Let’s relive the moment last night when Newsnight rather bewilderingly asked a straight man on to discuss a ‘homophobic tweet’. The discussion is asinine, with both Wark and Cohen resorting to hypothetical ‘gay sons’ to try and compensate for their lack of insight into this issue. The most staggering moment comes towards the end when Cohen offers this gem:
bearing in mind we have come a long way, you know, 20 years ago there was, it was racism…and it’s taken that next generation to drive a cultural change…so, you know, homophobia is where racism was 20 years ago.
So we not only have a straight bloke on speaking about homophobia, we now have a white bloke speaking about racism. And speaking about it in a spectacularly stupid and offensive manner. ‘Homophobia is where racism was 20 years ago’. What does that even mean?! The (barely) implicit message is that racism is sorted now, a staggering assertion in any context but especially so when made on a current affairs show barely a week after the Duggan verdict. Furthermore the suggestion that being gay in the UK in 2014 is comparable to being black in the UK in 1994 is breathtaking. Lest we forget, 1993 saw the murder of Stephen Lawrence and an ensuing series of events which led to the Macpherson Report and the police being labelled ‘institutionally racist’. It clearly remains so and constitutes just one aspect of our deep problem of racism. The idea that I as a white gay man face a similar reality is just wrong and adds absolutely nothing to efforts against homophobia. If anything, it cheapens them.
Cohen, of course, was on largely to advertise his ‘anti-bullying’ charity and while his heart may be in the right place this organisation hasn’t exactly done much to date. This has proven to be largely irrelevant however, with Cohen being lauded as some kind of latter-day Saint by significant elements of the gay community and using this as a launchpad for a range of merchandise which is heavily promoted to a gay audience. We still have absolutely no idea as to whether Cohen personally profits from this merchandise: all we are told is that ‘every purchase benefits’ the Foundation. Given the involvement of companies with atrocious human rights records like Nike and the statement of StandUp’s Chief Exec that “More than 15 percent of every dollar we took in for the StandUp brand went to support Foundation work”, there’s clearly a lot of unaccounted money sloshing around.
Asking these questions, however, requires some actual journalism and who can be bothered with that when there’s a fit man stripping down to his pants? And so we end up with this absurd, counter-productive spokesperson on Newsnight.