You know and I know that today's Express front page
is pretty unpleasant. The headline itself is misleading - it's not just 'asylum if you're gay' but then you knew that already - but it's the story below that turns something with a whiff of prejudice into something deeply nasty.
Home secretary Theresa May, a Conservative, yesterday welcomed the decision not to deport gay asylum seekers back to a life of suffering prejudice and abuse. (Most decent human beings welcome it too - though it makes New Labour look as illiberal as, well, New Labour really were, I suppose; in their rush to placate stinking tabloids like the Express and look tough on immigration, they forgot about actually caring about other human beings.) So the Express don't want to quote her directly - they want to find a Tory who disagrees.
When you need someone to slag off immigration and there's a deadline looming, who you gonna call? Philip Davies!
Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “It’s a dangerous game to play to go down this line because it’s quite feasible that this could offer an ideal line of defence for someone who wants to try to avoid being kicked out of the country, whether it is true or not that they are gay."
What should we have then? Gay tests? Or should we just send these refugees back to a life of misery and hatred, just in case someone might be pretending to be gay? Hey, what does it matter if people are sent back, eh?
One of the men in the case – known only as applicant “T” – had appealed against a decision that he had to return to Cameroon, where gays can be jailed for up to five years and where he had been attacked by a mob after he was seen kissing a male partner. Applicant “J” had been told he should behave discreetly in Iran, where homosexual acts can be punished with public flogging or execution.
Flogging, jail, execution? Pah! We might let a few more brown people in the country - horrors!
Oh and of course, MigrationWatch are involved. Every time there's any story about anyone doing anything remotely humanitarian towards people who face awful situations back in their homelands and who have ventured many thousands of miles to escape the hatred, up pops MigrationWatch to blow a gasket and go "wurrrrgh forrins!" - and here they are:
MigrationWatchUK chairman Sir Andrew Green warned: “This could lead to a potentially massive expansion of asylum claims as it could apply to literally millions around the world.
“An applicant has now only to show that he [or she] is homosexual and intends to return and live openly in one of the many countries where it is illegal, to be granted asylum in the UK. The judges are no doubt interpreting the letter of the international convention correctly but the consequences are potentially huge.
“The principle of asylum is, rightly, widely supported but it should be a matter of domestic law. It is high time that we reviewed our adherence to an international convention drawn up nearly 60 years ago in entirely different circumstances.”
He 'warned'. No he didn't. He came out with the same rubbish as ever, justifying sending people back to a life of torture and despair if it saves us having a couple more foreigners in our beloved ruddy country. So there might be millions more applicants - really? Or not? Because it's not, as Andrew Green says, a case of simply proving you're from a country where homosexuality is illegal - you have to prove you yourself are at risk of jail, torture or execution. That was the case with the two men allowed to remain in Britain yesterday. To assume that everyone from any country would be simply waved through is to assume a lot of things - or, you could speculate, to try and misrepresent a perfectly reasonable situation to stoke up fear against immigrants.
You have to see the Express's front page in context. They've come out with thinly veiled racism and xenophobia so many times now it's hard to know where to begin - and even this week there was a load of garbage about swimming pools being apparently forced to black out their windows 'because of Muslims' - but it was rubbish. Today's story isn't just some accidentally bad bit of reporting - it's deliberately bad. They aren't smart enough to try and provoke a reaction that garners them publicity for their paper by doing this; but they are dumb enough to think they can get away with thinly-veiled drivel like this... because they get away with it pretty much every day. Why bother doing it properly when you just get away with it all the time? Why bother being fair? Why bother at all?
But then you might ask why bother getting angry about it. "It's just the Express," people often say to me. "Everyone knows it's rubbish, why do you bother writing about it?" Well, I get angry because I can't not get angry. It's worth bothering to get angry because every single person who protests about crud like this is a little victory against this kind of scum-sucking filth polluting the national papers. It taints the press as a whole, not just the Express, with the stain of prejudice and can't-be-bothered non-journalism. Sure, we can't change anything - we can't make the PCC do anything, because it's not set up to do anything - but maybe that's not the point. Maybe that's not the point, at all.
Media commentators belittle moments when the general public get annoyed with their masters in the papers. Oh look, they say. People got wound up by something silly what a columnist done - look at the horrible sheep all trying to censor the freedom of our beloved Her Majesty's Press. Except that isn't the case at all. It's legitimate to protest, to criticise, to demand better standards, especially in a free market where people can choose to buy or not to buy - and to advertise or not to advertise. What do Express advertisers think of having their products next to borderline racism and nastiness on a daily basis? Do they care? Should they care? Does it matter? It's a good thing to get angry when people bend the truth, distort reality and lazily trot out the same old faces time and time again to fit a narrative of - for example - immigration is out of control. That's not censorship, that's freedom to get angry.
And so I demand my right to get angry with the Express. Lazy, bad journalism, wheeling out the same tedious rentaquotes to back up the immigration scare story, misrepresenting the facts just to provoke a reaction. It's rubbish, and it's not wrong to call it out as rubbish.