Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Spectator goes far beyond Gergiev, even in his Enemies' Wildest Dreams: Ignorance and Homophobia Vie for Supremacy

As ever, I hesitate to provide a link to something at least partly designed to do just that and thus to generate advertising revenue on the back of bigotry that the Neanderthals would have rejected as wildly de trop. However, in order to refer to a piece The Spectator has for some reason decided to publish, I suppose I must. (I do not know what the legal position would be in simply copying it here, and do not wish to expose myself to vindictive action on that count.) One Melanie McDonagh, who seems to have form in 'social conservatism' - bigots' choice self-definition when they elect not to be out and proud bigots - has penned what, in a fiercely contested field, may well be the most woefully ignorant, heinously bigoted, at the very best hideously disingenuous, rant upon Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Putin, and homosexuality I have yet had the misfortune to see. I suppose it makes a change from racist comments on Somali mothers or even that lovely sleight of hand typical of the 'thoughtful social conservative' in distinguishing between homosexuality and 'homosexual acts', somehow mysteriously employed as ballast against the ordination of women.

Let us leave on one side, however, previous sins of commission and turn to this quite extraordinary piece; I cannot help but wonder whether it might be a cunning ploy by Gergiev's PR team to produce something so vile, so extreme, that anything the conductor may or may not have done will seem small fry by comparison. 'The conductor', I said, but McDonagh, who claims to have attended Thursday's Barbican concert, outside which Peter Tatchell led a wonderful-sounding, sparkling protest, seems to think that Gergiev is a composer. Clearly our new-found expert on musical, sexual, and Russian affairs cannot have paid too much attention to the programme (all Berlioz, not a note by the up-and-coming Gergiev). Gergiev, we read, was 'presumably here to conduct the LSO at their invitation'. No, Melanie, he was not. (By the way, are you trying to surpass your namesake, and sometime Spectator contributor, Ms Phillips, for instance in her outrage at the 'gay curriculum' apparently being taught in schools?) If you knew anything about Gergiev, the LSO, music, life, the universe, etc., etc., you would be aware that Gergiev is the Principal Conductor of what many would consider to be London's premier orchestra.

Note also the phrase, the phrases, 'his boys,' 'the Tatchell boys,' and so on; the latter do not 'shout' but are 'screaming'. A highly charitable reading might decide that this was a piece of outmoded sexism along the lines of walking into an office and referring to female employees as 'girls', that is, if we accept the highly implausible claim - I was not there, so it might just to be true - that the protesters against Gergiev and Putin were 100% male. But we know the real implication, do we not? It allies McDonagh with Putin's - and Gergiev's - claim that the notorious, even infamous, Russian law against the promotion of homosexuality is targeted against paedophiles. (As we know, they are all gay. 'Social conservatives': that was a case of irony shading into sarcasm, just in case you were wondering.) And so it turns out to be: 'I'd say myself that it's none of our business if the Russian government doesn't think that children should be educated about sex in a fashion approved by Nick Clegg.' It is, you see, a matter of an 'approach to child protection'. Section 28, then, needs to be brought back as soon as possible. Because gays, of course, are paedophiles. ('Social conservatives': again, that is not to be taken as an expression of my views. Were I a bigot, I should at least have the decency so to describe myself.) Peter Tatchell, one of the bravest men in this country, as shown by his attempt to arrest Robert Mugabe, and indeed his Moscow protest in 2007, is actually the enemy. He, we read, is 'a bully' - unlike a woman who writes such vile accusations for money. Gergiev's apologists have continued to protest that music and politics should somehow be separated; I cannot readily think of a more brazen, if hearteningly hapless, attempt to use music to serve political ends than McDonagh's words.

Will The Spectator now have the decency to dissociate itself from them? Perhaps the Evening Standard, though an undoubtedly right-wing publication, hardly a champion of homophobia, might wish to consider her position as a leader-writer for the newspaper?

UPDATE: As David points out below, Peter Tatchell has now had a response published on the magazine's site. Click here to read it.


David said...

I wasn't surprised by the sentiments - Ms McDonagh is a regular writer for the Evening Standard, which has been remarkably quiet on this issue - and the Catholic press (in which role she is more Popish than the Pope - well, certainly this one, whom we are coming to respect, much more along Ratzinger lines).

What amazed me was the brazenness with which she pretended to have been there - at the END of a concert IN THE HALL where all she could hear was 'shame'. Had she been there with us, or against us, she wouldn't have missed the megaphoned chants (as the Standard said - 'noisy...but civilized'). I have asked her to clarify in the comments but she has not deigned to reply.

The comments are 75 per cent scary too, but none follows her at least down the paedophilia line. Shame on her.

In the meantime there seems no chance of Gergiev clarifying the out-standing comment which still enrages so many of us. That's via a PR representative. Disappointing to say the least.

Wotans Other Eye said...

I normally retweet your material Mark but not this. The reason is simply, the magazine in question, as you point out, is simply looking for publicity. It has a tiny readership - which I believe has declined since "Boris" left and all of the publicity he brings. They publish this nonsense because it brings attention to themselves - and this is not something I wish to encourage.

