The Mailstorm

Yesterday The Daily Mail – loathsome ragbag of hate-mongering lies masquerading as a newspaper – ran a piece by columnist Jan Moir on their website that sank below the level of the gutter and into the deepest depths of sheer evil.

The piece was about Stephen Gately, a singer and former member of the group Boyzone, who died suddenly over a week ago at the age of 33. Although the coroner declared his death to be of natural causes, the circumstances surrounding his death do remain a little unclear. However, anyone with any degree of sensitivity would have treated the matter as a private one and refrained from intruding in order allow his friends, family, and, especially, his partner to come to terms with what had happened. Anyone with any degree of sensitivity, that is. Not Jan Moir.

You see, Stephen Gately was gay. That’s no big deal for many people these days, but for the Daily Mail it made him a target for a post-mortem hatchet job. No need to worry about the laws of defamation as you can’t libel the dead. No need to check the facts, just sit down and let the vitriol pour out. Right up Jan Moir’s street.

This poisonous excuse for a human being composed a piece with the title. Why there was nothing `natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death. This wasn’t journalism of course. Jan Moir hadn’t uncovered any new facts about the case. Nothing she wrote was backed up by any evidence. It was simply an exercise of blind bigotry, achieved through insinuation and deliberately designed  to pander to the prejudices of the Daily Mail’s readership.

For example

… fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again

Well I’m sorry, Jan, but they do. Fit young people  drop dead while walking along the street too. A number of medical conditions can lead sudden unexpected death in apparently healthy people.

 Here’s another example, in which the monstrous Moir expands the horizons of her rant to encompass racism

After a night of clubbing, Cowles and Gately took a young Bulgarian man back to their apartment.

Bulgarian? Must be dodgy. Must have been a kinky threesome. Shows that the civil partnership of Gately and his partner Andrew Cowles was meaningless. All gay men are at it like rabbits all the time. They’re all irretrievably sleazy. We all know that. We read about it in the Daily Mail.

As a matter of fact, the third man was  Georgi Dochev (yes, Bulgarians have names too) , an old friend of the couple. It seems quite a reasonable alternative hypothesis that the three of them came home after a night out and simply crashed out wherever they could. I don’t know whether that was the case or not. Neither does Jan Moir, but she obviously didn’t want the absence of relevant facts to get in the way of a story.

Another real sadness about Gately’s death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships. Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages.

 Sheesh. I won’t go on unpicking this odious item otherwise I’ll get angry again. I hope I’ve made the point. In any case Charlie Brooker in the Guardian has already done a much better job than I could.

Anyway, as soon as I found out about this piece (via Facebook) I fired off a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission as it was clearly in violation of Sections 1, 5 and 12 of their Code of Practice. Meanwhile a storm brewed up on Twitter (of which I am not a member) and so many people filed complaints to the PCC that their website crashed.  The Daily Mail’s own readership – not known for their liberal attitudes – roundly condemned the piece through the comments facility. Finally, and perhaps most importantly from the point of view of having an impact on the Mail itself, several advertisers (including Marks & Spencer and Nestlé) pulled their adverts off the website because they wanted to disassociate themselves from the opinions expressed there. The loss of advertising revenue probably means a lot more to bosses at the Daily Mail than any appeal to decency or respect.

The piece is still there, but has been heavily edited and has a new title. It’s still offensive, though. I’ll be following subsequent events with interest and have already made plans to burn Jan Moir in effigy at the forthcoming bonfire night celebrations on November 5th. I hope the Daily Mail shows her the door too.

Looking back on this affair a day later, I have to say that in a way I’m actually glad Jan Moir wrote the piece. Thoroughly disgusted as I am by what she wrote I feel bound to defend her right to say what she thinks. Gagging such people is not the answer. That piece tells us exactly the kind of creature she is. She can’t squirm out of this by offering a half-baked apology and saying it was just a joke. The Daily Mail published, and Jan Moir is damned. May she rot in hell.

