Guest Post: B.P. Terpstra – Campaigning for same-sex marriage isn’t journalism

“Rudd take on gay marriage pulls in voters,” yelled one July 14, 2013 headline in The Age. As Dan Harrison and Chris Johnson uncritically reported:

Kevin Rudd’s support for same-sex marriage could significantly lift Labor’s vote [emphasis mine] in the election, a new poll shows.

A survey of 1000 people, conducted by Galaxy Research for Australian Marriage Equality, found 30 per cent of voters would be more likely to vote for Labor as a result of Mr Rudd’s stance on the issue, while 19 per cent said they would be less likely to vote for Labor.

[…]

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said the poll showed same-sex marriage could be a decisive issue in a tight election contest.

So how did that work out? Clearly, same-sex marriage didn’t significantly lift Labor’s vote, so was The Age simply echoing the false optimism of same-sex marriage lobbyists?

What’s more, there were no follow-up pieces. Indeed, such propaganda pieces (and there are many) invite the question: Was same-sex marriage a decisive election issue?

Such propaganda techniques were also used by SBS in the campaigning piece, “Kevin Rudd launches gay marriage campaign,” dated August 13, 2013. As Rhiannon Elston uncritically reported:

Gay marriage has taken a central role [emphasis mine] in Labor leader Kevin Rudd’s bid to win the 2013 election, with the launch of a new campaign aiming to galvanise voters who support the issue.

In a new YouTube video posted overnight, Mr Rudd acknowledged he has not always been in support of the change but said he would support marriage quality legislation within the first 100 days of parliament if elected.

So, how did that work out? Why is there now a lack of interest in gay marriage’s “central role” to Kevin Rudd’s campaign? And, why weren’t voters suddenly galvanised?

The gay-marriage-is-a-vote-winner narrative was also reinforced by stacking opinion pieces. In a representative piece, Adam Pulford pontificated in The Drum (“Gay marriage is a vote changer for young people” – 20 August, 2013):

Rudd committed to supporting a bill legalising same-sex marriage in the first 100 days of the new Parliament, should Labor be re-elected. The ALP also subsequently launched their own ‘It’s Time for Marriage Equality’ campaign to further reach out to the electorate.

These are smart moves by Rudd and Labor, especially to reengage and invigorate the youth vote – a powerful force in Australian politics.

Of course, stacking opinion pieces for same-sex marriage is also a sign of editorial campaigning. It too shows a lack of respect for intellectual diversity, especially in a taxpayer-funded media context.

As critical readers, surely we have the right to ask our media organs to consistently present at least two sides to every debate. In fact, I demand fair journalism.

Specifically, I demand critical-thinking reports on so-called gay marriage polls with lead questions. And, I demand follow-up stories, because without them, the term journalism ethics means nothing. 

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53 Responses to Guest Post: B.P. Terpstra – Campaigning for same-sex marriage isn’t journalism

  1. Sinclair Davidson

    Can we actually have a discussion about the merits, or otherwise, of media campaigns for various social changes before the thread degenerates into yet another SSM argument?

  2. C.L.

    I remember the media’s “game changer” narratives after Rudd’s declaration.

    Hilarious stuff.

    Of course, Australians didn’t care less about the issue and still don’t.

    Nobody cares.

  3. james

    One of those issues where those who care enough to change their vote wouldn’t anyway.

    Only a small and very very vocal section of society really gives a Damn. Which probably reflects the ongoing decline of the status of marriage anyway.

  4. Infidel Tiger

    The real game changer will be a one punch attack on a homosexual shark by a bikie. The politician that campaigns on this issue is on to a winner.

  5. JC

    Can we actually have a discussion about the merits,

    I actually think editorializing media does have an impact. If the Liars party was constantly bombarded from all the media outlets about it’s irrational and stupid policies, their core vote would be about that of the Greens’ record…. 12% or so.

    However this form of unethical journalism can also hit a brick wall in terms of increasing support.

