Folau fulminating and media mire

Perhaps I didn’t say things very well yesterday in The Israel Folau furore continues – there have been some positive outcomes as various people have spoken up against Folau’s archaic and insulting (but still very common) religious beliefs.

But very few if any people would have been hurt or offended if his small comment on Instagram had been like millions of other online comments every day and had been ignored.

The social media and furore gave the comments publicity they didn’t deserve, and that exposed people to offence and hurt that otherwise wouldn’t have been suffered.

Protesting and publicising the comments exposed millions to possible hurt and offence.

While it is a feature of modern media and social media, why did Folau’s comment get so much attention and opprobrium?

Folau is a rugby player. Until now his public utterances were not seen as important.

In comparison Destiny Church Brian Tamaki says ‘cry baby gays’ will go to hell

Outspoken Destiny Church self-proclaimed pastor Brian Tamaki has come out in support of Israel Folau, hitting out at “cry baby gays” and agreeing the LGBTQ community could go to hell.

“The Bible says hell is a possibility for anyone who doesn’t repent. Jesus didn’t apologise for offending people when speaking God’s word. If the gay community want to be accepted as a part of society then ‘take it on the nose’ like the rest of us.”

He then used a hashtag he made up, “#crybabygays”, to sign off the message.

Tamaki speaks to and tries to influence many people, but apart from a few passing mentions gets nothing like the criticism that Folau got.

However Tamaki is largely ignored as an attention seeking nutter, while the normally private Folau is plastered and blasted.

David Cohen at RNZ – Folau comments: Keeping an eye on the wider picture

It is easy enough to say Israel Folau was wrong to get all religiously high and mighty on social media about homosexual behaviour.

The question also naturally arises of how the mainstream media ought to be dealing with fundamentalist beliefs of any stripe in the first place – not to mention the perils of holding up people who happen to be good at kicking a ball, as also being liberal champions.

It has been said before – by this writer, in fact – that not only sports stars but poets, critics, movie-makers, playwrights and rock performers tend to make for notably unreliable authorities on pretty much all matters outside of their chosen field (if on that).

With only a few notable exceptions, they offer bad ideas on social policy, banal observations about economics and, yes, whoppingly ill-considered religious views, too.

Some mainstream commentators have used the controversy to anguish over the limits of free speech. In the news business, these are sometimes known as whyohwhyofwhyohwhy pieces – commentaries that rather skirt a fundamental issue, in this instance the question of fundamentalism itself.

Folau was, after all, simply giving his own, particularly rigid, Christian stance on homosexual behaviour. He also was expressing a view shared by many who take a severe interpretation of any of the three great monotheistic religions.

Threatening hell for all sorts of behaviours has been common for yonks, as anyone who went to a religion orientated school (or church) in the past can probably attest.

Christianity’s record in this regard is well known, notwithstanding the fact that plenty of thoughtful, devout believers, would argue the toss, or at any rate, question the focus on what consenting adults choose to do among themselves.

But the ultra-Orthodox stream of Judaism isn’t exactly known for sanctioning homosexuality (although Israel – the country, not the player – generally takes justifiable pride in being the most LGBTQ-friendly country in the Middle East).

And the ferociously anti-gay record in parts of the Muslim world, where homosexual acts are sometimes punishable by death, ought to make a western liberal blanch.

As the British diver Tom Daley recently pointed out after winning the synchronised 10m Platform competition at the Gold Coast tournament, no fewer than 37 Commonwealth nations currently have anti-LGBTQ statutes: a rainbow mosaic of bigotry.

But all hell breaks loose when someone known for sporting rather than speaking prowess has a comment dug out of the depths of the Internet and plastered all over the world.

The media can even lead the way. A more constructive approach (other than sporting associations to insist their stars learn a few social manners) might be to pause a while longer before dining out on any such comments made by celebrities in the first place, and try to keep an eye on the wider picture.

Sometimes fixating on just the one chance Instagram comment isn’t just unhelpful. It can even be a bit (sorry) sinful.

Expecting the media to lead the way on sensibly dealing with things like this is probably as futile as hoping to go to heaven when you die.