Another thing this episode demonstrates the immense power of Twitter to do real good. I had previously thought of it as a trivial bit of net gimmickry. Now I’m seriously thinking of joining Twitter in the hope of adding one more voice to the campaign to save pure science from the oblivion it seems to be headed for.

The problem is that Twitter works through messages limited to 140 characters in length. Since I can’t seem to write a blog post in less than a thousand words I don’t think my tweets will be very effective..

16 Responses to “The Mailstorm”

  1. What adverse consequences will the Mail really suffer though? None unless it stops making money.
    Look at a copy and decide which advertisers it earns most from. Protest to them instead and say their use of the Mail is the reason you’ll stop buying their products – unless they withdraw the ads.

  2. telescoper Says:

    I agree that they’re unlikely to suffer too much from this, but we’ll have to see. Why I don’t understand at all is why so many people actually read the Mail in the first place.

  3. It might take a little adaptation but I’m sure you’ll cope with the character limit. If you do decide to join Twitter, say hello.

  4. telescoper Says:

    I am actually now on Twitter (telescoper) but I haven’t figured out how to do very much yet.

  5. Anton Garrett Says:

    Careful Peter, returning hate for hate (“May she rot in hell”) only adds to the amount of hatred in the world. That is not a good thing. I don’t always succeed in loving my enemies or those who disagree with me, but I am certain that I should. How else to wind down hate – and also prevent bitterness in oneself?
    Anton

  6. telescoper Says:

    Anton,

    I take your point. Although this episode shows the power of the web, it also shows the problems that can arise from its immediacy. Some people were a lot less restrained than I was, and I’ve heard that some went way too far, including posting her home address on the net.

    I don’t believe in hell (or heaven) so don’t really know why I wrote that particular phrase. But I’m not going to take it off, as I don’t want to pretend to be a better person than I am. I was very angry, and writing it was therapeutic. It made me feel better, not bitter.

    Peter

  7. Anton Garrett Says:

    Two pints of better, please!
    Anton

  8. telescoper Says:

    If only you could get better on draught. It’s more likely, however, that you’ll get larger.

  9. Anton Garrett Says:

    Did you mean “lager” not “larger”?

    Anyway, I thought draught gave you a cold…

    Anton

  10. telescoper Says:

    Anton,

    I was trying to be funny.

    Peter

    • telescoper Says:

      The horrible Ms Moir has subsequently published a “defence” of her column in which she states that it is

      mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.

      I agree. There’s no “undertone” about it. Its meaning is absolutely clear at face value.

      • telescoper Says:

        From the BBC website: after receiving 21000 complaints on this matter – more than the total they have received over the five-year period leading up to it – the Press Complaints Commission has now agreed to investigate and has now asked the Daily Mail to respond.

        Previously it had argued that it doesn’t respond to complaints from third parties and would wait for comments from friends and family directly affected.

        Since the PCC Code of Practice stipulates that

        ..the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability

        they might find this a bit tricky.

  11. Interesting that you suffer from erratic scepticism, an unfortunate ailment for a scientist. You are welcomingly sceptical about Moir’s piece on Gately, but sadly lacking in your scepticism of the Brake piece in the WM. How curious.

  12. telescoper Says:

    I don’t see any parallel. I’m not sceptical about Moir’s piece at all. It’s a transparent piece of bigotry. I am sceptical about the Western Mail article in the sense that it is possible they have the facts wrong. However, I passed it on in good faith.

    I am even more sceptical of your position, however, and would be interested if you would care to provide evidence to back up your assertions that the original story is untrue.

  13. […] This one is the terrible article by A.N. Wilson in, inevitably, the Daily Mail. I’ve already fumed once at the Mail and didn’t really want to go off the deep end again so soon after that. But here […]

  14. […] PC and the PCC (by PC) Another bit of news to emerge last week was the decision by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) not to censure the Daily Mail journalist Jan Moir for the truly odious article she wrote after the death of Stephen Gately. Even by the standards of the Daily Mail, this piece was so horrendous that it led to a Twitter storm and provoked no less than 25,000 complaints from the public in addition to a direct complaint from Stephen’s partner Andrew Cowles. I even blogged about it here. […]

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