  6. cuckoo

    A bit out of date, but when Radio National were covering the Obama election in 2008, their intrepid reporter Tony Eastley ventured into the scary deeep South (cue banjo music). He did back to back interviews with a white Evangelical pastor and a black Baptist minister. He relentlessly grilled the Evangelical about his opposition to gay marriage. Curiously enough, when he got to the Baptist, not one question on the topic. I wonder why?

  7. JC

    Curiously enough, when he got to the Baptist, not one question on the topic. I wonder why?

    Dunno. Do Baptists support gay marriage? I don’t they did.

    Maybe Easterly forgot.

  8. james

    Yes IT but when the bikie punched the homosexual shark, was he drunk?

  9. johanna

    Significant sections of the media (e.g. ABC, SBS, Fauxfacts) also believed that the alleged brutality of the Coalition’s border protection policies were game changers as well, and campaigned accordingly. Prior to that, “sexism” directed at Julia Gillard was thought to be another game changer.

    It’s been said many times before, but these “journalists”, and the editors who indulge them, conflate the concerns of their inner-city bubble mates with those of the wider electorate, resulting in piss-poor political analysis.

    As for SSM, a few people at either end of the extremes of the debate care passionately about it. For most voters, it’s a “don’t care” or about a fifth order issue – certainly not a vote changer.

  10. Notafan

    Isn’t that one of the issues for the MSM and the ABC in particular? Are the any statistics on how often we saw pro gay marriage or the the international suffering of the gay stories on the ABC?.
    Even education is overrepresented in the media as an issue.
    If Australians were asked what their priority issues were isn’t it much more likely issues like illegal immigration and the high costs of housing, fuel and electricity?

    editorial campaigning

    pretty much sums up journalism on the ABC

  11. cynical1

    Which media?

    That which provides facts? Or that which is op-eds masquerading as “facts”.

    Example A: ABC vs RAN.

    If it’s such a big issue, have a referendum on homosexual marriage. (And less of this “Gay” bullshit).
    What is it? The love that dare not speak it’s name”?

    Rudd has no opinion on it. Kevin Rudd’s only concern is Kevin and what may advance him.

  12. steve

    And, why weren’t voters suddenly galvanised?
    The gay lobby have always exaggerate their numbers in an attempt to have more influence. Most non gays simply find the whole thing a bore……..not that there is anything wrong with that.

  13. stackja

    Sinclair Davidson
    #1175116, posted on February 2, 2014 at 11:59 am
    Can we actually have a discussion about the merits, or otherwise, of media campaigns for various social changes before the thread degenerates into yet another SSM argument?

    Media campaigns for various social changes are for the converted or the gullible. Regarding homosexual marriage, I will abstain on the matter here.

  14. Honesty

    I don’t think there is anything to discuss its just agreement. The ABC should be forced to do it and don’t buy The Age.
    Ridicule is the best form of attack on those that don’t report but preach and Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair and Michael Smith are getting bigger and bigger as the likes of The Age and the ABC constantly provide them with fodder. In an intellectual way so does the Cat.
    It all seems on track to me.

  15. steve

    Can we actually have a discussion about the merits, or otherwise, of media campaigns for various social changes before the thread degenerates into yet another SSM argument?

    It seems to me that we are seeing many issues which the media and their ugly stepsisters, academia have highlighted in a greeny, lefty sort of way, start to unravel. We don’t like being told what is important to us. Global warming, same sex marriage, illegal immigrants will all soon join the ranks of the next ice age, bird flu, ebola, sars, y2k, the hole in the ozone layer……..

    Remember, no one gives you grant money to research the status quo.

  16. Alfonso

    Gay “Marriage”?
    Referendum asap please.
    Tears before bedtime for pooftas I fear.
    Civil union with all the privileges, sure, but you don’t get to officially call it Marriage, that’s our word.
    Stop whining, have a referendum…..you might even win.

  17. lotocoti

    As critical readers, surely we have the right to ask our media organs to consistently present at least two sides to every debate.

    A fine notion in theory only.
    Avoiding SSM (a negative &#8734 – 1 order issue for mine), consider a gun control story.
    A less than professional journalist might gleefully use some swivel-eyed crazy “We all need to be armed against a future Indonesian invasion.” fetishist as the ‘other’ side, specifically to undermine any opposition to their personal agenda whilst declaring they’re giving voice to contrary opinion.
    There are other circumstances where no one is prepared to publicly present a contrary view because the narrative has quickly established opposition is irredeemably evil or stupid.
    Traveston Crossing Dam was a good example.
    CSG too.

