As I live in a western democracy, I have a wide range of news media available to me. I’ve never been one to rely on any single source of news, as I think this means you can consume only the news you want – rather than the news you need. In practice, this means I read a variety of newspapers – both British and Irish – on the web each day.
I never have enough time to read more than top stories or the web equivalent of the front page, but I also read editorials and a selection of contributing writers whose work I admire and/or find challenging. I often disagree with what I read – at worst this is thought-provoking, at best it leads me to question my own perspective and occasionally read more widely to broaden my horizons.
This is mere background to put this morning’s Sunday Telegraph into context. I’m not in the Telegraph’s core demographic, I’m quite sure, though I sample its output daily. More often than not, I’m exasperated by the angle its writers take, which in my view, often approaches the level of the British tabloids. Occasionally, I find myself nodding in agreement – which scares me more than you can imagine – but in a sense supports my approach to reading widely.
This morning, I was not nodding in agreement.
You see, the problem with the Telegraph’s online presence is the commenters. Readers who add their own take on the article, often engaging in a to and fro debate with other commenters. Used wisely, online comments can illuminate and permit reasoned debate. Not so in the case of the Telegraph.
Articles referring to the EU (mad anti-British bureaucrats!), ethnic minorities (taking over the country!) or religion (atheists want to eat your unborn children!) seem to draw the foaming-at-the-mouth crowd more than most. Those, and any reference to homosexuality.
This morning, the Sunday Telegraph ran a piece that was ostensibly about wasteful expenditure on the part of the European Commission. However, you didn’t have to scratch the surface for long to see the poorly-disguised homophobia lurking beneath. Their bile was directed at the fact the EC funded a conference on sexuality (mostly of the homo variety) to the tune of £124,000. The very thought! They ran through a selection of the content, with thinly-veiled disgust:
The European Commission has spent £124,000 on a five day conference for 200 homosexual, bisexual, transgender and “intersex” activists. The event, which culminates this weekend in The Hague, featured a series of workshops which were condemned as “politically correct drivel” by MPs. Subjects discussed include “Liberation from infrahumanisation – a long term global strategy” and “Human rights and ‘I’: knowing intersex demands”.
Now, anyone who has ever attended an academic conference will be familiar with the somewhat impenetrable titles given to presentations, workshops and symposia. It does not make them worthless.
One of the many baffling sounding workshops was entitled: “Gender and Sexuality in the Media: the problem is that there is no problem.” In the programme notes an official writes: “What is perceived as heteronormativity may differ among cultures. What does not differ is an overshadowing lack of ability to see and acknowledge that there indeed exists a distinction between heteronormativity and everything else.”
Notes for another session asked: “What are disabilism and disability?” Some of the plenary sessions were simply described as “self-organised spaces”.
Organisers said they hoped the conference would “explore the diversity within LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) communities and reflect on internal prejudices within the LGBTI communities towards other minority groups”. They add: “Participants will also be discussing how we can, with other groups, build a stronger and united European movement for social and legal changes for equality and human rights for all.”
If the Telegraph’s point is to draw attention to wastage in the way the European Union’s institutions spend money, they’ve picked a very selective example here. What about the Common Agricultural Policy? What about having to move the entire apparatus of the European Parliament between two cities in two countries several times every year? Yes, I’m serious – they do that.
Instead, the Telegraph focuses on the investment of a piffling (in relative terms) of £124,000 on an academic conference and I can only conclude this is because of the conference content. The problem with this approach is that instead of merely causing core Telegraph readers all over the UK to spit out their cornflakes in disgust, they open the electronic floodgates to piles of offensive drivel from online commenters. It also reveals the writer’s true intent: to draw attention to expenditure of any sort on “the gays” and declare open season in the form of ill thought-out online comments.
I’m not going to include any of the contents I read this morning here, suffice to say many include homophobic terms of abuse, religious condemnation and (you’ve guessed it) references to gay nazis. I’m serious.
This article is nothing more than a sub-tabloid attempt to whip up anti-gay sentiment, while simultaneously failing in spectacular fashion to draw the attention of readers to the monumental amounts of money pissed away by EU bureaucrats every day of the year. The writer is guilty of picking a selective example here.
A very selective example indeed.