Sep 11

This column in today’s Australian by Maurice Newman is worthy of a closer examination.

What do Jeff Kennett and Julia Gillard have in common? They both believe in same-sex marriage and that it is far too important to be left to the people to decide.

I’m sure there’s a lot more that they have in common, but ok.

Apparently, a cultural norm that has endured for millennia has become an issue of such urgency and controversy that it can’t even wait 18 months for a plebiscite to decide it.

No, apparently the debate has been raging in earnest for the last decade, but its history goes back much further.  Are you just catching up with the news now?

People of various faiths have been taught throughout history that marriage is between a man and a woman.

As strange as this may sound, people of various faiths now accept that marriage is between two people.  Sometimes they are same gender people, sometimes they are opposite gender and sometimes they are transgendered.

Now these beliefs are pushed by the media as hateful and backward, and those who hold them are bigots. Who knew? There’s a lot of unlearning to be done if traditional religious teachings are to be outlawed.

Apparently some who hold this belief of marriage as only between a man and a woman think that GLBTI people are sinners and need fixing.  I’d suggest your start your unlearning there.

This is not to pass judgment for or against change, but to remark on the increasingly censorious, “we know better” attitude of today’s elites.

Actually, it is to pass judgement.  Because nowhere is anyone saying that you can’t hold on to your traditional thinking.  What we do know is that allowing full participation in marriage will help to reduce the stigma that is wrapped around the relationships of non-heterosexual people while not undermining the relationships of heterosexual people.

We should worry that not only Kennett and Gillard but a large number of federal and state parliamentarians on all sides of politics are opposed to the people making a decision on something that is so fundamental and culturally sensitive. Surely from time to time, on matters of deep social significance, there is much to be said for a plebiscite. A popular mandate will provide an ­endorsement that parliaments can’t provide.

Why are we worried?  We elect politicians to make decisions.  There was no plebiscite to insert clauses into the marriage act and the parliament does not need the endorsement of the people to change it.  The reality is, that regardless of the result, it is only the politicians that get to vote on the change.

The same-sex marriage movement follows what has become a well-trodden path for progressives. Social media commentary attracts interest among progres­sive journalists. Their prejudices are amplified through mainstream outlets that in turn excites more chatter on the internet. And so what may have started as an issue of marginal interest to the majority gathers momentum to become a fully fledged campaign engaging all members of the community, not least the political class. Woe betide anyone who gets in the way.

This is astute of you.  The ‘movement’ has its history well before the advent of the internet.  There has been plenty of people opposed to the concept and they have used the media to its full extent to spread their campaign, and in fact, here you are using the media to do just that.

Those who follow the global warming debate will be particularly familiar with this pattern. Indeed, the abuse and contempt meted out to anyone who strays from that authorised text suggests we are observing a disturbing evolutionary change in public discourse that has sinister undertones for those who believe in freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Rather than encourage discussion, doubt-free progressives ensure that only one voice will be heard.

This is a rather blinkered approach.  Not only is freedom of expression alive and well, it works both ways.  There are plenty of others expressing a counter view on the public discourse, just like you’re doing now.  I have received abuse and contempt from loving christians on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and I consider myself to be respectful of others points of views.

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the influence of this use of the media than the cancellation of Bjorn Lomborg’s contract with the University of Western Australia because of an unpredicted “pas­sionate and emotional reaction” to his views that the dangers of climate change are overstated. Or Mark Latham’s resignation from Fairfax Media’s business paper, The Australian Financial Review, after pressure from feminists who found his views offensive.

And just perhaps this was the correct response to a misguided person’s use of their skills.  It actually shows that people can and do influence others around them.  Just because you don’t agree with that approach doesn’t mean that it isn’t right.

It doesn’t matter whether the issue is international in scope or local, the approach is the same. The Left saturates the formal and informal communication channels so effectively that it crowds out or suffocates alternative views. It is a triumph for leftist ideology and the culmination of decades of indoctrination from primary class to journalism school. As Yes Minister co-author Antony Jay says of the BBC: “Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer, more prosperous place, we were anti-it.”

