Barred from “Outing” Campaigns, Ugandan Tabloids Turn To Gay-Baiting And Imaginative Conspiracy Theories
November 13th, 2010
Two weeks ago, Uganda’s High Court ordered a halt to the anti-gay vigilante campaign that was being waged by the tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. magazine by the same name). Even though that order only applied to Rolling Stone, it appears that other publications may have taken that order as a shot across the bow as another tabloid Onion (also no relation to the U.S. satirical newspaper by the same name) halted its own vigilante campaign as well. The tabloids have instead turned to more traditional forms of gay-baiting. While these latest examples aren’t as individually threatening to the country’s LGBT citizens, they nevertheless continue to feed into anti-gay fears and stereotypes, contributing to the overall deteriorating climate for sexual minorities overall.
A reader in Kampala sent us updates of two tabloid editions published over the weekend. Saturday Onion came out with a sort of a “girls gone wild” theme this weekend, with a story about an alleged “lesbian club” at Uganda’s prestigious Makerere University “for purely gals who hump fellow gals.”
The article isn’t just very salacious, it’s also obviously the product of an extremely active imagination. It repeats the widely-believed claim that the club’s sole purpose is to recruit unsuspecting young women into homosexuality. “These gals are said to be well equipped with training videos, manuals, magazines and audio CDs, which they use to orient the gals and equip them with the best techniques of sexual satisfying fellow women,” the unnamed “reporters” write. It describes a sexual position which allow them to “easily please each other as their yoyos tickle.”
The article closes with the oft-repeated rumor that the only reason homosexuality exists in Uganda is because of foreign influence. “These Lesbos are said to be financed by NGOs from the Netherlands, USA, Switzerland, Sweden, and are very loaded, so they can do anything they want anywhere.” But in typically careless fashion for Ugandan tabloids, the article abruptly ends mid-sentence before the writer could “smoke out some of these wicked gals and…”
I’m not much of a feminist theorist. I think this is probably about the first time the word “misogyny” has ever gone from my fingertips to the keyboard. But I will have to thank feminist theorists for the word as I cannot find any other to describe the contents of Saturday Onion. It is filled with insecurities over the mysteries of women’s sexuality. Another article purports to describe a hitherto unknown sexual technique called “kunyaz” or “Western Jazz,” which purportedly can bring a woman to orgasm within three to five minutes, a time frame undoubtedly chosen to set insecure straight men’s minds at ease.
Onion has another interesting report for those who follow the antics of Ugandan anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa. He has apparently acknowledged to the tabloid that “since he waged war on bum drillers, funds slipping into his church project have drastically dwindled.” Over the past year, several of Ssempa’s U.S. backers have publicly announced that they have dropped their financial support for Ssempa over his promotion of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. That bill, which at last report is still in committee in Parliament, would impose the death penalty on gay people under certain circumstances, and would throw relatives of gay people into prison for three years if they failed to report their loved ones to police. According to Onion, “Ssempa is very bitter about dime not flowing into his church anymore from the Netherlands and other countries like it used to.” Cue the violins.
Meanwhile, Rolling Stone, having been warned explicitly by High Court against outing gay individuals, is throwing its own little tantrum. In their latest issue, the tabloid features an utterly delusional front page story alleging that “Homo generals plotted Kampala terror attacks.” That article claims, “Bloodthirsty generals in the evil homosexuality world plotted the bloody bombing of Kyaddondo Rugby Grounds and Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kampala on July 11.”
That attack, which occurred while Kamapala residents were watching the World Cup finals on large television screens erected at the park, killed at least 64 people including one American. Al-Shabaab, the radical Somali Islamic insurgency group with ties to Al-Quaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. That attack, in essence, is Kampala’s own equivalent to the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.; the Madrid attacks of March 11, 2004; and the London attacks of July 7, 2007.
Rolling Stone’s farcical conspiracy theory hearkens to the Holocaust revisionism of American anti-gay activist Scott Lively, who claims that the Nazi movement was, at its core,an entirely homosexual movement, and that the inevitable result of equality for LGBT people would be the dictatorial imposition of violent fascism. At a talk that he gave in Kampala in March of 2009, Lively also blamed the 1994 Rwandan massacre on gay men.
We don’t know if the people behind Rolling Stone attended that talk or are otherwise familiar with Lively’s discredited attempts at historical revisionism, but this article certainly takes its cues from a very similar brand of paranoia. The tabloid alleges that the Kampala bombings were an act of retaliation by foreign homosexuals who “were expressing their dissatisfaction with government for not respecting their rights.” They also, according to Rolling Stone, chose the two venues because “homosexuals feel hurt when they see heterosexuals having fun… They seethe with revenge.”
Getting Al-Shabaab and Al-Quaeda, perhaps two of the most virulently homophobic terrorist groups in the world, to cooperate with this incredible gay conspiracy would be an astonishing feat. But logic isn’t very high on the minds of Rolling Stone. Their true anger is over the High Court decision to prevent Rolling Stone from publishing the names and faces of private LGBT Ugandans. They write:
None of the homosexuals whose faces we published recently was responsible for the carnage. …
…Kampal High Court Judge Kubuuka Musoke Monday issued an interim in junction on Rolling Stone, barring this investigative newspaper from publishing any information that could lead to the identification of homosexuals. This means Rolling Stone, which is managed by law-abiding citizens, can not publish particulars of this who were behind the sinister plot.
In other words, Rolling Stone is saying let us publish the names and faces of private citizens, or we’ll go completely batshit crazy. From the looks of Giles Muhame’s incoherent editorial on page 5 of the same edition, he is already nine-tenths of the way there. If you want to bother with it, you can see that feverish editorial here.