Mar 30

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

I wasn’t going to write a Part 3 – I thought I’d covered it all.  However, this has taken on a life all of its own and is a good example of how the media has its own agenda and will use their strength to steamroll anyone who doesn’t meet their criteria.

Today The Australian, and I won’t link to them any more, ran another article on Michael and his activism.  They go digging into the past, give little snippets and avoid the whole story.  This tactic enables them to paint a less-than-rosy picture of Michael’s activism.

The headline screams, well, that’s a bit much, it doesn’t scream at all, it is a headline.  There in big letters it says:

Twitter troll who bullies brewers has little love for LGBTI peers

Now Michael has a bunch of new labels.  His name badge is getting quite large.  He is now a Twitter Troll and a Bully and  a Little Love.  I consider him to be my big love.  That’s all he needs on a badge.  I shall get one made up.  He isn’t a Twitter Troll.  You want to see trolls, go look on the Internet, there’s plenty of real trolls.  Michael has raised concerns with people in positions of authority over conflicts of interest.  Hardly trolling.

It’s true of Michael that for some of his peers he has little love.  I have little love for some of my peers too – I guess you probably do too.  You know, just because we’re all part of humanity doesn’t mean that we have to love everyone.  Just because we’re all part of this rather odd bunch of GLBTI people doesn’t mean we all get along.

I want to go through this article sentence by sentence, but I won’t.  Let me be selective, fill in some gaps and leave out a bunch of stuff.  After all, that seems to be the way the media operates.  They have all this essentially unlimited space online and still leave stuff out.  Go figure.

Having pressured Coopers, IBM and PwC and their senior staff to sever links with Christian associations, gay rights activist Michael Barnett has turned his sights on academia, demanding Macquarie University force one of its lecturers to renounce a Christian educational organisation.

He didn’t pressure Coopers any more than the hundreds of other people did.  Likewise there has been no pressure on IBM, PwC or Macquarie University.  It’s about as much pressure as you’d apply to a leaky balloon with a bit of sticky tape, not the weight of an elephant stepping on your head.  As for ‘force’ and ‘demanding’ and ‘renounce’ I mean, really?  

Barnett doesn’t want to talk about how Aleph members tried to sack him? Star Observer, April 15, 2010:

A growing rift in Melbourne’s Jewish gay community saw a war of words via email last week, with members of gay Jewish support group Aleph accusing current convener Michael Barnett for being too hostile.

Sack him?  I was at the meeting, no mention of sacking at all.  People were very cross and expressed themselves.  Of course, what is missing here is the background as to how it came about.  It’s easy to create a picture of division when you only part tell the story.

Melbourne’s LGBTI Jews were not happy with Barnett’s bullyboy act. Star Observer, continued:

… other members of the 80-strong group had been “embarrassed” by Barnett’s constant “angry” emails and the group is now discussing ways to establish a new executive committee which may or may not include Barnett.

Yeah, that’s right.  The 80-strong group, they talked a lot.  Offered little support before they were embarrassed, made a lot of noise and disappeared up their own clackers never to be seen again.  In the long run, Michael’s ‘angry’ emails paid huge dividends in the community.

Barnett hasn’t changed his spots. Aleph’s official Twitter account, Nov­ember 25 last year:

We have cancelled our registration in the 2017 Pride March due to @midsumma accepting @newscorpaus sponsorship. First absence since 1997.

What do you mean spots?  Clearly you don’t know him very well.  Michael has remained steadfast in his commitment to diversity, celebration and acceptance of people over all the years I’ve known him.  We, he and I, continue to learn and modify our approach to how we engage.  Boycotting Pride March and Midsumma this year was because of  The Australian and other News Limited media sponsorship arrangement with Midsumma.  It was a reaction to the ongoing vilification that these media outlets engage in on a regular basis.   I still can’t believe that Midsumma didn’t give up this sponsorship.  Again, Michael’s actions are vindicated by this continuing unwarranted attack on him.

The smear campaign is supported by the Letters to the Editor in The Australian.  They show just how the influence of the media can skew the intent and influence the reader.  Here’s a smattering.

Activists are engaging in systematic persecution

A provocative headline to the letters, and simply untrue.  

