Monday, May 22, 2006

Here we go again: Sydney’s gutter-press goes on homophobic rampage

By “gutter-press”, I mean the broadsheet SMH, inter alia. (I haven’t read the tabloid, but I would assume that it is following suit).

Paul Sheehan’s “damnation” of the late John Marsden boils down to two main accusations. One is the factual possibility that Marsden had sex with “rent boys”, despite having won, in 2003, a defamation action in which he successfully rebutted such an allegation. The second is that he was overly-aggressive as a defence lawyer.

Re the second charge, Sheehan comes dangerously close to accusing Marsden of excessive competence in his profession. Tellingly, all the specific allegations relating to Marsden’s ostensible ethico-legal breaches relate back to his sex life; i.e. the first charge and its hydra-headed tangents.

I don’t know or care whether Marsden had consensual sex with one or more of his clients; if he did, it is a relatively small ethical breach, and in no sense a crime. And certainly so, compared to massive tax avoidance by dozens of senior Sydney lawyers: profession-disgracing crimes (not only breaches of ethics) which seem to concern Sheehan not a hoot.

“[W]henever things got hot for Marsden, he and his supporters in the lavender mafia would raise the cry of homophobia, a cynical debasement of gay rights.”

Yeah, right. Sheehan’s OpEd itself is such a living, breathing case-study in gratuitous homophobia, that I make the following challenge. If Sheehan’s decapitated corpse isn’t found in a back-street gutter within the next 24 hours, then the so-called “lavender mafia” is a toothless tiger, and provably so.

Three examples of Sheehan’s vileness are: (i) Marsden’s not simply having sex with men, but “sodomis[ing]” them, (ii) Sheehan’s dragging Justice Kirby’s name into his piece, just because Kirby is giving Marsden’s eulogy, and (iii) using the phrase “rent boys” with calculated ambiguity. (While I’m no expert, I imagine that the vast majority of such “boys” are at or over the age of consent, in which case Marsden would not have been committing an offence).

Marsden was no saint, of course. But AFAICT, he paid his taxes, and paid his dues in all sorts of other ways, as well. And compared to Paul Sheehan – a truth-sodomiser of the first order – Marsden was a much, much better human being.

Homophobia is still alive and well, and the dead are an easy target. As you say, there are people far more deserving of journalistic probing and vitriol, but then people like Sheehan are far to busy drinking miracle water to bother about taking on people with real power.
you can be a bitter prick sometimes, watson, but writing like this is one reason I respect your work

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