It also has the impact, if only unconscionably, of supporting such thoughts into the minds of what are becoming an ever more "reactionary" public - as many often become in times of economic "turbulence" and "uncertainty". I would suspect such nonsense is never far from many minds. It goes with the sexism, racism, xenophobia that is also present - more so at the moment.

It should be noted that I have no intent, except in my usual mocking manner, to bring attention to a "journalist" that claims
that Gergiev is a composer or has a right to "conduct (his) work freely"

I remember very clearly "Section 28" which people seem to have now forgotten despite only being fully repealed in 2003 That was remarkably similar to new Russian legislation in many respects.

I would add that Kent County Council managed to maintain a local version of this after 2003 and which has now changed further but still reads: "We will ensure that sex education values family and marriage as the foundation of a civilised society, and a firm basis for the nurturing of children."

One assumes that living in an abusive, violent relationship is better than, god forbid, in one with a loving single parent - or with same sex parents one assumes. Got to love "traditional values".

Must say though, the obsession that some people have with what others do with their genitals (and in the case FROCS - hoax or not - announcing it to the world) has always been a cause of concern for me and I would suspect tells us much about the inner minds of those so concerned.

Finally, on a related subject of "gay marriage" - also getting much press at the moment - might I say, having been married once, anyone daft enough to want it (LGBT or S) is more than welcome

David said...

I must point out that analogies with Section 28 fall short when it comes to state-approved violence against/murder of gay Russians: the key point here is that the police ALWAYS do nothing in Russia as soon as they learn that the victim is homosexual. Maybe it happened here but I don't think so, not at the time of Section 28, at any rate.

I take WOE's point about giving The Spectator publicity but McDonagh MUST answer our charges of factual innacuracy and of fabricating the impression that she was there. And I can't imagine shall we just say gay-friendly Lebedev at the Standard tolerating this from one of his writers. Just as Gergiev MUST explain his paralleling of homosexuality and paedophilia before we can move on.

Peter Tatchell has written a letter to The Spectator which they promised to publish today.

Wotans Other Eye said...


Your thoughts are insightful and intelligent - it goes without saying and I thank you for your response. I am unsure if section 28 lead to law enforcement ignoring crimes against homosexuals - although I will say, at least in other parts of the "developed world" there is evidence that such things do occur:

And, I might argue, that by making the sort of attitudes found in section 28 part of policy can only encourage such a world view.

As for McDonagh answering calls for factual inaccuracies she will simply say:

1 - Declaring Gergiev as a typo or mistake.

2 That people are misreading her comments suggesting a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.

3 That responses to her, clear, homophobic comments about Tatchell's "boys", etc, are simply "people" ("Nod Nod. Wink Wink") being "oversensitive" (of course they are not, but this is what she shall say)

It will do nothing. Indeed, my experience of such things is that people will only remember her initial column - not any response.

Indeed, Tatchell's letter will do little but bring more attention to a minor bit of - to use a colloquialism - "bollocks" in a tiny little niche market publication that few read apart from those that would agree with her anyway.

We respond and give them publicity. In the volatile, reactionary social arena in which we presently exist, most uninterested people will only remember her initial comments - not the response.

The world is filled with the insane ramblings of the bigot and straight out "wacko".

I shall use an analogy - of sorts. David Icke;s theories of Lizard people (IE "the Jews") has surprisingly grown in prominence because of rational people responding to him.

Should I respond to his comments in chapter four of his "Biggest Secret" where he insists that Mahler, studied with Wagner and that this was paid for by "Baron Albert de Rothschild?

If McDonagh wrote a popular column publication with a wide circulation things might be different.

It is difficult to explain, but I come from a "social strata" where such views have always being considered illogical, not reflective of reality and most importantly unimportant. Indeed, my first true emergence into "normal" society - later, although not that late, in life - was something of a shock. Alas, her thoughts are far more prominent I think then many would admit. I certainly hear them escape occasionally and they leave me bewildered.

I might of course be wrong, but suspect that this may all go the wrong way.

A public clarification from Gergiev on the other-hand is a different thing. Although, why we would be interested in the opinions of a rather inconsistent and frankly generally mediocre conductor is beyond me. Does anyone take any notice of the political views of a z list celebrity?

David said...

I still firmly believe MMcD should be taken to task for pretending to have been there when she clearly wasn't. That's the kind of thing that ought to ruin journalists' careers - though I don't, in spite of what she has written, want to ruin hers (I have met her at supper with a friend who is on intimate terms with her - and it does say something for our Melanie that said friend, though staunch catholic and mother of two, is very much on the left).

Agree with you that Gergiev isn't great these days - interesting how the grandeur has transmitted to performances of mind-numbing ponderousness - but I'm grateful to him for all he did, especially for Prokofiev, in the early 1990s. Like you, I don't even especially want to attend his concerts per se, never mind the awful statement which he could put right with a disclaimer but won't.

David said...

Update: Peter Tatchell's measured response in The Spectator is here:

Mark, you might like to link to it more simply at the end of your piece.

Sorry if clicking means giving the beleaguered magazine more support...