On March 18 the Australian Government Liberal party withdrew support for the Safe Schools Program it established in 2014, following criticism from backbencher Cory Bernadi.
23 days earlier, the leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, labelled Bernadi a homophobe.
Our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, then said that Shorten and others should choose their words carefully:
The way that he has sought to describe any critic of the Safe Schools program as being an extremist or an ideologue, or worse, is utterly unworthy and he should recognise that inflaming this debate is unworthy. I address this to every member of this House: all members expressing views on this program should choose their words carefully and remember the impact their statements can have on young people and their families.
The other day I saw Lindy West reporting on Donald Trump for the New York Times:
It’s an odd construction. Once you say, “He says what I’m afraid to say,” and point to a man who is essentially a 24/7 fire hose of unequivocal bigotry, you’ve said what you’re afraid to say, so how afraid could you have been in the first place? The phrase is a dodge, a way to acknowledge that you’re aware it’s a little naughty to be a misogynist xenophobe in 2016, while letting like-minded people know, with a conspiratorial wink, that you’re only pretending to care. It’s a wild grab for plausible deniability — how can I be a white supremacist when I’m just your nice grandpa? — an artifact of a culture in which some people believe that it’s worse to be called racist than to be racist.
I recalled how two years ago the Australian Attorney General, himself a Liberal, was in the press for the following infamous quote:
People do have a right to be bigots you know
John Gruber of Daring Fireball had some really interesting reflection on the above Lindsy West op-ed:
That phrase at the end — that we have “a culture in which some people believe that it’s worse to be called racist than to be racist” — is something I started noticing years ago. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it, and it explains much about our current discourse on racism.
What’s happened is that all but a small fringe of American society has agreed that “racism”, in the abstract, is deeply wrong. But there are many people who agree that “racism” is deeply wrong who themselves hold racist views. One way they square this cognitive dissonance is by redefining “racism” as applying only to grossly overt racism — using racial slurs, refusing to hire people of color, belonging to whites-only clubs, etc.
It’s the difference between seeing racism as a problem on which we’ve made tremendous progress but still have far to go, versus seeing it as a problem which we have largely eliminated.
I think not only do we have a societal attitude where people have racist views but refuse to consider theirselves racist. I think we also have a societal attitude today where people think homophobic views, but refuse to consider theirselves homophobes.
All the way up to the leader of our country himself.