We Need to Expel Our Bullies – Our Toxic Marriage Equality Discourse

Teachers who deal with daily in-school pastoral issues know what Tony Abbott is. A bully. The sneering bloke who hates all change instinctively and will do anything to stop that change.  In a school, bullies have their victories, their moments in the sun.  But in the end, for the most part, they run out of energy, the surge of a year group leaves them without friends and power.  Schools have to initially provide a forum for their confected reasons, their raison d’etre for being what they are. One such tactic is for a bully to wind up their victim for so long that the victim retaliates, leaving the victim to suffer the consequences, not the bully. Eventually, though, good schools see through such facades and either expel the bully or blunt their effectiveness over the long term.

What schools can’t prevent, however, is the after effect. Bullies usually end up causing localised pain – the bullied, the marginalised, the convergent thinker, carrying the pain of the bullying and of the disinterest of most of the year group, long into their post-school life.  So it has come to pass, however, that our mediocre political system and media have allowed such a toxic, destructive bully get a lot further than most bullies. And the patterns are continuing.

Abbott is just a backbencher. Member for Warringah, that sleepy hollow peninsula marked by surf, bush, terrible traffic and worse public transport. It has been proven again and again that the Onion Man Gang, the bully’s hanger on supporters, are a small group that pose no material threat of regaining the PM’s position. Yet here we are, media outlets – including the ABC, who should know better – continuing to pump out Abbott’s views on EVERYTHING. Renewable energy, marriage equality – things that have nothing to do with his role as the MP for Warringah.  Not a day goes past when we don’t hear the phrase “Tony Abb…”

No.  This should not be happening.  Yet our editors and journalists hang onto repeating Abbott’s views because he’s “good theatre”, “good yarns” and so on. It’s a bit like if a school principal said “we need to hear the bully’s side, because he’s entertaining”.  The man himself also loves the attention. That’s why he coughed up to Annabel Crabb his ho-hum story of being drunk and passed out during the vote for the Stimulus Package bill.  Attention. Why he continues to say the most ignorant things possible about energy.  Why he called the media before the police with his “A Yes campaigner headbutted me” story. Abbott’s bully instincts would have hoped for such a moment for him to gain the upper hand, the “win” against the opponents.

What these editors and journalists don’t get, though, is that their audience doesn’t care.  Most people don’t care one iota what Tony Abbott thinks about anything. He was an unambiguous failure as a PM, one of the most unpopular in our history.  We are the bulk of the school, sick of the bully, sick of having to think about him. But someone, somewhere, needs to stop this bully in his tracks, because the LGBTIQ community, his latest target is hurting.

We all know that Abbott and his crew of “No” campaigners would have been rampant homophobes at their schools, at their universities, at workplaces. They would have used the word “pooftas” or something like it in their private – or maybe public – conversations. Gay people were always the marginalised when these tragically mediocre men were making their way through the privilege laden road.  They were the people who stayed firmly in their closet, in fear of the reaction of the likes of Abbott, Abetz, Bernardi and Shelton.  For those four to now cry that they are marginalised by “political correctness” is craven mendacity, enabled by a media too poor at calling out their sophistry.  All the while, those in the LGBTIQ community know all too well that they can’t call this out to society, shout to the world that these homophobic bullies are just continuing to do what they like because they would be seen as “too biased”,  or that they are “bullying people into voting Yes”, which is one of the more cruel ironies of this discourse.  The bullied are still the bullied because they have been called bullies by the bullies.

It’s disgusting and there’s not a thing we can do about it.

Part of the reason why is the media industry’s inability to discern real news from the lies.  Sure, there’s the progressive, young media outlets like Junkee and Buzzfeed are doing their best to do it, but at craven, “centrist” Fairfax, they are publishing outrageous assertions from the “No” camp because they have lost what little sense they had of what is sound and reasoned.  (Otherwise, they wouldn’t be still publishing Elizabeth Farrelly.) Commercial TV has their formula of pitting a reasonable Yes supporter against Prue MacSween / Shelton / Hanson. The ABC have a similar process, even if the No argument is a farrago of lies about Safe Schools.  Q and A is particular egregious at presenting out and out misrepresentations and lies as something to be taken seriously.

As a part of this, Abbott’s ability to attract media outlets who just repeat his Trumpist drivel means that we are being regaled with daily reminders during the marriage equality “campaign”, (though it begs the question, is it right for taxpayers to be funding the Member for Warringah’s “Headbutts of Tasmania” tour?). The same goes for the spokesman of the questionable “Australian Christian Lobby” (as in, they don’t speak for all denominations, so it’s questionable as to who exactly they do lobby for).  Liar Shelton is continually repeating outrageous untruths and misrepresentations about the possible outcomes for the change in the marriage act, and they are repeated, time and time again. For “balance”.  And Eric Abetz says things that Lewis Carroll would think too bizarre for Through the Looking Glass.  The last of this quartet of homophobic bullies getting a continuing media run is Cory Bernardi, aka Mr. 1% in the 2022 election, who is now one of the most unrepresentative politicians in Canberra.

It’s depressing for anyone still seeking a political landscape with decorum and class to see the domination by this unrepresentative rump of reactionaries who can provide some drama, colour and movement to news bulletins.  And don’t try to communicate a dissatisfaction with the situation to news people with a Twitter presence. They will always respond with a mealy mouthed / snarky response saying Abbott “represents a view that needs to be aired”. No, he doesn’t. We know Abbott’s views on everything. We have since 2011.

So, enough. We need to expel Tony Abbott, the bully in chief, from our media, ready for the time his branches in Warringah finally have enough of him not serving their interests, instead flying around the country, serving his.  His time is done. He is just a backbencher with a few mates. He needs to feature as much on our televisions as say, Chris Crewther.  No, I’d never heard of him either before writing this, but surely it would be good to have some variety.

After that the important stuff needs to happen. After Abbott is expelled, Shelton’s “Australian Christian Lobby” actually find some of Jesus’ teachings and lobby about them, (Social justice anyone?) Tasmania’s Liberals wave Abetz off to the Henry Parkes Home for Bigoted Old White Men and Bernardi is finally tossed out and ends up hosting Aerobics, Far Right Style on Sky.   The healing will need to begin for all of those in the LGBTIQ community currently being bullied and made to feel worthless by this extended, public humiliation being inflicted by these mediocre men enabled by a craven Prime Minister.