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Izzy Folau repeats an obligato in the OLO score

By Graham Young - posted Monday, 15 April 2019


It also reinforces a human tendency to only mix with people who agree with you, and when you only mix with people that agree with you the group will polarise its opinions more in the direction in which you all already agree.

In Folau's case there is a two-fold consequence. Not only is he attacked on social media in increasingly hysterical terms, but in order to retain or grow audiences, mainstream media, all of which is basically electronic these days, even if they have hard copy legacy editions, become increasingly hysterical.

The gatekeepers, and there are still a lot left, have become co-opted by the mob.

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I've read a number of commentaries on Folau's case by now, and most of them start by saying how offensive his views are.

But offense is something subjective that people take. Without a social framework nothing can be offensive.

17 months ago we had a postal vote on gay marriage. 38.4 per cent of Australians voted against it. That means that almost 40% of Australians are likely to have some sympathy to Folau's views.

52% of Australians are Christian, and while many Christians don't regard homosexual activity as a sin, theologically most denominations do. The same is true for Muslims, with a little more flexibility in Hinduism and Buddhism, but with most clerics being opposed to homosexual activity.

We have a problem if the majority of our citizens belong to organisations which forbid homosexual activity, and yet most commentators feel they have to preface articles effectively dismissing this position by saying it is offensive.

I may be wrong, but I suspect the reservation is expressed merely because they want to avoid being crucified by the mob, like Folau.

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Of course, none of this would have happened if it were not for social media. Without social media Folau wouldn't have 337,000 followers, and his audience would be restricted to a small congregation.

So is it the ability to see what more of our fellow human beings are thinking as they expose themselves on social media that is driving this intolerance, or has something shifted in Australian society?

I'm not sure, but the Australia I grew up in had a high tolerance for ratbags. We had a live and let live attitude to tolerance.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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