  18. In an intellectual way so does the Cat.

    A few random examples of the “intellectual way” in which the Cat operates -

    Have you twigged yet, you totalitarian creep?

    Stali’s Butt-boy Numers the racist bigot:

    If you wish to dry retch and peruse the sewage that pours from this “thing”’s noisy red orifice

    April last year, you drooling idiot

    No, you bunch of drooling zombies. It’s full of people like you and is hopefully going to get at least a severe haircut.

    Senator Kim Carr has now taken the ermine-lined mantle of the four-letter ‘C” word of federal politics.

    ABC…??? NUTS, HE’S. NUTS, SHY’S NUTS, OBAMA’S NUTS, THE WORLD IS NUTS…and truth, justice and sanity, has no brave friends….

  19. lotocoti

    Preview isn’t always my friend.
    -∞-1

  20. blogstrop

    Comment #1 by Sinc, a stitch in time, I see.
    On Topic: Campaigning for all the issues we know to be done purely by the lefty journos for the purpose of influencing voters to vote the wrong way might be journalism in a sense, but it is more accurately seen to be political propaganda.

    Off topic: We are still acting like a sheltered workshop for the crazy, long, long ago, once was warrior, numbers. Keeping him on and letting Lonely Tony N back is to serve what purpose?

  21. Squirrel

    The 30 per cent figure quoted in The Age article was obviously somewhat optimistic, as those “more likely to” survey results tend to be, but it is, of course, possible that Rudd’s public embrace of the issue – particularly when contrasted with what was seen as Gillard’s opportunistic stubbornness – may have helped to save Labor from an even worse result, and may also have helped to switch some first preferences from the Greens to Labor.

    With the days of easily funded government spending promises increasingly behind us, I expect we will be hearing more and more about issues such as this, which are perceived as having the potential to swing votes but with little or no cost to the Budget.

  22. Snoopy

    I find broadcast media’s infatuation with vox pop interviews extremely irritating. It is ‘journalism’ at its laziest and most deceiving.

  23. gnome

    What about this Scalett Johnsson character you quote? Does (s)he have an opinion on this?

    If so, do we need any other opinions, or does that settle the matter?

  24. Dan

    …. We don’t like being told what is important to us. Global warming, same sex marriage, illegal immigrants will all soon join the ranks of the next ice age, bird flu, ebola, sars, y2k, the hole in the ozone layer……..

    Agree wholeheartedly. Some media campaigns, such as those against littering work as it is a tangible fact. Take a walk around, there is crap everywhere. Marriage, for example, is a private thing.

  25. Makka

    SSM has become a religion, like AGW, for the homonazi’s who inhabit the feral Left. They have sympathy and active support from the taxpayer funded ALPBC who provide them with a 24/7 national platform to shove their minority views down our throats.

    It’s an insult. It is demeaning .

    The occupied Leftist media in Australia have taken up this cudgel to batter Australians into submission and that is resented. Bring on a referendum now and be done with this poisonous premise once an for all – that SSM is the same as traditional marriage.

  26. Andrew

    Can we actually have a discussion about the merits, or otherwise, of media campaigns for various social changes before the thread degenerates into yet another SSM argument?

    Ok, I’ll link it to the republic. I’m sick of being asked whether I’m “for or against” something. (Or worse, being asked to support someone else’s campaign. I don’t recall the butt-pirates marching in opposition to Plibersek taking away my health insurance rebate, or Swan’s attacks on SMSFs.)

    I do not take a position until a fully thought out implemented policy us put to me – not a thought bubble. Which Republic? Direct election? Irish, US, Russian model? Oh – um, ONE of them. No – I’m not writing blank cheques for constitutional change here.

    What “equality” do they mean? Full equality for adoption, or just marriage? Why not “civil union”? What protections for religious celebrants – will priests be deregistered and my Catholic (or Muslim) friends can’t get married in places of worship any more? Does it include any of the rest of the slippery slope eg poly? If not, why and how are they excluded? What steps have been taken to address well considered objections in the legislative design?

