At a guess Jan Moir has had about 10,000 tweets devoted to slating her intelligence, appearance and humanity today, following a nasty little article in the Daily Mail about Stephen Gately’s death.
Moir managed to get to the top of Twitter’s top trends, normally reserved as a kind of telegraph system for broadcasting death notices of celebrities, for a good couple of hours today – probably giving her the kind of widespread publicity most journalists would pay for.
In the article Moir states that there was ‘nothing natural’ about Gately’s death; writes a couple of hundred words of innuendo and speculation about the supposedly sordid final hours of the Bozone singer; and ends her article with the implication that all same-sex civil partnerships are doomed to end in an early death.
Another real sadness about Gately’s death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.
For once again, under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see.
Moir, whether deliberately or not, conflates homosexuality with ‘dangerous’ lifestyles and ‘dark’ appetites, also dragging the death of Matt Lucas’ former partner into the argument.
It’s the kind of thing that the Mail, its columnists and readers revel in so it comes as no surprise to me. However the Twittersphere has seen things differently and sent tens of thousand of volleys of personal abuse the way of Moir.
Moir is the kind of self-righteous female columnist lampooned by Private Eye who make a habit of furiously attacking other women for their appearance, tread the tiresome ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’ line and exist in a world where every crapulous observation is accompanied by an equally terrible pun.
They’re mean, spiteful and full of themselves, and newspapers lap them up. Here are some previous greatest hits:
• ‘Eating a ham sarnie causes cancer? These ham-fisted food fascists are just pig ignorant’ – Moir knows more about cancer than the World Cancer Research Fund
• ‘Oh, dear! That was a total dog’s breakfast’ – Moir slates Alastair Darling and his wife for their appearance
• ‘Jade was a unique and very brave girl. But let’s not pretend she was a saint’ – Moir criticises the freshly-dead Jade Goody
The Gately article is nasty, insidious stuff but it’s kind-of par for the course for these kind of columnists.
Where this case differs is that vast amounts of people can now access their work via websites, which were previously accessible only to newspaper buyers.
So, Moir becomes the most-insulted person on Earth for a day. But I strongly doubt the Mail will take the article down, with all the traffic and link juice such attention-seeking articles garner.
It’s the same reason The Grauniad’s Comment Is Free section keeps printing articles designed to specifically bait its own readership.
Inbound links, hits, ad clicks, user-generated content, publicity. They’re all likely to outweigh any negative publicity. And the Mail’s readership are hardly likely to see anything wrong with the article.
I suspect Moir herself will lap it up – she’s the kind of columnist that thrives on hatred.
Then again, it’s not every day one gets to see someone on the receiving end of such comprehensive come-uppance, so my gratitude to Twitter for its amusing and heartfelt outpouring of hatred.
UPDATE: Well, I didn’t see this coming
UPDATE 2: Moir has apologised, though it’s a decidedly mealy-mouthed half apology:
“The point of my column – which I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, his death raises many unanswered questions. That was all. Yes, anyone can die at anytime of anything. However, it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.
“In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages. In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”
This was exactly the kind of ‘what a lot of fuss over nothing’ response I’d expected, but it seems that if you hit papers where it hurts – in the wallet – even the likes of the Mail are forced to backtrack.