The Daily Mail has embarked on a witch hunt of “evil cybernats”. It’s the same old story from a publication which panders to the basest instincts of the uneducated and the willfully misinformed, it’s only the target which has changed.
Back in the early 1980s, during the Aids hysteria, an acquaintance was outed by a newspaper. It was one of the usual suspects given to demonising innocent and powerless members of the public, either the Daily Mail or the Express, I can’t remember which now. His ‘crime’ was to organise private parties for gay men, and his punishment was to have his personal details and photo plastered all over a gutter rag, describing him as a sleazy pervert.
He wasn’t out as gay to his work or his family, this was the early 80s after all. The newspaper report caused him to lose his job and estranged him from many of his relatives. He struggled to keep up with his mortgage payments and almost lost his home.
My friend was not involved in anything that would raise an eyebrow these days – nor even back then if you were a normal human being instead of a tabloid rag. He did not organise sex parties, just quiet and very douce gatherings where gay men could meet up and chat in an era when there were few public spaces available and many gay people were suffering dreadful social isolation. Most of us, myself included in those days, were not out as gay to our families, straight friends or work colleagues. We had few opportunities to meet other gay folk.
Even though the events were strictly sex-free zones, my friend rigorously enforced an age bar and refused to allow anyone under the age of 21 – then the legal age of consent – to attend. But the law in those days permitted gay sex only in private, and ‘private’ was legally defined as no more than two persons being present on the premises. Any gathering of more than two gay men, for whatever purpose, was a target for tabloid purience.
When the tabloids see you as a vile and disgusting sex-beast, any gathering becomes a ‘perverted sex orgy’ even when the most orgiastic thing that happens is cooing over how delicious the home baked cakes are, and if you were lucky swapping contact details for later and more intimate meetings.
My friend had the misfortune to live in a day when gay people were one of the tabloids’ favourite bogeymen. According to the Sun and the Mail, we were all part of an international conspiracy to destroy the family and spread disease. Their current demonisation of the mythical cybernat conspiracy is very much in the same diseased and deformed mould.
That wasn’t something any of us expected to change back when gay people were seen by the tabloids as the number one threat to public health and morality. You had to learn to ignore the insults, the slander, the threats and the oppression, but it took a toll and eventually something snapped inside me.
One day I woke up and thought “fuck this for a gemme o sodgies” and resolved to tell my family and friends the truth. It wasn’t easy back in the 1980s in a working class part of Glasgow and a deeply Catholic family, but it was the best decision I ever made. And I wasn’t the only gay man or lesbian making that decision. The closet doors were popping open across the land. We weren’t going to stand for it any more. 30 years later the gay rights campaign has won all the legal arguments, and legal discrimination is a thing of the past.
Yet here were are 30 years on and the tabloids have found a new target. Now it’s independence supporters who are part of an imaginary conspiracy to destroy all that is Great and British. In 1980 I never imagined that one day it would not be permissible to insult and threaten me for being gay, but perfectly acceptable to insult and threaten me for being Scottish. That’s what happens when a minority get “uppity”, and currently from the perspective of the London media bubble, Scots are very uppity indeed.
The lesson I learned was that you can only be silenced when you collude with those who seek to oppress you. Fear lives only inside your own head. The tabloids seek to create fear and by targeting a few individuals hope to dissuade others from putting their heads above the parapet. But when you are out and proud, tabloid threats have no purchase – what are they going to do? Tell my mother I have sex with men? She already knows. It’s not me who is afraid, it’s the tabloids who seek to demonise. They are afraid of me.
Those who have been targeted by the tabloids for daring to express opinions in favour of independence need to realise that they are not the ones with cause to fear. The fear the tabloids seek to generate within you is a weapon you can use. Instead of provoking fear it provokes righteous anger, and that anger provides the energy to continue to fight against them. And you already know that you scare them.
When you live in the light you cannot be threatened by the darkness. The way to avoid the fear provoked by the tabloids and the media is to give them no purchase against you. If you haven’t already done so, tell everyone you know that you support independence, it’s not a shameful secret, it’s something to be proud of. Be out, be proud, live without fear. Then when some sleazy tabloid reporter doorsteps your neighbours or your colleagues and tells them you are an evil cybernat who says nasty things about Unionist politicians they will reply, “So what?”
Gay people have largely won their struggle for equality, despite forming only a small minority of the population. Independence supporters make up a far far larger proportion of the Scottish population. This is a struggle we are not going to lose unless we collude with the Daily Mail. That’s not going to happen. Just like the late 1980s when closet doors burst open and gay men and lesbians refused to live in silence, the independence closet is well and truly open and Scots are going through it in droves – out into the light.
This uppity Scot has every intention of continuing to be uppity, and I’ll keep doing what I can in my own small way to get it up Westminster politicians and their lackeys in the press some more. I won’t be alone. Cybernat conspiracy my arse, it’s the anger of righteous indignation.