I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised: how likely was it that Jan Moir would get her knuckles properly rapped for her nasty article on Stephen Gately? It oozed with latent homophobia, prejudice and disgust, but it was like the smell in the fridge that you can’t trace: it stinks, but you can’t find the source. And then you begin to doubt yourself: maybe it’s coming from outside, maybe you’re imagining it, maybe there’s something in your nose, not in the fridge.
That’s just what Moir seemed to imply when she suggested that all the complaints about her article were part of an ‘orchestrated campaign‘: it’s not me, it was them. It’s an odd argument to use against a few thousand people who have elected to complain about you at their own cost, when you are paid to write opinion pieces for a paper that has a circulation of over 2 million. ( I suppose there are people who actually buy the Daily Mail, but the only time I ever see it is when it is offered free to passengers at airports.)
There are strangely musical resonances in Moir’s argument. What, in fact, is so wrong with ‘orchestration’? If you rally like-minded people to act, surely that’s just democracy in practice. But then in the music world, orchestrators tend to be held in lower regard than composers, and composers who delegate orchestration to others, even lower. I suspect Moir views herself as a composer in the most vainglorious 19th century sense, not as an orchestrator. She is the Beethoven of the Daily Mail, her noble thoughts inspiring those who agree with her, transcending those who don’t: if you don’t agree with her, you simply don’t understand her.
In another (musical) sense, Moir’s dark insinuations about Gateley’s death echo ancient prejudices and homophobic narratives, the archetype of which is Tchaikovsky:
In novels, plays, films and other representations in dominant culture, the homosexual always dies, and it is significant that a fierce controversy has developed around the death of Tchaikovsky.[…] The myth of the tortured, morbid homosexual taking his own shameful life is one kind of essentialist stereotype, but the “gay-positive” image of a homosexual composer of this period experiencing no tensions is equally essentialist and unrealistic.”
Philip Brett & Elizabeth Wood ‘Lesbian & Gay Music’ in Queering the Pitch, p.377
I’m sorry that Moir wasn’t forced into a tighter corner when it came to apologising, but on the other hand, whatever quantity of disapproval and suspicion she thought she could bring to Gateley posthumously has been heaped on her many thousand times over while she is still alive, so it’s not all bad. But it’s shameful that she should have got away with apologising for the ‘ill-timed nature‘ of the article. There is no time ever, in my view, that what she said is acceptable. None of the details which she hypothesized about were of any concern to her or the public. If Gately had not just died, the Mail would not have bothered to publish it because it wouldn’t have been ‘news’.
It wasn’t ill-timed, it was plain ill. The PCC decision may have been the only one they could take, but it (and Moir’s ‘apology’) does not even scratch the surface of what was wrong. No matter, for top-down journalism like Moir’s, the writing is on the wall, I believe; or to put it another way, the tide is coming in, to borrow a nice metaphor from Anton at enemiesofreason, speaking of the twitter backlash on the Gateley article:
This was just a first skirmish. I’ve said before the tide was coming in – and got roundly slapped round the chops by a crusty old newspaper columnist, in a badly written and poorly researched piece that didn’t do him any favours, for doing so, which if anything confirmed my suspicions. I think that kind of recalcitrance indicates something beyond mere contempt for us, the great unwashed, daring to speak out for ourselves on the issues we want to talk about rather than leaving it to our beloved journalists to do it for us, important and vital though real quality journalism is. I think it indicates fear that the tide really is coming in.