April 29th, 2008
Recently, an article in the Courier Mail about same-sex couples being banned from attending a religious school’s formal sparked over a thousand comments. Many of these comments were strongly polarised into two groups: supporting the outspoken Churchie students, and those not. There was a very low percentage of comments that fell into a middle ground. My post today analyses to some small extent those comments – obviously there are limits to what can be discerned from a comment stream such as this, but still there are some interesting results even if you take them with a grain of salt.
Overall, the comments against the outspoken gay students were more in number (52%) than those supporting them, although this was not the case in the first day of comments (click on the chart). I suspect that there was some form of concerted action by religious groups on the second and third days that dragged the stats down.
Several things are immediately clear from the comments.
Firstly, homophobic and religion-based intolerance of gays is still rife within Queensland. I don’t accept mere ignorance as the cause (although there was plenty of the usual “its a lifestyle choice” rubbish). It seems that as each great intolerance in society is overturned, the jack boot brigade move on to kicking the next minority they can find, often using religion and tradition as an excuse for their viciousness. A few commenters even suggested that Leviticus in the Old Testament should be taken literally. At least the survey by GetUp last year shows that the targetting of gays is in decline, and so I suppose that the jack booters will grudgingly move on the the next minority in time. Certainly even the vitriolic demographic of Courier Mail commenters seems to be at a tipping point.
Another common theme was the feeling that minorities should keep quiet and that the views of the “majority” are the only views that should be heard. Several commenters expressed the opinion that they were “sick of having these minority’s views rammed down their throat.” For a country that holds democracy as one of the highest values (it was in the top three values of young Australians in a recent survey by the University of Western Australia), there certainly seems to be many that haven’t grasped the rudiments of the concept, especially when it comes to protecting minorities. There was also an insidious sentiment expressed that gays were acceptable as long as they didn’t “flaunt” there sexuality, which I took to mean as long as they didn’t show any signs of being gay, like holding hands, in public.
Thirdly, there is a disturbingly common belief that I have seen in other Queensland debates and topics that private organisations should be allowed to do whatever they like and to make whatever rules they like. There seems to be little respect for the hard-fought for laws that we all must abide by (or at least give due consideration to). “The school makes the rules and so the students must follow rules” was a very common comment.
Finally, there was the “fabric of society is being destroyed” or the “world has gone crazy” mob. These are just generally people that are too bigoted in their views to accept any sort of societal change or different culture. Generally, they are the same group that believe crime is sky-rocketing and our society is collapsing, and other social myths not backed up by objective observations. Generally, there is not much you can do with these people, except wait for them to die out.
Anyway, it should be interesting to see if the stats change over the next few years. At least one decision that I was easily able to make after reading the comments was that there is no way my Ethiopian daughter will be attending a school with such religious or intolerant leanings. Apart from their dated and inflexible outlook, the contributions by those claiming to be Churchie seniors left a lot to be desired, no only on semantics and demeanour, but also in basic grammar and spelling.