Oh rubbish.  The Right has plenty of voices out there – go check Devine, Bolt or Henderson.  Then follow that up with the ACL, the Marriage Alliance and van Gend.

This pretty much sums up the philosophical disposition of the ABC, SBS and the Fairfax organisation, along with The Guardian, Crikey, The Conversation, The Monthly, New Matilda, The Saturday Paper, The Green Left Weekly and sundry others. They represent by far the major media presence in Australia and, from their bully pulpits, they present a common position on most social, economic and political issues.

Maybe, just maybe you’re on the wrong side.  Suddenly, because you’re not getting your way you want to find all those that oppose you, so much so that you even include “The Green Left Weekly and sundry”.  I’m sure that The Conversation, Monthly, New Matilda and the Saturday Paper are all delighted that you think that they represent the major media presence in Australia.  I can’t think of the last time SBS was at the top of the ratings, or that the ABC news service out performed a commercial TV station’s 7.00 p.m. slot.

This makes it difficult for any dissenting voice, let alone a government, that fails to conform immediately to the approved collective narrative. Take Syrian migration, an open-and-shut case. No debate allowed.

I can’t believe that someone who has a column in a national newspaper is so uninformed.  Go check more carefully.

With blind faith in big government and central planning, is it any wonder that the media Left has long decided the Abbott government should serve just one term? It’s smaller government, freer markets and family values policies don’t resonate with today’s hip intelligentsia. Every misstep or policy slip must be emphasised and exaggerated. Successes have to be downplayed or portrayed as mistakes. When it comes to the opposition, best not to look back.

Let’s ignore the fact that Abbott is not well liked, not even by the people who elected him.  There is no blind faith in big government, this is no longer the Menzies’ era.  The electorate will toss out a government that fails to meet its expectations, regardless of what the media thinks.

This is not accidental. The editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald was found by a Federal Court to have acted with malice against Joe Hockey. Yet he remains in his role. His colleagues follow a similar vindictive line, at times making things up when the facts don’t fit the conclusion. Anonymous sources and false ­assertions are no problem. The ends justify the means.

Have you ever seen the front page of the Telegraph before the last election?  Seriously.  Get a grip.

The ABC, too, is shameless in its partisanship. Its choice of subjects and resort to tame, sometimes obscure “experts” to push a narrative is thoroughly predictable. It is often at odds with its editorial policies, yet it seems to be a consequence-free zone.

Love a good ABC bashing.

The “hate Abbott” propaganda is unrelenting. It is so pervasive that to buy it as advertising is beyond the capacity of most corporations. Because of its universality, and the consistency of the mes­sage, it must affect the electorate.

The “hate Rudd” or “hate Gillard” propaganda was just as unrelenting – did you write about that?

Media guru Marshall McLuhan believed the medium shapes and controls “the scale of human association and action”. As he predicted in The Gutenberg Galaxy, Twitter and Facebook have subtly redefined the medium of communication. When added to the mainstream, they bring ­mutually reinforcing authenticity to the message, warranted or not.

Uh huh – the world changes.  The last thing we want is people influencing others when they have a counter point of view.  Can’t have anyone on the right logging onto Twitter and having to fend off views of the Left.  Heavens no.

While Abbott may not be for turning, too many influential people are. Conformity has attractions. It quarantines leaders and organisations from coercion and allows for a more comfortable life. However, it also results in groupthink, ignorance and poor risk management.

You’re a really good example of just that.  You want ‘groupthink’ your way.

So long as shareholders decline to exercise editorial control, journalists will fill the space and seek to influence public opinion with their interpretation of reality. To quote journalist Brendan O’Neill, “The right thinking and progressives might not realise it yet, but they are the vanguard of a new dark ages.”

Oh yes, that’s right the Murdoch press has never exercised editorial control.

Kennett and Gillard, please note.

What’s the bet that they don’t care?

Maurice Newman is chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council. The views expressed here are his own.

Oh yes, now it all makes sense.

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