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Sunday 09 April 2017

Not Quite "Post-Truth"

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 25th November 2016

I've been aware of the term 'post-truth' for quite some time. How applicable is it to LGBTI legislative reform and public policy debates?

In the United States, the term has taken on depressing relevance with the recent election of Donald Trump as US President. In a nutshell, it means a political format in which appeals to emotion are disconnected from practical policy arguments, independent in-depth critical media analysis or rebuttal. These occur for several reasons- the demands of a twenty-four hour 'loop' news reporting format, the downsizing of media newsrooms, the firing of investigative journalists and the overlap of journalism with the public relations industry.

In New Zealand, at least insofar as LGBTI rights controversies are concerned, the Christian Right doesn't have news item interpretation its own way. Sure, Family First gets tagged as a "family issues' or 'family concerns' pressure group in media commentary, but also more accurately as a 'conservative' one, indicating the provenance and ideological persuasion of its core spokesperson, Bob McCoskrie. Moreover, he doesn't often get unobstructed access when it comes to LGBT news items, as someone is usually there to counter him. On LGBT issues at least, McCoskrie is not taken as the 'word of god' as if there were no critical analysis available or rebuttals present within the public domain. Sometimes, he isn't present at all- as in the case of transgender youth health and safety at school. We're fortunate that we have robust, secular dominated media networks with minimal conservative Christian framing of news issues. That isn't the case in the United States. In fact, however, the United States is alone within the remainder of the western world when it comes to this phenomenon. Because of specific factors within its twentieth century past, such as the weakening of trade union politics, the lack of a union-centred centre-left political party, overdependence on its defence-related industries, the absence of a comprehensive welfare state and other hallmarks of mainstream Western European and Australasian societies, the United States has an abnormally high level of religious observance, especially compared to New Zealand. Here, Christian religious observance has been steadily dropping for the last two decades.

In the United States, it's...different. For that reason, conservative US churches are large-scale ventures and can attract considerable funds for their activities and media institutions, even able to endow pseudo-universities that were former fundamentalist theological colleges. In their turn, these can produce the 'subcultural luminaries' and parallel professional organisations that the US Christian Right and its satellites use to spread misinformation about comprehensive sexuality education, safe sex, abortion, same sex parenting and other data used in public policy and decision making. Fortunately, we have long been aware of this and before their satellites are able to distribute and use this pseudo-science against us, New Zealand LGBTI communities have been able to ward off prospective threats and challenges to mainstream LGBTI rights and reproductive and sexual health provision well in advance. So, so no, 'post-truth' isn't the rule when it comes to LGBTI rights concerns.

Furthermore, the decline of Christian religious observance will only have a cumulatively destructive effect on the New Zealand Christian Right's chances. Indeed, a recent event in South Australia provides a stark example of their movement's future trajectory. In that state, a voluntary euthanasia decriminalisation bill has recently been defeated- by a single parliamentary vote. Indeed, in Colorado, where Colorado Springs houses a considerable number of US Christian Right pressure groups, a similar referendum went though with two-thirds of the electorate in support. And given euthanasia/assisted suicide is supposed to be one of their 'strong' issues, what about the others that it proselytises against? No wonder Family First is so weak when it comes to opposing transgender youth health and safety in schools. No wonder the marriage equality debate went through so relatively easy here, even given that it included an inclusive adoption clause. And no wonder Brian Tamaki's latest anti-LGBT outburst has been greeted with universal contempt and derision. From this point, it's possible to extrapolate. They will continue to lose. They will be unable to obstruct future inclusion of gender identity within the Human Rights Act, greater subsidisation of reassignment surgery, comprehensive antibullying legislation and banning infant intersex surgical intervention.

So no, 'post-truth' isn't viable when it comes to LGBTI rights and public policy. Thankfully.


Ari Rabin Havt and Media Matters: :Lies Incorporated: The World of "Post-Truth" Politics: New York: Anchor Books: 2016

David Roberts: "Post-Truth Politics" Grist: 01.04.2010: article/2010-03-30-post-truth- politics/

Ralph Keyes:The Post-Truth Era: Deception and Dishonesty in Public Life: New York: Saint Martins: 2004.

Craig Young - 25th November 2016

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