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The Daily Mail still hates us. - helen-louise
The Daily Mail still hates us.
I am having a lousy day today with depression. I haven't technically got out of bed yet, although I have cleaned my teeth and got dressed. However, even if I don't get round to doing any house-tidying today, I've managed to do something "useful" - which is to join the apparently 1000 other people complaining about this hateful and homophobic article in the Daily Mail about a recently-dead celebrity who hasn't even been buried yet. The original title for the article was even worse.

I think Stephen Fry's comment on Twitter sums it up best - "I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathsome and inhumane." But Charlie Brooker's article on The Guardian's website is also pretty good.

I usually live with the fact that the Daily Mail has regular rabid attacks against anyone who is "different" in any way, i.e. not white, middle-class, heterosexually monogamously married Church of England. But the timing and vitriol of this one is so awful that I thought I'd drag myself to the Press Complaints Commission website and join in the complaints. I'm rather pleased to see that the Make a Complaint page has a big link saying IF YOU ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT THE JAN MOIR PIECE IN THE DAILY MAIL PLEASE CLICK HERE.

For my reference, this is what I said:

Please explain how you believe the Code of Practice has been breached.*
This article breaches the PCC Code of Practice, section 1 Accuracy parts i and iii and section 12 Discrimination. It is both ignorant and homophobic. So many parts of it are objectionable that I would have to copy and paste almost the whole article to include everything. Instead I have opted to include only the very worst parts.

"The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. 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."

This breaches Accuracy part i of the Code of Practice. According to charity Cardiac Risk in the Young, 12 young people (defined as 14-35) die each week in the UK from a previously undetected heart condition.

"Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this. All that has been established so far is that Stephen Gately was not murdered."

This breaches Accuracy part iii of the Code of Practice. The author is not properly distinguishing between her own opinion and fact. The coroner, considering the full evidence and facts, has ruled that the death was of natural causes. I am unsure how a journalist without that information can write that it was otherwise.

It also breaches the Discrimination part of the Code of Practice. Repeated comments are made throughout the article about Mr Gately's sexual orientation, in a manner that is prejudiced, pejorative and unnecessary. For example:

"particularly if those idols live a life that is shadowed by dark appetites or fractured by private vice."

This equates homosexuality with something that is morally dubious. As does "And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy." And "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."

I do not believe that the facts support the journalist's belief that Mr Gately's death had anything to do with his sexuality - what she revoltingly refers to as his "lifestyle". This word has been used for decades to denigrate those who are something other than strictly monogamous heterosexuals, as if who we choose to have sex with alters every single aspect of our lives.

"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."

Again, this breaches the Discrimination clause. The journalist continues to imply that people in same-sex marriages are somehow less moral than people in opposite-sex marriages. The journalist implies that no one who identifies as heterosexual has ever indulged in cannabis, enjoyed sex with a near-stranger, or had a threesome. This is clearly untrue.

I am not a member of Mr Gately's family, but I am a bisexual with many other homosexual and bisexual friends. Several news reports recently have detailed that homophobic attacks are on the increase again, for example, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8306481.stm. Some teenagers in London apparently killed a man for nothing other than being gay. I live in London, and I would prefer not to get attacked for holding hands with my girlfriend in Trafalgar Square.

When respectable, nationwide publications such as the Daily Mail publish thinly-concealed slurs on homosexuality, it stirs up and encourages hatred towards gay and bi people such as that demonstrated in the recent attacks. The effects are made worse when articles do not distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact - and even worse when an article contains inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.

I feel at the very least that the Daily Mail should retract the views expressed in the article, as stated in the Code of Practice clause 1 part ii. I feel that a correction and apology is necessary for Mr Gately's friends and family, and all those members of the public who are homosexual or bisexual. It is irresponsible to stir up any kind of hatred - racial, religious or homophobic - in a multicultural society such as that of modern Britain.

