What happens when the barking mad write columns about the barking mad?
Why, there's a lot of howling at the moon ...
That seems to be the only logical conclusion arising from reading the generally grumpy Paul Sheehan's Criticising Islam, gays sets army major up for a fall.
The header is incoherent gibberish, but to be fair, it does represent fairly the incoherent nature of the text that follows.
What's remarkable is the way the header manages to conflate criticising Islam with gays setting an army major up for a fall, because you know, gays are just so onside with the attitude of Islamics towards homosexuality ...
What's even more remarkable is the way that Sheehan reports sympathetically on a man, one Major Bernie Gaynor jnr, who can only be described as a fundamentalist Catholic, and who actually deliberately and provocatively has set himself up for a fall, by criticising Islamics, gays and whoever else might be hand who might take a view on fundamentalist Catholicism ...
Sheehan is a tad ginger in his reporting. At no point does he explicitly express support or sympathy for Gaynor, he just presents Gaynor's views without cavil, alternative or criticism.
Naturally this leads to much talk about political correctness:
In his blog, Gaynor describes himself as ''a conservative Catholic who writes what normal men dare not speak out loud''. I put it to him that his commentary online and on Twitter had evolved into a provocation to the army.
''Absolutely,'' he replied.
Everyone listening to his speech in Melbourne quickly understood why, and I quote: ''It is my unpleasant duty to inform you that the Australian Defence Force has a fundamentally broken approach to religion, an approach shaped partly by the triumph of bureaucratic administration over battlefield considerations but mostly by plain old political correctness.
''Political correctness has cost lives on the battlefield and resulted in completely flawed campaign strategies … [The ADF] has spent the last decade at war with people who fight for their religious beliefs. And part of the problem that comes with fighting people who are motivated by religious belief is that you need to have soldiers equally motivated to oppose them.
''As a Catholic, I understand why people are motivated to do things based on religious belief, rather than what would seem to be rational on a purely secular level. As an intelligence officer, it is a valuable insight to have … but the ADF has a fundamentally flawed understanding of Islam.
When someone scribbles that, as a fundamentalist conservative Catholic, they know how other fundamentalist followers of religion are barking mad, a reader is guaranteed a lot of heat and very little light.
Not that the pond has much of a problem with Gaynor's proposal that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a waste of time, energy, resources and lives. What a pity the American fundamentalists who embarked on them as a kind of crusade didn't have a first clue about the consequences ...
But it's not clear what alternative Gaynor is proposing, except perhaps that the entire world of Islamic loons should convert to being Catholic loons, so that they can assault gays with one voice:
While this is fire and brimstone, what got him into career-ending trouble in the army was his run-in with the gay community within the military. In early last year, Gaynor criticised a law that would prevent Christian schools from barring gay teachers. He lodged a formal complaint about ADF personnel being allowed to take part in uniform in the Sydney Mardi Gras. He cited the military's ban on engaging in political activity while in uniform.
He quoted references to political activism in the constitution of the Mardi Gras. He referred to a tradition of ''religious and political vilification'' at the Mardi Gras, especially of the Catholic Church. He pointed out that Catholics made up almost 40 per cent of Australian military personnel. The details go on and on but, in March last year, Major General A. J. Campbell, DSC, wrote requesting his resignation from the army: ''In short, army does not share your views, which are both offensive and divisive and not in the interests of army or our people.''
In short, he acted and sounded just like one of the barking mad Islamic fundamentalists he purports to deplore, conducting his own personal jihad against gays.
Does Sheehan point out the irony of the bleeding obvious?
Of course not. Instead he allows Gaynor to present himself as a martyr. You know, like those Islamic martyrs, who routinely seek out martyrdom, in a bid to impose their crazed fundamentalist ideas on others:
''While I was having this battle,'' Gaynor told me, ''Defence issued a policy that if any uniformed personnel participated in an event that vilified Islam they would be severely dealt with. We now have the absurd situation where the ADF protects the religious beliefs of Islam, while tolerating the vilification of Christianity, the religion that most soldiers identify with.''
Uh huh. Well we have an idea what happens when a crazed Catholic conservative embarks on a crusade against gays.
So let's see how things fall when a crazed Islamic fundamentalist in the ADF embarks on a crusade attacking gays ...
Perhaps the most interesting thing is that Sheehan met up with Gaynor at a Symposium on Islam and Liberty in Australia organised by the Q Society.
You can do a Greg Hunt on the Q Society of Australia here, and you'll discover that this is the same mob who invited Geert Wilders to tour and stir up trouble. At the time, Sheehan presented it as a noble effort at free speech, dogged by fear, as you can still read in Free speech dogged by politics of difference.
Ironically at that time, organiser Debbie Robinson presented herself as an ordinary small business operator and ordinary citizen who wanted ...
...to bring to Australia a Dutch political leader who is a supporter of democracy, freedom of religion, feminism and gay rights. But when she started making arrangements all she encountered was fear.
