Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sex, Lies & An ACL Video

It’s funny how one thing can lead you to another. This morning on my Twitter timeline, I noticed some tweets from people I know and admire, taking Lyle Shelton to task.

Now, Lyle Shelton is the Chief of Staff with the Australian Christian Lobby, better known as the ACL. That much I knew, but I didn’t know what Shelton had said other than that it was something about bestiality. Alarm bells were already ringing but I’m a curious sort so I checked his Twitter account.

I found this:

That’s one heck of a statement from a guy who professes to Christian values! Especially when you consider that Peter Singer is not, in fact, a “sex-with-animals advocate”. Yes, he wrote about the concepts of zoophilia and animal abuse ten years or so ago, but he specifically does NOT advocate the practice. Shelton’s statement is factually incorrect, something I suspect he knows.

But: a moment’s thought. In his tweet, Shelton links Singer with the Greens. Not hard to do, Singer co-wrote The Greens (published in 1996) with Bob Brown and stood unsuccessfully as a Greens candidate for Kooyong in 1994 and the Australian Senate in 1996.

Shelton then goes on to pose the question, should they (The Greens) be trusted to redefine marriage? That’s the key point to his tweet. Shelton and the ACL are diametrically opposed to allowing same-sex couples to marry; smearing Singer’s reputation is merely a device to link the concept of same-sex marriage (and those who support it) with bestiality. It doesn't even matter in this context whether Singer advocates the practice or not. The insinuation is simply being used by the ACL to further their agenda.

Gutter muck of the worst kind.

But: a second moment’s thought. Shelton’s previous tweet (made nine minutes before his abhorrent Singer slur) made the following observation:

What was this? A video on the consequences of changing marriage? A video which “continues to go viral”?

Hmm, I thought. Resisting the temptation to click on Shelton’s link straight away, I hit Google and moments later arrived at an article published two days ago in The Australian. Titled “Kirby stars in Christian same-sex attack video”, it was a blow-by-blow description of the ACL-produced video. According to the author, Ean Higgins, the ACL were planning on sending the video to 110,000 people with the hope of getting it to “go viral”. The mention of Kirby in the headline refers to retired High Court judge Michael Kirby and he doesn’t exactly star in the video; the ACL have used footage of him answering questions at last month’s Senate Inquiry into same-sex marriage and interspersed it with other footage.

The tone of Higgins’ article was decidedly odd. There was much talk of the “polyamorous community” and “polyamorist activists”, who along with the Greens were apparently “outraged” that the proposed same-sex bill doesn’t include multi-partner marriages. Little evidence of this outrage was presented; it came across more as an advertisement for the video and a classic beat-up about non-existent issues than an actual factual piece of reporting.

By now, I was intrigued. Back to Google I went, and within minutes much became clear. Over recent months The Australian has published several articles linking same-sex marriage to polygamous marriage and a supposed campaign by the polyamorous community to bring the two together. These articles are consistently lightweight and speculative; worse, they completely misrepresent not only the proposed legislation and the mood of the community, but also the few people they actually quote. One of those people was Rebecca Dominguez; it took me under a minute to find a letter that she wrote to The Australian (and published on her blog, which is quite excellent) pointing out their mistakes and manipulations of her words, refuting their claims and requesting an apology. To date, The Australian has published neither the letter nor an apology to Ms Dominguez.

(note: I contacted Ms Dominguez before publishing this article. See, Ean? It's not that hard.)

Higgins wasn’t the only journalist at The Australian involved in this misinformation campaign, but he has certainly been the most prolific. Four articles in the past month alone featuring the Greens, same-sex marriage and the polyamorous community. It’s no wonder that Higgins’ articles are regularly republished on the ACL website.

Which leads me, somewhat circuitously, back to the ACL, and that supposedly viral video. Returning to Twitter, I clicked on Shelton’s link (which had also been tweeted by ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace and the official ACL Twitter account) and was directed to the video.

Hosted on Vimeo, it’s called “'Marriage Equality'- no consequences? Wait a minute....”. I didn’t bother watching it; after reading Higgins’ plug, I didn’t need to. And besides, I made my thoughts on the “gaymarriage” issue perfectly clear not that long ago.

But Vimeo collects statistics about its videos. And here’s the graph for the ACL video which, in Shelton’s words, “continues to go viral.”

Viral? Umm... no. Considering the video was emailed to 110,000 people, and written up in a national newspaper, it’s a pretty dismal performance. If anything, this is proof that the ACL video, rather than going viral as they hoped, is actually suffering from “viewer’s droop”.

You can’t *make* something go viral; it happens or it doesn’t. An excellent (relatively recent) example was the “Anti Carbon-Tax Durka Dur” video (published on YouTube by @_spock). He didn’t make a big deal about it, but it went nuts and amassed well over a hundred thousand hits in only a few days. The ACL video, by comparison, is a dud. Maybe a “Marriage Equality Consequences Durka Dur” video would fare better.

Or maybe Shelton and his ACL film crew should have gone back to the classics, and posted a link to Sex, Lies & Videotape. Given the tweets from Shelton’s account that triggered this little foray into the grubby, smearing tactics of the ACL and The Australian, it would have been far more appropriate.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Barry’s Budget: A Lesson Learned From Clubs NSW

I’m starting to wonder how long it will be before Barry O’Farrell bites the bullet, declares his government a not-for-profit enterprise and applies for membership with Clubs NSW.

Let’s face it, they’ve been looking after the clubs industry since the day they won office. There was the Memorandum of Understanding they signed with Peter Newell and Anthony Ball from Clubs NSW before the 2010 election, which promised not only to look after clubs, but also to protect their gambling interests.

There was the 2011 “horror” NSW budget which saw slashing cuts everywhere except the registered clubs industry, which instead was patted on the head and sent on its way with generous tax breaks.

There was the recent reworking of poker machine entitlement transfer rules, designed solely to allow clubs with multiple venues to shift their pokies from less profitable sites to more profitable sites without giving up entitlements.

And now we have the 2012 budget. No specific largesse for the clubs this time around (awww) but now more than ever the O’Farrell government is behaving like a supposedly non-profit poker machine behemoth. Panthers, maybe, or the Rooty Hill RSL.

Why do I say this? Well, consider the opening statement of this media release yesterday from Honest George Souris, the NSW Coalition Minister for Gambling and other stuff:

“The NSW Government has committed $15 million in the Budget to combat problem gambling through high quality counselling services, research and education and awareness activities across the State.”

Now, put aside for the moment that counselling, research and education (at the expense of more targeted measures like, ooh I don’t know, actually making changes to poker machines or venues) is the stated policy of Clubs NSW.

Put aside the fact that problem gambling services in NSW are paid for not by the government, but by the Responsible Gambling Fund, which (as their annual report states) is funded by a 2% levy on gambling revenue from Star Casino. Not clubs or hotels; just the casino.

And put aside the fact that there is no indication if this is $15 million over the next twelve months, or five years, or whatever. I’m prepared to be generous and assume it’s $15 million a year.

The problem is that for the 2012/13 financial year, the NSW budget’s modelling shows that the government expects to rake in $1.2 billion in poker machine taxes from clubs and pubs alone.

(click on the image for a better look)

Yet they’re handing back $15 million. That’s something like 1.25%. And they’re talking it up like it’s a good thing.

Now THAT’S how you act like a club!

All Barry has to do now is install a fake waterfall, some plastic palm trees and an all-you-can-eat buffet at Macquarie St and the transformation will be complete. At least then they’ll have an excuse to lose money.