Mediawatch: Death by Apathy


October 1988
Issue 9

"Death by Apathy" screamed the banner heading in Magill (September) magazine. Not an­other death by hysteria I thought to myself on viewing the two and a half page article by Patsy McGarry on percep­tions within the AIDS commu­nity that "Irish people have de­veloped a major ostrich com­plex in relation to AIDS".

Could you blame someone for having such a complex when fed a diet of horror photographs and occasionally selective journalism? Words like "victims" and "deadly virus" appeared in the article: a deceitful and irrespon­sible touch by either the jour­nalist or sub-editor.

That said, McGarry's inter­view of a 27 year old gay man with full blown AIDS made for powerful reading and should be read by everyone. I congratulate McGarry who should have a word with the silly sub-editor responsible for the lousy intro­duction.

AIDS-related issues generally dominated the month's newspa­pers. The Evening Press (14 September) carried a piece on the free needle exchange for 200 drug users in New York city. I presume it was lifted from the wire services but found it well written and informative all the same.

Mr. Nicholas Kearns, Secre­tary of the AIDS Fund, was quoted in the Irish Times on the same day, urging a reform of the Unfair Dismissals Act and Equality Acts to prevent dis­crimination against HIV+ indi­viduals in the workplace. Ireland has yet to move on the EC communique of February 1987 which urged Government action in relation to equal access to employment for healthy AIDS suffers and HIV+ people.

From the sublime to the ridiculous...

The Evening Press (16 September) filed a story from New York on Michael Jackson's reluctance about kissing the Blarney Stone, during his recent Irish visit, as he was afraid of getting "AIDS or something worse". Did it ever occur to Michael Jackson or his man­agement that we wouldn't wish him to kiss the stone in the first place for fear of a deadly virus being passed onto the general public of this country? The virus in question being stu­pidity and ignorance. There's enough of it about already and it takes enormous patience to deal with this particular strain.

In the same paper on 21st September, the reporter Aindreas McEntee brought us a story about plans at University Col­lege Dublin to culture the "AIDS virus" at University College Dublin. Finance for the project will come from the AIDS fund. The article was culled from Irish Medical News which quoted Dr. Irene Hillary of UCD and didn't use terminology like the one used above by the Press. McEn­tee will you ever get it right?

Original Article:

"Jacko's AIDS fears no Blarney"

From Ray O'Hanlon in New York. "SUPERSTAR Michael Jackson was very impressed on his recent visit to Ireland but the attractions of the Blarney stone were not for him, it seems.Top rock music magazine. Rolling Stone, claims that the 30 year old singer refused to kiss the stone because he was afraid of getting AIDS. “No way am I going to kiss that. I might get AIDS or something worse”, Jackson is quoted as saying in the current issue of the magazine.The fact that Jackson apparently spurned the gift of the gab is unlikely to deter the thousands of Americans who kiss the stone every year."

Keith Manning of the Evening Press (17 September) delved into the latest book on the legendary Laurence of Arabia (T.E. Laurence). The book is "A Touch of Genius" by Malcolm Brown and Julia Cave. Manning also quoted from other sources without clearly distinguishing between other authors' contribu­tions and his own. He was how­ever clear in reporting the non­ sense of a certain J.E. Mack, "a distinguished American psychiatrist” who suggested that "Laurence's desire to be beaten was merely a form of penance to exorcise his guilt obsession"(i.e. homosexuality). The venerable doctor was refer­ring to the allegation that Lau­rence paid someone to flog him as a form of sexual gratifica­tion. Did it strike Dr. Mack that any possible guilt of Laurence's was probably due in the first place to psychiatry's own ob­sessive interference with our sexual orientation? I'm always amazed at a journalist's willing­ness to write this sort of shit without any editorialising or further analysis.

The "Lord Mayor's Interview" in Hot Press (see GCN, Issue 8) and subsequent rantings in The Irish Times continued to get mileage during September with various letters in the latter pa­per (see especially Dermot Moore's response of 15th September). The whole furore also prompted Hot Press (22nd September/dated 6th October) to serialise an "Investigation into gay life in Ireland”. This first part included a good editorial and the highlight of the feature, an interesting and well-written piece by Kevin Barrington on Senator David Norris and the Constitutional Action.

Joe Jackson's travels on the gay commercial social scene (i.e. bars and dance clubs) was quite "superficial and sweet", to quote from the article itself. I'll reserve my critique until the se­ries has ended. One little note to my gay brothers and sisters who sniff 'poppers' (amyl ni­trite) while dancing. Beware of the policy at SIDES Dance Club as revealed by Manager Kate: ”I don't want it here".

The Irish Press (23rd Septem­ber) carried a small news item on the adjournment of Fr. Bernard Lynch's court case in New York. The Irish Press is the only newspaper from this island covering the hearing into al­leged sexual abuse of teenagers by Fr. Lynch.

Back to AIDS, the Irish Times (26th September) reported that a "six year old AIDS victim" travelled to the Vatican to at­tend the beatification of an 18th century missionary and pray for a miracle cure. Brendan O'Rourke, the individual con­cerned, would have been better off praying for a change in the Hierarchy's hypocrisy towards gay people; for a miracle cure to the Church's oppression of gay people. Because there's no denying that the Church has singularly worked to keep us low down and oppressed. It's even killed us in the past and I've no doubt it still continues to kill us physically and emo­tionally by denying us our dig­nity as human beings.

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