Words by Clinton Barnes
When #GaybyBaby started trending on Twitter, the Daily Telegraph’s editor would have clasped his hands and in a quiet, personal moment, whispered ‘excellent’.
Because it was their headline, “Gay Class Uproar”, that had people grabbing copies of the Tele or furiously backlinking in their outraged tweets and posts.
People posting were oblivious to two things. Firstly, that they were shouting into an echo chamber. If your followers weren’t okay with your gayness, or your decision to live in a gay-adjacent neighbourhood, they wouldn’t be following you by now.
Secondly, this was exactly what the Tele wanted. Outrage, indignation, and shares to drive traffic.
What's needed to meet the Tele problem is more than a couple of days of hysteria.
Oh, and everyone already knew the front page was obnoxious. No one was waiting to see where people landed on the issue of old white men spluttering abuse at toddlers, teenagers, and babies for their arrogant decision to be born.
It was so obnoxious that news.com.au quickly followed up with a moderate response, giving online inches to the film-maker’s reaction to the supposed uproar.
It was actually a little too quick. Almost like they had the ‘leftie’ perspective (i.e. moderate) waiting in draft, ready to catch hysterical hoards as they raced out the tweet-gates.
But that sounds a little conspiratorial, doesn’t it? The Tele justifying their value to the News Limited empire by creating sensational news that feeds the other cogs in the machine.
At a time when real-life events seem already sensationlised, like the inevitable destruction of Greenland, journalism in newspapers has decided that now’s the perfect time to take a break.
There was no uproar, there was no ‘gay class’. Just the hint of an editor’s sexuality crisis writ large (fact: homophobes are often gay).
We know newspapers are dying. But the Tele, along with News Limited’s other Australian papers, are the most terminal. We know just how depressing it is to work at the Tele thanks to a leak to Crikey.com.au that showed their operating income drop 65% in 2014.
With a slow death by a thousand classified ad cuts, they’re becoming more desperate for attention. Which, when you take your outrage out of it, is just sad to watch.
But as the director of Gayby Baby said, the kids in the film, unlike the feigned outrage of the Tele, are real. And they had to go to school on Wednesday (the day the Tele published). Maya Newell added that she heard of an 11-year-old boy who came home from school that day in tears because kids told him he wasn’t normal.
While that’s something the Tele’s ‘writers’ and editor would have been told often at school, for most kids, they’ve still got hope of living rich, fulfilling lives.
What we now know about the ‘gay class uproar’ is that the students weren’t in uproar, nor were the parents, with the grand sum of zero complaints about the film screening. Just one religious zealot, struggling for relevance, and calling up the one last friend he had, in this cruel, cruel world full of nauseating acceptance, love and tolerance.
“Why can’t I just hate,” we picture him saying through tears in a dark room.
The problem with the Tele is its newspapery-ness. People still think it’s written by vaguely intelligent people who understand what journalism is. But of course it isn’t.
Another way it’s similar to The Australian is that it helps kick off news-cycles.
And the Tele is everywhere: shared in lunchrooms, coffee tables, and reception desks. Much like a calendar of naked women at a mechanic, it’s a default choice that people still think is acceptable.
We know it’s no longer acceptable. But the apprentice, who brings awkward modernity with him, hasn’t yet found a way to mention that to management because he wants to avoid the inevitable accusation of homosexuality that comes with respecting women.
What’s needed to respond to the Tele is us having that awkward conversation with colleagues and companies that distribute it. #TeleBoycott was started to encourage people to do exactly that.
It would be great if this time the ‘excellent’ moment for the Tele was turned on them.