I thought we lived in a democratic society where freedom of speech, religion and association were protected (“Gay rights activist turns on Christian academic”, 29/3), so I find the actions of these LGBTI campaigners disturbing. They are doing to others what they have suffered in history.

Somehow we aren’t entitled to enjoy freedom of speech?  So, others have suffered in history.  I’m here to tell you, Vita Mezzatesta from Pascoe Vale, Vic, we are suffering right now, and we are kicking back.  Using our free speech and pointing out what’s wrong with the world.

These activist groups can’t touch me directly, and so I write to express my displeasure with all the self-centred, self-serving, intolerant minorities that now attempt to control our lives. There was a time that you could just say bugger off and that was the end of it, but now they have this need to force feed their views on everyone.

You make me laugh Richard Thomson from Kent Town, SA.  Michael is not self-centred or self-serving.  Control your life?  You’d like to tell us to bugger off?  Get back in the closet perhaps?  Force their views on everyone?  Come on.  Perhaps you simply don’t like having your attitudes and beliefs so directly challenged.  Perhaps those beliefs are outdated and wrong.

Then we hear from Alex Greenwich from the lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality.  Alex is a key player in the group and a NSW MP.  This is what I’d call the lead group from our community that is leading the charge to achieve equality for us in marriage rights.  They are self-appointed.  It’s unclear as to how they are funded or how they decide what to do.  

Here’s Alex’s letter.

Our campaign for marriage equality has always been and always will be based on positive, respectful and inclusive conversations to win over the hearts and minds of Australians. The national conversation about marriage equality will only be won if people can have conversations and are allowed to ask any genuine questions they may have.

For many people, same-sex couples having access to civil marriage is a straightforward reform that takes from no one but provides a profound positive change to the lives of lesbian and gay Australians, their parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friends.

However, there are still people who have genuine questions and it’s important that we continue to listen and engage respectfully. It is because of our respect for the institution of marriage that we will keep engaging until we can join millions of Australians in marrying the person we love in the country we love.

As we continue along the journey to achieving marriage equality, we must do it through uniting, not dividing, and being respectful of everyone’s views along the way.

Alex Greenwich, Australian Marriage Equality, Darlinghurst, NSW

Alex has really let the side down on this one.  He has an ideal opportunity to reset the debate, but instead goes on the sneaky attack.  Essentially Michael’s activism around Pride in Diversity is thrown under the bus by AME.  Michael has supportively pushed, promoted, encouraged and engaged with AME for many, many years.  Not one of them so much as picked up the phone for a chat with him.  Not a Facebook message, an SMS or even an email.  It’s not like they don’t know who he is.  Alex says that we must achieve marriage equality through uniting, not dividing and being respectful.

Michael’s current concern has zero to do with marriage equality.  Alex could have discovered that quite easily.  He could have distanced himself by saying that Michael isn’t talking about marriage equality, he’s talking about Pride in Diversity and members of the ACL employed by organisations that pride themselves on the diversity.

Let me put this as clearly as I can.  The ACL is not the church, they don’t represent a denomination.  They exist to promote their version of christianity, and in that version there are no gay people, no lesbians and no transgender people.  They might tolerate the bisexuals if you only have married sex with the opposite sex, and intersex people if you have surgery to conform to either male or female.  The Lachlan Macquarie Institute is wholly owned by the ACL.  

These two organisation are intolerant of anyone that isn’t heterosexual.  They pretend to be nice, but underneath the facade is a real desire to spread their version of Christianity far and wide.  They are not our friends.  They seek only to have it their way.  They represent a very small part of our society, even smaller than the GLBTI community.

They are not our friends.

Alex had the chance here to give them a kick in the nuts, instead he plays the nice gay boy who doesn’t want to upset the apple cart.  The News Limited media support the ACL.  They don’t play nice and need to make Michael out to be the bad boy, hold him up as an example of what is wrong with the ‘gay lobby’.  Make their readership, that already hates us, justify that hatred.  We play into their hands, and to the hands of the ACL when we, the activist, the ‘gay’ lobby groups and the ordinary GLBTI folk placate them, pretend we are being inclusive when in fact the media is driving the wedge between us and the rest of society.

That is a missed opportunity.


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