Categories
Gay Politics Journalism Politics

On 'Balanced' and 'Impartial' Journalism…

I’ve just read this astonishing article on a conference held by journalists about the reporting of gay issues: [“‘Gay’ journalists turn activists“] At this conference the question of “balance” came up – the question was Do we have to present both sides of the opinion on gay issues, when we don’t on racism? This is a quote from one of the people present:

“Ramon Escobar, an MSNBC producer who moderated the same plenary session, said, “This whole issue of ‘balance’ that we as journalists are supposed to achieve. … When we cover the black community, I’ve never seen a newsroom where you’re covering one side and then you have to go run out and get the Klan’s point of view: ‘Well, I’ve got to go do my Klan interview.’ How do you be fair?”

The article itself, however, is decidedly anti-gay – they quote the piece above as if it were a ridiculous thing to say. The journalist themselves says:

“Despite all the gay propaganda masquerading as news; despite the ubiquitous pro-“gay” puff pieces; and the “inside” manipulations by NLGJA journalists, something is wrong: Americans are still repulsed by homosexual behavior. Gay sex remains a massive turn off. “

I’m not going to argue with this person on the grounds of rights vs tastes – although one might argue briefly that not liking hip-hop should not be reason enough to countenance racism – but what I am going to take issue with is his statement about the role of journalists. Two quote for you now:

“A newsman’s job is to report the news — not undermine natural inhibitions guided by centuries of moral teaching.”

At the conference, homosexual reporters in mainstream media positions found it hard to subdue their enthusiasm for “gay rights,” thus discarding the old journalistic ethic of neutrality.

That the gentleman concerned also seems to miss the point of is that the job of the reporter is also to report the truth – whether that be difficult for some people to accept or not. The interpretation of that truth is another matter – and I’m afraid one where it simple isn’t possible to take a completely “balanced” line.

After all – how can you be “balanced” and still be a reporter – if what you report has to reflect the full breadth of opinion on every issue, whether or not there is any evidence or not, then serious news reporting about the death of Kennedy would be full of wild accusations and (probably) untruths (aliens, CIA conspiracies, FBI conspiracies, Masons, Illuminati etc etc etc). The job of the reporter is to assess the facts and report what seems most likely to be the truth – not to mirror what he or she reports to the opinions of the population.

In fact, I think this points to one of the biggest crises in journalism in the USA today. Writing the news has never been about being “balanced” (in the sense of mirroring the report to a greater or lesser extent to what various interest groups say is the truth), but about being impartial – free from those influences to write what appears to be the truth.

Categories
Politics

Mr Massow's fun new haircut…

Mr Massow was on television this morning again, with his rather alarming new haircut. The irony is, he’s never looked more right wing. My interest in him is long founded and based around the four major features of his life – 1) His apparently strong political beliefs (Tory until proven otherwise). 2) His presence as a prominent figure in the London gay community. 3) His financial success marketing to gay people. 4) His charm, charisma and the fact that he’s pretty good looking.

There’s something really alarming about this set of characteristics that seems to inspire bizarre reactions in people. His politics seems to play up the bastard angle. Several of my devoutly leftist friends seem to find this a tremendous turn-on when combined with what appears to be his affable charm. Personally, he was the first person to bring me to the stage where I had to confess to be a nontorysexual – by which I mean that I find someone’s right wing tendencies to be a more substantial turn-off than pretty much anything else.

In the gay community, he is simultaneously villified and adored – poster boy for a generation of guppies (gay &amp upwardly mobile – very eighties) while simultaneously seen to have made his fortune off the back of the very kinds of intolerance that keeps other gay people in a position of vulnerability. And now he’s turned towards Labour – how do we all feel about that? Honestly – I don’t really know.

The most interesting thing about the interview today was how politically simplistic he appeared to be. He basically contrasted the Labour and Conservative parties on the two staple axes that they have been for years. The stereotype is: Labour are good on social justice, but weak on the economy. The Conservatives can run the economy, but they’re for a more survival of the fittest, Middle England Anti-Immigration ethos. Ivan put his priorities very firmly down on the side of the economic priority versus social justice, and stated that he felt that the management of the economy under Labour had clearly changed and now he was left between a party that was good on the economy and social justice, and one that heavily prioritised the former. He didn’t appear to think there was any other choice to make.

