THE GAY AGENDA – WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT?

It was not just ‘an innocent question on Twitter’, as some have tried to pass it off as.

It was more than one deliberately incendiary remark across multiple social media platforms delivered for a specific purpose, and there is only one word to categorise this type of insipid online behaviour.

That word is TROLL.

To troll is to make a deliberately offensive or provocative online post with the aim of upsetting or eliciting an angry response.

The posts were both provocatively deliberate, and deliberately provocative. But more than that, they were unreasonable, completely unnecessary and totally counter-productive. They were also couched in such a way that they weren’t really questions – they were barely veiled accusations that the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby was compromised and unable to achieve its purpose, singling out one person in particular who happened to be a journalist for News Corp Australia.

The poster got what he wanted – his inflammatory posts sparked a heated debate and he got to sit back, martini in hand, and watch gleefully as the queer community razed itself to the ground, so to speak. The problem is, in doing so, he’s not only immolated himself in the process, but in the heat of this one singular moment he set his own movement in the wrong direction – backward.

One spark was all it took, and an already fractious community divided even further. I watched, sick to my stomach, as initially respectful threads were reduced to name-calling, the posting of people’s photos, calling out people for their politics and personal attacks, all of which had nothing whatsoever to do with the conversation. In less than 36 hours, it had degenerated into an all-out bitch fest. But I guess in a community that glorifies shade, it’s expected that at some point the claws are going to come out.

To watch in awe as grown man turned upon grown man, it looked like a conservative’s wet dream come true. Because while we are busy bickering amongst ourselves; while we are not presenting a united front, we do not pose one iota of a threat. The conservatives don’t have to work on tearing us down or make us look foolish, since we’re doing such as wonderful job of that without their interference.

The ultimate point of the posts, of course, was to get as much mud to stick to the unfortunate target as possible with as little dirt as possible sticking to the poster, leaving no avenue but for the target to step down.

Mission accomplished and once again, much like during last year’s News Corp vs Midsumma Festival fiasco, members of the queer community who work for the media giant are being shunned, shamed and made to feel like traitors to their own.

What if we changed our perspective on the people who worked at News Corp? In much the same way that women are often revered and celebrated for succeeding in predominantly male-dominated industries, what if our community celebrated rather than vilified the queer and queer-friendly people who bravely and honestly represent us while working in overwhelmingly conservative arenas. Rather than tearing people down for ‘not doing enough’, perhaps we should be instilling them with the confidence to do more.

Shannon Molloy has published pro-LGBT content working for a media empire known as the single largest bastion for sometimes dangerously conservative rhetoric, and yet some would still question his ability to be a champion for queer rights. We need more of his voice in the mainstream media, not less, and his efforts ought to be congratulated and encouraged rather than derided.

I read a comment on social media that suggested Mr Molloy ought to have left News Corp instead of the GLRL, and that such an act would have garnered more respect, implying that by not quitting his job he was some sort of Judas. While the irony of the religious reference is not lost on me, to that I ask – where should he go? There are only two mainstream media organisations in the country and guess what? Fairfax aren’t hiring.

I mean, have you seen The Age lately? The entire paper fits between the gap in my front teeth.

Someone described Shannon as one of a few ‘token gay journos’ that work at News Corp. Well, ‘token gay journo’ or not, I would rather have Shannon Molloy working at News Corp as a beacon of light in a world of conservative darkness than have him quit his job, sacrificing his income and career to be a martyr for zero net gain bar the ‘token respect’ of a relatively minor and extreme faction of the queer community.

Not to mention, that rather flippant remark discounts the many queer and queer-friendly people who work for News Corp and aren’t journalists. Operations, sales, advertising, marketing, human resources – our community work for News Corp in a multitude of capacities. These people are left disappointed, depressed and disenfranchised not because of their employer, but by the people within their very own community.

What I’d love to know is – what would the people who railed against Shannon have done if a News Corp staff member had publicly questioned his role as a News Corp journalist because of his ties to the GLRL.

