Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit…
…by their fruits ye shall know them.
- Matt 17-20 KJV
Julia Gillard should never have agreed to speak at the Australian Christian Lobby’s annual conference.
Now, she’s finally seen sense and pulled out. The final straw was a comparison made by Brigadier Jim Wallace (ret.1) between homosexuality and smoking. Jim Wallace, who had previously blamed homosexuality for child rape by priests, made the comments in a recent debate with Greens leader Christine Milne.
In a subsequent Media Release, Jimbo the Clown was very upset that ‘gay activists’ had ‘misreported’ this comparison, and to clarify he made the same comparison again:
I was not comparing homosexuality with smoking at all. What I was saying is that on one hand we are vocal on our discouragement of people to smoke and on the other we are suppressing public dialogue about the health risks associated with homosexuality.
Jim seems to think that his free speech is being suppressed somehow. Yet he is entirely free to talk rubbish, just as we are free to laugh at him. Jim has his website, and his Twitter account, where he can gay-bash all day long. He has semi-regular webcasts into churches the length and breadth of the land. He has conferences and debates with massive media coverage, funded by wads of corporate cash from Gloria Jean’s Coffees.
No-one’s suppressing you, Jim. In fact, I’d prefer to do the opposite. As Christopher Hitchens said, some arguments don’t so much need rebutting as underlining. The more people hear what Jim has to say, the better.
Jim goes on to do a little magic trick with statistics:
We rightly warn of the health impacts of smoking. Surely we cannot allow these aggressive activists to conceal the facts of a lifestyle that accounts for over eighty percent of new HIV cases in Australia annually.
Eighty percent! That is (and here I use a technical term) a Big Number. But it’s also a very irrelevant number. Jim is using a statistical misdirect that is identical to one that antivaccination liars like Meryl Dorey regularly use. I’ll let Jason Brown (with whom I do a skeptical comedy podcast) explain over at My Colleagues are Idiots:
A veteran liar-with-statistics-she-doesn’t-understand, Meryl Dorey has fold us that 80% of pertussis cases happen in the vaccinated population, as if to suggest that the vaccinated are somehow, illogically, more likely to contract whooping cough than the unvaccinated. This we know is not the case – the vaccine is shown to have a good – though not by any means perfect – efficacy rate in preventing infection. This still doesn’t stop Meryl throwing the percentage out there in support of her topsy-turvy world view.
Still, so what if 80% of cases are in the vaccinated? The important question is whether you’re more or less likely to contract an infection if vaccinated, and for that you need to know rates of vaccination versus rates of infection with a solid contextual basis. From Meryl’s 80% claim alone, it is impossible to tell – and therefore the assertion is useless, as well as being flat-out wrong.
In the case of STIs, things are somewhat different: there is a higher prevalence among men who have sex with men than among the general population. (I understand prevalence also varies among ethnic groups, but Jim didn’t mention that. He a homophobe, not a racist).
But the prevalence of HIV relative to the demographic of gay people is, in media terms, a Small Number: it’s less than 10%. See? By saying same-sex attaction ‘accounts for over eighty percent of new HIV cases’, Jim gets to use a Big Scary Number. Even if it’s irrelevant.
The ACL’s Sexual Health Hypocrisy
Of course, rates of HIV infection are too high, generally and among MSM. Jim Wallace agrees with me:
As I said yesterday, I am deeply saddened by the human suffering that is behind the poor health data of the gay community.
It’s vitally important that public health resources are employed to tackle this. It’s also worthwhile to target communications at demographics who are at somewhat higher risk.
Here, for example, is a fantastic example of a campaign raising awareness of STI prevention among gay people. It’s called Rip and Roll. You may have heard of it.
It’s the campaign that the ACL tried to ban.
The moral cesspool that is the Australian Christian Lobby actively fights to stop sexual health campaigns. While bleating pathetically about others ‘suppressing public dialogue’, they work to shut down potentially life-saving public health efforts. All to score political points in the name of homophobia.
Well done, Ms Gillard. You’ve called it right.
1 No, it stands for ‘retired’.