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Daily Mail wants to get off the equality hovercraft

January 23, 2011

Headline of the week award goes to the Mail, for this effort:

This story has already been ably dissected by Atomic Spin here; My hovercraft is full of “PC gone mad” scares.  The Mail would appear to be voicing a desire for inequality, not just for gay people, but also for Chinese people, Welsh speakers and transsexuals – in fact, anyone that doesn’t fit into their view of what is right and proper.  It’s equality, but gone mad!

Closer study reveals, however, that the article is mostly concerned with people who the Mail considers to be of dubious sexuality, with the words, gay, bisexual, lesbian, homosexual, transsexual and transgender making repeated appearances throughout the text.  There is even quiet condemnation of a scheme designed to encourage people to report homophobic incidents to the police.  This strange attack on equality led me to have a look at other stories around sexuality the Mail has been publishing this week (limited to between 17th – 23rd January due to the sheer number of them).  There is a preponderance of stories about homosexuality, so that is what I will be looking at in this post.

The story of civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy winning their discrimination case after being denied a room at Peter and Hazelmary Bull’s Cornwall hotel prompted a news article and a mention in another news article, one Femail article, a Daily Mail comment piece, and several comments from columnists this week.  These pieces are overwhelmingly in support of the Bull’s discrimination.  Stephen Glover began his article with a sense of balance, but later implied that Hall and Preddy had deliberately set up the Bulls.  The court has already stated there is no evidence for such a claim, but that doesn’t stop it being used to plant doubt in the minds of readers.  Glover also wrote;

Moreover, it seems anomalous that while the Bulls or any other owners of a B&B can legally deny a double bed to an unmarried heterosexual couple, they are on the wrong side of the law when they act in the same way towards a homosexual couple, though it is true that Steven and Martyn are in a civil partnership.

There is the heart of the issue, and I’m not sure why Glover sees this as anomolous.  A civil partnership is, in law, equal to marriage.  This means, legally, the Bull’s can uphold their beliefs, and deny any unmarried, or un-civil-partnershipped (has anyone coined a phrase for this yet?) couple they wish to the use of a double room, but they must treat anyone in a legally recognised relationship equally.

Peter Hitchens voiced his disagreement with the court action being paid for, “by us.” He then flirted perilously with conspiracy theorism when he called the Equality and Human Rights Commission, “Britain’s embryonic Thought Police”, claiming, “This is not the end of the revolution we are passing through. By the time it is finished, I will not be allowed to write or say this. Don’t believe me? Wait and see.” Don’t worry, Peter, at least you’ll still be able to think it.  Nobody could stop you doing that.

Another story that weighed heavily on the mind of the Mail this week was news that Betty Kitten Ross, daughter of Jonathan and Jane, is gay.  This prompted two stories on Thursday, and another on Saturday.  This is the headline from Saturday:

“How bizarre and peculiar they all are.  No wonder their daughter is gay,” is what that headline says to me.  From the family pets to the price tag on their house, nothing escapes scrutiny.  There’s even an almost stalkerish knowledge of what time Jonathan gets up in the morning, and a comment that “Jane, 40, has been known to stay in bed most of the day — sometimes not even changing out of her pyjamas.” Well, how bizarre!  I’m sure nobody normal would ever do anything like that, oh no!

Perhaps the Mail feels this intense scrutiny is in the public interest.  Maybe they see it as a warning that living in a “very bohemian” way could lead *your* child to that very bohemian condition, gayness.  One thing the article does manage to do is provide context to the one written on Thursday, which had the headline, “‘Today has been very eventful’ tweets Betty Kitten after father Jonathan Ross reveals her sexuality.”

So, was it an eventful day due to her father’s revelations?

But Betty — whose full name is Betty Kitten Ross — is used to taking the behaviour of her parents in her stride. ‘Oh my, today has been very eventful,’ she wrote on Twitter. Obviously not eventful because the nation now knew about her sexuality — that was ­‘fabulous’ — but because she had locked herself out of her student flat.

Oh, I see.  It was locking herself out that made the day eventful, and not the nation knowing about her sexuality after all.

