There’s been no shortage of reaction over Lord John Browne‘s gay affair-induced resignation from British Petroleum. While some people have expressed muted outrage over his so-called “deceit”, a number of journos have come out in support of Browne, insisting he’s a victim. By threatening to publish an interview with Browne’s former love, The Mail on Sunday ventured into uncharted, unjust territory.
Never one to miss a good scandal, gay activist and potential politician Peter Tatchell has penned a Guardian editorial on the matter. Though Tatchell doesn’t approve of Browne’s decision to stay in the closet – “Staying forever in the closet is not a morally clean decision” – he derides The Mail’s nefarious approach to Browne’s personal life:
Having said all this, there was no demonstrable public interest grounds for the Mail on Sunday – or any other media – outing Lord Browne. He wasn’t being hypocritical or homophobic. If he was denouncing gay people or advocating anti-gay laws – or if he had authorised the hounding of BPs’ gay employees – that would be a justifiable reason to expose his double standards.
He may have shown moral weakness by not coming out, but hiding in the closet – however lamentable – is not ethically of the same order as endorsing homophobic prejudice and discrimination.
Quite right. Tatchell’s also correct when he points out that Browne true “crime” isn’t keeping a boy toy, but that he lied about how the two met – a minor detail in the grand scheme of things. A minor detail, yes, but a major part of Browne’s sexual psychology.
Writing for The Times, Michael Parris also defends Browne’s decision to stay in the closet:
Friends of mine in business tell me that we in the world of the media and politics, where attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted fast, do not realise as we page onward from news and comment, and into the business section, that we are moving into a different world, some of whose cultural values would shock us.
Men like John Browne have had the misfortune to rise to power and prominence during a time of transition. Their careers straddle two eras. When he was young man, just starting, there is no way he would have made it to the top as an openly gay junior executive. The choice was between celibacy and a discretion bordering on deception.
By the time the gay tide began to change, Browne had already established himself, thus making a coming out even more difficult – and potentially damaging.
Parris goes on to blast the media for turning Browne’s resignation into a moral insult. The story amounts to nothing more than gossip – gossip The Mail and others have attempted – and succeeded – turn into an ink-spilling scandal:
Whatever the press may claim, there is no scandal here, and suggestions that Lord Browne may have described a dinner with the Prime Minister or a discussion with Peter Mandelson strike me as pathetic attempts to attach a public interest tag to what is really just a juicy bit of tittle-tattle. I would defend to the death the media’s right to talk about the private lives of semi-public figures; what disgusts me is the pretence of high-mindedness. It is Lord Browne himself, whose immediate resignation yesterday afternoon was in the interests of his company alone and cost him a vast sum personally, who comes honourably out of this.
He’s definitely got a point. As Browne said yesterday, his resignation’s for the good of the company, not a publicist-endorsed effort to save gay face.
Scandal or not, it certainly makes a compelling story. We admit, though, we a bit bad for Browne. He’s so sweet looking. But, on the plus side, now he’s free to tell his own story. No doubt we’ll read anything he writes. So, Browne, get on it – we need a good beach read!