I’m wondering if everyone with a name starting with Aker- and employed in the media suffers some sort of inborn mental dysfunction – causing them to shoot themselves in the foot while said foot is in their mouth – when talking about gay people.
I’m referring to former Brisbane Lions and Western Bulldogs AFL player and bottle-blond media semi-starlet Jason Akermanis, and Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph scribbler and occasional ABC TV Insiders panellist Piers Akerman.
First, to the JasonAker: he famously wrote a column in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper in May 2010 that gay AFL players should stay in the closet. Or, maybe, the locker. And, of course, he claimed it was to protect the homosexuals from scorn, scrutiny, embarrassment, fear.
Aker even said now wasn’t the time right for someone to come out: I know there are many who think a public AFL outing would break down homophobia, but they don’t live in football clubs. It’s not the job of the minority to make the environment safer. Not now, anyway.
If not now, Aker, when?
Just a month later, the Western Bulldogs and Aker parted company over a ‘series of breaches of trust’.
Since departing the field – and serving a bit of time in the sin-bin for those anti-gay comments – Akermanis seemed to have been let back into the media, with a few hit-and-miss radio gigs, a book deal, and some corporate speaking engagements, all spruiked via his website.
Oh, and Twitter. Wait! You mean that link is broken?
This is where the Akermanis did his most spectacular Aker of all.
Someone did find the courage to dig down deep inside themselves, and ask the same questions about whether living in the locker room closet at the local Aussie rules club was a healthy lifestyle choice.
That man was Jason Ball, who courageously came out in Melbourne’s Age showing the opposite side of the coin, all those things that Aker thought were preferable to coming out of the closet/locker: the sledging, the pretending you have a girlfriend, fearing being kicked out of the club, bullying, a hostile environment.
And then Akermanis pulled an Aker, inserted his foot in his mouth, aimed and fired. Replying to a tweet by Nine News sports reporter Clint Stanaway: @cstanaway We’ll have @jasonball88’s brave story on @9newsmelb tonight. The openly Gay footballer is urging tolerance & taking his campaign to the AFL
Akermanis pulled the trigger, quoting the entire tweet and adding: Who cares?
Well, apparently a sh*tload of people do, Jason.
There was an immediate and overwhelming response. Social media reacted, judged, and condemned. The hashtag #WeCareJason went through the roof.
And then the tweet disappeared. And then the whole Jason Akermanis Twitter account disappeared.
Jason Ball, on the other hand, received overwhelming support from his teammates, beyondblue chair Jeff Kennett, former High Court Justice Michael Kirby, the AFL’s Andrew Demetriou, and more than 26,000 supporters (and counting) who signed a petition on change.org asking for the No To Homophobia advertisements to air during the AFL Grand Final, and for a Pride Round of matches, like the Indigenous Round.
But while Jason Aker might be excused for his blokey behaviour and oafish ‘concern’ for homosexuals who might hurt themselves by coming out, the other Aker . . . . not so much.
Piers Akermanis is a prominent right-wing commentator and columnist who regurgitates his anti-gay views to his audience through ABC Television’s Insiders program and his blog and column in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. Recently Piers popped up to defend what even Tony Abbott found was the indefensible: Senator Cory Bernardi’s vile comments linking homosexuality to bestiality.
Of course, it’s not Piers’ first foray into smearing the gay and lesbian community by spruiking a slippery slope leading from homosexuality to sex with animals. And it probably won’t be his last.
Piers Aker copped a fair whack of criticism six years ago when he appeared on Insiders in 2006 and made such a bestiality link: the clip was replayed in the 23 September 2012 episode of the show during a discussion Senator Bernardi’s remarks.
Piers Aker claimed: You… you cannot call a relationship between a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, or a man and a dog, or his cat, or his goat, a marriage… a marriage…
Journalists and fellow panellists David Marr and Karen Middleton were revolted. Oh Piers…. Piers. Piers, that’s disgusting, said Marr. Piers, are you seriously calling… that is simply disgusting. ‘A man and a goat’? But despite being reminded of his prior gaffe, Akerman went on to pull the Aker-signature foot-mouth-shoot manoeuvre.
In the final segment of Insiders panellists bring an interesting factoid to the final few seconds. It is clear that they usually prepare these segments before the show, given that most of them are stuffed with quite detailed information.
News Limited‘s Malcolm Farr talked about the retirement of long-serving Coalition MPs Philip Ruddock and Ron Boswell, while The Global Mail‘s Mike Seccombe explored the US census statistics about the health outcomes for poor white women and supported Obama’s health care program.
And then Akerman pulled his trigger, and made another slimy link between gay sex and bestiality: It’s interesting that this… and I really do hate to go back to it, Barrie… but this link that, tenuous link between… with bestiality, but when the US Government repealed its Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask Act, it actually had to repeal the Sodomy And Bestiality Act.
Now Akerman might be able to claim that in the last 30 seconds of Insiders he just pulled something off the top of his head. But he later repeated the claim in print.
From his Daily Telegraph blog: I did get to note that when US President Barak Obama decided to do away with former President Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” ruling which permitted homosexuals to serve in the US military, the section of military law repealed was that which deals with sodomy and bestiality.
But is it true? Where did Akerman get this factoid from?
I suspect that he got it from the fanatical US religio-political extremists over at the Family Research Council, which made the same tenuous claim.
For the record, Akerman was completely wrong. His mistake stems from the fact that the US’s Uniform Code of Military Justice (like most US criminal law) bundles all ‘unnatural sex acts’ into the broad umbrella of ‘sodomy’.
‘Sodomy’ is defined under Article 125 of the UCMJ as follows: Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.
And this is what gave Piers the chance to slur all gays and lesbians by distorting that fact.
He stated that reforms to this section of the UCMJ were part of the process of repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy (the policy that prevented openly gay service personnel from serving in the US military). But that wasn’t true. The review of this law came much later, essentially as a tidying-up exercise in response to a number of US court rulings that rendered consensual gay sex acts between adults as lawful, including the landmark Lawrence v Texas ruling.
In other words, the majority of Article 125 was already inoperative, and the reforms were intended to clean up the language of the UCMJ. It was good legislative housekeeping, not some slippery slope attempt to legalise bestiality.
On Insiders, Akerman made it sound like a federal civilian law was repealed. Of course, he does clarify that it was a military law in his later blog online. And we should give him the benefit of the doubt on this slight correction between live television and a thought-out piece in print.
But Akerman’s blog still amplifies the lie and the distortion. Why? Well, he continues to state that the Obama Administration has repealed a law. Again, here’s the quote: … the section of military law repealed was that which deals with sodomy and bestiality.
Well, that’s a lie, Piers. Article 125 still exists today in the UCMJ. The section of military law was never repealed.
And even if Article 125 was repealed – wiping away both specific prohibitions against consensual gay sex and bestiality – bestiality would not be legalised for US military personnel.
Indeed, US military magazine Stars and Stripes gives an excellent analysis of the right-wing reaction to proposed changes to Article 125. It also found that bestiality is currently not being prosecuted under Article 125, but instead under Article 134.
Do you think that we’d get an apology and correction from Piers Akerman? Don’t hold your breath.
But this is what we do know: Akermanis wrong, Akerman is wrong.