Friday, February 19, 2010

The PCC's Jan Moir FAIL

Jan Moir’s notorious Stephen Gately piece, published in the Daily Mail the day before his funeral, attracted 25,000 individual complaints from the public. Those complaints came in so fast they crashed the PCC website. Mainstream advertisers like Marks & Spencer demanded their ads were pulled from the article. Eventually the Mail pulled all advertising from the article.

Stephen Gately’s husband filed an official complaint as well. This was crucial, because despite the scale of public outrage, only those directly affected are allowed to make a complaint under PCC rules.

The PCC has now ruled that the article was just fine: within the standards we should expect of our free Press here in the UK.

Compare and contrast with the results of the public hysteria whipped up by the Daily Mail against the BBC, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand over the Andrew Sachs incident: a BBC executive was forced out, Brand resigned, Ross, the BBC's biggest star, was suspended without pay for three months and now his contract has not been renewed.

But Jan Moir and the Daily Mail have got off scott free. Depressingly, this means we can probably expect more of this genre of homophobic writing to emerge from the gutter press in the future, especially as the PCC seems to feel that they can say whatever they like as long as they avoid words like fag, queer, poof, bender etc.

PCC: "While many complainants considered that there was an underlying tone of negativity towards Mr Gately and the complainant on account of the fact that they were gay, it was not possible to identify any direct uses of pejorative or prejudicial language in the article."

Yes, it is indeed true Ms Moir did not use the specific and traditional homophobic epithets in her article. What she did use was offensive innuendo ramped up to the maximum. It has been described as “dog whistle” journalism - but in this case it’s for dogs of a particularly deaf and stupid nature, in case they don’t quite get it:

“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. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael.

Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet the recent death of Kevin McGee, the former husband of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, and now the dubious events of Gately's last night raise troubling questions about what happened.
It is important that the truth comes out about the exact circumstances of his strange and lonely death.

As a gay rights champion, I am sure he would want to set an example to any impressionable young men who may want to emulate what they might see as his glamorous routine.

For once again, under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see.”

Even if one accepts the PCC’s highly restrictive definition of homophobic journalism, her factual inaccuracy is surely just grounds for complaint:

"Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this." (emphasis mine)

The Spanish coroner ruled that Gately died on the 10th October 2009 of natural causes, due to pulmonary oedema. Clearly Jan was highly inaccurate, not so, PCC?

PCC: Moir's claim that Gately's death had not been "natural", while controversial and speculative, "could not be established as accurate or otherwise".

I’m sorry, but in this ruling the PCC comes across as a Society for the Preservation and Justification of the Gutter Press.

Peter Tatchell has it absolutely right:
"If Jan Moir had made similar comments about a black or Jewish person, and disparaged their race and community, the PCC would have ruled against her.

"She may well have been arrested and charged with inciting racial hatred. Why is the PCC adopting double standards on homophobia?

"This ruling brings the PCC into disrepute. It's another nail in the coffin of this discredited, feeble institution. The PCC is past its sell-by date. It should be replaced by an independent statutory body with real power and principles."

1 comment:

Thomas said...

The PCC's ruling is outrageous! but sadly, I am not that surprised by it. The terrible thing is that bigoted woman just goes on ... this is her latest tweet:
"I knew I'd get away with it. Up next: the coloureds."

And she continues to dance on Stephen Gately's grave, but very proudly linking to the article on her Twitter profile.

If Twitter can be used to drum up support, and get some results, as it did to get 25000 complaints, and some of the other actions you mention, then we should not let this rest!

Daily Mail staff should hang their heads in shame!