It’s been a good week for twitter, with two major victories for UK tweeters, over the oil company Trafigura and the columnist Jan Moir of the Daily Mail.
Jan Moir’s vile column on the tragic death of Stephen Gately was deeply shocking and rightly aroused a huge reaction across the UK and Ireland. Special credit must be paid to the Mail’s own readers, who overwhelmingly rejected Moir’s sentiments in the comments section. The twitter reaction was such that “Jan Moir” topped the trending topics chart throughout Friday, but #janmoir and “Daily Mail” also trended in the top ten yesterday and “Daily Mail” remains trending this morning.
The PCC received an unprecedented number of complaints - so many their website crashed on Friday afternoon. Celebrity tweeters such as Stephen Fry joined in the condemnation, and M&S and Nestle demanded their adverts be pulled from appearing on the article page. Eventually, the Daily Mail pulled all advertising from the page.
With Charlie Brooker in the Guardian accusing her of gay bashing, Jan Moir released through her paper’s PR officers a self-serving “apology” which really just compounded her original homophobic rant.
Why did she do it? In the wake of last weekend’s furore over Danii Minogue’s (quite tame) comments on XFactor, why did the Daily Mail think they could get away with it? Were they deliberately courting controversy and sales?
Or is it something more sinister? Many have considered Jan Moir’s article the worst case of blatant media homophobia in years. The Daily Mail is a right-wing newspaper and if the polls are to be believed we may be only months away from a Conservative government. The Tories’ gay-friendliness has been exposed in the last few weeks as a tissue thin veneer: they are more than happy to partner up in Europe with extremely homophobic eastern European political parties. Moreover, apart from apologizing for Section 28 they lack any real gay equality policies and have opposed Labour on this issue - Cameron himself voted against the repeal of Section 28 in 2003.
So, is Tory ambiguity on LBGT matters encouraging the re-emergence of rabid homophobes in the right-wing press? Of course, with only one article it may be too early to say, but we should maintain vigilance. It is most gratifying and grounds for optimism that Jan Moir’s rant was so comprehensively rejected.