talking to himself and mistaking his alter ego for the Almighty?”
Even THE NEWS OF THE WORLD (21 Dec) managed a critical editorial (although it was in unusually small print, and looked strangely out of place, as though it had wandered into the wrong paper). “The Aids and gays debate is a POLITICAL issue, not a CRIMINAL issue, except where the law of the land is broken,” said the NoW. “Parliament, in its wisdom, decides what those laws should be. If Anderton wants to talk about what offends the LAW, that is one thing. What offends HIM should be kept to himself. It is right to wonder whether the people of Greater Manchester … are best served by a chief whose behaviour is not so much eccentric as plain daft, Stalker is going, Anderton is staying. Perhaps it would be better if BOTH went.”
The Archbishop of York criticised Anderton for his unhelpfulness in the face of the crisis and even the right-wing Police Federation rebuked him for “pontificating on moral issues”. According to THE GUARDIAN (15 Jan), Tony Judge, editor of the federation’s magazine, accused Anderton of “dragging the police into a moral debate that should not concern them.”
And so, perhaps, the most cheering headline of the month was in THE INDEPENDENT (13 Jan) “Police Feeling Mounts that Anderton Must Go”.
The Bible tells us that God reserves his greatest wrath for false prophets, so if I were James Anderton, I’d be seriously thinking of fixing a lightning conductor to the roof of Greater Manchester police Headquarters.
Until now, most straight people have avoided thinking very much about gay lifestyles, preferring to consider them rather exotic and not really to do with the real world. Aids has changed all that and gays have taken centre stage. There is no way that the Government, the press or the public can remain indifferent to our presence any more.
Naturally the long-held and deep-rooted prejudices needed to be expressed – and they have been, mostly in intemperate, vulgar and abusive terms. The bigots were first on the scene with “didn’t we tell you this would happen?” Our old enemies in the press have had a field day too. But now more reasoned debate is beginning. Religious leaders and politicians have realised that the screaming hysteria doesn’t very far towards solving problems.
It was good, therefore, to see an opinion piece in THE INDEPENDENT (9 Jan) written by Christina Baron, president of the Liberal Women’s Federation. She made the point that criticising gay men for being ‘promiscuous’ was unfair given society’s disapproval of gay relationships. “It is often not easy for heterosexual couples, even when married to society’s approval, to stay together. How much harder, then, for a homosexual couple? Is a colleague’s gay or lesbian partner as welcome as a spouse at the firm’s Christmas dance, the office party or the staff room? The heterosexual community wants it both ways – promiscuity is not acceptable, stable partnerships are not acceptable. If much of our society still cannot accept a homosexual couple then we shouldn’t be surprised if it is harder for them to stay together.”
One male gay couple who managed to stay together for 27 years are Saxon Lucas and Rodney Madden. Their relationship was examined in NEW SOCIETY (2 Jan). These two men are Christians, they consider their partnership to be, to all intents and purposes, a “marriage”. What they had promised each other – total sexual fidelity – would have seemed ridiculous and unrealistic to most gay people a few short years ago. Now it seems to be something that a lot of gay couples are striving for.
The structure of their relationship (“Rod is the boss-man, what Rod says goes. And when he says ‘no’, no it is,” says Saxon) may seem questionable to many. Surely marriages – or any other ostensibly exclusive relationship – can work without these dubious power-structures. Indeed, much of what these two men espouse as essential components of a successful long-term relationship would be anathema to the majority of people, gay or straight. The two of them have, apparently, embraced all the worst aspects of “marriage” along with the good bits. Women in particular have been trying to shrug off these negative elements for years.
If gays are going to go in for marriage (and it seems like a good idea at the moment), surely we can start at an advantage by learning from the mistakes of all those thousands of straight couples who’ve failed in the past.
By the way, the Marriage Guidance Council welcomes gay people to its counselling sessions – and has done for years.
Prime hate figure Jean Rook turned up on the Terry Wogan Show (BBC1) and showed herself to be a prize arsehole. Not only did she talk a lot of snobbish, sexist twaddle, she looked like Tutankhamen’s mother with the bandages off. And this is the woman who has the cheek to criticise other people for being ‘ugly’ and gays for being ‘fanatical’.
Seeing Mrs Rook in the (rather shrivelled) flesh robs her of some of her power to annoy. I’ll never be able to take her Daily Express jibes seriously gain. Yuch! She’s enough to put you off your cocoa.