Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Media Watch: We’ll have a gay old time

According to Stonewall’s report No Going Back, “consensual acts between same-sex adults are criminalised in 80 member states of the United Nations”. Homosexuality results in the death penalty in six of these countries and, in many more, lesbian, gay and bisexual people face persecution, torture, rape and murder from ‘the mob’ or the government. It was refreshing, therefore, that the Supreme Court recently ruled that two gay men facing persecution in their home countries have the right to asylum in the UK.

This historic decision should have been heralded as a great act of compassion and solidarity, but instead it has been met with homophobic vitriol from the gutter press. The Express front page ran ““Now asylum if You’re Gay: they must be free to go to Kylie concerts and drink multi-coloured cocktails”. The Daily Mail warned that the judgement “could allow thousands of homosexuals to claim asylum in Britain”. And The Daily Star alleged that “opening the floodgates to gay asylum seekers is absolute madness”. Accusing all those who support offering asylum to persecuted homosexuals of being mentally ill demonstrates the ever balanced and informed approach of Fleet Street.

The Daily Star’s article might not explicitly say the decision is wrong, “but it’s not practical in the real world”. Is ‘real’ a byword for reactionary, bigoted or homophobic? The terminology employed – every illegal, outcasts, flood of numbers – serves to dehumanise homosexuals and asylum seekers whilst fortifying hatred and division. They argue that “every illegal” looking for a “cushy life in Britain” will try “claiming they’re gay to ensure they (can) stay”. I’d hardly describe British life as “cushy” when the mainstream media promote and reinforce prejudice against asylum seekers, immigrants and homosexuals. I’m just waiting for the headline: “Tired of persecution in your own country, why not come to Britain where it’s slightly less bad?”

But surely the political response has been more balanced and celebratory? Unfortunately not. Conservative MP Philip Davies said “It’s a dangerous game to play to go down this line because it’s quite feasible that this could offer an ideal line of defence for someone who wants to try to avoid being kicked out of the country, whether it is true or not that they are gay”. Again, no mention of helping those suffering discrimination or prejudice – but what else would you expect from someone who’s voted consistently against gay rights? Anyone would think the Conservatives weren’t interested in helping people outside of Britain. Or maybe they just don’t like gays.

My only point of agreement with The Daily Star is their assertion that “we cannot solve the world’s problems on our own”. Their response, however, is to pull up the drawbridge and splurge detestable dross into our atmosphere. The truth is we can’t solve the world’s problems on our own, but we do the world a disservice if we do nothing. We need to mobilise and applaud the decision of the Supreme Court and challenge homophobia and racism in all forms – be it overt in places like Iran, Uganda and Jamaica or covert in places like Fleet Street. We need to publicise and applaud the Supreme Court’s decision and put international pressure on other countries to do the same. Moreover, we need to put pressure on countries which decriminalise homosexuality and newspapers which peddle reactionary nonsense. But where do we begin? How about the online editor for The Daily Star for a start geoff.marsh@dailystar.co.uk

1 comment:

Tom @ Eyes on Power said...

I wish I could say that I can't believe this, but it's just par for the course these days. That many gay people suffer horrendous abuse back in their home countries seems to take a backseat to the tabloid journalists' desire to spread suspicion and hatred.

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