In the Star Observer, Tim Scriven writes about CAAH (Community Action Against Homophobia), spiritedly defending the organisation’s production of post-election t-shirts labelled “Fuck Tony Abbott”.
CAAH has taken the admirable step of signalling early that they won’t nod sagely while he destroys lives, mumbling that at least he has a “mandate”. They’re carving out a space for a resistance to Tony that is stiff and fierce – not some pliant “loyal opposition”. They’re getting in early, setting the tone, and not waiting till it’s too late.
Tim goes on to say that tone does matter and that taking a moderate stance is the wrong way to go about it.
I’ve heard this attitude before … at marriage equality rallies where socialist organisers go up and down the marching crowds extolling them to chant vitriolic slogans, such as “When I say bigot, you say Fuck Off!”
I’ve spoken against the attitudes at marriage equality rallies before, particularly the ownership of the cause espoused by the socialist parties.
But let’s be honest: outright vitriol is not going to win over undecided people in the debate. The entire push for marriage equality is one of owning the moral high ground – and we do, because it’s about achieving equality, which is a basic human right.
You don’t keep the moral high ground by engaging in outright vitriol. You erode it. And eventually, you lose it. I used to think outright vitriol played a part in the debate – and then I grew up.
It’s time the people behind CAAH do, as well.
Undoubtedly there’s the belief that a campaign designed to “shock” will achieve the goals. You could just as equally say that a likely outcome would be turning the undecided against marriage equality, and perhaps even some of the borderline supporters into the undecided again.
An undecided person looking at a t-shirt proclaiming “Fuck Tony Abbott” on someone walking down the street is just as likely to take away a view of disapproval as they might approve of it. Particularly if that person has a young child in tow, or is from a conservative background. And don’t for a moment think marriage equality can be won without the backing of conservative leaning individuals as well as those whose beliefs would see them naturally supporting marriage equality.
Let’s be blunt: bad behaviour doesn’t look good, regardless of whether it’s coming from the left or the right of the social justice debate.
Don’t let CAAH hand the moral high ground over to the arch conservatives and extreme religious groups in this debate. If we descend to the sorts of outright bullying tactics used by organisations like the ACL et al, we become no better than them ourselves.