In which Stephen Chavura goes hunting for gays (and completely misses the point)

December 28, 2017

Stephen Chavura insinuates I want to shut down debate (“Beware the martinets who would silence all debate”, The Australian; December 27 2017):

One of the most prominent activists of the Yes campaign, Michael Barnett, summed up a common attitude to the legitimacy of public debate in his tweets to Coopers Brewery:

“So you’re saying it’s acceptable to debate the merit of supporting discrimination @coopersbrewery? Seriously?”

Of course, the very issue in the debate was whether traditional marriage unjustly discriminates in the first place.

Barnett had the right to make his statements, but apparently he thought those with whom he disagreed had no similar right. He was not alone.

Unsurprisingly he gets me completely wrong.

In the Coopers Brewery situation my intention was definitely not to shut down debate, but rather to highlight to the business my dismay at them hosting a debate on my rights and equality.

It takes a special sort of stupidity to fail to understand that denying consenting same-sex couples the legal protections bestowed by marriage is actually genuine discrimination.

It’s also a no-brainer that businesses that buy into hateful discrimination should prepare for angry public backlashes.

If Coopers Brewery wants to run a series of debates putting the For and Against arguments for denying people equality on varies issues, and test the market’s response to such debates, I say bring it on.

Incidentally, Pauline Pantsdown recalls that Stephen Chavura came to my attention in connection to an entirely unrelated conversation around the Pride in Diversity programme:

This is my tweet she refers to:

Let’s remember that Stephen Chavura is no friend of LGBTIQ people and our families by virtue of his active involvement in the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, an entity run by the grotesque hate organisation the Australian Christian Lobby.


OPINION

Beware the martinets who would silence all debate

STEPHEN CHAVURA
The Australian
12:00AM December 27, 2017

Until relatively recently we in the West have defined oppression largely in terms of the absence of political and civil freedoms, and the solution was to introduce new rights such as universal suffrage, freedom of conscience, freedom of movement and freedom of speech.

This is what we call liberal democracy, or that tradition of political thinking that sees the expansion of freedoms as the solution to oppression rather than its cause.

Recent controversies in the US, Canada, Britain and Australia regarding race, culture, sexuality, and gender indicate a shift from political oppression to cultural oppression. Cultural oppression is caused by, among other things, feeling excluded from prevailing cultural norms regarding sexuality, gender and nationality — norms that are said to solely benefit white, heterosexual males.

Those who feel excluded from these norms based on their professed identity seek to change the prevailing culture and make it more “inclusive”. This is the essence of identity politics.

And yet identity politics co­exists uneasily with liberal democracy, and for good reason.

Culture is to a great extent carried along by the words we use — “male and female”, “husband and wife”, “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Australia Day” and so on — and the texts, images, movies and songs we encounter. This is why identity politics must be at odds with liberal democracy, for if culture is to be made more inclusive then what we can think, say and see needs to be more tightly controlled.

In other words, freedom of speech and thought are part of the problem rather than the solution..

The same-sex marriage debate in Australia confirmed this, for many citizens sincerely believed that Australians had no right to a public debate in the first place. Bill Shorten spoke for many when he castigated Malcolm Turnbull back in August as the person who “licensed this debate”.

Recall the boycott of Coopers beer by some pubs back in March. Same-sex marriage was the focal point of a “lighthearted” discussion over a Coopers beer organised by the Bible Society between MPs Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie. Within minutes of the Bible Society uploading the debate, a storm of Twitter protests ensued, resulting in Coopers disassociating itself from the video and pledging its support for same-sex marriage.

The problem with Coopers, the Bible Society and advocates of a plebiscite was never that they criticised same-sex marriage. The crime was that they dared to suggest that anyone had the right to debate the issue in the first place.

One of the most prominent activists of the Yes campaign, Michael Barnett, summed up a common attitude to the legitimacy of public debate in his tweets to Coopers Brewery:

“So you’re saying it’s acceptable to debate the merit of supporting discrimination @coopersbrewery? Seriously?”

Of course, the very issue in the debate was whether traditional marriage unjustly discriminates in the first place.

Barnett had the right to make his statements, but apparently he thought those with whom he disagreed had no similar right. He was not alone.

The case made against Coopers and the legitimacy of a same-sex marriage debate was that inevitably things would be said that would be detrimental to the mental health of members of the LGBTQI community, which could lead to an increase in self-harm.

But these sorts of catastrophic harm arguments are very dangerous for freedom of speech and, therefore, democracy.

