SBS Insight – the art of seeking & finding offence

Two 'day after' reports on the SBS gay marriage forum deserve mention, for their first-hand account of the studious way in which gay activists will find offence where fair-minded people would find none.

First, panel member Michael Cooke writes at Mercatornet:

Penny Wong, the politician, dominated the evening. She brought to the studio the authority of being a minister of the Crown and Australia’s best-known lesbian mum.

As soon as she could, she introduced two themes.

First, she complained about the bigotry and homophobia radiating from the audience. I was puzzled. I hadn't heard the vicious homophobic slurs which she found so appalling? But at Jenny’s invitation, some people had declared that every child needs a mother and a father. Was that homophobic?

Yup, it certainly was.

“Appalling comments” like this, Penny said, implied that her love for her partner was inferior to other loves and that her child had a lower status. Since Penny has a scowl that can curdle black coffee, her magisterial pronouncements were quite intimidating.

Second, Penny framed the debate as the imposition of religious views on a largely secular society. She icily told the priest sitting beside her, “I think it's interesting you use words like ‘respect’ at the same time as having a discussion about whether or not homosexuality is in fact natural or, by implication, a result of some form of disorder. I don't think that's particularly respectful.”

This strategy succeeded (with a little help from the Insight team). The evening was plunged into a bunfight over why some strands of religious belief were hostile to same-sex marriage why some weren’t. The social harms, or benefits for that matter, of same-sex marriage were ignored or derisively dismissed. Raising a “secular” matter like the welfare of children became evidence of latent homophobia.

At one point Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem, of the Australian National Imams' Council, proposed a referendum to settle the issue.

Penny wouldn’t buy that. If a mere half-hour in the studios of SBS had coaxed the viper of homophobia out of its lair, a referendum campaign would set slavering beasts of bigotry galloping throughout Australia. “I [don’t] want the country and the community to be in a situation where some of the hateful things which are said in this debate become so central to the public discourse,” she said imperiously.

This is why the Insight debate was so scary: there wasn’t one. You can debate ideas and facts, but all the gay lobby served up was undebatable emotions of love, fear, disdain and contempt. It became clear that for Penny Wong, all disagreement is ipso facto homophobic.

Second, special guest Ben (with partner Nam) writes a bewilderingly self-pitying piece in the 'progressive catholic' journal, Eureka St. The reflection is entitled "SBS audience betrays gays with a kiss" - a bizarre way to describe an audience which showed nothing but respectful attention to his lengthy reflections (see for yourself) - and focuses on a moment which I witnessed, as I was standing next to the pleasant young person Ben frames as a 'Judas':

There were moments of grace and kindness during the forum, but also many wounding moments. What hurt and frightened me most was not the unkind or even ignorant responses and questions from some members of the audience, but the fact that they seemed to not want to hear us: they talked at me, past me, but never with me. We were merely an 'issue'. I felt objectified as a piece of conversation. This hurt. I was transported back to the frightened 16-year-old boy at school, at church or at home who felt diminished and dehumanised.

After the program, many kind souls came to us and embraced us, told us that they have heard us and understand why marriage equality was so important to so many peoples and their families. While passing by the reception on the way back to the car, there was a clique of people, the same ones who had said those rather diminishing things during the forum. One of them stretched out a hand to shake mine and said 'Nothing personal, and no offence.'

That shook me to my core. It felt like the kiss of betrayal. To me, those sentiments are the very seeds of discrimination. Words and thoughts that objectify people as 'issues' have proven in the past to lead to very cruel actions done to already marginalised people. That is how dehumanising heterosexism done in a seemingly 'benign' way becomes a weapon that destroys the lives and families of many here and around the world.

Puh-leeze!! Nobody takes this special guest to task in any way, but shows him only polite attention; then, instead of noting the courtesy and respect of those with whom he might differ, he condemns it as the worst sort of offensiveness! A well-mannered panel-member greets him with a spontaneously kind word and Ben declares that to be an act of treachery!

Absurd; pitifully absurd.

Such examples of the gay lobby's strategy of "taking offence" even where there is none given only confirms that they are afraid of facing up to the harm their proposal would cause  - such as the harm of forcing a child to miss out on either a mum or a dad; the harm of forcing children to be taught that homosexual behaviour is morally equivalent to the relationship of their mother and father; the harm of crushing conscientious objection by churches and individuals using the big stick of ' anti-vilification laws' - all of which will become reality if same-sex marriage is legalised.




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