Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Our top story tonight, straight white man offended by people who aren’t all those things

Today, my little corner of the internet was atwitter (ha ha, see what I did there?) after newsreader Ron Wilson made offensive comments about the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (a fantastic event that I participated in for the first time over the weekend, but more about that later). Ron Wilson has been a newsreader on Channel Ten for nearly twenty years. I’ve grown up with him in my living room but never given him a second thought, kind of like a bland, distant relative you only see at Christmas time.

Well, today he kicked over the Christmas tree and told his niece that Santa wasn’t real.

Interviewing Mardi Gras co-chair Peter Urmson, called the Mardi Gras disgusting. Watch below.

“Some of the spectacles you’re seeing, I’m assuming would even make you cringe,” he said, helpfully assuming that Mr Urmston shares his sensibilities. Mr Wilson, he is co-chair of the Mardi Gras. Do you think he’d be committing so much of his energy to a venture that made him cringe? “It becomes an exploitation almost of a sexual image rather than trying to explore the diversity of lifestyle,” he continued.

Mr Urmston conceded that “our community is extremely colourful, and we celebrate our diversity through…” before Mr Wilson interrupted, saying, “With respect, there’s a difference between colourful and disgusting.”

Mr Wilson, saying “with respect” doesn’t automatically convey respect, just as pre-empting a racist statement with “I’m not racist, but…” doesn’t mean the statement isn’t racist.

Channel Ten issued a non-apology, pulling the old trick of apologising “if” anyone was offended, not apologising for the intrinsically offensive nature of the comments. “It is not unreasonable for alternative views to be put to organisers,” they said, and this is true. Some people do find Mardi Gras offensive, and if Mr Urmson had been asked what he thought of those people’s viewpoint, it would have been a legitimate question. However, Mr Wilson rudely interjecting in Mr Urmson and using a loaded word like “disgusting” placed a value judgement that has no place in objective reporting.

I called Channel Ten to register my complaints (and the woman at the other end was very polite and pleasant, and deserves some kind of medal for listening to irate viewers while displaying such patience, although Channel Ten, what gives with the crappy lo-fi rip of the Law & Order theme song as your hold music?), and encouraged my Twitter followers to do the same. One comment suggested that this was a case of “a few queens making a mountain out of a molehill again”, and so I stopped to try and look at my reaction objectively.

And do you know what? This isn’t a molehill. Mr Wilson, standing atop the mountain of straight white male privilege, hurled a hurtful boulder down on those of us trying to clamber up the slopes. Perhaps Mr Wilson is clueless rather than hateful, as suggested by his suggestion that the gay community “lets time take care of the gay marriage issue rather than pushing it.”

It’s not particularly insightful to point out, but one imagines that the right to vote wouldn’t have come to African-Americans if they “let time take care of it”.

So maybe he’s clueless, but it’s still worth making noise over that. His thoughtless comments can have a real impact on how people see the gay community and how they treat it. Ten’s Los Angeles correspondent Daniel Sutton found it “interesting that many in the gay community are agreeing with the validity of Ron Wilson’s question”. Several problems there, Daniel, but first up, it was a statement, not a question: “there’s a difference between colourful and disgusting”; “I’m assuming would even make you cringe”; “it becomes an exploitation almost of a sexual image rather than trying to explore the diversity of lifestyle.” Mr Wilson dictated to Mr Urmson, rather than asking an open question and entering into a discussion about mixed attitudes to Mardi Gras within the gay community.

On a tangential note, I’m a little baffled by people who are offended by Mardi Gras. What I loved about it was the inclusive, supportive mood. When my float reached the end of the route, my boyfriend, friends and I doubled back to watch the rest of the parade, and we cheered for everyone: the polyamorists (who I don’t believe posit a healthy model for relationships), the Raelians (who are batshit insane fools a step below Scientologists who believe humans were created by an alien race called the Elohim) and the hardcore bondage enthusiasts (who simply enjoy activities I’d rather not partake in, but thanks for asking). I wouldn’t want to do what these people do, but I was thrilled that they had the right to do it. So who are these people who sit at home, begrudging us that right? Are they jealous of the sexual freedom we enjoy? Are they worried that we will try to gay-rape the world given half the chance?

I don’t know. I don’t know whether to be angry or sad when I encounter those people. But I do know we have to speak up when some douchebag journalist thinks insulting and degrading us is simply “providing balance”.

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4 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    The only issue i see here is a ‘newsreader’ giving a personal opinion during what is meant to be an unbias interview. Re the mardi gras, i don’t think it particularly helps any of the gay issues / rights we are fighting for to be honest.

    • liamliamliam says:

      Definitely, and if he was an opinion columnist or talk show host, it would be acceptable, but people trust what he says as the truth, and his words carry great weight. I think Mardi Gras has pros and cons, but that’s not the point: this was meant to be a news report, not a cultural analysis of the evening’s proceedings.

  2. Rachel says:

    Love your recent posts, Liam! Interesting and insightful. You should get mad and write about social issues more often!

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