THERE WAS A TIME WHEN JOURNALISTS BACKED FREE SPEECH
It was a liberating experience. In a moment of madness I had decided to tweet into the maelstrom of media rage created by former prime minister Tony Abbott’s decision to fly to the US to address the Alliance Defending Freedom. It had been prompted by an interview where an American tolerance commissar opined it was appalling, in a democracy, that people opposed to abortion and gay marriage were allowed to air their toxic views. This progressive truth was so self-evident it went unremarked by the interviewer. My clear intent was neither to defend Abbott’s world view nor his decision to speak to a cabal of “reactionary” Christians on the hand-grenade topic “the importance of the family”. It was simply to say: “Once upon a time journalists believed in free speech …” It seemed an unremarkable intervention.
It wasn’t surprising that there was a social media storm because its obsessives are always stewing over something. But that defending free speech could be cast as a crime against tolerance screams something very disturbing about our times. That some who lit torches with the mob were journalists says a lot about the state of the media. These reporters have appointed themselves the prefects of progressive thought. That is disturbing because when journalists parade as pointers to moral true then check your bearings, we have drifted badly off course. I had hoped that free speech was one of the few things on which journalists in a democracy could agree: neutral ground in the culture wars. But it proved not to be the case. That was liberating: a moment of self-discovery. I had become a radical by standing still.
In an age where being a revolutionary is traditional, then being traditional is revolutionary. This was a historic inflection point. Nearly 90 years after Antonio Gramsci wrote his letters from Mussolini’s prison, Marxism’s long march through Western institutions was reaching its end. From his cell Gramsci wrestled with why workers in the West weren’t rising up to cast out the ruling class, as Marx predicted they would. Gramsci pitied them as victims of false consciousness. They had been brainwashed by a vast array of religious, intellectual and cultural institutions into believing their interests and the state’s coalesced. “The state is the entire complex of practical and theoretical activities with which the ruling class justifies and maintains its dominance and manages to win the active consent of those over whom it rules,” he wrote.
It seems never to have occurred to Gramsci that the workers recognised Marxism for what it was: a prescription for a tyranny so profound it sought to colonise people’s minds. But if the people wouldn’t buy a bad idea, there was one eager market: Europe’s intellectuals. Gramsci proposed they begin a grinding “war of position” to take the commanding heights of the bureaucracy, universities and the media. Once there they would scrub the landscape clean of Western values. “Cultural policy will above all be negative, a critique of the past; it will be aimed at erasing from the memory and at destroying,” he wrote. As social projects go, this wasteland was a tough sell, but neo-Marxists are nothing if not dogged. They built critical theory as a vehicle for change and began the deconstruction of the West.
Frankfurt School academics fleeing Adolf Hitler’s Germany transmitted the intellectual virus to the US and set about systematically destroying the culture of the society that gave them sanctuary. America’s freedom of speech was its Achilles heel. Critical theorists were given university pulpits and a constitutionally ordained right to preach, grinding its foundation stones to dust. Since 1933 they have been hell-bent on destroying the village to save it. When Herbert Marcuse wrote Repressive Tolerance 50 years ago, the hope that his ideas would become mainstream was a distant dream. But, if they did, he had developed a plan for reversing the polarity of freedom. Marcuse cautioned his disciples not to be so foolish as to afford the courtesy of free speech to their opponents.
“Certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behaviour cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude,” he wrote. Tolerance is the totem of our age, a bumper sticker of virtue. Yet hidden in its many meanings is the doublespeak of defining what will be taboo. It is now considered tolerant to demand silence from nonconformists. When the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission says the Catholic Church has a case to answer for robustly defending its views on marriage and the family, then we have seen a glimpse of the Marcusian future. And it is just one gust of the gale buffeting a society hollowed out by its intellectuals.
I had hoped to remain indifferent to the proposed change in marriage laws. But that will be impossible if those who cast themselves as oppressed seek to become oppressors. If offending the new ruling hegemony is prohibited then I stand with the right of the minority to disagree. Stripped of their fashionable clothes, what’s striking about the tolerance police is how similar these new moralists are to the old. They pursue heretics with an inquisitor’s zeal, blinded by the righteousness of their cause. In A Man for All Seasons Thomas William Roper declared he would knock down every law in England to get at the devil. When asked “And when the last law was down and the Devil turned on you, where would you hide,” Roper said, “I’d give the Devil the benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake.”
SAFE SCHOOLS PROGRAM PART OF BROADER MARXIST STRATEGY TO CHANGE SOCIETY
The architect behind a contentious sexual diversity program set to become mandatory across all Victorian schools is an outspoken hard-left warrior who has publicly denounced Immigration Minister Peter Dutton as a “sexist prick”. Safe Schools Coalition Victoria co-founder Roz Ward has also conceded the Safe Schools Coalition program is part of a broader Marxist strategy to change society. Ms Ward is a La Trobe University academic who moonlights as a writer for Red Flag, the publication of the Socialist Alternative, a Trotskyite self-described Marxist organisation that has become a dominant force among university radicals and the broad-left activist movement.