Of course the state should be concerned about mental health and suicide, but its approach to these matters needs to be sensitive to other goods that are profoundly beneficial for societies, especially freedom of speech. Indeed, I invite LGBTQI rights advocates to name all the countries without a robust tradition of freedom of speech that have strong and effective LGBTQI rights movements.

There is a democratic danger of linking what we can say publicly to mental health and other social maladies such as ethnic alienation from national culture.

Identity politics correctly assumes that for many of us part of our self-esteem comes from being integrated into a wider community or culture. However, if the wider cultural norms conflict with one’s own identity as transgender, or genderless, or gay, or Muslim, or indigenous, then one can feel alienated.

If one also believes one has a right that the wider culture embrace their identity, then this exclusion has all the weight of an injustice, and the person either becomes increasingly alienated from mainstream culture or seeks to manipulate culture, and therefore control others’ speech and information. Enter Safe Schools here in Australia, demands to widen 18C to include anti-Islamic speech, and demands to change the date of Australia Day.

The conflict between identity politics and freedom of speech in a nutshell is that freedom of speech means unpredictable speech, and unpredictable speech means no guarantee against words that will emotionally wound, or the emergence of cultural norms that will exclude. Thus, to enjoy a life free from the anxiety of offence and cultural exclusion, speech and even thought needs to be controlled.

This is why movements to snuff out cultural oppression, unlike movements to snuff out political oppression, see freedom as the problem rather the solution. That is, they are deeply illiberal. Certainly this mood against liberal democracy is taking hold among sections of the youth in the US, Canada, Britain and Australia.

One of the great challenges for developed societies going into 2018 and beyond is the extent to which they can accommodate millennials’ longing for inclusiveness while at the same time convincing them that the difficult task of balancing inclusiveness with freedom of speech and other liberal rights is worthy of their efforts. If this can be done then we would have achieved definite social progress.

But if not, then the future of liberal democracy becomes uncertain, for there is no shortage today of counter movements willing to take its place. Furthermore, recent debates in Australia over race, gender, sexuality and Islam have revealed no shortage of martinets who are willing to beat our brains and hearts into shape, always for the sake of love, diversity, and equality.

Stephen Chavura teaches politics and history at Macquarie University, Campion College and the Lachlan Macquarie Institute.

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The two faces of Eventbrite

October 17, 2017

Eventbrite is an organisation familiar to many of us.  They facilitate the online ticketing of events.

On September 28 2017 I wrote this letter to Eventbrite, outlining a concern of mine:

Dear Eventbrite,

With reference to your Community Guidelines:

====
Hateful/Dangerous Content and Organisations

• Eventbrite does not tolerate content or organisations that promote or encourage hate, violence, or harassment towards others and/or oneself. Specifically, content or organisations that promote hate towards or the harassment of individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity will not be permitted on our site.
====

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), a prominent anti-LGBTIQ organisation that is heading the No campaign against same-sex marriage in Australia at the moment, and is using Eventbrite for two of its events:

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/tickets-external?eid=36709287467&ref=etckt https://www.eventbrite.com.au/tickets-external?eid=36708397806&ref=etckt

It concerns me that they are in breach of your Community Guidelines on account of them using your platform to promote their anti-LGBTIQ agenda.

For example, refer to this 2016 article about the Managing Director of the ACL, Lyle Shelton:

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2016/australian-christian-lobby-likens-gay-marriage-and-safe-schools-to-unthinkable-nazi-atrocities-20160531-gp8ff2.html

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.
Melbourne, Australia

I received this response from Eventbrite on Oct 6:

Hello Michael,

I’m reaching out on behalf of the Eventbrite Trust and Safety team to follow up with you regarding the event listing you reported to us.

At Eventbrite, we believe in everyone’s fundamental right to free speech and assembly even though we may not agree with all views and opinions expressed on our platform. Diverse thoughts are not only essential to our vibrant community, but vital to our mission. We want to offer an open opportunity for anyone to gather for their chosen purpose, but we do not promote nor intend to profit from events that support harmful behaviors, including direct and indirect threats of violence, promotion of terrorism, targeted harassment/bullying, unjust or prejudicial treatment of a category of people, promotion of self-harm, and sexual exploitation. These behaviors and more are not welcome on our platform and we have a team dedicated to removing event listings that violate our Terms of Use and Community Guidelines.

We carefully reviewed the National Conference listing in question and, although this organization has views many do not agree with, this event listing abides by our Terms of Use and Community Guidelines today.