My favourite line in the whole article has to be this little snippet about the family dog:  “Snowball even has his own twitter page that is updated daily with pictures and tweets such as ‘woof’.” Oh, how zany!  I bet no-one has ever thought of giving their family pet a Twitter account before.  Honestly, having a gay child is just the tip of an iceberg of wackiness… [\sarcasm]  The whole piece just begs the question, why?  Why do people need to know all this stuff?  Does anybody care?

The Mail has also been interested in the story of psychotherapist, Leslie Pilkington, currently facing a hearing for professional misconduct with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy after an alleged sting by  journalist, Patrick Strudwick.  He wasn’t just any journalist, though – he was a gay journalist, and Mrs Pilkington had agreed to undertake ‘conversion therapy’ to straighten him out.  Much is made of the fact that this was entrapment, although it seems Mrs Pilkington has conducted such therapy before, which, presumably, wasn’t due to entrapment.

Mrs Pilkington has treated ten patients over the past decade using a programme called Sexual Orientation Change Efforts. She says that her gay son is among those she has been able to help.

Mrs Pilkington was ‘able to help’ her own son, implying that being gay is a treatable illness of the mind.  I’m sure the Mail would be delighted if this were actually the case.

Claims are made about the case being suspended after allegations that a witness had been intimidated, but this is hearsay, and not substantiated.  Down near the end of the article, Mr Strudwick is quoted as saying,  “I could not have known any details about any of the witnesses and I could not have intimidated anybody. The hearing was not adjourned because of any complaint about intimidation but because of all the media interest in the case. The other side are putting out information which is wrong.”

The Mail goes on to say this story has, “generated fresh controversy over Christian beliefs and the rights of Christians to hold to them at work.” Has it?  Is this about Mrs Pilkington’s Christian views, or is it about the questionable therapy she offered to perform?

The end of the article is illustrated with a large picture of the two gentlemen from the B&B compensation story mentioned earlier.  A little snippet about that case has been tacked on the end of this completely unrelated story, seemingly for no other reason than to show how gays are cynically targeting Christians for pecuniary motives (disclaimer: gays aren’t targeting Christians.  Likewise, Christians aren’t targeting gays).

Today, the Mail published a story titled, Body-in-bag spy’s teacher says lurid police claims about his private life were a ‘decoy’, neatly laying the blame for all the sensational tabloid stories released at the time on the police instead of themselves.  Of course, this provides the perfect opportunity to reiterate all those claims, just in case you missed them the first time round.  The claims repeated about Mr Williams, that he was ‘gay and a cross-dresser,’ and that he had ‘bondage equipment and phone numbers for gay escorts,’ are not given sceptical quote marks, whereas the refutation of them as, ‘a decoy,’ and ‘hurtful,’ are.  There is also an emphasis on the information that any dresses which may have been found in Mr Williams’ flat were not needed for the clothing design course he was enrolled on.  The Mail also makes the mistake of confusing homosexuality with transgender.  The whole thing reminds me of someone sniggering behind their hand, and saying, “yeah, right!” at the denials made by Mr Williams’ tutor.

I’m not even going to go into the last story I found during my search for ‘gay’ on the Mail site, Children as young as FOUR to be taught about homosexuality under plans to ‘celebrate gay community’, mainly because it seems to be a rehashed version of this one from the Telegraph: Gay lessons’ in maths, geography and science.  At least the Mail headline doesn’t call them, ‘gay lessons,’ although it does have the ‘children as young as FOUR,’ bit screaming at you instead.

Seeing all these stories has shown me that the Mail is generally pretty subversive about its homophobic tendencies.  There’s nothing too overt, but it is, in the main, a negative view of homosexuality.  The wording links being gay with all manner of strangeness, confuses gay and transgender, and makes it quite clear that this paper believes Christianity itself is under attack from gay people.  It’s all in keeping with the headline, “Equality madness” which opened this post, and I can only conclude that the Mail dislikes equality, because it means people must be treated, you know, equally.

