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As the much-loved Irish boyband star Stephen Gately, 33, was laid to rest by his friends and family on Saturday, a major controversy erupted in England over an article about the late Irish singer that some are calling homophobic.
Gately’s passing offered British journalist Jan Moir of The Daily Mail a platform to suggest that his death was the result of his being gay. Critics are contending that Moir’s article titled “A Strange, Lonely and Troubling Death,” plumbed new depths of insinuation and homophobia, especially since the singer had not yet been buried as it ran to press.
In her article Moir compared the deaths of Gately, Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson, contending that their early demise was the result of what she calls “dark appetites” and “private vice.” She leaves out exactly what these appetites and vices are, since she’s in the business of demagoguery, not reporting.
Not content to accept the coroner’s findings, Moir writes “something is terribly wrong with the way this incident has been shaped and spun into nothing more than an unfortunate mishap on a holiday weekend…”
Despite the fact that the world’s been told that Gately died of an acute pulmonary oedema, Moir prefers to offer her own more sinister explanation. “Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pajamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again,” Moir argues.
But in fact they do, at any age, with depressing regularity. The coroner didn’t get it wrong. However Moir wants to bash gays so her article discards the actual truth in favor of innuendo and insinuation. “I think if we are going to be honest,” she writes, “we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy.”
It wasn’t his undiagnosed heart condition that killed him, Moir argues, it was his lifestyle. Moir contends that Gately died because he was gay and said his “sleazy” death struck “another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.”
Moir concludes: “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.”
Ooze, seepage. The language gives it away. It’s hard to imagine how this piece ever got by The Daily Mail’s editors, until you remember it’s one of the most conservative papers in England.
Although Gately didn’t remotely share the excessive high living lifestyle of celebrities like Amy Winehouse, Robbie Williams and Michael Jackson, the one thing that was wrong with him, Moir insinuates, was that he was homosexual. That means he was “sleazy,” even though people who actually knew him found him innocent to the point of naivety.
Other British newspapers were quick to lament Moir’s homophobic story and Twitter is still ablaze with outrage, with gay British comic Stephen Fry amongst those speaking out: “I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathsome and inhumane.”
On the Daily Mail’s Web site there were there were 1021 comments, overwhelmingly antagonistic to Moir's article on Sunday afternoon. By Friday night the U.K. Press Complaints Commission had handled 1,000 e-mails and calls complaining about inaccuracy, alleged homophobia and insensitivity to the Gately family.