Elitists take the cake
The Spectator (Australia), 23 June 2012
If you stop to think about it, you will notice that nothing in the gay-marriage debate makes sense. The struggle for ‘marriage equality’ is presented to us as a good, natural, straightforward civil-rights thing, which only cranky men of the cloth could feel riled by. But just a couple of minutes’ thoughtful consideration should reveal that it is in fact the most surreal campaign of our age, whose ascendancy to the top of the political agenda in Australia, Britain and the US defies both logic and reason.
First, there is the small matter that homosexuals haven’t traditionally cared one jot for getting married. For decades they never mentioned it. In 2002, Peter Tatchell, Oz citizen turned best-known gay-rights campaigner in Europe, railed against ‘cuddly issues like gay marriage’ (his words), arguing that gays were more interested in winning the right to live freely outside of traditional set-ups like marriage than they were in squeezing themselves into a ‘pre-existing framework of institutions’. Yet now Tatchell and other gay campaigners claim, with straight faces, that not being able to get hitched is the cruellest misfortune suffered by homosexuals.
Second, there’s the fact that the loudest supporters of gay marriage are the same people who usually sneer at marriage, viewing it as an outdated, embarrassing institution. The Green politicians and clever commentators who insist that gay marriage is the best idea ever are normally lukewarm, if not ice cold, towards marriage. Consider how metropolitan Aussies look down their noses at bogan weddings, which, according to the website Things Bogans Like, are ‘festivals of self-expression’ packed with ‘the most saccharine phrases’. If members of the enlightened set do get married, succumbing to this dumb institution, they view their own marriages as mere contractual arrangements and use trendy words like ‘partner’ instead of archaic words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ to describe each other. And yet they expect us to believe that now, overnight, they have metamorphosed into marriage’s most passionate promoters.
And third, there’s the gaping disconnect between the description of gay marriage as a glorious civil-rights issue on a par with the struggle for black equality in 1960s America and the illiberal, rights-allergic outlook of the various politicians who are promoting it. Are we seriously meant to buy that Greens, who normally spend their time devising ways to restrict people’s choices and remake everyone as eco-meek creatures, are a political reincarnation of Rosa Parks? That British Prime Minister David Cameron, a key cheerleader of gay marriage, is a white-skinned, more foppish version of Martin Luther King? The same Cameron who last week introduced a new Bill granting the state the power to monitor everyone’s emails and web-surfing habits? These politicians can’t even spell ‘civil rights’, never mind agitate for them. (Cont’d below.)
In a nutshell, then, the ‘gay marriage rights’ juggernaut is a campaign for something that gays traditionally haven’t been interested in, backed by people who don’t care very much for either marriage or rights. What’s really going on here? I propose that the only way we can properly understand the speedy rise of this bizarre issue, and its embrace by everyone from a cross-parliamentary inquiry in Australia to Barack Obama to Goldman Sachs (seriously), is as an act of high and unprecedented political opportunism. The real value of the gay-marriage issue is not in the improvements it will allegedly make to homosexual people’s lives, but rather in the opportunity for moral posturing and right-on preening it affords to its backers. Gay marriage isn’t a real issue; it’s a cultural signifier, where you support it in order to show that you are decent, enlightened and, most importantly, not like Them, the rabble.
In an era when old-style morality is on the wane, if not dead, the elites are forever feeling around for new issues through which they can communicate their moral superiority. And right now, banging on about gay marriage is the main way they do this.
So when Green Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says this campaign is an ‘unstoppable positive force for good’, she’s really saying that anyone who stands in the way of this speeding bandwagon is ‘negative’ and ‘bad’. A Guardian columnist recently argued that, ‘There are some subjects that should be discussed in shades of grey, with acknowledgment of cultural differences… Same-sex marriage is not one of those. There is a right answer.’ In short, this is a black-and-white, good-and-evil moral issue, a PC variant of George W Bush’s post-9/11 insistence that ‘you’re either with us or against us’. So which side are you on: the Good side inhabited by elite Greens and well-educated commentators, or the Bad side?
Given the use of the gay-marriage issue to advertise one’s own moral indefeasibility, it isn’t surprising that opponents of gay marriage are treated like trash. When voters in North Carolina dared to reject gay marriage in a referendum they were lambasted by commentators for being ‘ill-informed and plain ignorant’ and were described as ‘hateful, paranoid and bigoted’, even as ‘knuckle-draggers’. Across the Western world, from Australia to Britain, opponents of gay marriage are instantly written off as ‘homophobic’, and as one gay British journalist recently reminded us, homophobia is a ‘recognised mental illness’. So the anti-gay marriage hordes aren’t only bad; they’re mad too.
Such attacks reveal what gay marriage has become for the chattering classes: the issue through which they distinguish themselves from rednecks and the religious, from bogans and the backward. What these campaigners love about gay marriage is that it gives them a sense of belonging to a decent, moral, enlightened club. And how does a club forge its identity? By self-consciously attacking outsiders, deviants, those who cleave to what the Guardian snottily describes as a ‘culturally different’ view. It is remarkable how elitist the gay-marriage campaign is. Unlike the American civil-rights movement, this issue has been forced to the top of the agenda, not by millions of marchers, but by presidents, prime ministers, newspaper editorialists, investment bankers and Greens. That is because it serves their narrow moral interests rather than the interests of society, or of homosexuals.
Next time you watch Q&A or any other political show beloved of the Smart Set, watch how the audience bristles at any whispered criticism of gay marriage. Having entangled their entire moralistic worldview in this issue, they can tolerate no dissent on it whatsoever.
Read more of my articles for The Spectator and other publications here.
- brendanoneill posted this