    When I want to build a house, I don’t ask the Council “are you for and against?” I am expected to provide plans and detailed specs – then if I’ve left something out they can demand specific changes before agreeing.

  27. Mutant Gnome

    In the campaign for the seat of Hindmarsh in SA, it was believed that there was a significant swing in the Greek vote away from the sitting member Steve Georganas, who had previously received solid support from this voting block, because of his stated support for gay marriage.

    The final margin between the parties was too large for this to be claimed as the decisive factor in the Liberal victory in this seat, but had the margin been a bit closer, it could have been claimed that the gay marriage issue had cost Labor this seat.

    Gay marriage was never going to be an election winner for Labor.

    On another matter – to those Cats who are critical of my State’s re-election of a certain senator from the Greens, please remember that the Greens got smashed in SA at the last election and it was only because Labor’s #2 Senator performed even worse that the Greens managed to retain their spot in place of Labor. Come the new senate in July, I believe SA will be the only state that has elected only 3 Labor senators out of 12 to represent them – something we can be rightly proud of.

  28. I wonder if after the SSM issue is thrashed to death in the MSM they’ll start their campaigning for the federal government to challenge the divergence of state legislation on abortion because it’s a “human right”?

  29. Mayan

    The numbers game played by the gay lobby shows the mob mentality of the left.

    A classical liberal position is that rights are rights, to be enjoyed by all. Even members of a tiny minority are have the same inherent dignity as any member of the majority.

    Along comes the gay lobby with its sad obsession with inflating their numbers. They even resort to adding other issues to their ever-growing alphabet soup acronym – transsexuals and people born intersex, for example, even though there is no logical connection.

    They are obsessed with numbers because they believe in mob rule. They believe that being a large enough group to swing an election gives them greater claims than other people. Take to extreme, this mob rule, pure democracy thing becomes the developing world model of one person, one vote, one time. That does not guarantee good government, as we see in places with popular revolutions or in South Africa (Alana Mercer’s “Into The Cabbibal’s Pot” is worth a read – http://www.amazon.com/Into-Cannibals-Pot-Lessons-Post-Apartheid-ebook/dp/B00564TFM4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391312829&sr=8-1&keywords=mercer+cannibals+pot). A rage-filled horde is the left’s wet dream.

  30. Alfonso

    Get up to speed May, without a US type Constitution mob rule wins, unless rule by superior elites with amazing wine cellars is better.

  31. Viva

    Advocacy research (Stolen Generations report, IPCC reports) is fairly entrenched. So is campaigning journalism for social change. Mind you not all campaigning journalism is bad – e.g. Donnelly on the curriculum, exposing corruption etc. Advocacy research is fairly new but campaigning journalism has a much longer history.

  32. Cold-Hands

    It is clear that despite all the advocacy journalism proclaiming that same-sex-marriage-is-a-vote-winner, SSM is still a third or fourth order issue (and that’s being generous) not supported by the majority of the populace. If it was, activists would be calling for a referendum rather than for legislative imposition by decree. No matter how hard it is pushed by sympathetic journos, it will be swamped by hip pocket issues when most punters come to vote.

  33. Viva

    If it was, activists would be calling for a referendum rather than for legislative imposition by decree.

    Although they may not say it bluntly, the activists believe that No case is inherently homophobic, hence those arguing against SSM should not be given a public platform for their views.

  34. Cold-Hands

    the activists believe that No case is inherently homophobic, hence those arguing against SSM should not be given a public platform for their views.

    While this may be their stated objection to holding a referendum on SSM Viva, I suspect it is mere window dressing to cover up the fact that they don’t have majority support and the only way that they’ll see their project enacted is through swaying the parliament through a noisy minority rather than majority acclaim.

