Flat White

Margaret Court and new lows for public discourse

5 June 2017

12:50 PM

5 June 2017

12:50 PM

There is nothing particularly remarkable or amazing about Margaret Court’s comments on same-sex attraction or whatever. She offers absolutely no new, interesting or illuminating insight. Why is The Age still rabbiting on about her?

I am told that she was one of the world’s greatest tennis champions a few decades before I was born. I don’t doubt that this is true. A skim-read of her Wikipedia page confirms it. But her sudden media exposure has nothing to do with her one-time sporting career or achievements.

She proclaims an opinion shared by tens or hundreds of thousands across the country, many (though not all) of whom attend church or mosque or synagogue congregations and feel a moral duty to defend their religious institution of marriage.

An opinion apparently held by our own world’s oldest continuing culture, with Indigenous elders from across the country signing a declaration against same-sex marriage!

While I certainly can’t begrudge them for expressing their opinions, I do begrudge them for a far worse sin.

That of inciting boredom.

We don’t hear about any study or critical insight establishing why exactly two men or two women are supposedly worse parents.

The contradiction of sharply rising divorce rates and single parent or fractured families apparently being far less of a concern than two men or two women raising a child is not dealt with in substance either.

Why legalised gay marriage would somehow lead to more gay people in some sort of conspiracy, when it seems that straight parents are perfectly capable of creating gay children themselves – is also left unanswered.

Instead Court’s face is spattered across our screens, her frown is resolutely held and her brows are furrowed. She steadfastly proclaims that the Bible as authority and unironically asserts that her right to free speech is being challenged by bullies – all while the media circus points its cameras and microphones directly at her.

None of this is particularly interesting or relevant. None of this differs from the same arguments made a million times before – arguments which have absolutely no power to convince anyone else of their validity except those who already hold the views.

Waleed Aly and the crew on Channel 10’s The Project love people like Margaret Court. She offers a convenient target for their pseudo-intellectual weekly dose of smugness and canned laughs. It is a welcome albeit temporary relief given 10’s mounting financial problems. They know there isn’t much they need to do – just point the cameras at her and ask a string of condescending, loaded questions which do no more for the same-sex marriage debate than Court’s comments themselves do.

This is what our public discourse has come to – unwarranted self-importance, ego and an unrelenting need for the warm comfort of hearing one’s own opinions snarkily parroted by a talking head.

Like a male deodorant ad aimed at teenage boys and featuring scantily clad female models, the discourse offers neither challenge nor insight – only reassurance to its target audience. Meanwhile, the other side is represented by an easy target or a caricature.

As for Court and the complaints about her right to self-expression being policed – getting attacked for one’s views isn’t free speech under threat – it is free speech working precisely as it was intended to.

She isn’t some champion, hero or martyr for speaking her mind. And she certainly wasn’t in the 1970s when she spoke positively of the South African apartheid regime’s approach to “the racial situation”.

She can thank the same mainstream media she blames for marginalising her views for the amount of attention they’ve given to the same views.

The rest of us are better off changing the channel to spare our collective intelligence. I hear that Huey bloke gets up to some great cooking adventures.

Satyajeet Marar is a Sydney writer and Research Associate for the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. He can be followed on Facebook

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