I listened to Peter Hitchens’ piece on Stigma yesterday evening on the wireless. You’ll be able to get the full blast on iPlayer for the next few days.
He was arguing that, whilst we often pretend that our society has moved beyond stigma as a controlling force, it is actually alive and well – in a new and disturbing form.
Stimga itself, he suggested, has become stigmatised.
Postulating critical or even questioning views on the situations and lifestyle choices of others is now beyond the pale.
Try and share any kind of non-majority opinion about the way someone else lives, and prepare to be hounded by the Twitterati and Arsebookers with their digital pitchforks and burning e-torches.
It made me wonder about the film we’ve just done for Stonewall, the LGB charity (www.NoBystanders.org.uk).
It launched last Friday at the Stonewall 25th anniversary dinner – and has subsequently been shared (a lot) online.
Übertweeters Caitlin Moran, Stephen Fry, Danii Minogue, Clare Balding, Dame Penelope Keith and countless millions of others have supported, much to our – and Stonewall’s – delight. The elusive Zeitgeist seems to be with us, for a change.
The idea behind it, on the eve of the first actual gay marriages, was to make two points:
Firstly, even in our apparently permissive society, gay people are still routinely teased, bullied and discriminated against in schools, in workplaces and in public areas, up and down the country.
Secondly, the roots of homophobic bullying are similar to bullying levelled against any kind of separately identifiable group (Jews, Blacks, Honkeys, Fatsos, Gingernuts, Spakkas etc.).
We’ve been talking to Stonewall about beginning to move beyond the core constituency of gay people they represent, and the liberal intellectuals who support their objectives through an innate sense of socially progressive conviction.
With the big legislative battles more or less won, theoretical equality is sorted.
Now they need to find a way to engage with more socially conservative audiences, who probably still represent an overwhelming majority in the UK, even if they have been cowed into the state of seething, non-PC silence that P. Hitchens outlines.
In this case, it seemed we might be able to forge a bond of togetherness by talking about humans in general, rather than humans in particular: How we tend to define ourselves and our groups not by who we are, but by who we’re not.
My enemy’s enemy is my friend – as the old maxim goes.
Our little film begins in the playground, a place where even the most confident have felt the odd-pang of vulnerability as they suddenly find themselves on the outside of the group, rather than the in. For some, it’s the start of a life-time of alienation and abuse.
It attempts to recognise that gay people are not the only individuals who are marginalised because of things about which they can do little or nothing.
So are we just bullying people ourselves?
Foisting our liberal values on the poor traditionalists who cling to their view of the world as it was bequeathed to them by their forefathers?
Certainly one man seems to think so.
A brave lone voice in the relentless digital agreement-fest stands out. Here’s one of his (many) contributions:
I truly believe no one at Stonewall wants to force their “perverted” way of life onto this dude. Nor do I.
We were only trying to see if non-gay people were as against bullying as gay people are. And whether we could forge a huge “alliance of the different” to challenge some of the worst excesses of human nature, that we all share.
Surely there are some things on which we can all agree to agree?
It makes me regret we didn’t include “Bigot” as one of the insults.
And to try and get Mr. Russell to realise he’s just like the rest of us – and welcome him to join us.
On the inside of the tent, pissing outwards.