Marriage equality and the 'Not Alone' Catholic Vote video's crocodile tears

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Catholic Vote’s attempt at ‘viral content’ to combat widespread community support for marriage equality has succeeded spectacularly, writes Emmet O'Cuana, just not in the way it was intended.

“Watch what these 6 courageous young people want to tell the world. They’re not afraid. And they’re not alone.”

This is the introduction on the Catholic Vote website to their viral video ‘Not Alone’.

The six young people interviewed are presented in a confessional setting, sitting against a white background. They discuss how excluded they feel by the world. The terms used in the video are familiar from  personalised accounts of discrimination and bullying.

“I would say I am different.”

“Most people probably think I'm already weird anyway.”

“How many people can I really truly, honestly be open with.”

The source of their sense of exclusion is eventually revealed to be their opinion that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. At that point, the music swells and the tears start. The participants ask "where’s the balance" between insisting people not have the right to marry and their feelings of hurt at being told that their opinion is offensive to those same people?

"Bigoted is a huge word that gets thrown around and it's just not true” one young man says, apparently needing a refresher on the dictionary definition of the word.

What is fascinating about this video is its use of language. By imitating the appeal to empathy that typifies equal rights campaigns, Catholic Vote flips the rhetoric on the marriage debate in order to claim their very faith is under threat.

The language throughout is emotive, heavily individualistic, parodic of confessionals written by disenfranchised young people on social media today. Clearly, the intended audience is a supposedly silent majority cowed by the proliferation of rainbow-coloured Facebook profile pics.

Catholic Vote’s attempt at "viral content" has succeeded spectacularly, but perhaps not in the desired way. A follow-up post on the group’s website states that they have ‘struck a nerve’. However, the response by users of social media has been overwhelmingly critical, with an emphasis on the cynicism of the video itself.

The campaign claims a status of victimhood for individuals who disagree with a person’s right to be married — presumably leading to an awkward dinner party conversation at most. The six young people featured in Catholic Vote’s video are, however, not likely to experience physical and verbal abuse, or indeed be judged to be suffering from a mental illness, as a result of their expressed "lifestyle choice".

Meanwhile young people discriminated against for their sexuality are subjected to personal abuse and threats of violence. A report by Beyond Blue titled In My Shoes describes how GLBTI individuals may experience depression and anxiety not only from active discrimination, but heightened fear over the risk of same.

From the report:

'In comparison with the broader population, homosexual and bisexual people are twice as likely to experience anxiety disorders (around 31% vs 14%). and are three times as likely to experience depression and related disorders (around 19% vs 6%)3. Rates of depression and anxiety may be even higher for people with diverse sex and/or gender.GLBTI people are also at greater risk of suicide and self-harm.'

For Catholic Vote to equivocate in such a manner, filming a young woman shedding tears over the prospect of being judged a bigot, is openly cynical and contemptuous of people who have endured such hatred.

What is interesting, though, is how the group’s appropriation of the language of identity politics rhetoric and individualism breaks away from religious hegemony.

The Christian presumption is that marriage naturally exists between a man and woman. Here, instead, what is presented is the concept of marriage being under threat. The six young people featured in the video are shown to be arguing for a contested point of view.

Consider it another example of the victim mindset previously seen in the The National Organization for Marriage’s ‘Gathering Storm’ video.

When that in turn received a number of mocking parodies, the NOM responded by declaring the criticism a successful result. The mockery served to further promote the video and their "message".

Is Catholic Vote likewise trolling the "secular media" and then playing the victim card?

The debate on equal marriage has presented many examples of doublethink and goalpost shifting both here and abroad. Senator Eriz Abetz has made a number of comments this week against changing the definition of marriage — despite marriage itself being in a state of constant flux.

The attitude of religion towards divorce for example has dramatically shifted in a very short period of time, with Pope Francis on 23 June raising the possibility that divorced Catholics could receive Communion, as well as allowing for abuse within the home justifying a separation.

As for the holy sanctity of marriage, “what therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder”, except, of course, if one of the partners is impotent, in which case sunder away.

They frown on infertility too, but that is covered by the ability of married couples to continue performing the "conjugal act". Presumably, homosexuals do not engage in conjugality under Canon Law.

The embrace of social media by religious lobby groups is intended to piggyback on the individualistic and emotive language of online users. Consider it a peculiarly 21st century take on proselytising. The hashtag has replaced the pulpit. The shrill expressions of personal feelings stand in for scriptural readings.

The instancy of modern communication is changing how we interact through the use of social networks. As a result, lobby groups like Catholic Vote will not only continue to bankroll conservative political causes in order to promote their agenda, but also attempt to use these online networks to engage in populist appeals to empathy.

In other words, for the near future, expect many more black and white videos with crocodile tears.

If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts, due to any of the issues discussed above, contact: Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

You can follow Emmet O'Cuana on Twitter @EmmetOC_.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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