In Part 1 I looked at the background of how Michael’s tweets started, what was driving them and the conflict between holding personal views that are at odds with those you’ve signed up for in the work place.
To recap, Board members of the right-wing religious institution, the Lachlan Macquarie Institute hold positions in organisations that are part of Pride in Diversity, an organisation that benchmarks diversity in Australian workplaces to gauge how inclusive those workplaces are. The institute is fully owned and run by the Australian Christian Lobby, an organisation that lobbies to keep gay people out of the public sphere and deny equal rights because that’s what Jesus would want.
Michael’s activism in this case has been around the conflict between the two organisations; a simple question of how can you deny the GLBTI community their place in society (Institute’s view) while working at a place that encourages and values the GLBTI community.
The Australian newspaper, owned by News Limited, is no friend of the GLBTI community. News Limited constantly publish stories, opinion and cartoons that vilify me and everyone in the community. It’s not a pretty look for a news organisation.
The non-heterosexual citizens of Australia have long been the plaything of the media. They love to get a good ‘gay’ story to play with. It drives people to read and interact with their publications. It enables them to generate outrage and to dehumanise those who are different. I’ve seen it time and time again and have blogged on it.
This is the ultimate. To take a few tweets and conflate them into something quite ugly. The tweets asked the two organisations how it was possible for someone who clearly doesn’t support diversity is able to hold positions of leadership at both organisations.
Once The Australian had run front page stories on this, other media ran with it. However, The Australian made the issue about marriage equality, which it has never been about.
Let’s just track this through a little.
It all starts with the head honcho of the ACL and openly-straight man, Lyle Shelton. I say openly straight because whenever someone is not straight, they need to be labelled as such.
Wilson, an openly same-sex attracted man, spoke in favour of redefining marriage and Hastie, an unashamed “Bible reading” Christian spoke for retaining the definition of marriage.
Moderated by Matt Andrews, the short video was simply designed to showcase the Biblical virtue of disagreeing agreeably as part of the Bible Society’s 200th anniversary celebrations. The issue being discussed was immaterial as the Bible Society has not been a participant in the political debate.
I assume that Matt Andrews is an openly opposite-sex attracted man. It would help if Lyle said so, just so we are clear. I’d hate to think he was some middle-aged gay bear. In his meandering blog post Lyle says:
A quick scroll through the #boycottcoopers hashtag on Twitter revealed many of the same vicious people who troll me.
Michael Barnett (Twitter handle @Mikeybear), for instance, was instrumental in spooking Price Waterhouse Coopers last year because one of their senior partners was a board member of ACL.
Lyle goes on to bring every other issue dear to his heart into the blog and finishes with the Leak cartoon of men in rainbow uniforms, a really very disrespectful and downright vilifying cartoon.
At this stage, Michael has called for Coopers to clarify if they support marriage equality. Which it turns out that they do. All good in a days work.
Then we have all these CEOs from top Australian companies signing a letter that calls for the government to make marriage equality a reality in Australia. This made big news, everyone was onto that one, after all one of the people to sign the letter was Alan Joyce, an openly-gay CEO.
Mr Dutton yesterday suggested CEOs, including openly gay Qantas boss Alan Joyce, should “stick to their knitting” rather than trying to “bully” governments into certain positions.
And here starts this notion that writing a letter asking for something is bullying. It’s a theme that the media and lobby groups love to tout. It would seem that if you disagree with another’s point of view that somehow makes you the bully. If you tweet about something that makes other uncomfortable you’re a bully.
The Australian’s Rebecca Urban, then publishes this headline:
Jewish LGBTI activist defends his role in Coopers boycott saga
along with this paragraph,
A vocal gay rights activist has defended his role in the Coopers boycott saga, claiming he did not accept that the company was hounded into professing public support for marriage equality.
Michael Barnett, convener of Jewish LGBTI support group Aleph Melbourne, said it was unfortunate the brewer had severed its long-term relationship with the Bible Society in response to the backlash over its beer featuring in a “lighthearted” debate about same-sex marriage.
Michael is now a gay rights activist, a Jewish convener. Neither label is appropriate. Any more than an author being called Rebecca Urban, Lesbian Writer and Member of the Knitters Minders Club. (I made both of those up). Why define Michael as Jewish, what’s the point of that, apart from saying to everyone something along the lines of look – this gay Jewish poof is getting out of line. This Jew is telling us Christians how to do things. He’s way too vocal, let’s put him back in his box.
The next part in the saga happens when Michael notes that a member of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute board is also on staff of IBM. IBM, as I discussed last time, is pretty big on Pride in Diversity. Our Lesbian Writer and Chief Knitter takes to her paper and says:
Marriage equality advocate IBM Australia is being targeted by militant gay rights activists who have condemned the company over a senior executive’s links to a Christian organisation.
Urban makes it about marriage equality. Which it isn’t. It’s about the conflict between the company diversity policy and an executive’s personal position. We now have more labels; Michael is now militant and gay. Militant.
Others jump into the discussion. Andrew Bolt uses the phrase ‘Totalitarian Gays’, the ACL says he uses ‘standover tactics’, he’s on a witch-hunt on the ABC. The Australian editorial calls him a ‘Jewish Campaigner’, the ABC’s God Forbid show thinks he is ‘thin-skinned’ and somehow free speech is under attack.
Meanwhile all sorts of abuse is hurled our way with none of the big guys calling anyone to account for their hatred and vilification. Not IBM, not Macquarie University. Silence. They’ll just ride it out.
The best bit comes when the ACL takes the really odd step of removing all directors information from their website and asks the ACNC to remove details from the public database, something about safety fears. Pretending that somehow hordes of the gayz will descend upon them with desires to gay marry them to their knitting or something.
The saga will go on I’m sure, and from where I stand I’m aghast at how quickly the media gets off track and makes things up. I’m not surprised at all. It’s the way it works. It’s important to have a villain in every story. The Australian love to vilify those who aren’t, well, aren’t like them.
Michael’s actions are described as ‘the gay lobby’, ‘rainbow agenda’ and various other untrue areas.
And where are the gay lobby groups in all of this. Where is our gay press?
Not only has nobody from Australian Marriage Equality told him to shut up, they haven’t uttered a single word of support. Not one of the Just Equal crowd have re-tweeted or Facebook-ed a message of support. The gay press is silent and happy to let it run.
Yes, there’s support out there, plenty of it. Michael runs alone with this, doing what I would see as good work it holding big corporations to account, as much as a single solitary person can.
It’s not an easy task and we often talk about how each of us handle the onslaught, how we respond and what we think about our approach. We do it with respect and love. Something that other parties should think on. It doesn’t take much to respect other people and to question why they are doing this.
There will be a Part 3, there’s more to talk about.
To finish, the Twitter sphere is going off and there are plenty of nasty people lining up to tar us with all sorts of things.