Remembering Gately-Gate

Rik Carranza (@rcarranza) tweeted a link to a blog in which the Daily Mail was given a kicking for yet another example of horrible, insidious bigotry. Here it is here: Read it, because it’s good. I have spoken.

And then read the following piece I wrote a few years ago about another bout of Daily Mail nonsense, this one centering on ignorance of civil partnerships rather than multiculturalism. Remember Jan Moir and the Stephen Gately fiasco?


I think it’s fair to say that the only person not aware of the Jan Moir/Stephen Gately controversy is Stephen Gately himself. The debate about Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir’s spurious and offensive attempts to link civil partnerships to death, seediness, tragedy and suicide has rolled across newspapers, TV news bulletins and, of course, the blogosphere.

Stephen Fry, Charlie Brooker, and tens of thousands of complainers to Ofcom have made their voices heard. Good old Fry, speaking out via Twitter (accused by some of orchestrating a “twitch-hunt”), said:

“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.”

Sometimes the succinct punches possible through Twitter sum up a situation better than any lengthy diatribe. Charlie Brooker, in his excellent rebuttal and rubbishing of Moir’s insidious bile, described said insidious bile with the words:

“Spiralling galaxies of ignorance roll majestically against a backdrop of what looks like dark prejudice, dotted hither and thither with winking stars of snide innuendo.”

And so the humanitarian and journalistic crisis I’d like to name ‘Gately-gate’ was born.

Moir’s response to this whirlwind of hate whooshing towards her across cyberspace was to conclude a follow-up article with this:

“In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”

What naughty little rascals we are. How on earth did we manage to get the wrong end of the stick?

Let’s look at it this way: Moir is a journalist; that’s her craft; words are her raw materials. She’s supposed to be good at taking those words and putting them together so that the people reading them – even readers of the Daily Mail – can understand the sentiment and the points she’s set out to convey. But then she does appear to be the queen of disingenuousness and misdirection.

You can’t nudge-nudge-wink-wink at a tenuous link of your own creation between gays getting married and gays killing themselves, or dying on holiday, only to claim later that no, no, no, that’s not what I meant at all, I was only trying to show that gay people, like straight people, can have unhappy unions! I think we knew that already, Jan. People are people, and whenever you put them together, whatever their race, religion, sexual orientation or personality, you’re going to get a hefty proportion who don’t gel.

It’s worth looking at what Jan Moir originally said:

“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.”

And then her re-interpretation of her own words:

“In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages.”

Did I miss the Peter Tatchell speech where he seethed: ‘Give us our gay marriages, so that we can perfect your lousy heterosexual efforts; and become little gay beacons to the dream of eternal coupling; never to part, never to argue, never to divorce.’ And, anyway, having read Jan’s two statements, can anyone see any correlation between her original line of thought and the reworking? In reading the former, can you see the meaning replicated in the latter? There’s that word of the day again: disingenuous.

Nice work, though, to find a causal link in such disparate tragedies. Has any research been done into how many car accidents have involved men from civil partnerships? Perhaps wedded gays can’t drive properly, presumably because they’re all so busy trying to suck each other off as they hurtle down the motorway.

Jan continues:

“It is important that the truth comes out about the exact circumstances of his strange and lonely death… 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.”

Em, only one small problem there, Jan. As much as I found his music hideous, Stephen never set himself up as some sort of gay trailblazer – despite her assertion that he was a ‘Gay rights’ champion’. He’d never claimed to be a role-model for anyone. In fact, he only came out when someone went knocking on the door of The Sun. He was just living his life. He never preached on morality, never got himself in the newspapers every week – or even, latterly, every year – never rubbed any aspect of his life in anybody else’s face.

But even if the coroner’s verdict turned out to be ‘wrong’ (which it clearly wasn’t) or, as she still slyly maintains… in fact, let me interrupt my own sentence there so that I may reproduce some of Jan’s words verbatim. It’s easier, because she does most of the work for you:

“…it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.”

Yes, because the innumerable heterosexual people I’ve known, or read about in the newspapers, who do on a regular basis the things that Moir outlines in the paragraph above are forever keeling over like poisoned canaries.

But even if the coroner was ‘wrong’ what happened to Gately is still none of my business, the public’s business or Jan Moir’s business. I suspect that Jan Moir, and certainly a hefty proportion of Daily Mail readers, would have found Gately’s private life ‘more than a little sleazy’ and ‘different and dangerous’ even if it was proven he’d only ever had wholly monogamous relationships, and healed the sick and the lame in his spare time.

But, again to hammer home the point: even if in the hours preceding his death Gately had parachuted through the hotel room window, naked and erect, straight into the waiting bottom of the Bulgarian man, while his partner videotaped it, it still wouldn’t have been any of Jan Moir’s business. There’s no case to answer.

Some said Charlie Brooker was being a typical reactionist, muddled leftie in calling for people to complain to Ofcom in their droves: ‘He’s always banging on about free speech and the Big Brother society, isn’t he?’ you can hear them say, ‘Why is he now trying to silence this woman just because she’s coming out with stuff he doesn’t like? He’s a hypocrite, isn’t he?’ Not quite. Look at what Charlie actually said:

“Jan’s paper, the Daily Mail, absolutely adores it when people flock to Ofcom to complain about something offensive, especially when it’s something they’ve only learned about second-hand via an inflammatory article in a newspaper. So it would undoubtedly be delighted if, having read this, you paid a visit to the Press Complaints Commission website ( to lodge a complaint about Moir’s article on the basis that it breaches sections 1, 5 and 12 of its code of practice.”

This is clearly more about just desserts than censorship. The Daily Mail, hoisted by its own petard. What’s good for the goose…

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