Before I start this post I want to point out that while I am generally a Liberal Democrat supporter, I’ve never really been a fan of Mark Oaten’s at all. I and I was quite delighted when he pulled out of the leadership race earlier this week.
But I couldn’t give two hoots about what any politician gets up to in their private life. What Mark Oaten did may have been naive and indeed wrong, and particularly silly just weeks after he invited journalists into his home to show them how much of a family man he is. But what Oaten did is also perfectly human. And no doubt if you were to spend long enough raking in anybody’s bins you would find something potentially embarassing.
What I really dislike about this whole thing is the implication from some quarters that what Mark Oaten did was made worse by the fact that he was engaged in homosexual acts. And, indeed, the implication that now he has been a secret homosexual for all his life who has been leading a double life (because we all know that you can’t fancy both dudes and chicks, huh?! Because bisexuality “doesn’t really exist”; it’s just “being greedy”).
If it is indeed the case that Mark Oaten has been holding his nose while bringing up his family because he was actually homosexual, the saddest aspect of this all is the fact that — in this day and age — he still felt the need to hide his sexual preferences from our society. That’s the real scandal.
And the thing is, he’s probably right, because some of the comments I’ve seen have bordered on homophobia. Even reputable news organisations like Sky and the BBC were calling the prostitute a “rentboy”, which I reckon is roughly equivalent to calling a paedophile suspect a “kiddy fiddler” on the national news.
One post that I read last night from a Labour supporter (and Labour supporters are always the biggest cunts of them all when it comes to this sort of thing) basically amounted to “HAHA LOOK AT THOSE LIB DEMS HAVING SEX *snigger snigger*.” Hah, yeah, because it wasn’t very long ago when David Blunkett was embroiled in a sex scandal, was it? Yeah, that had corruption wrapped up in it and everything! And it involved not one but two families! Bonus points!
It turns out that the new ‘beta’ (read: we don’t know if this is okay so we’ll do it on a small scale then claim the glory if it turns out to be okay) podcast Guido and the Monkey is claiming this one as it was first out with the Mark Oaten revelations on Wednesday. Nice one. As Justin at Chicken Yoghurt, and many others have pointed out, it’s actually quite depressing. I like Guido’s and Recess Monkey’s blogs. But I wish they would stick with the jokes and jibes rather than this privacy-invading sub-tabloid tittle-tattle.
Some people used to think that it a failure of the British “blogosphere” that it had never claimed a “scalp” like they so often apparently do in America. Well, I thought it was actually something to be quite proud of. American blogs are, almost without exception, universally shit. Here in Britain we have enough gutter tabloid journalists who make careers out of claiming scalps. Does nobody else find it a tad hypocritical that bloggers go around looking for a scalp to take, but then jump up and down with rage whenever somebody loses their job because they are a blogger?
We don’t need bloggers trying their hardest to ape the tabloids, especially when the “scalps” that they’ve claimed are so lame. Because let’s face it. The British blogoshere’s scalps — all two of them, and that’s including Oaten which is being fucking kind because nobody gave a shit until the News of the World had it — have been lame scalps.
The first one was Dilpazier Aslam, a trainee journalist who might or might not have held anti-semitic views. Hardly earth-shattering. And the scalping was orchestrated by an American who spent most of his time criticising The Guardian anyway, so he followed his compatriots’ convention when he sniffed blood by banging on and on about it long after everybody else got bored of it, but to the point where The Guardian was forced to sack Aslam. For perhaps or perhaps not having anti-semitic views.
And now there is Oaten. As has been pointed out left, right and centre (okay, well maybe more just left and centre), it is pretty much a non-story. The only people who should be concerned about Oaten’s private life are those in Oaten’s private life, namely his family. And as several sensible bloggers have pointed out, I wouldn’t like to be Oaten’s children right now — they have to face the school playground in the morning.
That bloggers think this is something to be proud about shows that the blogosphere has come full circle. Blogging was initially humble, and I partially subscribed to the view that the blogosphere was particularly good representing views that were often sidelined by the mainstream media. Nowadays, some bloggers are so desperate to make a splash and claim a scalp that they are prepared to stoop to the very lowest levels, apeing tabloid newspapers by swarming around a scandal like a bunch of angry-for-no-reason wasps.
I’ve not heard Guido and the Monkey — normal people ain’t allowed to hear it yet, remember? — but the format seems quite familiar. It has been well worn by the mainstream media. You get somebody from the right, somebody from the left, pretend that’s balance and then have them both spend their whole time taking the piss out of the Lib Dems. Blogging is no longer an antidote to the mainstream media; it’s now desperate to act just like the mainstream media. The blogosphere is poorer for it.