Thursday, January 24, 2008

Scott Mills worries the BBC Press Officer

The dormant row over Chris Moyles' use of the word 'gay' in a modern, ironic slang sense has been reopened by Scott Mills in a Guardian interview. The questions about his role as an out dj on the network led, inevitably, to the question of Moyles' clumsy use of the word:

You're friends with Chris Moyles. How do you feel about him being accused of homophobia?

It's ridiculous. Chris is one of the least homophobic people I've met. That "gay" thing [when Moyles used the word "gay" to mean "rubbish"] was an off-the-cuff remark and I didn't find it in the least bit offensive. I know, having spoken to him, he was quite mortified that people would think he was homophobic.

But you were involved in an anti-bullying campaign where you said that to use "gay" as an insult was ...

Yes, but I think on Chris's show it was meant as a joke thing. I've spoken to him and I don't think he would -

BBC press officer: I don't think we want to go into this. It wasn't offensive to you ...

Aha. So you need a press officer on hand to tell you what was and wasn't offensive to you, eh, Scott?
Not to me. I can understand that people would have been offended by it, but I wasn't. That may be because I know him, though.

Was the BBC wrong to back Moyles?

BBC press officer: I'm not sure he can really comment ...

I don't really want to say. I don't really have an opinion.

... at least, the press officer tells me that. How can you not have an opinion, Scott? How come a minute ago you were defending him and then, when asked if the BBC was right to do so, you suddenly don't have an opinion?

The answer, of course, is because while Moyles is merely clumsy and ill-judged what was acceptable, Mills should know better, but doesn't. As his next answer shows:
I think it's been blown out of proportion. Some people even think I'm homophobic. I'll say things and think it's fine, but it sometimes offends people. I'll write back, saying, "Actually, I am gay" and they'll go, "Oh, right, sorry to bother you." Maybe because I'm so comfortable with it, some things I say could be construed as being homophobic but obviously I don't mean that.

Aha. I'm gay, so I can't be homophobic. But if people who complain don't realise you're gay then how can could "I'm allowed to say it, I'm on the team" be an excuse? Mills has chosen to be out in a soft way "not a gay ambassador" - which is fine, his choice and all that - but if you're going to use being gay as an excuse for being homophobic, you'd better bloody make sure people know where you're speaking from.

Because what about the people who feel outraged and don't complain? And what about the people who hear you say those things, don't know you're gay, and agree with you?

Indeed, whether you're gay or not, you shouldn't be spewing homophobia on the radio.

Because what about the people who hear you, know you're gay and feel vindicated in their attitudes - because if a gay bloke's saying it about gay blokes, it can't be wrong, can it?

Is Mills unaware of the concept of the self-hating Jew? Is he happy being an Unmarried Uncle Tom? Doesn't he think that being gay, and broadcasting things that people take to be homophobic, makes it worse, not better.

[Gareth McClean has blogged about this over on the Guardian site, too.]


9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm divided on this...

On one hand--while I'm not aware of the sorts of things Mills is referring to that get him complaints--there is an irritating trend in the gay community to lecture individuals for not being suitably palatable for straight audiences. I find it obnoxious that if one isn't a veritable saint, one can be accused of "perpetuating negative stereotypes."

On the other hand, as you point out, it's possible to be a member of a minority and still side with the dominant cultural paradigm to the detriment of oneself and one's group. For every ten instances I've seen/heard of a fellow queer reacting with displeasure toward heterosexual usage of "gay" as a pejorative, there's always at least one self-defining gay individual who argues that it's not a problem, and of course the straight speaker then latches on to him as Spokesperson For The Gay Community. It's all very curious and I'm not sure yet what to think.

Having the lawyer, I mean press officer, on hand is kind of bizarre. Is this standard BBC policy for interviews of their employees?

Anonymous said...

I honestly did'nt know that Scott Mills was gay, I've heard his show quite a few times and theres been some inudendo towards him, I did not realise he was actually out.

Jack said...

Rachel, yeah it is standard policy for the BBC to have a "minder" in interviews. It was referred to in an interview in MediaGuardian the other week with Justin Webb because the reporter was surprised that he didn't have one. I suspect this will be one of the rare times when they've spoken out though, because I'm sure it would always be referred to (certainly by the Guardian) if it happened.

Chris said...

As cack-handed and over-bearing as the BBC press department appear to be they do appear to have scored one major victory. Over a year later people are still clearly swallowing the lie that Moyles was using "gay" to mean "rubbish".

Olive said...

Isn't it kind of ironic that someone who makes his living by broadcasting live to the nation needs a minder so that he doesn't say something embaressing/actionable in a newspaper interview?

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Olive - now you mention it, having listened to some of Mills' shows, they really could benefit from someone there to say "you probably don't want to say that, young man..." - and quite often, too.

Anonymous said...

I listen to Scott Mills show everyday and have never taken anything he says to be homophobic.

I think this whole debate shows how PC everything has become and it really is taking things too far. Someone can say one thing and it can be taken a thousand different ways by a thousnd different people, so you can never win with everyone and that's the joys of living in a culture of free speech. Life would be very dull if we all thought the same way and said the same things.

People in the public eye can have their comments scrutinised and twisted so easily (as with this interview)and I'm sure that's the reason why the BBC always provide a press officer when their staff give interviews.

Also, certain words are used to describe a group of people and one minute it's perfectly acceptable, then the next minute it's offensive. For example, the use of words such as spastic, disabled or retarded.

Some people have nothing better to do with their time than scrutinise what people say so that they can put a negative slant on it.

Anonymous said...

Also, certain words are used to describe a group of people and one minute it's perfectly acceptable, then the next minute it's offensive.

Yes, it's so annoying when minorities start demanding to not be referred to in overgeneralizing and pejorative slurs. Oh for the good old days.

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