Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Media Debates: Never a Dull Moment

Aug 14, 2003

Over the years I have been involved in many public debates on contentious social issues. Given that there is a left/liberal hegemony over much of the media, these debates have often been far from fair. The more politically correct a media outlet is, the more unfair and unbalanced the debates tend to be.

Thus a typical (say, radio) debate goes something like this. I am invited on as the token conservative voice. Usually two, three or more voices from the opposing side will be on as well. And quite often the moderator is far from moderate, but sides with the radical voices as well.

So usually it is me against 3, 4 or 5 others. And that is considered a fair debate by the trendy leftist media. And just to make sure that I do not get too much exposure, often “callers” that are featured on the talk-back segments are prearranged by the hosts. That is, friends and allies are rounded up by the show’s producers, sharing their point of view, and presented as casual callers who just happened to have tuned in. I know, because I have seen this happen first hand on various television and radio debates that I have taken part in.

Thus when ABC’s Radio National called me in early August to join in a debate, I was less than enthusiastic. I had done too many ABC debates which were anything but even-handed and objective. They tend to be rigged from the outset, with a predetermined end in mind.

But to my great surprise, this debate was relatively balanced. Not wholly balanced, mind you, but relatively balanced. It was an hour long debate, complete with talk-back callers, on the hot potato issue of same-sex marriage.

The context was the recent declarations by George W. Bush, John Howard and the Vatican, all opposing same-sex marriage. On such a prickly issue, I knew I would be up against the big guns of the homosexual lobby.

Sure enough, the opening remarks were reserved for Australia’s most high-profile “married” lesbian, Dr Keryn Phelps, former head of the AMA. She extolled the virtues of same sex marriage of course, indicating that one must be living in the stone age to find anything objectionable to it.

Then my main sparring partner for the night, homosexual activist Rodney Croome from Tasmania, was given a chance to weigh in to the debate. In total, I was given four opportunities to speak, all of which ranged from around 60 to 90 seconds in duration. From memory, Croome was given more and longer opportunities to speak, including having the first and last words.

Rodney Croome did a good job of avoiding the real issues, instead raising smoke-screens, red herrings and straw men to attack. (He would make a good politician!) At the outset I had to challenge him, publicly calling his bluff. He deliberately mis-quoted me for example, early on. I had said that we now have 30 years of social science research showing that children are best advantaged in married, heterosexual two-parent families.

He said that I said that 30 years of studies showed that children raised by same-sex couples were disadvantaged. I did not say this, because the whole area of same-sex parenting is somewhat recent, as are the studies on the issue.

He twice tried to use totally fallacious arguments. His first was to compare denying same-sex couples the rights of marriage with denying women the right to vote. His second was to compare “discrimination” against gays in the area of marriage with discrimination against blacks in South Africa during apartheid. Both analogies break down of course, and neither one equates with societies not extending marriage benefits to homosexuals.

There is no moral, social or other reason to deny women the vote or to socially discriminate against black people. In both cases, they are born that way. But homosexuality has never been shown to be purely a matter of genetics. Choice is a big part of the homosexual lifestyle, as many of the more honest homosexuals themselves admit. And many black civil rights activists in America reject the attempt by gays to usurp their cause by equating their situations. The struggle for black rights is just not the same as the struggle for homosexual rights.

And as I said on the program, all societies, and individuals, discriminate. Not all discrimination is bad. To tell a seven-year-old that he cannot drive a car is discriminatory. But it is a good and wise kind of discrimination.

And all human societies have recognised the tremendous social and public good that the institution of marriage offers, and have therefore granted benefits to married couples not reserved for other types of relationships.

Homosexual relationships are just that: relationships. They are not families nor are they marriages. Too many groups are demanding the benefits and privileges of marriage, without offering the obligations and responsibilities thereof.

But these and other points Mr Croome simply bypassed.

In fairness to the ABC, they did seek some balance, by later inviting Christopher Pearson of Adelaide, the conservative thinker and former Howard speech writer, to offer his thoughts for around five minutes. He did a very good job articulating the “no case” to same-sex marriage.

There were a number of talk-back callers, who more or less represented a range of opinions on the issue. The first caller, a Sydney lesbian, seemed like one of those prearranged callers. But at least four voices were heard expressing concern about the same-sex marriage idea. At least that many were in favor, if not more.

Some of the pro-homosexual callers were clearly part of the organised gay lobby. One caller in particular was quite obvious in her advocacy position. She described herself as a sociologist from Queensland. She mentioned an article which she urged her listeners to read. She mentioned the authors, the journal and the date. She said the article made it quite clear that children do not suffer from being raised by same-sex couples.

Now I happen to have that article. But unfortunately I was not called upon to offer a rebuttal. But the article actually makes my case, not hers!

The article in question was written by two American sociologists who are openly supportive of the homosexual agenda. A major argument of their article is that bias is a very real factor in such studies. They declare that “heterosexism” has “hampered the intellectual progress in the field” and show that in these studies the researchers “frequently downplay findings indicating difference regarding children’s gender and sexual preferences and behavior that could stimulate important theoretical questions”. After examining the findings of 21 psychological studies published between 1981 and 1998, they “identified conceptual, methodological, and theoretical limitations in the psychological research on the effects of parental sexual orientation and … challenged the predominant claim that the sexual orientation of parents does not matter at all”. Indeed, they “recognise the political dangers” of pointing out the truth that “children with lesbigay parents are themselves apt to engage in homosexual activity”. (Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz, “(How) does the sexual orientation of parents matter?,” American Sociological Review, 66, 2001, pp. 159-183.)

So had I been given the chance, I could have called her bluff as well. I doubt whether many listeners would have sought out the article, but if they did, they would have gotten a much different argument than the one this caller suggested!

The program’s moderator was relatively moderate, but he did seem to ask the harder, more searching questions of myself and those opposed to gay marriage. To Mr Croome and others like him his usual opening was something like, “and what do you think of…” or “what do you feel about…”. Hardly any tough questioning there.

Bias appeared in other ways. Before the 6pm debate even began, the stage was set to influence the outcome. The show’s moderator, Sandy McCutcheon, was already on air, and just prior to the 6 o’clock news he decided to read out a letter he had received. Interestingly, it was on same-sex marriage, and written by a homosexual!

NSW state politician Peter Breen had written an open letter to the Pope, just after the Vatican made its statement about same-sex marriage. Breen, who claimed to be a good Catholic, chided the Pope, and asked him why homosexuals could not have his blessings as well. So for a full five minutes, this pro-homosexual, anti-faith letter was read out by the host, all as  a precursor to what was to follow. Not quite fair play that.

But all in all, compared to many other debates I have been involved in, this one was more-or-less balanced. Given that it was an ABC debate, I guess I should be grateful. It could have been a lot worse.

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