Bullying oligarchs are out of step with real Australia

Caption: Israel Folau: Unlikely free speech cause. Digital Image: Lushington Brady

When high-profile Australian rugby player Israel Folau posted online the opinion that gay people were destined for hell unless they repented of their sins, the response from corporate Australia was as predictable as it was heavy handed.

Qantas Chairman Alan Joyce (who has a multi-billion-dollar partnership with Emirates, owned by a regime that punishes homosexuality with death) led the lynch mob, threatening to withdraw sponsorship. Other sponsors, keen to score virtue points, quickly followed.

Their rationale is that corporations must be seen to be abiding by some nebulous ‘community expectations’, instead of just, y’know, making money. But are the billionaire oligarchs’ expectations really in line with those of the broader community?

Much of the public response to Folau’s comment seems to be taking the ‘Voltaire’ line: We disagree with what you say, but defend your right to say it. Quote:

Even the generally socially progressive readership of The Sydney Morning Herald showed some sympathy in yesterday?s letters section, which was headlined: ?Folau has every right to express his opinions?. Several letters actively defended his right to express his beliefs. End of Quote.

Calling the readership of the SMH “generally socially progressive” is like calling Rush Limbaugh’s listeners ‘not very left wing’. That even the bien-pensant lefty readers of one of Fairfax’s flagship mastheads are prepared to defend Folau’s free speech is significant, and heartening. Quote:

Former human rights commissioner and federal Liberal MP Tim Wilson told The Australian he believes companies and individuals lashing out at Folau should ?take a chill pill?. End of Quote

Tim Wilson is an openly gay liberal ‘wet’, and one of the prime movers behind last year’s ‘voluntary postal survey’ that ultimately led the way to gay marriage in Australia. Quote:

Wilson…has also taken aim at the hand-wringing in the sponsorship arena over Folau?s comments.

It is ridiculous for sponsors to walk away from Rugby Australia because of Folau?s opinions,? he says. End of Quote.

Meanwhile, the oligarchs resort to mealy mouthed doublespeak to try and justify their bullying response. Quote:

A source at one Australian rugby sponsor said… “When you?re investing to have your brand associated with a team, and the values don?t line up repeatedly, then it begs the question: is it worth it?? End of Quote.

The only purpose a corporation should have is making money for their investors. If ‘corporations aren’t people’, as the leftist slogan goes, then how on earth can they have ‘values’? Quote:

Crisis management specialist Greg Baxter [said]…?I don?t think I?ve heard anyone say he can?t have an opinion, but it?s not the sort of attitude that modern rugby wants…”End of Quote.

So, he can have an opinion, just so long as his opinion is approved by Rugby Australia.

On the other hand: Quote:

Sharon Williams, chief executive of prominent social media consultancy Taurus Marketing…argues that corporates are ?overplaying their hand?.

Peter Kurti, an Anglican priest who runs the religion and civil society program for the Centre for Independent Studies, says[that]…despite disagreeing with Folau?s view…the vilification of him is ?troubling?. End of Quote.

As Kurti says, it’s fine to believe that Folau is wrong: even many Christians do. But the answer is not to use the bullying power of a multi-billion-dollar corporation to summarily shut him down. Instead, debate him. Give him, for instance, a copy of Bishop John Shelby Spong’s Living in Sin? to read and consider. Quote:

“We are forgetting just how important freedom of speech is in our society,? [Kurti] says…That seems to be the prevalent mood on social media.” End of Quote.

On social media, perhaps, but social media is too often an inordinately loud-mouthed echo chamber of leftist censoriousness. As the response from even the good lefties of the SMH shows, perhaps more of the public than the Twittermobs and corporate bullies realise are remembering that: Quote:

“[…] in a society where freedom is truly valued, people have to be free to say things with which we don?t agree.”?End of Quote.