Ms Ward’s recent contributions include an article published in January, titled “Sexist text messages the least of Peter Dutton’s crimes”, in which she accuses the minister of being responsible for instances of sexual abuse being experienced by refugees at the Nauru processing centre. She writes. “We should rage long and hard against his ongoing crimes against refugees.” In another article, Ms Ward accused the former Victorian Liberal government of turning train stations into prisons after the introduction of a safety policy in 2012 of manning platforms with armed guards. She denounced the guards, known as “protective services officers”, as “uniformed thugs”. The program has recently been linked with an improved public perception of safety.
A prominent campaigner on gay, lesbian and transgender issues, including marriage equality, Ms Ward has repeatedly claimed that the Safe Schools Coalition was derived as a bid to stamp out homophobia within schools. Victorian Education Minister James Merlino, who posed for photographs with Ms Ward at the recent Gay Pride March, declined a request for an interview. However in a statement, his spokesman said that the “scare campaign” being run by opponents of Safe Schools Coalition has been “nothing short of disgraceful”. “The comments from federal MPs like Cory Bernardi and George Christensen are perfect examples of the kind of attitudes that we need to change,” he said.
The Victorian government was the first to provide public funds to the cause. Former Labor education minister Bronwyn Pike, who has an openly gay son, announced $80,000 in seed funding in October 2010. A year later, the newly elected Coalition government announced further funding of $416,000 and the federal Labor government then lent its support in 2013 when Senator Penny Wong, who is gay, unveiled $8 million over four years to “help stop homophobia and create more inclusive school communities”. The Safe Schools Coalition program has since been rolled out to more than 500 schools and has the backing of the Australian Secondary Principals Association and the Australian Education Union.
Despite the program’s stated aims, its politically correct approach to sex education — under which teachers are counselled that it is “heterosexist” to refer to students as “girls and boys”, and children are instructed to role-play gay teenagers — has outraged religious groups and conservative politicians. Many have questioned the appropriateness for schools to be teaching children as young as 11 the meaning of terms such as “queer”, “pansexual”, “sister girl” and “trans guy”. The Coalition’s website also lists more than 40 primary schools or P12 colleges that have registered. One, St Kilda Primary School, took part in the Midsumma Festival’s annual Pride March in January alongside the Safe Schools Coalition. Ms Ward, who manages the program in Victoria, wrote about the landmark occasion on the coalition’s website.
“For the first time ever we marched with a primary school as well as more than a dozen secondary schools, which shows the progress that has been made.” St Kilda Primary School principal Sue Higgins confirmed that the school had taken part, but did not respond to further questions, including whether students had taken part. West Australian Education Minister Peter Collier has raised concerns, describing aspects of it as “almost offensive”. A former high school teacher, he said it could hurt the children it aimed to protect, although it had the hallmarks of an effective bullying strategy. “I cannot see any situation where drawing attention to a particular set of students is going to necessarily assist that child,” Mr Collier said. He said only 16 of the state’s 800 public schools had registered for the program.
GAMBLING WITH THE GROCERY BUDGET UNETHICAL AND APPALLING
Wesley Mission has strongly condemned plans by shopping giants Woolworths and 7-eleven to allow customers to ‘top up’ their gambling accounts at their retail outlets by using online debit cards. After news broke that the retailers were in talks with the company providing the cards, E-merchants, Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Dr Keith Garner moved swiftly to publicly denounce the move as appalling and unethical. The move will also send a green light to punters who will seek to use their cards to pay for groceries in lieu of their bank accounts. Speaking to financial analyst and journalist Ross Greenwood on Radio 2GB, Dr Garner said the proposal would be another move to make online gambling mainstream without consideration for the moral, ethical or social impact.
“I am appalled at the thought of this story,” Dr Garner said. “To imagine, if you’ve got a bit of money left, you’ll be able to buy a bit of food as well. “Taking gambling into shopping centres normalises gambling, making it just another part of everyday life, rather than something with actual moral, ethical and social problems tied to it. “It bothers me all together that children might be dragged in to this.” E-merchants provides cards to online bookmakers such as Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes. If the plans go ahead, online gamblers will be able to peruse their local Woolworths or 7-eleven, with or without their children in tow, top up their gambling account and buy the weekly groceries if there is any money left.
Talks are also underway with pay day lenders Cash Converters who Mr Greenwood described as ‘the lender of last resort to someone who is completely desperate.’ Reports from the first half of this financial year show that Australians have placed $90 million on these cards, a 90% increase on 2014-15. A Wesley Mission report on financial stress released last year revealed that 40% of NSW households were spending more than they were earning. The Wesley Report also found that the number of NSW households not budgeting grew from 5% in 2010 to 19% in 2014. Dr Garner issued a sobering warning “Credit card debt is a big problem and pay day lenders is even worse,” he said. “I don’t know who’s making money out of this but I know where it’s coming from, the pockets of everyday Australians”.