  35. WhaleHunt Fun

    I do not mind private enterprise journalists acting like enforcers and propagandists for whatever cretinous stupidity. I can simply not buy their stuff. The ABC however is legally obliged to act properly. I do not want a Royal Commission. I want a star chamber inquisition of each ABC journalist with even so little as one single unprofessional act, one unbalanced article, resulting in conviction and complete asset stripping of the extended family. The leader of North Korea has shown the way, though the execution rather than asset stripping seems harsh. But clearly a balanced ABC is easily achieved by the financial ruination of only a very few ABC staff. Cheap, effective, and depending on their assets, the state may make a profit.

  36. blogstrop

    Incisive, perhaps harsh, but fair, Mr Whale.

  37. Armadillo

    I have just noticed that the ABC no longer has its ‘Most Popular’ topics that used to be on the RHS of their website. It always used to make me laugh. The list was something like this:

    1) SSM
    2) Climate Change
    3) Asylum Seekers

    Fair Dinkum? Who actually sits around the dinner table at night talking about that crap? It was always a perfect illustration to me of exactly what is wrong with the ABC. They only cater to the left and the bleeding hearts. If that is all you ever bloody publish, of course it is going to be the ‘most discussed’. The ABC sets the agenda and then claims it is a ‘hot topic’ everyone is talking about.

  38. Fair Dinkum? Who actually sits around the dinner table at night talking about that crap?

    People who have dinner parties. The kind with goat’s cheese and six different kinds of gluten-free bread and vegan cheesecake with a quinoa-crumble base topped with nigella seeds.

  39. Rabz

    “Rudd take on gay marriage pulls in voters”

    Which is why the earwax muncher blathered on interminably about the subject during his ill fated election campaign.

    Oh wait, he didn’t.

    - Internal polls finding SSM about as popular as herpes?

    - Too busy making insane, ill thought out policy decisions on the run?

    - An expedient, narcissistic hypocrite?

    Put it to a referendum, you loathsome fucking fascists – and then let’s see how popular it is.

    Enough.

    :x

  40. It is clear that despite all the advocacy journalism proclaiming that same-sex-marriage-is-a-vote-winner, SSM is still a third or fourth order issue (and that’s being generous) not supported by the majority of the populace.

    Australians – despite the ABC’s attitude to them – aren’t actually stupid.

    They can see quite clearly that the economy is in a bit of a mess, and that this should be a priority for any ‘fixing up’ that’s going to go on.

    SSM is so far down the list – and of concern to so few people – that it really deserves to be ranked along with ‘encouraging people to pick up litter in their local communities’.

    And it IS of concern to a very small number of people.

    a) The statistically-counted gay population in Australia is very small.

    b) The number of those people who want to get married has not been evaluated in any accurate or consistent way.

    c) Some of them have already been married to opposite sex partners, and have no desire to repeat the experience.

    d) Some of them are ideologically committed to an anti-marriage position, and have been for many years.

    e) Some of them are very concerned that their finances may be now laid open to pillage by short-term partners if gay couples are given marriage equality.

    So let’s get out there and pick up litter, folks.

  41. Westy

    Well thank goodness he was able to get that extra 30% to vote ALP. Otherwise they wouldn’t have won a single seat. (sarc off)

  42. In fact, I’d happily see the ABC run a campaign on picking up litter in our communities. Especially remote and regional ones. But urban ones too, especially when the hipsters have been let loose.

  43. Paridell

    … pick up litter with a 10 cent deposit on bottles and cans, of course.

  44. MudCrab

    Adam Pulford in The Drum

    “…. invigorate the youth vote – a powerful force in Australian politics….”

    Good one Adam. Just like the Australian Dems under Natasha SD used to own the youth vote. Just like the Greens chase the youth vote.

    Here’s a hint, the Youth Vote? It doesn’t exist.

    Yes there are ‘youth’ that ‘vote’ each election and some/none/all of them may/may not be swayed on ‘youth issues’, but then what?

    Then, come next election they have finished uni, got a job and suddenly decided that deep down, they don’t get a toss what some pimple faced 17 year old is moaning about.

    If you want to chase this Youth Vote, make sure you have not come up with some policy that flows against what the far larger ADULT VOTE actually want in their life.

  45. steve

    That’s the trouble with youth, they grow up. Just like socialist, activist uni students leave uni, start earning a salary and then become conservatives cos they now have money which is just aching to be redistributed.

