Miranda Devine THE reaction to my column last week pointing out the perils of a fatherless society is a case study in how intimidation, vilification, distortion and outright lies are being used in an attempt to silence unfashionable opinions.
These are the tactics of a new “politically correct McCarthyism”.
In this case gay marriage was the sacred cow that so unhinged people.
The column was respectful of Finance Minister Penny Wong and her female partner, who is expecting a baby, and stated that “love conquers all”, but its assertion that fathers are in general better for children was beyond the pale for some.
I wrote that Wong and her partner will no doubt be “fine mothers” providing their baby with “a stable, loving upbringing, despite not having a father in the home. Individually, these things work themselves out. Allowances are made, extra effort applied. Love conquers all”.
On Twitter, people twisted my words, and claimed my column said: “love conquers all (unless you’re gay)” when it said the precise opposite.
“I have never felt so much anger towards someone,” was one comment.
“Shame we can’t autocorrect your mind,” was another.
The escalating rage was justified because I was somehow pushing gay teens to suicide, they claimed.
It was performance rage, played out on social media and low-rent blogs looking for more hits. But privately, to the email address at the bottom of the column, hundreds of quite different messages flooded in.
The column also said that same-sex marriage proponents should not be “cynically using” the pregnancy as a weapon. And further that the choice of two lesbians to relegate a father to the sidelines ought not be celebrated as if it were some major milestone in human civilisation.
The reason is because as a society we need to uphold the crucial role of fathers, with the London riots a “manifestation of a fatherless society”.
Critics then twisted my words, claiming I wrote: “People in London are rioting because Penny Wong is having a baby.”
It is hard not to draw the conclusion that denizens of social media are cerebrally challenged. Were they too lazy to read the original column, or do they lack comprehension skills. Are they so entrenched in their own beliefs they can’t tolerate another point of view. Are they paranoid? Or are they just dishonest?
Sydney Morning Herald blogger John Birmingham retitled my column: “Miranda Devine’s Lesbian Mums Caused the London Riots”. The Crikey blog had former Democrats senator Brian Greig call me “News Limited’s Catholic columnist” and allege that I had “tried to pin the London riots on lesbian mothers”.
Straw men were constructed, and suddenly people were abusing me for a column I had not written but which they insisted I had.
On ABC-TV’s Q&A on Monday night came an extraordinary question from an audience member who said: “The criticism of Senator Wong is based on the homophobic idea that a child is entitled to having both a father and a mother.”
So there you have it. It is homophobic to say a child is entitled to a mother and a father.
Yet not one person on the panel could find the courage to knock the assertion on the head.
On Facebook someone published a list of my Facebook friends on a page called: “Stopping psychotic extremists who want to kill minorities”. Inviting people to bully and harass my Facebook friends is this person’s way of trying to silence an opinion he (or she) doesn’t like.
A cursory glance at these rage-flecked responses offers an insight into the illiberal mindset of those who pretend to demand tolerance. Or rather ram it down our throats. This is not tolerance but jackboot totalitarianism, the tyranny of the minority.
Jackie Stricker, the lesbian partner of Dr Kerryn Phelps, wrote a letter to this newspaper calling for me to receive “urgent counselling” and saying my columns shouldn’t be published.
That’s right. Let’s censor the unfashionable opinions, especially those held by the mainstream.
If people such as Stricker think their intemperate foot-stomping will stop people holding these opinions they are wrong. The extraordinary thing is that the opinion I expressed was unremarkable. It is being echoed all over Britain right now, in the aftermath of the London riots, including by Prime Minister David Cameron.
He described the riots as a “wake-up call” to the “slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations”.
“Children without fathers. Schools without discipline. Reward without effort. Crime without punishment. Rights without responsibilities. Communities without control.
“The question people asked over and over again last week was ‘Where are the parents?’ …Tragically that’s been followed in some cases by judges rightly lamenting: ‘Why don’t the parents even turn up when their children are in court?’ Well, join the dots and you have a clear idea about why some of these young people were behaving so terribly. Either there was no one at home, they didn’t much care or they’d lost control. Families matter. I don’t doubt that many of the rioters out last week have no father at home. Perhaps they come from one of the neighbourhoods where it’s standard for children to have a mum and not a dad, where it’s normal for young men to grow up without a male role model, looking to the streets for their father figures, filled up with rage and anger.”
The Daily Express points out that in neighbourhoods such as Tottenham, where the rioting started, “up to four in five families have no father living with them. This fatherlessness is the single most destructive factor in modern society”.
The facts, in study after study, are unequivocal. The Express quotes from the British think tank Civitas: Fatherless children are “more likely to engage in behaviour associated with social exclusion, such as offending, teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse or worklessness.”
Children living without their biological fathers are more likely to live in poverty, have more trouble in school, and are at greater risk of suffering physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Fatherless boys are twice as likely to be in prison by their early 30s.
In the middle of the furore this week came an email from a friend, who grew up on a public housing estate in western Sydney and has spent much of his career trying to right the many problems he saw there.
“Anyone who thinks a cadre of fatherless children is good for society,” he wrote, “has never set foot in a public housing estate.”
Pointing out that fathers are important is not homophobic. Nor is it an indictment of individual single mothers, many of whom do a heroic job. But to pretend that a fatherless society is not a disaster doesn’t delete the truth.