Best,

Matthew
Eventbrite Trust and Safety

I sent this response the same day:

Hi Matthew,

Thank you for your response.

While I agree that the ACL has a right to gather, there seems to be a disconnect between your standards and your actions.

The ACL does not directly encourage violence. However, even a cursory review of their material that they have produced for the “No” campaign would show hatred towards the LGBTI community and it certainly amounts to harassment.

With the LGBTI community suffering greatly under the current political climate we have heard of increases in demands for mental health services and we have been subjected to an unjust treatment, primarily driven by the ACL.

Your continued support of their event is indeed regrettable and Eventbrite is contributing to the negative impact of the mental health of those that it seeks to protect.

I urge you to review this decision in light of my comments above.

Regards,
Michael.

I will post an update if I receive a response to the above email.


Hilton Sydney should donate the proceeds from hosting the ACL conference dinner to the Yes campaign

October 11, 2017

Hilton Hotel & Resorts has made a commitment to the LGBT community:

At Hilton, we are proud to support the LGBT community as a way to further the Hilton brand promise of ensuring that every guest feels cared for, valued and respected.

On November 17 2017 Hilton Sydney will be hosting the Australian Christian Lobby’s Embolden Conference:

ACL 2017 Embolden Conference

The Australian Christian Lobby is committed to eroding the rights of LGBTIQ Australians.  They are actively campaigning against marriage equality, Safe Schools, and the dignity, respect and inclusion of every same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender diverse Australian.

In short, the ACL are a hate group that considers homosexuality immoral and does not believe same-sex couples should be parents.

It is unclear to me how Hilton Sydney are “supporting the LGBT community” by hosting an event for an organisation that is actively destroying the lives of LGBT people.

It appears that Hilton are not walking their talk by taking a booking from a prominent anti-LGBTIQ hate group.

At the same time, the ACL have form in booking their events at venues that are known to be openly supportive of the LGBTIQ community, as demonstrated by the 2014 debacle where the ACL booked the pro-LGBTIQ Hyatt Canberra for an event that resulted in Hyatt forging a stronger relationship with Australian Marriage Equality.

It is clearly a tactic of the ACL, to further their victim status, to knowingly book a pro-LGBTIQ venue on the expectation the venue will be called out for doing business with an anti-LGBTIQ hate organisation.

By hosting an ACL event, and with the ACL fulling engaged in the No campaign against marriage equality, Hilton Sydney are complicit in the devastating effect the postal survey on marriage equality is having on the mental health of the LGBTIQ community.

In lieu of Hilton Sydney hosting the ACL event on November 17, the least they can do to show their support for the LGBTIQ community is to donate, up-front, the proceeds from this event to the Yes campaign.  An additional donation toward the Yes campaign would go a long way to demonstrating their commitment to LGBTIQ people.

Going one step further I would like to see Hilton Hotels issue a statement advising they will not take bookings from hate groups and organisations that actively lobby to degrade the human rights and dignity of any group of people.

Stand up for equality Hilton.  You are better than this.


Lyle Shelton

September 16, 2017


Lyle Shelton calls the police

June 28, 2017

SHELTON: Damn that Michael Barnett.  He’s posted our home address on Twitter.  Again.  I’m calling the police.

(calls police)

BOMB SQUAD: Hello, Bomb Squad.  How can we help?

SHELTON: Oh shit.  Wrong speed-dial.

BOMB SQUAD: Is that you Shelton?  We have an AVO on you.  Don’t call us again!

(calls police)

EMERGENCY 000: Police, Ambulance, Fire.  How may we direct your call?

SHELTON: I need the police.

EMERGENCY 000: What city or town are you calling from?

SHELTON: Capital Hill.  It’s where I live.  You should know, it’s the backdrop on all my social media feeds!

EMERGENCY 000: Connecting… Police…

POLICE: What is the nature of the emergency?

SHELTON: They’re destroying my marriage.  Those homosexuals are tearing down the social fabric of my marriage and making my sexuality a laughing-stock.

POLICE: Is this an emergency?  You’re rambling incoherently about your marriage.

SHELTON: Yes, yes, it’s a damn emergency.  They’ve put my family at risk of Muslim glitter-bombers.

POLICE: What exactly is the emergency?

SHELTON: My home address is on the Internet.  It’s on Twitter.  It’s been blogged.  I’m trending, and not in a good way.

POLICE: Someone has posted your private home address on the Internet?

SHELTON: Yes, that’s correct.  My home address is on the Internet.

