Socialist Worker

David Morley: who bred homophobic hate?

The death of David Morley has highlighted the rise in homophobic attacks. Noel Halifax asks what is responsible

Issue No. 1927

The dreadful killing of David Morley in London has brought to attention the continuing prevalence of homophobia.

Figures show an increase in the number of reported anti-gay attacks, which parallels a similar rise in racist assaults over the last two years. What’s behind homophobia in society?

There were strenuous efforts by sections of the media to link the killing of David Morley to the lyrics of some Jamaican reggae singers.

Some on the left also seem to believe that homophobic reggae songs are one of the main reasons for such hate attacks, and have called for the banning and prosecution of some reggae singers for incitement to murder.

The attack on David Morley was particularly tragic, as he had been a barman at the Admiral Duncan pub when it was bombed by a BNP supporter five years ago.

Politicians and the press of all stripes said the virulent homophobia motivating the bombing must be stamped out once and for all. But it seems David survived only to be attacked just because he was gay.

However, it simply won’t do to claim reggae is the main source of this hate.

Don’t get me wrong – I think the songs by the likes of Sizzla and the small minority of other anti-gay reggae musicians are dreadful. They should be condemned and campaigned against.

We need initiatives that can appeal to those who follow the genre to oppose homophobia as strongly as they oppose racism.

But isn’t it odd that the authorities are only acting against homophobic reggae songs and not against far more influential figures?

Has Richard Littlejohn, who spews out anti-gay bile in the best selling newspaper in Britain, been investigated by the Crown Prosecution Service?

What about the evangelical bishops in the Church of England, whose counterparts in the US are trying to roll back any semblance of gay rights with the blessing of George Bush’s neo-conservatives? Has the Pope had his speeches on gays banned?

Where, in other words, does homophobia come from?

I don’t think the answer to this question is the island of Jamaica. The source is good old fashioned family values and their promotion, so that being gay is seen as a challenge to the naturalness of monogamous heterosexuality.

The anti-gay reggae stars are simply one reflection of the homophobia of Jamaican society.

And Jamaican homophobia is not unique. It is to do with the teachings of its evangelical churches, and with the disintegration of the family unit in the slums and the resulting macho posing of the desperate.

And despite the increase in reported attacks, when you think of the past, it’s clear that homophobia is neither new nor growing to historic levels.

In the 1980s, 80 percent of people polled thought that lesbians and gays ought not be allowed to teach.

At one point it was reported that hate killings of gays were running at two a week.

There has been a noticeable and dramatic sea change in opinion since then, thanks in no small measure to mass campaigning by gays and the left.

Most people today are horrified by hate killing of gays and support gay rights of one sort or another.

In other words the 30 years of campaigning, arguing and marching has had an affect. It has been an argument that has not always been easy, but there have been gains.

It may be just pure commercial cynicism on their part but some of the reggae singers have apologised, which is more than can be said for the mainstream homophobes.

The most powerful promoters of homophobia remain most of the churches, the moral crusaders of the right and mainstream publications such as the Express, the Mail, the Sun, the News of the World, etc.

I do not know the musical tastes of the killers of David Morley but the background homophobia of large sections of the media surely had more influence.

I am sure that the white supremacist who bombed the Admiral Duncan listened to very little reggae.

Homophobia is a nasty, divisive and pernicious set of ideas promoted by large sections of the establishment.

We need to continue to argue against it whenever it rears its head.

And we need to continue to seek the kind of united movement against oppression that characterised the response to the bombings of the Admiral Duncan, black Brixton and Asian Brick Lane five years ago.

Noel Halifax has been campaigning for gay rights since the early 1970s.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sat 13 Nov 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1927
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.