The Israel Folau thing? It would be laughable that a grown man believes his fellow human beings will be condemned to a fiery magic netherworld forever if they don’t conform to said man’s beliefs if it wasn’t actually dangerous.
Dangerous? Yes. If you’re a high profile public person – what modern-day PR types call an “Influencer” – your words matter.
Because there are hundreds, thousands, even millions of susceptible young minds who put Israel Folau on a pedestal.
And if any of those young people are battling with their sexuality, say, and perhaps live in God-fearing households, cultures, what have you, and their hero Israel says that they’re effectively evil people whom God will cast into a hot lava pit forever if they don’t repent the sin of being themselves, gay, the way God made them, presumably, then those kids will take that to heart.
And if you’re sharpening up that keyboard now and thinking of ever-creative uses of the word “snowflake”, then back up a bit. And consider: suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.
Men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women.
Each year over 3000 people kill themselves. It’s eight people per day.
How many because they believed their sexuality is a sin?
Look – maybe Israel’s just been… I dunno. Been a bit stupid, maybe. Maybe he doesn’t think gays are going to Hell.
Maybe he was just saying the gays are going to hell, like everyone else is going to hell because, in Israel’s mind, everyone has to repent their sins and admit them to God, who will say, as long as you really mean it, Okay, then. No worries. No Fiery Pit forever for you.
As it says in the Bible.
Young blokes are topping them themselves all over Australia, hating on themselves because they, well, you know… dig dudes.
And that’s why Israel needs to pull his big dumb head in.
Because his words are dangerous. And wrong.
They’re as wrong as The Daily Mail – perhaps the most infantile newspaper in the world – was when it slandered Steve Smith as a “Cry Baby” for breaking down in a press conference.
It’s a sledge that says to young men that crying is weak. And so some young men will agree, and bottle things up. And then young men will self-destruct.
It happens every day. It’s a national pandemic. Suicide kills more young men than all the drugs and car accidents and cancers combined.
And if Israel Folau believes gay people will go to Hell because they’re gay people unless they admit to the God that being gay is bad, then Israel Folau is no ordinary idiot.
But the world’s full of idiots who believe all manner of malarkey. And we generally put them in a corner and do our best not to engage them, and think, well, the world needs extremist fools, too.
But Israel is an “Influencer”, a brilliant athlete and sportsman and “role model” for kids.
And that’s one reason – of many – why Israel Folau needs to be educated that even if he does actually believe gay people are going to hell for being gay people (again, the way God made them, one would assume) then he has a very real responsibility, as an admired public figure, not to actually publicly utter such rampant, homophobic nonsense lest young, impressionable minds take it on board, and hate themselves for it, and decide that Israel’s right, being gay is bad, and punishable by eternity in hell, I must end this terrible torment, because I’m a bad, even evil person, Israel Folau said so.
It’s just his opinion? It’s free speech?
Friend, bring it in tight. And hear this:
There’s a limit to free speech. You can’t say a lot of things. You can’t say you admire the Nazis or hate Jews or fancy children.
You want to put pedophiles on a pedestal, allow them to promulgate their… ideas? How about Nazis? Jew-haters? Should we hear them out? In the interests of free speech?
Of course we should not. Screw those people.
There is a “line”. On one side is fair comment and critique, and opinion. On the other side is hate speech.
Our Izzy, by condemning a minority of his fellow citizens to hell for being themselves, to wit gay – which, again, is presumably how his God made them – has tipped over from fair comment into bigotry.
And it’s not right. And he needs to be called out. And he will be. And he’s going to cop it the next few days. From the media, from the community, from those corporations who put their brands on the floats that go up Oxford Street and so profit from the goodwill engendered by Mardi Gras.
Raelene Castle – who’s been on those floats – is chief executive of Rugby Australia, and will hold a particularly dim view.
RA has promoted itself as an inclusive and fair place of work and play, and it has been.
RA has in David Pocock and others wonderful “allies” for the gays.
It’s been a highly-visible supporter of the Bingham Cup, the World Cup of Gay Rugby. Hell – Israel himself was an “ambassador” for the 2014 Bingham Cup in Sydney.
And Israel’s ‘brand’ grew because of that. And those corporations that give Israel money would have thought, “My, isn’t that Israel a nice man? Doesn’t his brand stack up well? We should attach our brand to his brand. And give him a lot of money.”
And I’ll tell you one thing for nothing: Israel likes money. And he’s very aware of the power of his brand. And he’ll have many people in his ear right this very minute – Castle very much among them – describing to Israel how he’s blighted that “brand” and other brands by writing a very silly albeit dangerous thing on Instagram.
And these figures will be into Israel, advising him quite strong upon what his “message” should be “going forward”.
And it’ll be interesting to see what Israel’s message is.
Because if Israel’s message is still that God hates gay people so badly that he’d condemn them to hell for eternity unless they repent the “sin” of being gay people, then Israel Folau can pack his bible and his boots, and take a flying nude leap at the moon.