Buzzfeed gave David Leyonhjelm a bit of a dustup with their headline today. In fairness, he did actually say what they reported him to say. It was only much later in the article that they printed that Leyonhjelm said he finds domestic violence abhorrent and that he thinks there should be more support for male victims of domestic violence which was slightly different from what the headline implied.
It is probably only fair that Buzzed would take the opportunity to rough up the good Senator given the way that he treats pretty much everybody who stands in his way.
The Buzzfeed article raises some important issues and not just about family violence.
Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm says male high school students being made to stand and take the White Ribbon Day oath while female classmates sit and watch is “public shaming based on gender”.
Leyonhjelm also called on the government to dedicate more funding to male victims of domestic violence.
“We can all agree that domestic violence is abhorrent, and victims deserve support,” Leyonhjelm said.
“Given that the Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that 1 in 3 victims of domestic violence is male, do you think male victims deserve a proportional level of support services as female victims?”
Greens senator Larissa Waters loudly answered: “No.”
Many would think that this was a particularly stupid response from Larissa Waters but this is what Leyonhjelm does: he provokes a general outpouring of anger and stupidity.
I don’t like this David Leyonhjelm. But at least he is consistent. You know how he will vote on most issues – anti-union, pro-choice etc. So you would expect him to say this. He hates the individual being coerced by the state (or any other authority for that matter) which leads him to say some pretty repugnant things which (consistently and strangely enough) make him look like a boorish arsehole.
And it’s also typical of his particular contrarian approach that he would adopt this attitude. Unfortunately, he is much less than half right in what he says.
Suggesting that domestic violence education is “public shaming based on gender ” on a sample of one classroom is clearly a pretty dumb thing to say. But then, senators get headlines for saying stupid stuff and senators need headlines.
It would be rather more accurate to say that we need to be aware of the fact that children are the victims of domestic violence and we need to be careful that we ensure that funding goes to support families.
This is because turning the issue of domestic violence into a gender issue, as the Buzzfeed headline and senator David Leyonhjelm do, just confuses things in a way that is not helpful.
There is also a more important issue of how commentators, myself included, and the media deal with the people they don’t like very much. Leyonhjelm is an excellent case in point. Many people find him completely repugnant and the reason for this is that it is often difficult to separate his views from his personal behaviour.
Because he is a libertarian, his political views often appear to be completely contradictory from an orthodox political viewpoint. He supports gay marriage and on abortion he supports a woman’s right to choose. But he is opposed to bans on tobacco advertising and is opposed to gun-control. There is probably no other politician in our parliament with such a divergent set of views. As a result, he is a deeply divisive individual.
But it is exactly because he views the world quite differently from the way most of the other politicians do, that we need to take his views seriously. This may mean that we sometimes need to agree with him and at other times to oppose him quite vehemently.
We are entering a period of politics, both in Australia and the US, where bigotry, demagoguery, anti-intellectualism, prejudice and just plain stupidity are going to become the norm.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump: peace in the Middle East today, a cure for cancer tomorrow (Getty Images for People.com)
It will be a time when rational debate will be all the more important.