Gay rights? Yep, except of course it must be remembered that gays and the Sydney Mardi Gras have persecuted Gaynor, or so Sheehan's header claims.
The real treat is is kept in store for anyone who can be bothered to head off to the Q Society website and read Why We Oppose Islam or the treatise on Australian values.
Oh there's much talk of being fair dinkum, and freedom, and mateship and a fair go, the Anzac spirit, egalitarianism and community spirit, as handsome a load of stereotypes and cliches and mythologising as you might find outside the similar sort of stuff trotted out by rabid types in the United States ...
And behind it all, barely concealed and often revealed? Yep, it's the usual nonsense about Christianity:
After all our nation is based on individual liberties, Western democracy and the self-evident rights and freedoms flowing from the Judeao-Christian heritage of the founders of the Commonwealth of Australia. While Q Society is a secular and non-party political organisation, we acknowledge the wisdom and the benefits flowing from the Australian Constitution and the preservation of Australian values. These benefits and values is what we seek to uphold and pass on to our children.
But you won't find that on the website. You have to turn to an Atheist Foundation forum to find it, here, along with talk of nuttery.
Now the pond doesn't have any time for Islamics, but equally, it has no time for Christians who dress themselves up in secular clothes and purport to be concerned about the threat Islam poses to secular Australia and gays and freedom and a fair dinkum fair go for all ... except for gays being given a hard time at the hands of conservative Catholics ...
For conclusive evidence that the people behind the website are unbalanced and unhinged, you only have to look at the campaign against Halal Certification schemes. The methodology is cunning. You see Halal itself isn't a problem, because if it was, the Jews would be in trouble with Kashrut/Kosher dietary laws. (do a Greg Hunt and compare the laws here). No, it's the cost and the discrimination.
Hmm, how to sort out the business of discrimination and the notion of women being unclean. You know, seeing as how there are all these taxpayer-funded religious schools out there promoting the notion that gays and secularists and atheists and others who won't jump on the bandwagon are unclean?
Abolish these practices and teach fundamentalist Christians the sort of lesson we should also be teaching fundamentalist Islamics?
...we understand that ritually prepared meat is important to deeply religious Australians. To this end we propose that, similar to religious schools for which Australia permits some exemptions from non-discrimination laws, abattoirs wishing to conduct ritual slaughter shall be owned and operated by a genuine religious community organisation.
Yep, discrimination isn't so bad after all ...
Which brings us back to Sheehan and to Gaynor.
You only have to read Gaynor's blog - he's Bernard Gaynor when he's at home - to realise he has some serious issues to work through.
In fact it's astonishing Sheehan could reference Gaynor's blog and wonder how anyone could think this is the sort of blog an officer of the Army should be running and putting their name to. And that's before you start reading the contents, which are a hate fest ...
Gaynor was even too much of a wild card for Katter, who dropped him from the team, as you can read in Bernard Gaynor - handling the truth?
Or here, where you'll also find these tweets:
Yep, it's another of the Cory Bernardi mob who propose that gay marriage could lead to bestiality and polygamy ...
Which brings us to Sheehan and to Fairfax.
Why are they making sympathetic space for a man and mob so far outside the mainstream?
Why is the piece presented with this header?
This is what Sheehan and by extension Fairfax are pandering to:
Thank you Mr Sheehan to voice what the vast majority of Australians think. The Army Major ought to feel angry and betrayed. Unfortunately Islam is a religion that preaches hate towards the almost 60 per cent of us who are Christians in Australia. Make no mistake: the Army was fighting those who believe all Christians are infidels. Yet from within, the Army has a cancerous growth. Homosexuality also must never be condoned or encouraged in our military, just as it should not be in society. If it is, it is a symbol of our decline. Not a good portent for Australia's future. I hope that some Coalition Government MPs including the Minister for Defence reads and takes serious note of your column. Reinstate the Major.
Homosexuality as a cancerous growth? Along with jibber jabber about suffering persecuted Christians?
Of course there were balancing comments, this from one Whyalla Wipeout:
"And part of the problem that comes with fighting people who are motivated by religious belief is that you need to have soldiers equally motivated to oppose them."
I'm in the middle of reading CV Wedgwood's brilliant book on the Thirty Years War. If anyone wants to know the utter devastation and misery when people motivated by religious belief go to war with others equally motivated to oppose them, this book is required reading. First published in 1938 it is still utterly readable today.
Thank God, if you believe, or our great democracy, if you don't, that our soldiers fight for us and not for some fantasising ideology only matched by the fantasising ideology that motivates their opponents.
But the pond is tired of balance, and of the click bait trolling ways of Sheehan and Fairfax.
The long absent lord's non-existent hell will freeze over before the pond lays out a cent on a Fairfax subscription ...
Reading this sort of 'walk on the wild side in support of rabid, fundamentally religious tosh', the ability to pick between Fairfax Tweedledum and Murdochian Tweedledee got just a little harder, and this otherwise amusing Leunig cartoon just a little less funny: