Double entendre

Disclaimer: This credibility-free column can only be fully appreciated with a due sense of comic irony and prior reading of Jan Moir’s actual Femail column in today’s (16 October 2009) Daily Mail. If you are prone to serious allergic reactions when confronted with the offensive and homophobic use of the English language, or simply abhorrently bad journalism in general, please look away now.

Why there was more than just ‘homophobia’ about Jan Moir’s column

Byline: (Could have been) by Jan Moir’s alter ego

The publication of Jan Moir’s homophobic column was deeply shocking. It was not just that another columnist had written discriminatory drivel pointlessly.

Through the recent travails and sad elucidations of Melanie Phillips, Richard Littlejohn and many others, readers know to expect the unexpected of their newspaper columnists – particularly if those wordsmiths live a life that is editorially unhinged yet completely subjugated to commercial pressures.

There are dozens of household names out there with well-known and not-so-well-known issues, or damaging literary inclinations both past and present.

Booker, Delingpole, Phillips, Hitchens, Littlejohn; we all know who they are. And we are not being churlish to anticipate, or to be mentally braced for, their foul wordplay in print: a long, frustrating night of mental blocks, an impatient editor, an odd set of circumstances that herald a hideous juxtaposition of vile vocabulary.

In the morning, the readership has already turned red hot furious before the first tabloid columnist hand reaches out to browse an Associated Newspapers rag. It is not exactly a new storyline, is it?

In fact, it is rather depressingly familiar. But we’ve not always expected it of her. Not her. Not Jan Moir.

In the cheerful environs of the Daily Telegraph, Moir was always morally uptight, uncompromising, direct and agitative. A restaurant critic with the broadsheet for six years, she won the Interviewer of the Year accolade at the 2007 British Press Awards. She was their trump card of sorts, but the Telegraph recently allowed her departure to the Daily Mail as a popular but largely decorous addition.

Moir joined the Mail as a regular columnist in summer 2008, so as to pass weekly moral judgements on civil society, on the whim of her palate, in the service of a broader middle market. Although she was effectively a fish out of water, she has been hailed as a conservative champion of sorts, albeit an unqualified one.

At the time, Moir may have worried that her lack of appropriate experience and credentials would deny her a decent following, but she apparently received a positive response from readers. In fact, she was thought of as a “fantastic addition” to the Mail’s roster of columnists.

By October 2009, Moir had been reveling in the Mail establishment for a year and punching above her weight with authoritative moral declarations; the likes of the need to force birth control or imprisonment on an unfit mother, moral didacticism against improper behaviour by drunk heiresses, and apologising for the abandonment of newborns.

Today, the columnist was enjoying another day at the Northcliffe House before her world was capsized.

All the Twitter world was up in arms, following Moir’s piece in today’s Femail column which alleged that the death of Boyzone’s Stephen Gately might have somewhat more than coincidental links to his homosexuality. She had been – perhaps understandably – keen to take a quick springboard to national fame (also known as notoriety), and it worked, albeit in a perverse manner.

Even though the post-mortem and toxicology reports indicated that Gately’s death was due to natural causes, she was convinced that she could contrive well-disguised opinion with fictive imagination to make the story into a winner.

But, hang on a minute. Something is terribly wrong with the way this incident has been shaped and spun into a supposedly revealing insight into the supposed dangers of homosexuality and the nature of its “lifestyle”.

Consider the way it has been written, as if Moir had special access to a common sense interpretation of Gately’s death and the subsequent media coverage that the rest of Britain had been oblivious to – which clearly wasn’t the case (interviewer, not investigative journalist of the year).

The repulsive coating applied by Moir on this fatality is so caustic that it obscures whatever morality she might have had within. Yet award-winning journalists do not just climb onto a career precipice and fling themselves off into the abyss.

Whatever her motivation is, it is not, by any yardstick, an apparently logical one. Let us be absolutely clear about this. All that has been established so far is that Jan Moir wrote a poorly-argued, unsubstantiated and homophobic column regarding Stephen Gately’s death.

And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the root cause of her odious column cannot just be pinned down to simplistic judgements about the inadequacies inherent within her moral framework.

During the days of media coverage since Gately’s death, Moir decided that there is some kind of conspiracy of silence shrouding the affair, or perhaps that her suggestion of one would really warm her to her crowd and push more papers. It is not disrespectful to assume that a sly work of populist pablum (or so she thought) was likely to be on the cards.

Moir committed her sinister thoughts to paper while the rest of Britain remained oblivious to her cunning plan. 

What happened that night? Only Moir, who may have spent it musing with her word processor with a cheeky grin smeared across her face, knows the truth. What happened after she had proofread her fantastical piece and sent it on to the Mail sub-editors is known only to the Paul Dacre’s underlings. What happened afterwards is now a public scandal.

A Twitter-led inquisition revealed that Moir had spent past week hatching an insidious thought; a build-up of (possibly) unfavourable online readership numbers and catalysed with latent homophobia.

The Mail establishment have not for the first time printed offensive material regarding famous homosexuals (see: Ephraim Hardcastle column on Iain Dale). Nevertheless, no one really paid all that much attention before today.

Another real sadness about Moir’s drivel is that it strikes another blow to the myth of journalism. Journalists believe that they are intrepid truth-mongers, arguing that they are eminently qualified and trustworthy enough to do the job of telling it as it is. Not everyone, they say, is like Jayson Blair.

Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet the recent exposé of the inner failings of the news media by Nick Davies, the revelations at the Commons culture, media and sport select committee hearings regarding the News of the World phone hacking case and now the incredible travesty by Mail and Moir raise troubling questions about the state of journalism.

It is important that the truth comes out about the exact circumstances of Moir’s inexcusable trampling on the grave of deceased human being.

As an award-winning journalist, I am sure she would want to set an example to any impressionable young students who may want to emulate what they might see as her sententious routine.

For once again, under the carapace of self-righteous, hedonistic infamy, the ooze of a very commercially-driven and appallingly amoral style of pseudo-journalism has seeped out for all to see.

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~ by spiegel2071 on October 16, 2009.

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