But what about the other issues? The Euro for example? And fox-hunting? The Labour Party has objectives here which are very much against Massow’s own. How does he reconcile them? I’m not sure he knows… Whether this makes him self-serving or honest is another question altogether…

Categories
Gay Politics Politics

More on Gay Marriage…

A few people seem think I fell from the womb an angry crusader for queer politics. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. I started my big gay life as the biggest anti-queen you can imagine – my main mission was to try to convince people that gay people were basically identical to straight people, and that people who thought differently were basically stereotyping. I still believe that a lot of people who think gay people are different are basically stereotyping, but I’ve become increasingly comfortable with the idea of difference. Fair enough if you want to have a monogamous relationship with someone your entire life. Why call it marriage? Why make a contract out of it? Why do it in front of god? Why does it change your legal status? Your tax status?

Gay people have been hindered by a large number of legal and social restrictions over the last few decades. But along with this absence of rights came the necessity of figuring out how to do relationships between two men or two women that worked. For some people this meant a “butch” partner and a “femme” partner – in a fashion that directly aped heterosexual relationships of power of the time. For others it meant monogamous coupledom. For still others random sex and a tight-knit relationship with friends, multiple partners or no partners. But all of them felt less of a requirement to settle down, find the man/woman of their dreams and move into a house with a white-picket fence. In the past, we have been forced not to be complacent and this has provided some wonderful alternatives to “marriage”.

So it would certainly be my opinion that gay people shouldn’t get married in any legal sense of the word. Why revel in the sanctioning of your particular perversion? Why be legitimated while all the alternatives that have been developed over the last hundred years are still frowned upon? There’s just no need to sign a piece of paper. Instead, make a stand for difference and variety between communities, and between members of the same community. Have a relationship by all means. Move in. Stay with them forever. But don’t get married. And don’t do it for me

One final thought takes us ten, twenty years down the line. When you’ve sucessfully separated the “good/married” gay people from the “bad/non-married/sex-crazed” gay people, what makes you think that the latter won’t be stigmatised again, like they were during the AIDS tensions of the eighties?

Categories
Politics

Men, Women, Breasts and Circumcision…

Very much delighted to see that blogger has chosen the feminist media watch collaborative weblog as their log of the week. I’m relatively well informed in feminist theory as many of the issues in queer theory are derived from previous work in feminism, and there are many cross-roads and common interests between the two academic branches. However, no longer being in an academic environment, it is increasingly difficult to keep up with the issues. A couple of the debates really interested me:

