Wednesday 28 October 2009

Dancing on Graves

I was saddened and shocked by the death of Stephen Gately, though I was never much of a Boyzone fan. It is sad, and alarming, when someone only a decade or so older than oneself dies. I found out a week last Sunday when one of my girlfriends-who was a Boyzone fan-called with the news.

My first reaction, once it had sunk in, was that his death was due to some unnatural mishap; that he had gone the same way as so many other rock and pop stars before him, people who lived life to a tragic maximum. I thought it, you, I’m fairly confident, also thought it; Jan Moir, the Daily Mail columnist, said it-that was her fault, not ‘homophobia’ or any of the other hysterical accusations levelled against her. But she has apologised; she has been forced into an apology, another wretched milestone in the descent of British journalism.

I so completely agree with Ron Liddle’s argument in last week’s Spectator that ‘dancing on graves’ is what journalists do; it’s in the nature of the profession to raise all sorts of uncomfortable questions when someone as young as Gately dies, not to drown in marsh-mallow and generally hypocritical expressions of sympathy.

Quite frankly I could not care less about the ‘homosexual life-style’ or the growing passion for ‘civil partnerships.’ I’m not sure I even want to know the precise circumstances behind Gately’s death, untoward or not, ‘sleazy’ or not. But I do care about a journalist’s right to express a view, even a distasteful view, and not be crushed by the charge of Stephen Fry and his twittering army. Here is how Moir herself put it;

Can it really be that we are becoming a society where no one can dare to question the circumstances or behaviour of a person who happens to be gay without being labelled a homophobe? If so, that is deeply troubling

It surely is. I share Liddle’s dislike of the Daily Mail as newspaper, presenting, as it does, an arid, shallow, limited and bitter view of the world (like some contributors on another site I know of!). But it has the right, perhaps even the duty, as does every other newspaper in a democracy, to raise uncomfortable arguments without having to fear the consequences, without having to fear the cosh of liberal ‘consensus.’


  1. Of course, it can be argued that journalism is the enemy of free speech, Ana ; if only because, when it passes the boundary between good taste and bad, it encourages people to be suspicious of its motives and to keep information away from the press. Does the press exist to bring us news? or to bring us unedifying gossip? Most people enjoy gossip. But how much of that gossip is even true? every piece of it that is untrue devalues truth to the extent that people believe it. And, when the lies are exposed, people stop reading.

    But again, if one has one's eye on a journalistic career, one must go with the popular sentiment, I s'pose. ;-)

  2. Where where? What shallow viewed site? Where exactly? Do let me know. Bitter, twisted? It sounds fun.

  3. I would say that it exists to bring both, Jamie. Get a hold of the The Spectator if you can. There is an even better article on this subject by Matthew Parris, who, if anyone, has an even better right to express an opinion on this whole question.

    Yes, John, very funny. :-)