  46. Nora Charles

    It might be helpful to point out that the most contemporary of statistics reveals that not more than 2% are homosexual.

    It is also true that not all homosexuals are in favour of marriage. Some endorse the traditional role of marriage and are happy with the legal protections of civil unions. Others see marriage as a restrictive heteronormative construct.

    It is also true that the majority of Australians believe that a child has a better social, psychological and financial outcome when raised by their biological mother and father who are committed to each other and the children through the marriage contract.

  47. Malcolm

    had the margin been a bit closer, it could have been claimed that the gay marriage issue had cost Labor this seat.
    Only 2½% of adult males and fewer females are homosexual/lesbian or bisexual. Many of these have no interest in same sex “marriage”. In fact, less than 1 in 200 couples are same sex. Therefore, the number of people concerned about the issue due to self interest is probably no more than 1% of the population. The majority of the supporters are simply followers of extreme left philosophy, who will vote Labor or Greens anyway. However, Labor may have lost votes from its normal supporters who have moral qualms.
    When Rudd suggested having a plebiscite if a Parliamentary vote failed, Fred Nile said that would be a good idea. At that point, the homosexual activists were running scared. One of them said that a plebiscite would allow rich people to finance “homophobic” propaganda to confuse us plebs, who are obviously incapable of thinking for ourselves.
    While it is amusing to think that the forces of decency are flushed with money, the point has been made. Once a plebiscite is called, people will be forced to face all the issues.

  48. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Phillipa is on the right track. Divert it all to an intense debate about picking up litter. I can think of a few communities, both rural and urban, where this would be a very novel idea. They could put the ‘no’ case, ably assisted of course by teenagers everywhere, who could be encouraged to make a start on their bedrooms. The media could do interesting Vox Pops of valiant resistance fighters while at the same time, for a balanced report, interviewing parents and other upholders of the ‘picking up you own mess’ approach to life.

  49. Sinclair Davidson

    Surely the proportion of gays/lesbians in the community is irrelevant to the merits of allowing SSM?

  50. .

    C.L. is right.

    No one really cares besides political junkies. The public isn’t opposed to gay marriage, nor does it support it.

    IT – some female sharks can self inseminate. Maybe they already have a strong lesbian movement?

  51. Ellen of Tasmania

    Surely the proportion of gays/lesbians in the community is irrelevant to the merits of allowing SSM?

    Sinc, I think you’re right that the merits of the case should not be based on the numbers. If we are talking about a true right that people should have, then it is true for one or many.

    If SSM is not a right, but merely a desire/preference/statement/whatever, then you have to wonder why journalists would give it so much time and space. It seems to me they have to push it as some kind of right or equality thing to justify the obsession.

    But then the slippery slope argument really is justified. There is a world of difference in getting government out of marriage and getting government to sanction (and thereby enforce) a change in marriage. The fact the SSM advocates – which at the moment seems to include those journalists who are covering the issue – don’t endorse a plebiscite or referendum on the issue, or government getting out of the issue altogether, has to tell you something about their agenda – and campaign.

  52. Pedro

    “Can we actually have a discussion about the merits, or otherwise, of media campaigns for various social changes before the thread degenerates into yet another SSM argument?”

    So how did that work out? ;-)

    “Clearly, same-sex marriage didn’t significantly lift Labor’s vote, so was The Age simply echoing the false optimism of same-sex marriage lobbyists”

    Actually we don’t and can’t know that. Maybe the vote would have been even lower. But that leads us to a problem with all polling and issues. It is very hard to untangle the issues on which significant numbers of votes change. I recall after the Fightback! loss, there were plenty of people saying that it was actually the health policy (and threat to medicare) that cost Hewson the election. The thing is, noone will ever know. I’m sure the large majority of us vote for a party that nevertheless has some policies we don’t like and want changed.

    To some extent issue polling (tested for quality) is a useful source of information about the things that matter to people even if they are not vote changers.

  53. Demosthenes

    I recall after the Fightback! loss, there were plenty of people saying that it was actually the health policy (and threat to medicare) that cost Hewson the election.

    I’m pretty sure it was cakes.

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