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.