Driven Out by Bigots

Security fence

Security fence at gay couples Bairnsdale home

“We have a six foot spike fence and cameras that the taxpayers funded through Victims of Crime.
I still see a psychologist on at times due to the sleeping problems I get from bumps in the night.” And now they’re moving out.

That fence is just one of the consequences of the cowardly, anonymous and virulently anti-gay editorials the Bairnsdale Advertiser has been pumping out for several years now. More about that later (below). First, some history.

The Bairnsdale Advertiser first came to my notice in February 2013 with this editorial, which doesn’t just argue against marriage equality, but all equality, which it describes as a “fiction.”

To make homo-and hetero-sexual unions indistinguishable (read, equal) makes no sense because fundamentally, marriage has always been about inequality.

Nothing in human relationships can be more unequal than the complementary roles of husband and wife, whether in the intimacy of a spousal union, the management of households or the nurture of children.

In the same edition they also ran an article about some newcomers to the town, a gay couple, which has had severe consequences, as we shall see. The Bairnsdale Advertiser is the only newspaper in town, so, basically, you cross them at your peril.

Nevertheless, some locals have been prepared to fight back. An online petition was started by local business woman Jessee John, which the paper basically ignored. They shot back again with an anti-transgender editorial in July 2013, and now they’re back for a third bite of the cherry with a strongly anti-progressive and anti-G.A.Y* editorial headlined Assault on a nation’s soul [sic], railing against “wholesale abortions, agitation for legal euthanasia, rampant sexual sexual experimentation, and the description of traditional marriage as unfair and discriminatory.”

Bairnsdale 1

 

The editorial goes on to trash the Safe Schools program, which it describes, with a fine Dickensian word, as “impertinent”.

A term which might better be applied to this somewhat unhinged rant from its anonymous writer,

He – I think I’m safe in assuming it’s a he – hankers after a bygone age in which men were men, women were women, everyone went to church on Sunday, and women in particular lived cramped miserable lives, married to men they couldn’t divorce, bearing child after child they didn’t want and could scarcely afford to raise, and men like him ruled the roost.

But – and here’s an interesting point – no-one knows who he is. As far as I’ve been able to discover, it isn’t the editor, Luke Robinson, and it isn’t the owner, Bob Yeates.

Apparently no-one at the paper – apart from Yeates – is even allowed to know who it is. It is allegedly brought to the editorial offices with instructions it is to be published unchanged. And so it is.

For amusement more than anything I ran the Bairnsdale Advertiser editorials through a very basic online stylometric analysis. Stylometrics attempts to identify the author of an unknown piece of writing by comparing it to other pieces by known authors. As it says

This tool is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. No guarantee is given as to the accuracy of the results, and the outcomes are not to be used for commercial or legal purposes.

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All the same, I found it interesting that, when compared with the writings of three well-known Christian ranters, David Van Gend, Bill Muehlenberg, and Lyle Shelton, the program found the most similarities – by quite a long way on one marker – between our anonymous editorialiser and ACL Blusterer-in-Chief, Lyle Shelton. But not enough to make any firm identification, of course, it means nothing and cannot be relied on in any way whatsoever. Still… interesting.

What the Bairnsdale Advertiser either doesn’t realise, or doesn’t care about, is the impact these pieces have had in the community, especially for the G.A.Y.* residents, like the couple now forced to live behind a security fence and security cameras, and who now have had enough and are moving out. Their story goes like this (below).

The edition with the anti-marriage editorial also contained an article about a gay couple who were new in town. One of them was that usually welcome rarity, a doctor prepared to work in a rural community.

But instead of generating a warm welcome for the doctor and his partner, the piece sparked months of abuse and attacks, culminating in one of them being bashed in their own home, as they told Star Observer.

Our house we’ve been building has been egged inside and out. I’ve been attacked with someone pinning me down and yelling ‘I’m gonna fucking kill you’. It’s been quite traumatic since the last episode.

Fortunately there are supportive people in the community and the majority are supportive, but what the editorial does is expose you to extremists. Extremists exist everywhere, but in the country they know where you live — it’s not too hard to find out.

A complaint about the editorial was made to the Press Council, which declined to act.

Although the editorial may have caused very great offence to some people, the importance of freedom of expression is so great that the Council considers it did not clearly breach the Council’s Standards. Accordingly, the complaint is not upheld. However, on the assumption that the editorial was not intended to refer to people who are changing, or have changed, their gender, nor to link them with paedophilia, the Council urges the newspaper to publish a prominent clarification to that effect.

The local situation was so tense that Victims of Crime Assistance accepted an application from the couple, supported by the local police, and paid for the installation of security cameras and a spiked security fence at their home.

Security cameras

Security cameras paid for by Victims of Crime Assistance

At the time the couple formed the Diversity East Gippsland group and hoped the situation would eventually improve. Their neighbours – ironically, members of the Exclusive Brethren christian sect – did some building works on the house, and were very supportive. But to no avail.

Tired of always looking over their shoulders, having difficulty sleeping, fearful of another attack, the couple are now selling up and moving out.

Driven out by the hatred whipped up by the irresponsible local paper and it’s cowardly, anonymous editorialiser. Does he fear that, by publishing his name, he might end up having to live behind spiked fences and security cameras? Perhaps its time for him to come clean and find out.


Sources:

http://www.thestirrer.com.au/the-bairnsdale-agenda/

http://www.thestirrer.com.au/letter-to-bairnsdale-advertiser/

http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/community-outrage-over-newspapers-anti-lgbti-editorials/106693

http://www.thestirrer.com.au/rainbow-report-on-the-margins/

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/editors-gay-comments-spark-online-petition-20130219-2epl2.html

http://gaynewsnetwork.com.au/news/glorias-tony-abbott-given-top-honour-for-the-second-time-at-gay-gaffe-awards-13824.html

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.

“Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe.” (Daniel Witthaus, “Beyond Priscilla”, Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)