Comment: There is a real climate of hysteria

Richard Smith November 9, 2012
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In a comment piece for, Richard Smith says David Cameron’s remarks about the risk of a potential “witch-hunt” developing against gay people in regards to the current abuse scandal have been taken out of context.

This is the most awkward, embarrassing and shameful thing I’ve ever written.

For I am now, for my sins, going to defend David Cameron.

There are so many reasons to hate Cameron – far too many to list, the evil Tory bastard – so it is beyond bizarre that certain gay men have been getting agitated about something that he didn’t really say and that he clearly didn’t mean.

The much-repeated lines about a “gay witch-hunt”, or a “witch-hunt against gay men”, instantly became buzz phrases, from the tabloids to BBC News.

On the Twittersphere this was often presented as him having equated homosexuality and paedophilia.

But these are distortions and misunderstandings of what he actually said.

He said: “There is a danger that this could turn into a witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay.”

Sorry, but if you think that’s homophobic, you’ve lost me.

It is beyond irony that this has now turned into a witch-hunt itself.

On This Morning yesterday, Philip Schofield said that he had compiled a list of alleged Tory paedophiles after spending “three minutes” on the internet.

This is so staggering I’ll write it again – he spent three whole minutes looking up names on the internet!

And this is your actual serious research?

And good journalistic practice?

It’s hardly Pulitzer Prize-winning Watergate-style investigative journalism, is it?

If I post a lie about you on the internet does that make it true?

So Elvis Presley lives on the Moon, and the Queen’s a shape-changing lizard?

Would any of this hold up in a court of law?

Of course not, that’s why we have police investigations and jury trials, not trial by Twitter and sensationalist tabloid TV.

There has been an avalanche of often hysterical tweets in the last 24 hours claiming Cameron’s comments show that he is a secret homophobe who was inferring all gay men were paedophiles.

He didn’t – and it is a sign of a highly depoliticised culture that some rush to cry “homophobia!” where there isn’t any.

If anyone’s tried to make that connection recently it’s been Tom Watson MP.

A man whose increasing vanity and love of conspiracy theories seems to have now given him a somewhat cavalier disregard for facts, and a faith in apparent fantasists which may end up undermining all his good work over Hackgate (now there’s a conspiracy theory waiting to happen).

It’s safe to assume that the Tories named/libelled on the Schofield list were mostly, if not all, gay men.

According to the internet, Schofield’s trusted resource, any gay Tory MP – in or out – was involved in some “secret paedophile ring”.

Cause that’s what gay men do.

We all rape young boys, right?

It’s appalling that some commentators on the left, some of whom really should know better, uncritically collude in all this as a way of petty party political point scoring.

Never mind the policies, feel my manufactured outrage…

Word to the wise: We won’t defeat the Tories with silly schoolboy sniggers and smears about the supposed sexual habits of gay Conservatives.

Though wrong on so much else, David Cameron is right on this: There is a real climate of hysteria at the moment, a moral panic and an insane witch-hunt, which will most likely turn against gay men, as these things invariably do, and we risk losing sight of the actual victims.

There is a very real problem of victims of child abuse not being believed, and this is hindered not helped if people blindly subscribe to internet gossip that is beyond belief.

Homophobia often really resides with people who advance vacuous, tired and unsubstantiated anti-gay fictions, and not with people who challenge them.

Again, there are so many reasons to hate David Cameron, but, please, this ridiculous Salem sideshow is not one of them.

Richard Smith is a freelance writer. He blogs about gay men politics and the media at

Richard is giving a talk, The Queen Is Dead: How Pop Came Out In the 80s (Then Went Back In Again), at the Bishopsgate Institute, London, on Wednesday 28 November.

The views expressed in this article are privately held are not those of

More: David Cameron, England, ITV, MPs, Phillip Schofield, This Morning, tories, witch-hunt

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