Well, slap my arse with a postal ballot and call me Pericles the Dumber. Seems our “Strong Leader” Malcolm Turnbull is suffering a case of legislative weakness. He’s bang into representative government when it comes to cutting wages for our lowest paid workers. But, like the Athenians he loves to quote in his ostentatious speeches, he’s come over all (non-binding) direct democracy where tweaks to the Marriage Act are concerned.
If you ask me, the same-sex marriage mail survey—set to be held in the noble TV Week Logies tradition, but without the convenience of online—will be a nuisance to many. I mean, shit. I did not return the postal warranty for my dust-buster by deadline, and I take the matter of unsightly household lint much more seriously than I do the institution of marriage. Further, I resent being “given a say” by a government so openly unresponsive to the sound of my voice. Also, I begrudge the walk to the post-box right in the middle of magpie swooping season.
And, heck. If we’re all expected to uphold the fiction that this is a glorious moment of participatory democracy, then perhaps the Prime Minister should set an example. Turnbull has said that he supports a “yes” vote, but cannot commit to campaigning for this because he has “many other calls on his time”. Well, so the fuck do I, Malcolm. I work a fifty-hour week, I am fighting perimenopause daily with YouTube strength training videos and I have recently started seeing a podiatrist. I have bunions, Malcolm. Bunions. I have many calls on my time and feet more urgent than this. So, how’s about you get out there and show us all how a matter that has called for this exceptional non-mandatory walk to Australia Post is also exceptional enough to give a shit about.
Those folks enthusiastic about a “yes” vote are aware that not-giving-a-shit may be a great hurdle to this survey’s (non-binding) success. As are those in the Coalition whose preference is “no”—they’re counting on the support of retirees, a demographic both more likely to vote and more likely to vote for culturally conservative propositions.
“How do I put this nicely for moderately progressive media workers and celebrities? Your support for a cause is fast becoming the means for that cause’s defeat.”
So, a question for prominent yes campaigners, who reluctantly commit themselves to this farce, is how to motivate shit-giving. My answer is: not at all what you have been doing, you bunch of useless arse-dwellers.
You can insist for all you are worth that most Australians support the idea of same-sex marriage. Look! Every poll says so! Well, nearly every poll and prediction pointed to a Clinton victory and to the defeat of “Leave” in the British referendum. Culturally progressive media outlets declared, over and again, that the political choice and will was clear. Now, the USA is 205 days into a Trump presidency. And May is up to her neck into negotiations with the EU that will see her island nation transformed into Grand Cayman, but with much shittier weather.
Across the West, surveys and actual elections testing our faith in democracy return, in most cases, a resolute “few shits to give”. There have been exceptions, however—and, no, that centrist tool Macron was not one of them, because a record number of French people stayed home. Voter exceptions in the West occur not because of ardent media support, but in spite of it. How do I put this nicely for moderately progressive media workers and celebrities? Your support for a cause is fast becoming the means for that cause’s defeat.
Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister of Greece, has said many times that the refusal of local media to take SYRIZA seriously worked to that (nominally) communist party’s advantage. Greek media treated the anti-austerity party as a joke, yet SYRIZA was elected. Bernie Sanders was ignored or derided by mainstream press outlets, but attracted crowds of historic size. Yep. Bigger than Obama’s. Sanders remains the most popular US politician, even in surveys conducted by those partisan twits at Fox effing News. As writer Briahna Joy Gray discusses in a fine piece from Current Affairs, Sanders’ likely successor Nina Turner, a woman of colour, is currently subject to more of the same derision by a knowledge class that can’t let the dream of Hillary go—but this time, with added racism. Apparently white and apparently progressive pundits feel no shame in calling Turner an “Uncle Tom” for her decision to support non-mainstream politics. And you faux-progressives expect actually progressive people to listen to you with your filthy arrogant speech?!
FFS, it happened in Britain, twice. “Progressive” media, still suffering the delusion that people don’t think they’re haughty dicks, supported Remain. “Progressive” media, still suffering the delusion that whacking a rainbow flag on everything is seen as consonant with revolution, opposed Corbyn. Let’s have a look at what the purportedly “left-leaning” Guardian had to say about the genuinely left-leaning Corbyn: he was “no good for democracy”, “ self-righteous”, “lifeless” and “spineless”, he had “no point”, he would lead his party to a “cliff-edge”, that he had “betrayed” the young—presumably by imposing on them the burden of not paying exorbitant university fees— and should immediately “resign”. So committed was the Graun to the idea that Corbyn would be the death of the left and not the revival of it, it even permitted Australian commentators to hold forth on his inevitable electoral wipeout.
“There are arguments against same-sex marriage that are, even if marginal, quite reasonable, and also progressive.”
Feast your famished eyes on this tragic moment of VanSplaining: Corbyn is “unelectable”. The guy went on to produce the biggest swing to Labour since the election of the Attlee government in 1945. Corbyn was unelected, but is certainly not unelectable, however much “progressive” media works to ensure it.
Now, we can say, of course, that same-sex marriage is a genuinely progressive cause and that in this case, “progressive” media has noble and historic truth on its side. What we can certainly say, however, is that many people, progressive or conservative, have had a gutful of establishment media laying on the injunctions with a trowel. I am certain that Lenore Taylor, the Australian editor of the Graun, means very well when she declares that her publication will not entertain “spurious arguments” against same-sex marriage—personally, I’m all for rubbishing the confines of morality. But, she reasserts these in precisely the way we know now gets right up people. Taylor writes, “If there was a reasonable argument to say “no”, we’d certainly discuss it. I just haven’t heard it yet.” I would suggest that she train her ears on sources outside the liberal media echo chamber.
There are arguments against same-sex marriage that are, even if marginal, quite reasonable, and also progressive. Just as there were marginal and reasonable and progressive arguments against Brexit, against Clinton and for Corbyn. But all we have in establishment progressive media are accounts of Yes and No. I mean, of course I’d rather see same-sex marriage passed into law. Sure, it will confer no legal benefit not already available to all unmarried Australian couples, whether same- or opposite-sex (and, by the way, where the fuck was Australia’s progressive media when those extraordinary legislative changes were passed in 2008 after many years of struggle?). But, let’s just do it, enrol to vote by August 24 etc.
If we continue to hear endorsement from celebrities, as we did throughout Clinton’s campaign, and tut-tutting from editors who refuse to honestly interrogate the non-black-and-white opinions of supporters and opponents, as they did for Corbyn, what we might very well find is a “no” vote that defies all previous polls.
If what we want is “yes”, then that exhortation must not be seen to come from establishment sources. The messages “you’re an idiot if you disagree with me”, “we will not brook complexity of opinion” and “we’ve got it in the bag, anyhow, losers”, per Tim Minchin, all make some voters feel like they’re back at school.
I will probably vote “yes” if my bunions aren’t acting up in September. But, FFS. One more lesson on absolute morality by one of media’s assistant principals and those who have come to distrust media as much as do the “democratic” process might use any excuse to stay home.
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