Friday, 16 October 2009

Time to pay our disrespects

Regular readers of this blog will know that there is little love lost between p0pvulture and the Daily Mail, a paper so filled with bile and vitriol it takes half a pack of Settlers Tums to get past page four. However, this week, it's bloated harridan Jan Moir's turn in the spotlight, giving Amanda Platell a well-earned week off.

Since Sunday's shocking news about Stephen Gately's death at the age of 33, celebrities of every shape and size have come forward to pay their respects to the mild-mannered boy-bander. Tantrum-throwing hairpiece model Elton John called Stephen "the kindest, gentlest soul", whilst silver ocelot (well, 'fox' seems a bit of a stretch) Philip Schofield said "Poor Stephen. He was a really lovely guy."

A-to-Z list tributes aside, it's clear that Stephen's bandmates have taken the news hardest, pledging to stage an overnight vigil with his body, and displaying new tattoos in honour of their fallen comrade.

With no foul play, no evidence of hard drug use, and no suicide note, the Spanish authorities quickly determined that Gately died of natural causes, affording his family sufficient closure to concentrate on their grief. But it seems that there's no smoke without ire, at least not if you're veteran columnist and homophobic hack Jan Moir.

Proving that beauty may be skin deep, but ugly runs all the way through, Moir wrote a spectacularly offensive article, originally entitled "Why there was nothing natural about Stephen Gately's death". Bizarrely, the article managed to inflame even the cast-iron sensibilities of the Mail's regular readers, and was promptly renamed "A strange, lonely and troubling death . . ." (which is a little like declaring a gun amnesty, only to swap the firearms for knives).

In a hateful piece littered with speculation, hearsay and plain ignorance, Moir posits that to label Stephen's death as 'natural' is to overlook the 'unnnatural' aspects of his life. And it doesn't take a genius to work out that, when talking about unnatural behaviour, she doesn't mean covering old Cat Stevens songs.

She's far more concerned with the fact that Gately and his husband Andrew Cowles had picked up a young Bulgarian at a nightclub and invited him back to their apartment in Mallorca. Describing these circumstances as "more than a little sleazy" this real-world Dolores Umbridge uses the situation to condemn "the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships". In her beady eyes, the activists who call for 'tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships' are wrong to suggest that they are just the same as straight marriages. And in this sense she's right, but not in the way that she thinks.

Denied full equality, many gay people have instead taken the opportunity to define the parameters of their own relationships. Rather than looking for mainstream approval, they simply do what works for them, and as long as it remains honest and consensual, what right does anyone else have to criticise them for it?

If she was looking for notoriety, Moir certainly got her wish, with hundreds of people taking to Twitter and Facebook to voice their disgust. Even more visited the Press Complaints Commission website, which crashed under the sheer weight of traffic. Advertisers Marks & Spencer and Nestle were also quick to distance themselves from the controversy, insisting that their ads be removed from the online version of the article.

Although calls have been made for Moir to be sacked, it's unlikely that any of the invertebrates at the Daily Mail will develop enough of a spine to do the right thing, so we need to find an appropriate method of counterattack.

In the truly repellent final paragraph of her article, Moir writes that an "ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see" without ever specifiying what other slimy fluid she's referring to. But I think we all have a good idea.

In 2003, gay American humorist Dan Savage decided to name the 'seeping ooze' after bigoted right wing senator Rick Santorum. The sexual neologism he created spread quickly and soon passed into common parlance, but only within the continental United States where the name had any kind of relevance.

Perhaps what's needed here is a similar kind of 'tribute'. Who agrees that Jan deserves to have that same ooze named in honour of her? After all, Americans have elevators and candy, we have lifts and sweets. We're two nations divided by a common language. Let's bring that tradition into the 21st century.

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