  • The Involvement of Men in the Women’s Movement
    “I was speculating that perhaps men become involved in the feminist movement to water it down and make sure it never becomes an actual threat. A funny example of this is how at the Ms. magazine forum there was actually this self-proclaimed feminist guy who got offended at a woman claiming that men are privileged. She then pretty much conceded and appologised. That, I believe, is a concrete example of how men in the women’s movement can make women soften their voices and alter their stances for fear of being berated or disliked or whatever.”
    I read this post with considerable interest. As ever with political or social minority issues, there is an issue as to who can speak in feminism. The ability to articulate and argue and the right to do so are not givens, but areas of considerable complexity and dissent. And not necessarily in the most obvious ways either. One formulation of the development of feminism takes things through liberal feminism (equal economic and political rights on male terms), radical and/or separatist feminism (an ostensible rejection of patriachy combined with either attempts to dismantle/rebuild it or form an alternative on the model of possible matriarchal antecedents), through to French Feminist Post-Structuralist feminism, where women are conceived as trapped within a linguistic system that is phallogocentric, and which eventually leads to a collapse of the very categories of male and female.
    So while some have argued that only women should be able to speak because of social chauvinism, others have argued that it is impossible for women to even speak without recapitulating their own subordination. It’s difficult to say whether in the present example it is correct or incorrect to argue from the specific man to the generic male, nor whether it is truly possible for a man to be a feminist in any but the most basic and liberal senses of the word. That’s one of the reasons I am more comfortable with the idea of “queer”, where all the categories are undermined and what is left put up for grabs. Because you can be queer if you are male, female, heterosexual or homosexual – the only precondition being that you are suspicious of the categories you operate within.
  • Plastic Surgery
    I would have to be stupid to even consider denying that the prevalence of cosmetic surgery is symptomic of something dubious in our culture. And I would have to be even more stupid to say that women were not bearing the brunt of it. But having said that, I think we have to ask ourselves what is the most performed piece of cosmetic surgery performed in the US today. And the answer? Circumcision. I was watching “Sex and the City” on TV the other night, and the whole thrust of the episode was about an un-circumcised man being discussed by the regular female cast. Most of them agreed that uncircumcised penises were slightly gross. Only one disagreed. She said that uncircumcised men were particular fun. And the reason? “Because they try harder”. I was watching it with a couple of friends and we all kind of stared at the screen in mute astonishment. In the UK pretty much only Jewish men are circumcised – it’s just not considered an issue for everyone else.
    I’m not saying that this is an example of clear double standards – people clearly feel they have justification for the circumcision of their children and there are a lots of issues surrounding it, but imagine a scene with a bunch of men talking about breasts in a culture where boob-jobs were more natural than nature itself (say Los Angeles), where they all talk about how “natural breasts” are offensive and unnattractive (until one helpful soul points out that women with them at least try harder in bed). How does that strike you? It sounds appalling to me.
    Of course there are other interpretations that one might give: circumcision has often been used as a tribal intiation ritual to mark the procession into adulthood, and the arguments that the foreskin is unhygenic still hold some water in some places. Still – it is pretty much the only piece of surgery done as a matter of course in the US which actually changes the functioning of the body.
Categories
Gay Politics Politics

On giving gay people guns…

There are benefits and there are horrors to staying on people’s floors. Benefits include not having to pay rent, seeing more of your good friends and getting to know local geography. Horrors include continual exhaustion, sometimes uncomfortable bedding and making sure that you don’t upset anyone by being under their feet 24 hours a day. Tomorrow morning I am wandering up to Kentish Town to look at a flat before work. I’m not convinced that it is the place for me, but I’ll give it a go. I just wish I wasn’t so tired all the time.

One of my oldest friends, Gideon, told me about an article in Salon the other day, and asked my opinion about it. It suggests that gay people should arm themselves with handguns in order to protect themselves from anti-gay attacks. Gideon’s exact words on this one were: “an intriguing proposal by a journalist i know… any ideas? I can’t decide if he’s right or crazy”.

I read through the article carefully. As I read through the first page my immediate reaction was one of mild horror – what was this man advocating? Did he really want to start some form of gang warfare on the streets of American cities – to put a whole new meaning to the phrase “gay mafia”? But then, on the second page I came up against this:

“The abiding fact is this: Homosexuals have been too vulnerable for too long. We have tried to make a political virtue of our vulnerability, but the gay-bashers aren’t listening. Playing the victim card has won us sympathy, but at the cost of respect. So let’s make gay-bashing dangerous. We should do that for our own protection. But we should also do it because we will win a full measure of esteem from the public, and from ourselves, only when we make clear our determination to look after ourselves”

On rereading the article it seemed clear to me that the article wasn’t actually about arming gay people at all, but an appeal for an escape from the current politics of gay identity – a politics that defines gay people by their vulnerability – continually subject to name-calling, workplace discrimination, harrassment or attack. It wasn’t so much calling for violence to counter violence, but instead desperately scrambling for something to replace “Gay Man/Woman: Perpetual Victim”.

Queer as Folk 2, which recently aired in the UK, included some pretty startling scenes – a man taking on board all of the insults thrown against him in order to savagely expose the blackmailing attempts of his ten-year-old nephew, the same man blowing up the car of a woman who disinherits her estranged gay son (she called him to his father’s death-bed to ask him to sign the papers) and a full-on confrontation between a name-calling hick and a poof with a gun. Each one of these scenes inspired something proactive inside all the people who saw them – the desire not to have to “run to daddy” when something horrible happened. It’s the same feeling – the same discomfort with the idea of gay people as being weak and needing outside help to get them through their daily lives.

So what do I think? Do I think gay people should carry handguns? I don’t know. But I know one thing for certain – we should be doing something.