Every right thinking person should be outraged by a decision today by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to uphold a complaint over positive comments in the media about same-sex marriage, says Rob Buchanan.
It’s rare that challenges to the validity of gay love and marriage actually get under my skin. This is because they are usually laughable slurs, or honest ignorant questioning grounded in personal opinion. They are unsanctioned by any kind of real authority in our media, and that is important. Also, they tend to come in the format of a debate, where we must expect and welcome opinions we don’t agree with – opinions, which can even sometimes cause us to learn from our flaws or reinforce our perspectives.
Today’s ruling by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is like something straight out of a Kremlin memo. The very expression of a truthful, positive opinion about gay marriage on our airwaves has been deemed, “unfair”, because there was no opposing argument. The incident occurred on Derek Mooney’s show back in January. Derek had the temerity to express his opinion that he hoped gay marriage would be legalized without inviting someone on his show to tell him that they hoped it wouldn’t. The segment on the ‘offending’ show was actually about civil partnerships and those being interviewed were some of the vanguard who had entered in to them. Also, there were representatives from GLEN.
All it took was one listener to complain, and surprise-surprise, it was Donal O’Sullivan-Latchford on behalf of the Family and Media Association. Everybody has their right to an opinion and as someone who frequently criticizes the occasional straw dogs tossed up by the LGBT status quo and straight PC brigade, I would be the first person to defend a valid question about the show. However this particular complaint, saying an entirely positive discussion on same sex marriage was “unfair” is entirely rooted in a barefaced hypocrisy, which is the very epitome of unfairness.
O’Sullivan-Latchford said Mooney’s comments breached guidelines for fairness and objectivity. How come same-sex marriage somehow a topic to which we must invite homophobes and bigots to throw in their two cents every time a queer opens their mouth to say something on it? Do we invite racists on to every radio and television show featuring ethnic minorities talking about their rights? Should we have had a few paedophiles to balance opinion when we have victims of child sexual abuse getting air time?
The fact that the BAI upheld this complaint is highly controversial, and to my mind absolutely wrong. Every free-thinking person should be outraged by this decision, because its repercussions extend far beyond the realms of marriage; they reach right to the very core of free speech and the right to be offended. To uphold such a clearly strategic complaint like this is a further step in the chilling of public discourse, after the use of the word ‘homophobia’ was stamped out by RTÉ in January.
Decisions like this would be expected in the dark days of ’80s Ireland, when RTÉ’s balls were firmly in the hands of sweaty-faced priests and ferocious Fianna Fáilers.
The fact that it is tied to the upcoming referendum only makes it more malicious and malodorous. Are we not allowed support the idea gay marriage without someone always on hand to shoot us down? The BAI have played right in to the hands of certain fundamentalist Catholic fanatics who are attempting to chip away bit-by-bit at free speech in Irish society.
This is one of the opening volleys of the war for hearts and minds that will take place coming up to the referendum. If this erosion of unfettered speech goes unchecked, it won’t only be the queers who’ll suffocate from the stranglehold in the end.
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