Well, holy crapsticks. That was unexpected. I was moving the Going Down Swinging office on Thursday night, afloat in a sea of boxes, when I got a message along the lines of “Um, I think your blog is exploding.” Turned out it was. It didn’t actually break, but it proliferated with people and comments at an unprecedented rate, while I vainly tried to do some sort of moderating on my phone. Safe to say, then, that ‘ANZAC Day not for faggots and towelheads’ touched a nerve.
Ironically, it was Twitter that prompted the article, Twitter I was bagging out in the article, and Twitter that made everyone show up here and read the article. When I got home late that night, it was Twitter I was having to look at to figure out what the hell had gone on. I’d been avoiding Twitter in the vain hopes of actually getting some shit done, but after this episode, I caved. Yeah, I’m that easy. My address whatsit is @geofflemon. Come and … be my friend, or follow me around, or scrub my back, or whatever the hell it is you people do to each other with that machine.
I’m not even used to having visitors in the thousands, let alone the tens of thousands. Let alone that many in a day. So, late Thursday evening was a little like coming home to the house where you live alone to find it crammed with people halfway through an epic party. Mostly it was a good thing. There were some old friends, and a whole lot of friendly faces, plus the obligatory handful of fuckwits who had followed some of you in from the street.
But it was odd, nonetheless. This blog is a fairly quiet corner of the internet. It started out with stories about me being wasted and ridiculous, shot through with some kind of pathos: like a literary Tucker Max who never got laid. These days it could as easily be an essay or a collection of dick jokes. (That’s also the title of former VP Cheney’s debut stand-up record.) It’s not going to be about sociopolitics every day, or I’d jam a chopstick up my nose and face-mash the desk. I like to think that it hovers so inconclusively between highbrow and lowbrow that eventually the hairs get confused and wander off to hang out with the moustache.
For those who got something out of the ANZAC piece, thanks for letting me know. My favourite line amidst the Twitter chaos was the retweet saying “Beware. It’s a bit sweary.” Yes, I am a bit sweary. Much less when I write about puppies than when I write about Tony Abbot, though. You do the maths.
Some of the critiques were actually quite thoughtful and detailed, and there were others using the bog-standard lines that would help them write off the actual argument (“Not listening, you don’t have the conch! La la la…”). One ACL fan was trying to get Lateline reporter Hamish Fitzsimmons in hot water with the ABC for retweeting my ‘hate speech’. I’m drafting another post in response to both camps, which is crystallising some ideas that have been in my head for a long while. I’ll be aiming to post that this week.
One of the things I was doing over the weekend, though, was trying to engage in some level of debate with the ACL.
A number of people pointed my article out to them via Twitter, without response. Nor was I expecting one: they could easily play the ‘refusing to dignify that’ card on the basis that I used naughty words. The fact that they would struggle to make a case against it is just a happy accident for them, and if they did, no doubt that case would focus on the tone of the piece rather than its content. Black humour is easily pilloried as malicious intent.
But I didn’t write that piece for the ACL’s response in the first place, so that isn’t an issue. What I did do, before the article took off, was aim for a discussion on their turf, at the ACL website. On the 26th of April, the ACL posted Wallace’s interview on Sunrise in which he tried to defend his initial Twitter comment. It was largely this interview that made me angry enough to write the piece I did. Aside from claiming that his condemnation had been orchestrated by “Twitter activists” (twactivists?), who had also brought down Aussie Hero™ Stephanie Rice, he put on his Blandy McBlandface, nice-guy, ‘just having an opinion’ persona to try and write off his comment as a mere observation.
Once I’d finished writing my response, a couple of pro-Jim comments had come up on the ACL site, one stating that “elements in the popular media will pick words from statements like yours and use them to in a way to cause maximum division and upset in our community. You are a peace maker, whereas others who misuse your words are stirrers and troublemakers.”
Quite how excluding specific communities of Australians from his vision of Australia can be defined as peace-making, I’m not sure. But I posted a restrained, polite comment asking this gent how the media were able to “pick words” from a 22-word Tweet that was reported in full. As a site moderator over at The Roar, we tend to bin comments only when they contain antagonism or flat-out abuse. So I was surprised to see that my comment didn’t make it onto the page.
