I’m fascinated by the Twitter phenomenon, and never more so than on days like today. In case it’s escaped your attention, this morning a columnist at the Daily Mail – not one of my favourite newspapers, minority-hating, self-righteous bastards that they are – posted an article online about the death of Boyzone’s Stephen Gately.
Here’s a jpg of the article’s first headline:
(Since then, the headline has been changed to the marginally less-offensive “A Strange, Lonely And Troubling Death…”)
To sum up, what Jan Moir is saying is that Stephen Gately’s death, despite being put down to ‘natural causes’ by the coroner, was actually something far more sinister. She mentions how he was out partying beforehand (how terrible of him!); how he may have taken drugs (god forbid he do such a thing!); how he and his partner brought home a young man with them that night to ‘play canasta’ (and Jesus, of all the euphemisms, how nice of her to choose one so appropriately 1950s in tone – which is where her homophobia belongs, too). She lists the death of another gay celebrity last week, too, as though that had ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS STORY WHATSOEVER; calls into question the future of gay marriage in the UK (because now two gay men have died within a week of each other, clearly gay marriage is eeeeevil) and claims that “Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again” (which obviously never happens, because she is an expert on such matters, even more so than the coroner who said Gately died of natural causes).
In other words, she’s saying one of either three things happened to this poor young man:
1) Stephen Gately drank himself to death that night (despite the coroner saying he died from natural causes).
2) Stephen Gately drugged himself to death that night (despite the coroner saying he died from natural causes).
3) Stephen Gately died that night because he and his partner brought home a young man to have sex with.
Or, to put it bluntly, Stephen Gately died because he was a young man with a lively social life.
…AND BECAUSE HE WAS GAY.
Moir claims that she’s not homophobic, but her article is all the evidence we need to prove that she is. She’s since issued possibly the most laughable apology in the world, the Daily Mail has had to remove advertising from the article because its advertisers were unsettled, and Twitter…
Well, Twitter went MAD. Moir’s name has been at the top of its trending topics all day, along with the Daily Mail and Stephen Gately. Thanks to the efforts of celebrities Stephen Fry, Derren Brown, Peter Serafinowicz (who came up with the hashtag thedailymailisgay, which trended all afternoon as well) and Charlie Brooker, so much of a storm was whipped up on Twitter (and then on Facebook) that the Press Complaints Commission have already received over a thousand complaints. Their website crashed and it’s looking likely that this will be a record-breaking subject for them. And other news sites are reporting the furore, too; you know it’s hit big when the BBC deign to cover it.
I’m so angry with Moir’s vile homophobia that I’d like to punch her squarely on the nose, but I must admit that the worst thing about her article was the wilful disregard she showed to the feelings of Gately’s family, friends and, most of all, his partner. By implying – however carefully – that Gately’s death ‘wasn’t natural’, she’s all but saying that he was murdered, and by drawing attention to his two companions that night, she’s placing the blame squarely on them. Her contempt for Gately (who, from all accounts, sounded like a thoroughly pleasant young chap with no scandals in his past and no skeletons in the closet) is sickening.
But thanks to Twitter, the outrage of the general public on this subject was both swift and loud. At times like this, Twitter is truly extraordinary.
And I’ll leave the final word to Charlie Brooker at The Guardian…