Friday, October 16, 2009

Why there was nothing 'human' about Jan Moir's column on the death of Stephen Gately.

On here, I tend to write about politics and I usually steer away from celebrity deaths and other tabloid fodder.

However tonight, whilst watching the Channel 4 News, I heard them speak of a column by Jan Moir of the Daily Mail, from which all advertising has since been withdrawn, concerning the death of Stephen Gately. I went on to the Mail's website and read the article, which I thought was one of the most odious pieces I have ever come across, but I thought I wouldn't bother to write about it as most people who visit here wouldn't know who Gately was.

But I see that The Guardian have even picked up on this particular article, so I feel allowed to wallow into that particular piece of Middle England - which is the Daily Mail - that I usually avoid like the plague.

To American readers I need to supply a brief history.

Stephen Gately was a member of a British boy band who recently tragically dropped dead at the age of 33. This happened whilst he was on holiday with his partner, Andrew Cowles, in Mallorca, at an apartment which they both owned.

The coroner has said that he died of acute pulmonary oedema.

That is a tragedy in any sane persons mind, because the man dying from this horrid disease was so young.

But Moir saw another tale in this tragedy. She saw a story of, "a life that is shadowed by dark appetites or fractured by private vice."

In other words, she is saying that Gately died of this disease because he was gay.

Here's what she wrote:

All the official reports point to a natural death, with no suspicious circumstances. The Gately family are - perhaps understandably - keen to register their boy's demise on the national consciousness as nothing more than a tragic accident.

Even before the post-mortem and toxicology reports were released by the Spanish authorities, the Gatelys' lawyer reiterated that they believed his sudden death was due to natural causes.

But, hang on a minute. Something is terribly wrong with the way this incident has been shaped and spun into nothing more than an unfortunate mishap on a holiday weekend, like a broken teacup in the rented cottage.

Consider the way it has been largely reported, as if Gately had gently keeled over at the age of 90 in the grounds of the Bide-a-Wee rest home while hoeing the sweet pea patch.

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.

So, she admits that "all the official reports point to a natural death", but that doesn't fit into her Daily Mail narrative, so she sets out to show this tragic death as something which "strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships."

It's one of the most disgusting things which I have ever read.

I'll let The Guardian take over:

Still, if his death wasn't natural "by any yardstick", what did kill him? Moir knows: it was his lifestyle. Because Gately was, y'know . . . homosexual. Having lanced this boil, Moir lets the pus drip out all over her fingers as she continues to type: "The circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy," she declares. "Cowles and Gately took a young Bulgarian man back to their apartment. It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta . . . was not what was on the cards . . . What happened afterwards is anyone's guess."

Don't hold back, Jan. Have a guess. Draw us a picture. You specialise in celebrity death fantasies, after all.

"His mother is still insisting that her son died from a previously undetected heart condition that has plagued the family." Yes. That poor, blinkered woman, "insisting" in the face of official medical evidence that absolutely agrees with her.

Anyway, having cast aspersions over a tragic death, doubted a coroner and insulted a grieving mother, Moir's piece builds to its climax: "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 . . . 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."

Way to spread the pain around, Jan. Way to link two unrelated tragedies, Jan. Way to gay-bash, Jan.

Astonishing. The man's body only arrived back in Britain last night - he's not even buried yet - and The Daily Mail are allowing this woman to ignore the findings of an autopsy in order to print her own sleazy account of the life and death of someone who she has never ever known.

Here's how she finishes off this epic essay in bile:
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.
No such thing has "seeped out". We have witnessed the tragic death of a young man from acute pulmonary oedema. His death would have occurred no matter where he was: the gym, a Dublin street, or Spain.

But Moir's own prejudices can't allow her to accept this fact, indeed, they compel her to ignore the findings of the coroner and set out her own fact free account of "what really happened".

It's well worth clicking on the link and reading the entire article, especially the comments section. For someone to attract that level of complaint on The Daily Mail website takes some doing.


My God, even The Independent have picked up on this story:
More than 1,000 people complained to the Press Complaints Commission yesterday after an article in the Daily Mail newspaper that apparently linked the Boyzone singer's death to his homosexuality.


Respondents to the Mail's website voiced outrage. One condemned the article as an "odious piece of vile trash"; another said "You should be ashamed of yourself Jan Moir"; "an absolutely revolting article", said another. A minority of correspondents voiced support for Moir's work.

The subject electrified the instant messaging website Twitter, where calls were made for Moir to be sacked, and the social networking site Facebook where a group was founded to plot a boycott on advertising in the Daily Mail.

In an unusual step, Moir yesterday afternoon released a statement explaining and defending her article. She said it was "never my intention" to upset people "particularly in the gay community", but was otherwise largely unapologetic.

In any sane world she would now be sacked. In the tabloid planet we actually live on, the fact that she was able to generate such hostility will make her a tabloid star.


She has issued an "apology", although it's quite clear that she has no idea what an apology is.

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