POLICE: And how exactly did they get your home address?  Are you listed on the Electoral Roll?  In the phone book?  On a public toilet wall?  Did someone steal Cory Bernardi’s Little Black Book?

SHELTON: No, they accessed the ASIC register and put that online.  It’s outrageous!!!!

POLICE: Your home address was listed on the ASIC register?

SHELTON: Yes, that’s correct.  I made a fuss about my home address being in an extract they posted to their blog and then they posted the section with my address on Twitter.

POLICE: You do know that the ASIC register is open to the public?

SHELTON: Yes, of course, it’s a public register.  It says so on their website.

POLICE: And you’re calling in an emergency because you’re concerned people will find out where you live because your home address is listed on a public register?

SHELTON: Yes, I am.

POLICE: Sir, you have the wrong number.  Connecting you to Ambulance.


Is Marriage Alliance’s CEO Damian Wyld being deceptive?

April 14, 2017

In an open letter published on March 31 2017, Marriage Alliance’s CEO Damian Wyld claims, in the absence of any evidence:

We are alarmed by the news that Mark Allaby has been pressured to stand down from the board of another faith-based institution because of the perception that such board positions are not compatible with employment with companies which have publicly expressed support for changing the definition of marriage.

Contrary to what is expressed by some activists, we do not consider that your company’s expressed commitment to diversity is undermined by allowing all employees, including senior executives, the ability to hold, express and act on their beliefs in relation to marriage.

Two weeks earlier I posted this tweet:

In this tweet (and others) I raised concern about Mark Allaby working for IBM, a pro-LGBTIQ Pride in Diversity member organisation, whilst being a Director on the board of a charity holding a strong anti-LGBTIQ stance.

It’s unclear on what sound basis Damian Wyld brought the issue of marriage into this conversation.  My tweets simply do not mention or allude to marriage.

What my tweets do is raise questions around how a senior employee of a leading pro-LGBTIQ corporation can, with any level of personal integrity, support their employer’s pro-LGBTIQ Diversity Statement, whilst also being on the board of a charitable organisation whose framework is based on a version of Christianity that is fundamentally opposed to LGBTIQ inclusion and equality.

If there is any doubt of the latter, the Lachlan Macquarie Institute is run by the Australian Christian Lobby, an organisation that comprehensively dedicates significant resources to denying dignity and full societal inclusion to same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender diverse Australians.

On the issue of marriage, to date IBM have never issued a public statement declaring support for marriage equality.  IBM’s logo did appear on the Australian Marriage Equality list of declared corporate supporters sometime between February 19 and March 20 this year.  However AME have told me that on the grounds of privacy they will not provide evidence of any correspondence authorising their use of IBM’s logo.  In the absence of any public statement from IBM or AME, it can only be concluded that IBM have privately declared support for marriage equality.

I can confidently state that during my employment at IBM, from October 2005 to February 2015, IBM had explicitly and variously declined to go as far as declaring support for marriage equality.  This was despite IBM being a solid supporter of LGBTIQ visibility and inclusion in the workplace, and being a founding member of Pride in Diversity.  Since February 2015 IBM has not issued a public statement in support of marriage equality.

On March 16 The Daily Telegraph’s Miranda Devine reported IBM’s Managing Director Kerry Purcell co-signed a letter, in his personal capacity, declaring support for marriage equality.  However it’s quite a leap to claim that IBM’s corporate entity declared support for marriage equality simply because their Managing Director declared personal support for it.

So where is Damian Wyld’s evidence to substantiate his claim that IBM “have publicly expressed support for changing the definition of marriage”?

And where is Damian Wyld’s evidence to substantiate his claim that “Mark Allaby has been pressured to stand down from the board of another faith-based institution”.

Further, where is Damian Wyld’s evidence of who pressured Mark Allaby to stand down from the board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute?

I have certainly never contacted Mark Allaby, and IBM has refused to comment on the topic.

In conclusion, Damian Wyld has distorted my tweets, falsely claimed IBM have made a public statement of support for marriage equality, and claimed, without evidence, that pressure was put on Mark Allaby to stand down from the board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, without stating by whom.

It seems that Marriage Alliance CEO Damien Wyld is being deceitful in his open letter.  He has provided no evidence of his claims and it would appear he has distorted and fabricated the truth.


Interview on JOY 94.9 Saturday Magazine

April 11, 2017

On Saturday April 8 2017 I was interviewed by David “Macca” McCarthy on JOY 94.9’s Saturday Magazine regarding my activism and the recent smear campaign by The Australian and other News Corp media outlets.


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