EDITORIAL FRIDAY 21.05.10.
Just a day ago, the AFL star Jason Akermanis brought down a storm of criticism upon himself by suggesting that it would be a bad idea for gay AFL players to come out of the closet. His point was not that he has any problem with anyone actually being gay, but that the blokey environment of the AFL fraternity might not be very accepting of their situation. Although he may have been clumsy in expressing his concerns it would seem that the media circus unleashed by Channel Seven upon David Campbell and his family actually demonstrates that Jason Akermanis might have a point. It is clear that despite decades of fighting prejudice and discrimination, whether on the grounds of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, we are still living in a society of double standards.
David Campbell did not break the law. He was not found to be corrupt. He did not misappropriate taxpayer dollars. There are no restrictions on the personal use of the car provided to him by the government, and other politicians happily use theirs to drive to church, family picnics, and sporting events. However, on the basis of the fact that Mr. Campbell’s destination was a little more unusual, the Channel Seven reporter took it upon himself to make a value judgment that can only be described as being based on prejudice. The spurious claim that the matter is of public interest because Mr. Campbell campaigned on so called family values is both ridiculous and insulting because it implies that anyone who is gay somehow cannot have family values.
Today, Premier Kristina Keneally said that "It is appalling that he lived a lie, and it is appalling that he lives in a society [in which] he feels he has to live a lie." And that is the whole point. It is precisely because of the attitudes and actions of people like the Channel Seven reporter and the dozens of media representatives reported to be camped outside Mr. Campbell’s house in Wollongong that people feel that they must live a lie in order to protect themselves, and perhaps also their families, from the prejudice, the discrimination and the hate. It is precisely because of those double standards that people sometimes find themselves living inside a prison not of their own making, and it is impossible to condemn David Campbell for living a lie without also condemning the society that makes it necessary to do so.
When it was revealed that Kevin Rudd had been to a lap dance club in New York, in his own time, but while on an official trip to the United States, he emerged as a hero, seen as a real person with a bit of a larrikin streak. By contrast, David Campbell is caught visiting a gay club, in his own time, and he is confronted with front page vilification and feels he has no option but to resign. The double standard could not be more stark, and yet television and newspaper outlets know that they will pull an audience and sell papers because that same double standard runs through a significant proportion of the community. Thankfully, there is evidence to suggest that proportion is actually the minority with around two thirds of respondents to a Sydney Morning Herald on line survey saying that Channel Seven was wrong to run the story.
In fact, many of the online comments have been supportive of the idea that an individual’s private life should be just that: private. Many have expressed their disgust at the media for the way this has been handled. And many have said that even though they did not believe that David Campbell was doing a good job as Minister, and that he deserved to lose his job for that reason, he did not deserve to lose it in this manner.
Perhaps the Australian people are actually a lot less prejudicial than Channel Seven seems to believe.