***UPDATE***  The Mail has changed the headline of “Children as young as FOUR to be taught about homosexuality under plans to ‘celebrate gay community'”, and it now reads, “Gay messages built into school maths lessons for children as young as FOUR”.  As usual, the URL currently reflects the original headline (School-children-taught-homosexuality-celebrate-gay-community) but I wish I’d got a screenshot so people could compare the two.  Natalie Dzerins, over at Forty Shades of Grey has shown the story up for the sensationalist misinformation it is, with this post: Mail, you owe me a new bullshit-detector. Mine just exploded. ***

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2011 9:56 pm

    The Jonathan Ross story is just amazing. You can see how – wanting to continue their campaign of demonising him – they’ve pulled together little tit-bits of unusualness (from their point of view) each one not quite enough to build a paragraph out of, never mind a full-blooded why-oh-why story.

    But, after months of waiting, they’ve realised; “if we staple all this crap together we can pad it out and get enough words to call a story.”

    World class journalism right there.

  2. James permalink
    February 11, 2011 12:27 am

    “The whole piece just begs the question, why? Why do people need to know all this stuff? Does anybody care?” – Just so you don’t have to read your article again, it’s quoted from the piece about Jonatham Roos ‘outing’ his daughter.

    I’ll answer that question. People need to know this stuff so that they can see a parent in the public eye being supportive and caring to a child regardless of their lifestyle choices. Sets a very good example really. I think we should congratulate the Mail for bringing that to light.

    Since your bullshit detector is broken, yes, I am being sarcastic!

    • February 11, 2011 3:12 pm

      Haha! My bullshit detector is ok. It’s Natalie over at Forty Shades of Grey who suffered the exploding one.

  3. Hobson permalink
    February 16, 2011 4:44 pm

    I dunno. I went to take a look at some of the source material (following the links you helpfully provide) and it does seem that taxpayers are paying consultants to produce reports on how, for example, the Government’s Marine Policy Statement “will differentially affect the following six equality groups as required by legislation
    Black, Black British, Asian, Asian British, Chinese or other minority ethnic and/or cultural groups;
    Disabled and Deaf people;
    Women, men and transgender people;
    Different religious communities/groups;
    Older people, children and young people;
    Gay, lesbian and bisexual people.”

    Isn’t this a bit of a waste of money? I mean, I guess we do want to know how government policy on fishing affects “women, men and transgender people” – which seems like a long way of saying “people” – but I’m sure there are other reports looking at those things.

    The report concludes: “Marine activities referred to in the MPS (Marine Policy Statement) have the potential to result in benefits and disbenefits upon coastal communities and groups of society which may have equalities target groups embedded within them.”

    Have you considered that maybe we really didn’t need to pay for this report? I’d rather spend the money on schools. Or perhaps something that might actually reduce inequality – measures to cut unemployment among disadvantaged communities maybe?

    • February 16, 2011 8:21 pm

      To be entirely fair, my post was more about the Mail’s attitude to homosexuality in general. I suspect you looked at the links provided by @atomic_spin on his post here: http://atomicspin.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/my-hovercraft-is-full-of-pc-gone-mad-scares/

      However, as far as preferring to spend the money on other things, as you suggest, of course I would. Unfortunately, the government chooses how to spend it. Also, Equalities Impact Assessments are a statutory requirement (more info here: http://www.idea.gov.uk/idk/core/page.do?pageId=8017174), meaning public bodies have a legal duty to undertake them.

      An example of what happens when EqIAs aren’t undertaken before implementing policies can be seen here: http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/channels/Finance/Article/1052483/Judge-quashes-165m-cut-London-voluntary-sector-grants-programme/

    • February 16, 2011 9:15 pm

      Hi! The list you mention from the (Draft) Marine Policy Statement isn’t a detailed report on how each group is affected, it just asks whether any of them would be affected enough to look into further. It’s a fairly simple “yes/no” question and in this case the answer was obviously “no” – a couple of pages later they decide “It is therefore concluded that there is no requirement for a full [Equality Impact Assessment].” If they thought that, say, the disabled might suffer as a result of the policy, then they’d pay for a full report, but that report would only be looking at how it affected disabled people, not everyone on that list.

      It’s true that in this case, spending the money on something else probably would have done more to help fight inequality, but equality assessments of other policies have found that government actions affected minorities in unfair ways (there are a couple of examples on the post of mine that PressNotSorry linked above), which is after all why we do them. We can’t know which policies will discriminate until we look at them, so we’ll always need Equality Impact Assessments even if – as in this case – it’s just a piece of paper that says “This policy does not discriminate”.

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