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Monday, October 19, 2009 

A truly amoral newspaper.

It just had to be, didn't it? The week I'm dragged away turns out to be the week when two of the biggest media stories of the year break. First Trafigura and Carter-Fuck try to censor parliament, never a wise thing to do, even when MPs were more concerned about their expenses, then the Daily Mail does what the Daily Mail does best and publishes an utterly heartless piece of grief intrusion masquerading as a columnist attempting to articulate what the readers are really thinking.

At long last the Mail chose to attack someone so completely harmless, so apparently lovable and so popular that even it couldn't manage to brush the outrage under the carpet. As it is, compared to the Mail's past record and other similar articles, Jan Moir's screeching on Friday was almost tame. Sure, it has the blatant homophobia, the knowing better than everyone else what the two men were doing that night, and the gratuitous, ignorant insults, such as Moir's claim that he "couldn't carry a tune in a Louis Vuitton trunk", when he could in fact sing perfectly well, unlike numerous other members of boy and girl bands and doubtless Moir herself. It has the same "I know best" attitude, ignoring point blank the actual facts of the case while relying entirely on her own prejudices; a 33-year-old man can't possibly die of "natural causes", especially a gay 33-year-old man who had invited another man along with his civil partner back to their holiday apartment, most certainly not a gay 33-year-old man who had been smoking the devil weed cannabis. Yet, it still feels by the Mail's standards to be not harsh enough, not as completely without redemption as it should be.

You can't after all really compete with the utter heartlessness, the downright beastliness of describing the murder of five young women as "no great loss", as Richard Littlejohn did back in December 2006 after Steve Wright had killed 5 prostitutes from the town of Ipswich. That piece of nastiness made very few ripples, except for becoming part of a Stewart Lee comedy sketch which finishes with Littlejohn being described as a part of the female anatomy. Moir's attack on Gately wasn't close to being as vindictive and shameless as Allison Pearson's description of Scarlett Keeling, the 15-year-old raped and killed in Goa, as a "ripe peach", and who variously blamed her mother for leaving her behind with friends while she travelled further on in the country while also noting that she was in "a culture where Western girls are all too readily viewed as sexually available", meaning that brown people just can't wait to get their hands on the white women. It also wasn't as so utterly without dignity or research as Amanda Platell's assault after Rachel Ward tragically died whilst on holiday. To quote myself:

According to Platell, rather than this being a tragic accident, it's instead indicative "of the lives of many middle-class young women". Variously, her death seems to have been down to the following facts: firstly, that she was middle class, and therefore should have known better than to have been taking part in such working class pursuits as going on a skiing holiday and drinking whilst on it; secondly, that her friends abandoned her when she decided to go back to where she was staying on her own, therefore it's their fault too; and finally, that it's actually neither her own fault nor her friends' fault, but rather the fault of equality:

Sadly, in a world where women have fought for generations for equality, where they insist on their independence, where drunkenness and debauchery are actively encouraged, you can’t really blame a young man for failing to act chivalrously.

Yes, Rachel’s death was tragedy — but it was an accident waiting to happen.

There you are then girls - you weren't fighting for equal rights, you were in fact fighting for the right to die alone in a freezing river, because Amanda Platell says so.

As far as I'm aware, the only complaint made about any of these grief intruding attacks was on the latter, by the father of Haydn Johnson, which resulted in the Mail noting that the piece was inaccurate and removing Platell's viciousness from the website. No apology, no thoughts about whether attacking the grieving is ever justified, just an article flushed down the memory hole with no repercussions.

Whether the difference this time was because Gately was a celebrity, while all those mentioned above were just commoners, with only family and friends to be angered and shocked by their treatment at the hands of the press doesn't really matter in the end. The most significant factor to my mind is most likely the obvious culture clash, a mirror image culture clash to that which took place over "Sachsgate". Then the Mail was the ringleader in getting its readers and others to complain to both the BBC and Ofcom over the humiliation of a much-loved actor by two arrogant bullies, one of whom was and is on a vast salary. As offensive, unfair and low as the abuse masquerading as humour was in that case, it was still blown out of all proportion. Those who complained were the Mail's target market, the older, the more middle class, and overwhelmingly those who would have never listened to Russell Brand's show and so only complained after they were alerted to it. Who knows this time how many actual Daily Mail readers have complained about Jan Moir's article, but I doubt it's higher than a few hundreds out of the 22,000 complaints which the PCC has now received. This isn't to suggest that Daily Mail readers want and expect the kind of thing which Moir delivered; far from it. It is however what the Daily Mail thinks that its readers want. The editor is a man who believes that the bedroom door should be wide open when the activities within it pass outside the "norm", as they did in the Max Mosley case, and that Justice Eady's ruling, that the NotW infringed his privacy, was in effect, "amoral".

All newspapers make mistakes. All newspapers misjudge the feeling of both the public and their readers at times. Only the Daily Mail however has repeatedly and consistently attempted to intrude into grief, regarding the death of almost anyone as fair game. Some might believe that the truly amoral in this instance to be those who have got it so horribly, terribly wrong on so many occasions, and who will doubtless continue to get it wrong in the future.

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I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who's a little baffled by the overwhelming response to Moir's article. I was starting to think I'd missed something.

I read Moir's crappy outpouring and thought 'wow, what an unecessarily unpleasant thing to write". At no point did I think "wow, that's the most unpleasant thing I've ever read in the Mail".

And as for homphobic? Absolutely, there was no escaping the whole 'he died of gay' stink coming off it, but, TBH, I don't think it was even the most homophobic thing I've read in a newspaper, let alone in the Mail. Remember the Sun's charming 'mind-bender' headline re Derren Brown? And in the Mail, Smellyface Littlejohn alone has a long and undistinguished history of peddling some of the worst homophobic rubbish.

I can only agree that the furore over this particular article is in part due to the fact Gately was apparently still considered a popular celebrity (that, I have to say, was news to me at any rate) and the fact that, although Moir's piece was following in the fine media tradition of sticking the knife into the recently deceased, it was waaay too soon in this case.

Excellent takedown - thanks for the reminder.

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