ANZ, IBM withdraw advertising from e-journal that published opinion piece against gay marriage

5 Feb

I am a strong supporter of the political and social online journal, On Line Opinion, founded and run by Graham Young.

OLO publishes all manner of opinion, no matter how contradictory, as long as it’s well argued and not abusive.  In this, OLO is a rather unique site, and at times its fora are extremely lively.

OLO is a rare gem. It offers voice to many disparate views. Under no circumstances should we have to do without it.

So when I read in today’s Australian that two major sponsers, IBM and the ANZ bank, have withdrawn their advertising from OLO in protest at the publication of an article by Bill Muehlenberg in which he argues against gay marriage, I thought I’d fallen down a rabbit hole.

I remember Bill’s article well. In fact I wrote a contrary opinion that Graham subsequently published.

I totally disagree with almost everything Muehlenberg says in his piece, but by all the gods, I defend his right to say it.

Apparently OLO has come under attack from some gay activists for publishing Bill’s piece. While the arguments in it are not to my liking, I cannot find them hateful, or inciting hatred. They are quite easily addressed and refuted, as others besides myself have done. I cannot see any reason at all to not publish, that is to censor, Muehlenberg’s opinion piece.

Apparently the ANZ Bank and IBM don’t agree.

As Christopher Pearson reports in his article today, the ANZ states that they do not advertise on blogs that “do not align to our organizational values.” That is, Muehlenberg’s anti gay marriage article offends the ANZ’s pro gay marriage values so profoundly that they’ve pulled their advertising.

Oh, that they would only show such integrity about their business relationships with the manufacturers of land mines!

I’m a staunch supporter of gay marriage. But I’m alarmed that some gay activists apparently seek to silence authors and publishers who do not agree with them, and wish to present an opposing view.

This can never be good for society. To fight for a freedom, and then attempt to deny it to those who don’t agree with you is tyranny. There were no grounds for silencing Muehlenberg in that article, unless you just didn’t like it that he said it, and that doesn’t count.

6 Responses to “ANZ, IBM withdraw advertising from e-journal that published opinion piece against gay marriage”

  1. ringil February 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    It’s very annoying that no-one has questioned Graham Young’s claims on this matter.

    Young has repeatedly asserted that the objections of the “gay activists” were to his publication of Muehlenberg’s article, when in fact the objections were to the moderation of comments on the article. This response to Young’s December blog post on the issue makes the distinction quite plainly. Far from being an attempt to silence disagreement, this story is about protection from vilification.

    While all “The Domain” blogs moderate their comments, only at OLO does there appear to be a backlog of unheeded recommendations for deletion. If Jennifer Marohasy, John Passant, Skepticlawyer, Larvatus Prodeo and Club Troppo want to align themselves financially with OLO, then it would seem a simple matter of due diligence to ensure that OLO’s moderation values also line up.


  2. Jennifer Wilson February 7, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    I’ve been a strong supporter of gay rights, and published two articles pro gay marriage on OLO.

    Responses to my articles were as fraught as those to Muehlenberg.

    I don’t know why nobody bothered to try and close OLO down in those cases. Why only the Muehlenberg comments, if it’s only the comments that are the problem?

    OLO publishes on a wide range of topics from many perspectives. Do the gay activists feel within their rights to close down a publication that has value to so many people?

    Why don’t they responsibly address the comments, as have many others, thus powerfully revealing the prejudice and ignorance from which they spring?

    Instead they want to get rid of the entire journal?

    Aren’t they being a little infantile?

    What is to be gained by attempting to force dissent underground? It won’t make it go away.

    As a woman I’ve dealt with discrimination all my life. If I tried to censor everything that I consider vilified or ridiculed me because of my gender, there wouldn’t be a lot left.

    You deal with it. You argue against it. You show it up for the rubbish it is. You don’t try to shut down an entire publication, especially one that actually has more pro gay marriage articles than anti. That’s the stupid part about it – there’s so much support in the articles and the forums.

    Cutting off your nose to spite your face? Not smart.

    I still support gay rights. But I won’t be sticking my neck out about it anymore if they are prepared to take economic action to silence a publication I write for, and like many, many others, enjoy reading.


    • Harley February 7, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

      Jennifer, you just ignored ringil’s correction of your misinformation, and the issue of the activists protesting against unmoderated comments. This is the problem with absolutist freedom of speech arguments, there’s too much talking past each other.

      There is no culture or law of absolute freedom of speech in Australia, quite the opposite with every state having some prohibition on vilification. Every other media outlet has had to deal with court cases about unmoderated online comments on their stories. But Young apparently thinks he doesn’t need to moderate.

      Muehlenberg crossed a line; people responded but didn’t boycott. When OLO’s forum comments wiped away any line of decency altogether Young was asked to do his job moderating. He didn’t. That his site is now suffering financially is because he didn’t do his most basic job as editor. In no way does he deserve support for that.


  3. Harley February 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    The greater irony of this post is that it withholds comments for moderation, but defends OLO for not doing so.


  4. Jennifer Wilson February 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Harley, I don’t ignore comments, that is an unreasonable and untruthful claim.

    I was not available for immediate moderation. I do not anywhere on this blog undertake to immediately moderate comments as I am unable to fulfil that undertaking.

    I do not agree with Ringil’s take on the issue, as I think I have already made clear.

    While there are clearly moderation issues with some people, I do not think that closing down an online community that matters a great deal to many disparate interests is the best way to deal with those issues. Jennifer.


  5. Jennifer Wilson February 7, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    I’ll add that as far as I can tell, the disagreement is about both the article, and the comments in the forum.

    Advertising is pulled from the articles, and one of the companies concerned cited the article as their reason for withdrawing.

    I do not agree with attempts to silence an entire on line community, active in many many areas, because of one article and the resulting comments.

    Particularly when that community has produced many more supportive comments and articles than anti on this issue. Including two pro gay marriage articles by myself. Jennifer.


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