Magazine article The Spectator

Niall Ferguson Shouldn't Have Apologised for His Comments about Keynes

Magazine article The Spectator

Niall Ferguson Shouldn't Have Apologised for His Comments about Keynes

Article excerpt

Is it homophobic to argue that it's mainly gay men who keep the flame of popular culture alive? If so, then Simon Napier Bell has some grovelling to do. Napier Bell, as I'm sure you all know, is the rock impresario who has managed everyone from the Yardbirds to Wham! , and who a few years ago wrote an excellent book on the music business called Black Vinyl, White Powder.

At least I thought it was excellent at the time. What I realise with hindsight, though, is that the book was in fact deeply offensive in its reductive and stereotypical view of homosexual behaviour. It argued that gay men - unburdened by the shackles of responsibility that come with parenthood - tend to go on clubbing for years, even decades, after their heterosexual contemporaries have given it up. This means, contended Napier Bell, that gay men serve at least two vital functions in the development of popular music: on the one hand as insatiable novelty seekers who keep it fresh;

on the other as guardians of the old traditions, ensuring that even as music changes it remains rooted in its past.

It's a fascinating theory but obviously he should never have advanced it. What about all the gays who always preferred opera to banging house? What about all the gays who adopted children and settled down to the clubbing-free lives that heterosexual families lead? What about all the gays who are lightweights and realise from the age of 22 that drugs and late nights simply don't agree with them? What about gays with Alzheimer's who don't remember what music was like last week, let alone last decade?

I'm sure we can all add our own damning 'what abouts?' to this list, proving once and for all that gay men have nothing in common with one another whatsoever, and still less in common with: camp; Judy Garland;

Tom of Finland; hedonism; childlessness;

bottoms; clubbing; pink; infuriatingly loud drumming sessions outside theatres. Then, with luck, we'll manage to screw an apology out of Napier Bell in the same way that various gay rights activists managed to screw an apology out of Niall Ferguson for his outrageous and reductive and insulting suggestion that Keynes's economic theories may have been motivated, in part, by the fact that he was a homosexual and childless.

I don't think there's much doubt about Keynes's latent gayness: not without reason was he known as the 'Queen of King's'. And I'm not really sure that the fact that he later married and attempted (unsuccessfully) to have children proves anything very much.

Unless, of course, you're a modern, professional-offence-taking gay activist, in which case it's the final clincher in your compelling argument that Ferguson is totally evil and really should lose his Lawrence A. Tisch professorship at Harvard right this second for - as one angry commentator put it - taking 'gay-bashing to new heights'.

New heights? Really? …

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