Feel no sorrow, Feel no shame. Come tomorrow, feel no pain… Joe Hildebrand and Mark Kenny are wrong about ‘Eat Shit, Lyle’

Let us be absolutely clear.  A group of religious fanatics launched an attack on Australian society but used the power of the state to punch downwards.  The Plebiscite was not an exercise in democracy or a good-natured exercise in public participation.  It was an assault on Australian society.

Note: it wasn’t an attack on LGB Australia; it was an attack on all of us with LGB Australians suffering the most.

Unfortunately, the brain parasites that are consuming our media class haven’t quite worked out what’s going on.  Here is Mark Kenny, the national affairs editor for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, praising an article by Joe Hildebrand, a crazed racist who ‘edits’ the Daily Telegraph‘s opinion column and spouts nonsense on daytime TV.

The public’s trust in the media continues to nose dive.  We should ask ourselves whether we really believe that the media is good for democracy and that journalists should continue to enjoy the many protections that we give them.

There is an ongoing crisis around civility politics.  No matter how atrociously the establishment behaves, it maintains a narrative that those who are disadvantaged by this awful behaviour are obliged to be ‘civil’ in response.  The No campaign was nothing but deplorable in its attacks on Australian society.  When it lost the campaign, it demanded that people treat them with the civility that they refused to show to others.  Parliamentarians who championed the Plebiscite should have resigned.  Instead, they made demands about the form and content of the marriage equality legislation.  It was shameless.

But instead of calling that out, Hildebrand and Kenny instead call out supporters of marriage equality who simply weren’t very nice to people who attacked us.

I disagree with the usual conclusion that critiques of civility politics yield.  I do think that civility is important in political debate.  But the civility is earned, not demanded.  If conservatives want a civil political discourse, the onus is on us — and not on our opponents — to ensure that civil pathways to political debate, change, and power are open.  If they aren’t, then calls for civility amount to little more than a coercive narrative to exclude those without power.

I have been completely disgusted by the too-frequently uttered idea that LGB Australians should be grateful for marriage equality.  The idea takes two forms.  First, it takes the ‘What more do they want?’ variety.  They’ve got marriage, they should be civil and stop demanding other things.  The second takes the ‘Turnbull and the nation deserve praise for giving them marriage equality’ form.  They’ve got marriage, they should be civil and stop attacking homophobes.

One of the struggles of this quick blog post is centred in a conservative idea: an attack on any Australian is an attack on all of us.  The problem with this idea is that it can obscure the special damage experienced by particular groups within Australian society.  Every Australian should be offended by the behaviour of the No campaign.  It was an attack on all of us.  And although it was an attack on all of us, a group of us experienced special damage that needs acknowledgement.

But it’s this conservative idea that exposes the fundamental issue behind Mark Kenny and Joe Hildebrand’s position: that LGB Australia should continue to be singled out for critique in the marriage equality debate.  What more do they want?  They should be civil.  They should thank Turnbull for marriage equality.

The ‘They‘ here is us.  All of us.  It’s not just they who were the direct beneficiaries of equality; it is all of us who want an equal society.  We should stop letting commentators police the demarcation between straight and LGB Australia.  Its a demarcation that needs to end.

Once again, we get to see the detrimental impact that our media has on our democracy.  Mark Kenny decrying people on Twitter being ‘infuriatingly shallow and shouty’ should perhaps cure the defects in his own profession first.  When so many concessions to journalists and the media come from the rest of society, and when there is vanishingly little support for the media in Australian society, you have to wonder what Kenny might hope to achieve by sledging people outside the Press Gallery.  And this example is a classic of the art: the piece that Kenny is praising for its thoughtfulness and reasonableness is little more than a privileged rant about why the plebs need to keep in their place.

The Plebiscite was a low point in Australia’s history.  It ought never to have occurred.  That is was egged on by so many in the media should make us seriously consider whether it is time to challenge the power of the media in our society.

Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based PhD student, writer, and policy wonk who writes about law, conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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