What would the backlash have been if, for arguments sake, Miranda Devine had ‘innocently tweeted’ whether it was a good look having Shannon Molloy at News Corp because he sat of the board of a queer rights lobby group?

What hateful vitriol from these very same people would have spewed forth if the tables had been turned?

I am sick and tired of the us versus them mentality within the gay community. I’m sick of the cliques, the in-fighting, the letters other than G often scrambling for representation, and finally, the conservative-hating, militantly left community members whose opinions and tactics are often just as bigoted and underhanded as those whom they are rallying against.

Regardless of how hard you try, or how angry you might be, you can’t fight bigotry with more bigotry. You don’t change hearts and minds by turning into the very thing you are trying to overcome. At the end of the day, that sort of behaviour gets the conversation nowhere, or at least nowhere good, and everyone ends up with mud on their face.

I am not an activist, nor a spokesperson for the community. I sometimes feel like I can barely speak for myself, let alone on behalf of anybody else, so I’m not here to ‘represent’ anyone.

I’m the sort of community member who goes out very occasionally, puts their hand in their pocket when needed, attends the odd event or rally but sits mostly on the fringe. I have conservative friends on social media, mostly because, well, he’s my dad, but also because I think it’s healthy. I don’t want to be stuck in a bubble where the only opinions I’m willing to listen to are those aligned to my own. I also find it entertaining to have a good, respectful conversation with those on ‘the other side’. If you do it right, you can learn a lot, and maybe  teach something in the process.

So, I watch, I listen, I engage sometimes but mostly I keep my own counsel.

But I refuse to stand idly by while one of our own gets targeted for a public lynching for the simple reason that he is together enough to successfully work alongside those with conflicting views, has the sense of self that he can reconcile his job with his community engagement, and can do both without lying to anyone or compromising his identity or views.

It would be a different conversation if someone was talking out of both sides of his mouth, claiming to be a champion of queer rights while working in a manner that was blatantly contradictory.

An extreme few, only too eager to lash out and brand News Corp and everyone who works there as ‘the enemy’, decided to stick the blame for all of their misgivings with the media giant squarely on Shannon Molloy’s shoulders.

So, while Shannon sat on the board of the GLRL as a private citizen passionate about the rights of his community and nary an anti-LGBTQIAP remark had ever been personally committed to print by Mr Molloy, he nevertheless became the unfortunate and undeserving poster child and fall guy for every anti-trans, homophobic, radically conservative remark to be written by and chosen for publication by his employer.

Is that realistic – or fair?

In the words of Jill Stark, “to hold an individual journalist responsible for the entire reporting of a multinational multimedia company is ridiculous.”

But why stop there? After all, the news arm of News Corp is just a fraction of their overall business interests. They own most of realestate.com.au, half of Foxtel, they own taste.com.au, Fox Sports, Sky News, GQ, Vogue Australia, Donna Hay and more. By the arguments I have seen presented, a person who works in the customer service team at Foxtel, or a person who contributes recipes to taste.com.au is just as culpable and unable to appropriately represent our community in any official capacity.

We could take it even further. Lets talk about the millions of dollars in advertising revenue that get pumped through News Corp mastheads. Is every advertiser also responsible for the news content? Is every employee of those companies also not able to be an effective ambassador for the community?

Of course not. Because that would be madness.

As I said before, we need more, not less, community voices in our mainstream media. That will never happen if people live in fear of being ostracised within their own community and prevented from contributing in a positive and meaningful way because of sins that are not even their own.

It’s easy to tear somebody down, and I question those who seem to gain pleasure from doing so. The queer politic needs to revise its agenda, take a good, long, hard look at itself in the mirror and swallow a giant dose of the tolerance it so richly demands of everyone else.

If we are to win our rights, we need to do so united — and we can’t afford to lose a single ally, regardless of where they may work.

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