Thursday 8 July 2010

No room for tolerance

Writing for the Independent, freelance journalist Samuel Muston says:

The news that two gay asylum seekers fighting deportation have been given leave to stay in UK by the Supreme Court, is a welcome one.

The men, from Cameroon and Iran respectively, sought to challenge the previous government’s contention that they had no grounds for asylum as they could move “elsewhere” in their home states and be “discreet” about their sexuality...

This, then, is a good day for justice, a good day for compassion.

The tabloids, of course, weren't quite so sure this was a 'good day':

It's really, really hard to know where to begin. It's like wading into a stinking cesspool. Thankfully, Anton Vowl (here and here), Jonathan at No Sleep 'Til Brooklands and Dan Hollingsworth have already written blog posts about the coverage and they're all well worth reading.

But here's a few other observations.

First, Lord Roger admitted in his ruling that his comments about gay men going to Kylie concerts and drinking cocktails were 'trivial stereotypical examples'. But perhaps he should have been more media savvy and known that the intolerant, racist, homophobic tabloid press were going to leap on this point as a way of making the asylum system seem absurd - just as they did with that lie about the man who was (not) saved from deportation solely by his cat.

'Now' asylum seekers get to stay because of Kylie! You couldn't make it up!

The Express emphasise this point by saying 'Now...', which tabloids use at the start of a headline as shorthand for 'Look what stupid thing is going to happen now...'

Second, the Express' jumbled headline - and the tone of the other coverage - is totally misleading. The judgment doesn't mean every asylum seeker who is (or, in the tabloid mindset, claims to be) gay will be allowed to stay automatically, no matter how strong their actual case is.

The Express' ludicrous poll asks: 'Should you get asylum just for being gay?' This isn't the issue at all - as the writers of this muck well know. The issue is that certain countries are persecuting, imprisoning, flogging and executing homosexuals and that is a perfectly reasonable basis for them to seek asylum elsewhere.

And, as Jonathan says:

It's a thorny issue, so instead of arguing with the decision on moral or ethical grounds, which they can't really do without looking like they might have some kind of problem with gays and foreigners, just moan about how it obviously means that by 2015 the country will be sinking into the sea under the sheer weight of Iranians ostentatiously brandishing Scissor Sisters albums to try and pass as gay.

Third, the newspapers, the people leaving comments on the articles, and the two gobshites who pop up - tabloid favourites Andrew Green from Migrationwatch and MP Philip Davies - all suggest this ruling will, to quote the Star, 'open the floodgates'.

On the Sky News press preview last night, presenter Anna Botting suggested this would mean asylum seekers would now arrive in Britain and 'pass the gay ticket over' - whatever the hell that means.

But there's something deeply troubling about this view because behind it is the idea that asylum seekers are somehow looking for an angle. It's a belief based on the assumption that since asylum seekers aren't really fleeing persecution, they'll come to Britain and come up with any excuse going to be able to stay. It says: 'Now' they're all going to pretend to be gay if they think it'll work. This says much about the ground on which the asylum debate takes place.

Fourth, the attitudes of these newspapers are, of course, rooted in an anti-immigrant viewpoint.

So the Mail editorial says:

For at this time when our public services are strained beyond endurance, it means Britain must now, in a dramatic reversal of policy, give a home to all gay asylum-seekers who are prevented from displaying their sexuality openly in their home countries.

Where are we to draw the line? This is all about numbers and a small island’s ability to absorb an ever-increasing population.

But the Express is rather more blunt:

Of course homosexuals across the globe should be able to live free from persecution but their right to do so should not take precedence in British law over the right of the British people not to have their country overrun by foreigners.

And not just overrun by foreigners but overrun by 'gay' foreigners.

The Express' sister paper, the Star, managed to top that and came up with a depressing, and disturbing, headline:

This really is grotesque. There are many, many reasons why Richard Desmond is a completely unfit person to be running two national newspapers and that putrid headline can be added to the list.

Given the history of the Star - who have very obviously labelled Muslims and immigrants as not 'us' - it would be generous to think this headline is only about yesterday's judgment. You can't help but feel it is aimed a little more widely than that. As Refugee Action tweeted:

The Daily Star thinks their headline 'No room for gays' is acceptable in 21st century Britain. We think not.

The editors of these tabloids know articles such as these - inflammatory, scaremongering, intolerant - push the buttons of their readers. Unfortunately, most have been so brainwashed by the daily drivel they are fed by these wretched publications that they believe it all at face value. Reading their comments is a disheartening experience and any number of them could have been highlighted here. But we'll stick with two.

This one, because it gives an idea of the cluelessness of many of them:

And this one because it highlights the dangers and possible consequences of such coverage:


  1. It's funny how the tabloid press is always berating Islam for abusing the human rights of homosexuals but when our so called "enlightened and liberal" society reaches out the hand of help for oppressed homosexuals in foriegn countries they get all huffy!

  2. Great blog, this story just underlined how gutter, our gutter press really is.

    Got you saved on my RSS feed now. Good stuff!


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