At first, I thought it might be because I’d used a fake email, as I routinely do to avoid spam. So I tried with a live account, this time posting “Jim, if you could explain just how someone else’s marital choices have any effect on your life whatsoever, then you might be justified in making these comments. Put simply though, how is it any of your concern?”
Again, a reasonable question, I thought. Again, as one of my commenters Akira Doe also noted, no dice.
By now I’d figured out what was going on. So I tried a different tack. Take the softly-softly approach, and bring Scripture into it. (There is a reason behind my blog title, after all.) “Jim,” I posted, “the essential nature of Christ’s message is love. Love to all and everybody, unceasing and without distinction. Comments such as yours, however well-intentioned, still run the risk of inflaming the prejudices of other, less-considered people. Do you recognise that being a concern? I’m interested in your view.”
Success. The suck-hard phrasing got it past the mods. Self-five. Unfortunately Jim mustn’t do the answering himself, as I got no love from the big man. (That’d be gay.) I did, though, get this pearler from a chap named Bruce. “I think you may be confused. ‘Love to all and everybody, unceasing and without distinction, without inflaming prejudice’, sounds more John Lennon than Jesus Christ.”
Curious. I responded, “Bruce, I’m confused by your reply. Christ’s commandment, of which he said there was no greater, was to love thy neighbour as thyself. He also said that if a man strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek to him as well. If this is not love to all, unceasing, without prejudice, then what does it mean? Rather than sounding like John Lennon, it looks like John Lennon borrowed his ideas from Christ.”
Buh-bow. By this point the moderators had realised Bruce couldn’t really get out of this one without looking like a real piece of shit. So they blocked that comment as well.
To date, my one approved comment is the only post on that page that even vaguely questions what Wallace has said or done, despite the ACL’s position being strongly disagreed with by any number of other Christians, as well as heathens like me. The rest of the comments are made up of burning insight like:
“Well done Jim. I agree with what you said.”
“We fight a high tech battle in a moral minefield. The problem with Twitter is that it is short, sharp and easily twisted by the Enemy.”
Bear in mind they were A-OK with publishing sentiments like: “History showed us that islam is very calculating and will take advantage when the time is right to revolutionise, uproot and replace with islamic laws and values.” Please note, that’s as opposed to Christian Crusaders, and the hordes of rice-bowl missionaries who bribed and bullied every illiterate tribe they could find into the loving arms of Christ our Lord. Our friend then added: “Homosexualisms and other unnatural ways of living was clearly rejected in the bible so and Australia was found on christian values and that what kept us safe, successful and sought for country.” Hmm. Supercalifaggylipstickhomosexualidocious.
But disputing Jim’s position? Not on. The ACL won’t tolerate any level of discussion or dissent. (Seriously, go to the article and give it a shot.) And yet, on their own website just this February, was an outraged piece about anti-gay-marriage articles being censored from the website OnLine Opinion. Apparently gay activists had “monstered” the site’s sponsors. “We should be especially appalled [at] the clear tactic of this very aggressive Lobby to close down debate on a very important issue,” said Jim himself. ““If we are to have a full debate on this issue it must be that.”
So why, three months later, won’t the Australian Christian League allow a politely differing opinion to pose a question? I seriously doubt I’m the only one being barred. Why manipulate the results to make it seem like everyone agrees?
Ultimately, it looks like a low-level strand of that old Church favourite that you dare not question the Almighty’s will. Faith is submission, questions are blasphemy, mortals are puny grubs beneath the heavenly heel.
To which my response has always been, if you are so damn sure that you’re right, then where is the harm in being questioned? If your faith unswervingly leads to the one true light, then any objection must have a resolution. So why are those who doubt the Church’s line pushed aside? Surely an omnipotent God and an unassailable faith have the tenacity to withstand a handful of mortal interrogators? In fact, shouldn’t God and his followers be welcoming that doubt and that interrogation, as a way of proving all the more fully how right they actually are?
I published every comment left on my ANZAC Day piece, good and bad. The critical ones I’ve answered already, or will try to in future posts, as I refine and clarify the argument. That’s how debate moves forward. The ACL aren’t willing to allow that process. All that does is make it seem like they’re afraid they’re wrong. Their position can’t be defended.
The article I was trying to post on was titled “Jim Wallace answers his Twitter critics on Sunrise.” It’s illuminating that his minders don’t have the courage to let him answer even the mildest criticism in the real world.