Selective outrage and moral inversions make taking conservatives seriously impossible.
Do you remember hearing any outrage in the right-wing media about George Christensen’s boycott of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream over their opposition to the Carmichael coal mine, and his call for others to join him?
Of course you didn’t. It wasn’t there.
Because in the conservative world, boycotting businesses over politics is only intolerant if it’s done by leftists, especially LGBTI leftists.
And this blind spot is just one example of a pattern of blind spots conservatives suddenly looking at something and seeing the opposite of what it actually is – including the opposite of what they would otherwise say it is – when LGBTI people are involved.
In her March 22 column, Miranda Devine blasted the “32 organisations which signed a letter last week trying to bully the Prime Minister into breaking his election promise and legislate same sex marriage without a people’s vote.” To her, freedom of speech and democracy are “bullying”.
But what was this? Devine certainly didn’t view supporters and opponents of marriage equality in these companies the same way. Her column sympathetically told the stories of people who had been “bullied” for opposing marriage equality. To her, unlike the pro-equality CEOs, their freedom to speak out did matter.
There was a Qantas pilot who resigned after receiving too many emails supporting LGBTI equality. There was a University of Sydney academic who said the university was too pro-marriage equality. There was an employee who simply didn’t like his workplace’s pro-LGBTI ethos. There was the “rainbow laces” campaign of Australian Rugby Union.
There can be fair comment that LGBTI issues had been focused on disproportionately and at the expense of other important issues. But that is not remotely the same thing as bullying. None of these “victims” provided any evidence of manifestations of intolerance towards them. Instead, simply being in the minority of opinion on this issue was enough to speak allegations of “bullying”.
I don’t want misguided people bullied or beaten over the head for being misguided, but nor will I ever accept changing my mind or censoring myself to make them feel better. And conservatives normally agree with this, fighting against left-wing university coddling that holds that disagreement is hatred.
But as soon as LGBTI people are involved, that completely goes out the window.
The closest you may think Devine’s column came to documenting actual intolerance was a Telstra employee who refused to attend a meeting at his workplace regarding Wear It Purple Day, which is an LGBTI event (note: he was never made to wear purple). Oh, we’ve got you now, say conservatives.
Just one problem. Wear It Purple Day is not about marriage equality. It’s an anti-bullying day. It is entirely reasonable that employers expect employees to oppose bullying.
Devine is arguably the most well-known purveyor of this narrative, but she’s got competition.
SILENCING THE LEFT
Following Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s frighteningly authoritarian outburst towards the pro-equality CEOs – whom he said “should be public shamed” over their campaigning, 2GB’s Ray Hadley weighed in, saying that “screaming lefties” “think [Dutton] should be silenced for daring to have the temerity to suggest to CEOs that they should worry about running their companies and shouldn’t be offering support on such issues.”
So now a government minister who tells citizens to shut up and calls for their public shaming over political campaigning is reasonable, and people who object to that are the intolerant ones?
In his March 19 column, Piers Akerman blasted the pro-equality CEOs for allegedly stifling “sensible debate”. He then demonstrated his commitment to sensible debate by lambasting Qantas for “painting an aircraft in the rainbow colours of the sexually confused”.
On March 21, religious and ethnic lobbyists united in horror at the Coalition’s proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, because it meant people might be free to say things that offended them. On March 24, they united in horror at Labor’s proposed changes, because it meant they might not be free to say things that offended LGBTI people.
But the cream of the crop of these blind spots and inconsistencies has to go to the Australian Christian Lobby and its managing director Lyle Shelton.
Shelton has been one of the loudest voices arguing that marriage equality must never happen because it would apparently hurt free speech. But the day the proposed changes to 18C were announced, he called for it to be extended to cover homophobes because “same-sex lobbyists continue to be free to use the most debased and vile language to harass” homophobes, including by online criticism.
That’s right. Lyle “Free Speech” Shelton wants criticism of homophobes that he believes to be “debased” to be made illegal – in the name of freedom of speech.
However, his frank admission of intolerance doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. In January, the ACL simultaneously called for homophobic workplaces to be free to exclude LGBTI employees and for LGBTI-affirming workplaces to be required to include homophobic employees.
This is what I’ve come to expect from opponents of marriage equality. Definitions of actions shift according who does them.
LOOKING GLASS WORLD
Feeling persecuted over being disagreed with makes you a snowflake, unless it’s about LGBTI people, and then you are actually persecuted. Expectations to oppose bullying are bullying. Objections to authoritarianism are authoritarian. Denigrating LGBTI people as sexually confused is sensible. Making criticism of homophobes illegal is freedom of speech. Forcing homophobic organisations to employ LGBTI people is intolerance. Forcing LGBTI-affirming organisations to employ religious homophobes is religious freedom.
I don’t write this to defend all the behaviour from my side of this debate. Some of it has been unacceptable.
But I never see my side throw away all of its principles and reverse its own definitions to go after our adversaries. But conservatives do do this when LGBTI people are involved.
And the conclusion we should draw from this is obvious: many conservatives – not just the overt homophobes – hold some level of negative sentiment towards them. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t single them out for scrutiny and criticism over conduct that every other instance they would have no problem with. They wouldn’t single out their rights and dignity as the one issue that must meet an absurdly high level of consensus before it can be enacted.
I think one reason for this is that many conservatives believe LGBTI people shove their sexuality down everyone else’s throats. Yet who is doing the shoving: the people who want to make them the center of a plebiscite that everyone in the country must participate in, or the people – LGBTI people – who fought like hell to stop it?
Yet this effort to not dominate everyone else’s lives led to more conservative derision against LGBTI people – as soft (for not wanting to to be singled out like no one else is), but also, most recognisably, as intolerant.
To me, it’s very apparent that they will remain perpetually stuck in a lose-lose situation.
This explains the conservative blind-spots and inconsistencies we see today.