Russell Brand has a joke about The Sun, "I grew up with The Sun. It's like an old friend. But it's, like...does anyone have an old friend that they just fucking hate?"
I feel that way about the Daily Mail. It's the paper we had delivered to my house my whole life and, until I was old enough to question the nonsense printed within that rag, it was the only paper I ever read. In fact my earliest memory of journalism as a concept was around the time of Stephen Lawrence's murder when the Mail printed it's infamous cover declaring a gang of youths to be his murderers and inviting people to sue them if they were wrong. I remember thinking how bold and brave that was, and wondering how a simple newspaper could know something that even the police did not - 'Here y'are coppers, go buy the Mail, they've got the bad guys for you!' - but now, as an older and (slightly) wiser man, I can see how this could be so. The police have to worry about a simple thing called 'The Truth'.
Now, those 5 lads might well have killed young Stephen Lawrence - they were certainly a racist, violent and small-minded group of individuals and an intelligent black man like Stephen Lawrence probably stood for eveything they despised - but that's not my point. My point is that the headline was there to sell papers and, in it's ferocity, exascerbate the issue of racial segregation within Blair's Britain. And those 5 men have never been convicted. We don't know if it was true.
This week, over 15 years on from the tragic death of young Stephen Lawrence, came the tragic death of young Stephen Gately, a pop singer with the irish boyband Boyzone and the star of a number of West End shows. Gately was 33 when he fell asleep on the sofa of his holiday home in Majorca and never woke up, the coroners verdict being that he died of a rare condition culminating in a build up of fluid on his lungs. This was the tragic death of a young man in his prime, and one that affected many people as he was a popular man with fans all over the world.
Oh, by the way, Stephen Gately was homosexual.
The Daily Mail waited a few days, during which the pathologist report came back showing that Gately died of natural causes, before publishing a piece by their esteemed columnist Jan Moir entitled 'A Strange Lonely and Troubling Death'. Throughout this piece, Moir makes the most oblique and petty jabs at the circumstances surrounding Gately's death and displays a lack of sympathy and respect that is disgustingly typical of this most sneering of tabloids. She shamelessly uses phrases like, "sleazy" and "dubious" and suggests that, as another man joined Gately and his partner back at their apartment, "It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta with 25-year-old Georgi Dochev was not what was on the cards." No, Ms Moir, it fucking is disrepectful, and it is journalism of the most pathetic standard to take such a low blow at a dead young man who had not yet even been buried. She goes on to suggest that Gately's death, "strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships" that he, "at least" smoked cannabis on the night that he died and that, "his mother is still insisting that her son died from a previously undetected heart condition". Yeah, I wonder why that is, Jan? Could it be that the coroner said that's how he died? Could it be that there isn't a jot of evidence to suggest that anything untoward happened that night? Could it be that smoking a spliff before bed does not lead you to die in your sleep - ever?
Even though every shred of evidence and common sense points to the contrary, Jan Moir displays an arrogance and self-belief in her bigotry that would be almost admirable were it not for it's stupidity. I began to get on my high horse when I first read this article, and worried for the number of people who would be sat around, nodding to themselves, and thinking how this dangerous homosexual got his just desserts for the "dark appetites...and private vice" that he embraced. But after this initial anger and fear subsided, I'm left with only pity. The article was pathetic. A disgusting, poorly written, dreadfully ill-researched load of tripe that could just as easily have been written by a 16-year-old idiot. It just seems so fucking 80's to even bother being racist and homophobic now. What's the point? I'm sure when you were a little girl dreaming of seeing your words in print, you saw yourself making snidey little jokes about dead, gay pop stars. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Oh, and to anyone who still reads this piece of shit, please stop. It stands against everything that a forward-thinking human being should believe in. And it is forward-thinking that this poor little planet of ours needs nowadays.
Love, Smithy x