Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Miss California shows us that we don't really care what people have to say.

If you wanted to hear some well-articulated views on a contentious social issue, a beauty pageant probably wouldn’t be most people’s first choice of venue. The cliché of the vacuous but well-meaning beauty queen hopeful who wishes for an end to world hunger is a well-worn one. Few expect such women to express real opinions, but to pander to the judges by recycling contrived platitudes about peace and love. But what happens when an aspiring beauty queen actually does give a genuinely heart-felt opinion?

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, found out for herself at the Miss USA competition last Sunday when she was asked by one of the judges whether she thought all the states should legalise gay marriage. Her reply - that she felt marriage should be between a man and a woman - likely cost firm favorite Prejean the crown, with one judge commenting: “The judges were really against her, they were bothered by her answer.” And then, unsurprisingly, the vitriol began spew forth. Like some petulant child who hadn’t gotten his way, gay celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who posed the gay marriage question, quickly branded her a “dumb bitch” on his blog.

Unbelievably though, Hilton claimed that it was not her views on gay marriage that annoyed him, but her supposedly divisive answer, saying that he “would have appreciated it had she left her politics and her religion out, because Miss USA represents all Americans.” Excuse me, leave her politics out? But was she not asked a straight forward question to which she gave an honest answer? The blogger also complained that her answer “alienated millions of gay and lesbian Americans, their families and their supporters.” If he is indeed concerned with representing all Americans, presumably Hilton would also have been indignant if the contestant had “alienated” millions of fundamentalist Christians with a pro-gay marriage answer.


Look, the issue here isn’t whether gay marriage should or shouldn’t be legalised, but the intolerance shown by supposedly liberal people to view points which don’t match their own. I mean, why ask the poor girl if there is only one answer which is acceptable? Do we want to actually talk about contentious issues like gay marriage or just bully people who don’t subscribe to a certain outlook? It seems even more mean-spirited and frankly hypocritical to shun Miss California so readily when you consider that only 30 per cent of Americans even support the right of gays to marry. But this, of course, is disregarded, because in the politically correct age dissent from a particularly rigid liberal view is not tolerated. In Ireland it is no different.

Only last Tuesday, on TV3’s Midday show, the controversial subject of embryonic stem cell research was tackled with precious little attempt at balance or presenting conflicting viewpoints. The parents of a child born blind were guests on the show to discuss their moving story and their plans to seek non-embryonic umbilical stem cell treatment in China. Senator David Norris joined them to argue why we should allow embryonic research and expressed his concern over the “smooth-talking, dangerous, sophisticated people” who oppose the practice.

Then presenter Alan Cantwell made it clear how it felt about the issue by referring to that “crackpot, loony crowd in Youth Defence”. And to top off the “minutiae of the pros and cons” - as the show was risibly described - Martin King weighed-in in favour by rhetorically asking “why shouldn’t we allow it?”. So there you have it: not a single person on the show who was clearly opposed to the issue. Wow, what a balanced and reasoned discussion indeed. Ironically though, the show’s other presenter, Colette Fitzpatrick, had the biggest insight of the entire show when she remarked on how immature we are in this country when it comes to such debates. Yes, we are, and her show on Tuesday was a perfect example of that.

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