Which specific clause(s) of the Code are you complaining under?*
1 Accuracy Parts i and iii
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

12 Discrimination
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Apparently the PCC "normally accept complaints only from those who are directly affected by the matters about which they are complaining", which is why I've talked about myself so much. That's my bit of activism for... the day, anyway.

Current Mood: angry angry

9 comments or Leave a comment
turkish_coffee From: turkish_coffee Date: 16th October 2009 22:54 (UTC) (Link)
Living in the U.S., and not knowing what it was at first, assumed it was some kind of parody tabloid or something. It took me two years to realize it was intended to be an actually serious news organization.
baratron From: baratron Date: 17th October 2009 20:52 (UTC) (Link)
The Daily Mail and Daily Express are basically our print versions of Fox News. Although, to be fair, they're not as bad. The Daily Mail in particular does manage to print balanced news stories that are positive towards those with differences occasionally. That's part of what makes it so upsetting when it then returns to its roots.
geekyisgood From: geekyisgood Date: 17th October 2009 00:00 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for that - do you mind if I use it as a template for my own complaint?
baratron From: baratron Date: 17th October 2009 20:54 (UTC) (Link)
Go for it.

Some people have suggested that the article also breaches clauses 3 and 5 of the PCC Code of Practice, but I read the code very carefully and wasn't convinced of that myself. Basically, I believe that to breach the Privacy or Grief sections would require a journalist to physically invade the privacy of the grieving family by e.g. intrusive phone calls. I don't believe that simply writing crap would be enough.
hiddenpaw From: hiddenpaw Date: 17th October 2009 08:24 (UTC) (Link)
Have you noticed how every time Steven fry twitters about a major issue these days it's all over the internet by the end of the day and normally quoted widely in the main stream media too.
On begins to wonder what will be more important, Who the sun supports for the next election or who Steven Fry supports for the next election.
A bit worrying because where as Steven fry is an intelligent and decent human being one can assume that one day somebody else will rise to the same notoriety who may not be.
Still anything is better than the UK's (or is it Australia's) print media these days.
baratron From: baratron Date: 17th October 2009 20:59 (UTC) (Link)
Stephen Fry is awesome :) Mind you, I'm not sure how much of my friends' list coverage on this topic came from his Twitter and how much was, er, masochists looking through the online editions of the various right-wing papers.

Richard and I read The Times because of all the newspapers, it's the one that does the best job at clearly separating News, i.e. facts, from Opinions. Neither of us are 100% aligned with their political stance, but Richard finds The Guardian and Independent objectionable because it's almost impossible to figure out which parts of articles are facts vs opinions in those papers. Especially The Independent's front pages, which are are often 90% opinion and only 10% fact!
stellarwind From: stellarwind Date: 17th October 2009 11:30 (UTC) (Link)
Good grief.

This sounds less like an informative news article and more like an old geezer complaining about the youth of today and their "lifestyles" and how they're all predictably going to end in an early grave because of that.

You mean people actually pay attention to this kind of -eff!-ers?
baratron From: baratron Date: 17th October 2009 21:06 (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure there are people who are socially conservative and also unprejudiced and well-educated about those who are different from themselves. However, too many people seem to use their conservatism as an excuse to simply judge others for their differences. Other people are simply not educated enough, or have never mixed with people of different race/ religion/ sexual orientation as equals. Social class is a very big issue in the UK, where it is almost impossible to change your class from what you are born into.

Our Conservative political party is significantly less right-wing than it used to be, and now supports same-sex civil unions along with opposite-sex marriages. But we are gaining other right-wing parties instead, such as the UK Independence Party (who want us to leave the European Union and campaign endlessly about all the negative effects of being in the EU without ever mentioning the great benefits), and the British National Party (essentially a bunch of Nazis - non-whites go "home").
leback From: leback Date: 19th October 2009 22:29 (UTC) (Link)
Wretched article. Great letter. Go you!
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