This post consists of excerpts from an article by Johann Hari in the Guardian
It sounds much worse if you state it bluntly. But, OK, I’ll rip off the plaster here, now, at the start of the article: I slept with a neo-Nazi. And an Islamic fundamentalist. And, yes, technically, they both thought gay people should be killed. There? Happy now? Let me explain. Sometimes, as a journalist, I do undercover work (please, no gags). Earlier this year I was in Los Angeles reporting on a convention of Holocaust deniers. A nasty little group called the Institute of Historical Review were gathering in the rather plush Marriott Hotel to make ridiculous claims that (a) Hitler didn’t kill many Jews, and (b) even if he did, they had it coming.
It was, as you would expect, a pretty vile and unpleasant week. I sat in rooms where sweet-looking grannies would rock slightly muttering, “Kikes, kikes” under their breath as they carried on knitting. Criminals like Robert Faurisson, who has been jailed in France for denying the Holocaust, were cheered like David Beckham at a World Cup match.
So what’s a guy to do to distract himself in these circumstances, but seduce a Nazi? Part of my task was, obviously, to befriend the people there, and to see what they were saying privately. I admit I have a rather cliched gay man’s attraction to muscly, shaven-headed louts, and they were troublingly profuse at the Marriott. There’s a whole thesis to be written about the complex relationship between homosexuality and far-right political movements.
I sat next to Ross from Oregon on the first day of the “conference”. He was my age – 23 – and approximately twice my size. Picture the Incredible Hulk, but considerably less green and only moderately less angry, and you’ve got the idea. We made polite small talk about how evil blacks or gays or some other minority group are; he told me an unpublishably disgusting joke, and I chortled along and – what can I say? – I fancied him. It was shallow and it was totally about looks. Let him who is without guilt throw the first stone. But nothing in my experience had equipped me with the skills to seduce a maniac. Actually, that’s not entirely true.
On September 11 2001, the smoke and the fumes and the blood were barely settled on Manhattan when I was delegated to go undercover at the Finsbury Park mosque, the most hardline in Britain. Fortunately, I have always found Islam fascinating, and I was able to bluff my way in fairly easily – stuff about needing to rally around to keep up the assault on America at this time, and so on.
And at the centre of all this was Abu Hamza. You’ve probably seen him in the newspapers: he’s the guy with only one eye and no hands. He’s the one, to put it bluntly, with hooks. I will reassure you, at this point, that this is not a story about seducing Abu Hamza. As we prayed to Mecca, he ranted against “the Jews, the feminists, the gays” and so on. He praised the Taliban’s way of dealing with “sodomites”, which was to collapse a wall on to them. (In the event, there weren’t that many sturdy walls in Afghanistan, so after a while they gave this up and just started beheading them instead, but I wasn’t going to start lecturing Abu on gay-killing techniques at this point.)
In the week that I spent hanging around that mosque, I met a lot of cute blokes. It’s a curious thing: very, very few people, when you actually get to know them, seem like very bad people. No matter how barking mad and offensive they may be on the public stage, when you’re sitting eyeball-to-eyeball, and you get them to see you as a human being, it’s very hard to hate them. And I really, really liked Mohammed, a rather cute 19-year-old lad who had got caught up in this crowd.
Mo (as his friends call him) had a very dry sense of humour, like most of that group, and a really attractive sense of purpose and loyalty (all, unfortunately, poured into killing people like me). Again, like the Nazis, it was one of those intense all-male groups which seemed very straight – so intensely straight that it crossed a line into homoeroticism.
Now, I doubt that many of these blokes were shagging each other, not least because, for religious reasons, none of them drink, so it was hard to lower their inhibitions. But after a long smoke and a lot of flattery, Mo was fairly easily coaxed. Of course, he seemed a bit hung-up about it afterwards. Since I was nearing the end of my undercover gig, I tried to persuade him that perhaps gay people weren’t evil, especially in light of the fact that he had just been having wild gay sex.
Slam-cut to LA and Russ. He was a harder nut to crack, but at least he could (and did) drink an awful lot of vodka. I’ll spare you the details: suffice it to say that Germany did successfully invade Poland. So what’s the moral of this tale? Part of me wants to trumpet it as a victory for gay rights. Even in the most intense centres of homophobia and gay-bashing, you can still find the odd bit of sodomy. We are, quite literally, everywhere, including (literally) inside homophobes. Part of me is a bit ashamed – in the cold light of day, both Russ and Mo have some pretty repulsive views. But there’s something uniquely rewarding about bagging a homophobe. In fact, I reckon that this should be the new path for the gay rights movement. Every gay reader of the Guardian should henceforth dedicate himself to seducing every gay-basher they can find. Our response to hatred shouldn’t be to hate back; it should be to give them a jolly good seeing-to.
Editor’s note. Even to the extent that these events did not happen in the precise manner described, we would like to make the following points.
1. Both neo Nazis and Islamists do have sex. Not necessarily with each other.
2. Some neo Nazis and Islamists have had sex with men, being themselves men.
3. Johann Hari has had sex.
Therefore, the account above is true in the more important poetic sense of the word.