This month the Australian Human Rights Commission lied to the nation. And it knows it did.
It told Australians that 51 per cent of university students suffered sexual harassment last year. It painted Oz campuses as hotbeds of sexual menace, stuffed with satyr-like men preying on vulnerable young women who apparently can’t even pop to the library without being leered at. The press dutifully clutched its pearls. It is outrageous there has been such a ‘wave of victims’ of ‘sexual assault on campus’, lamented the Sydney Morning Herald.
Even at an instinctual level, doesn’t this tale of sexual peril in the nation’s lecture halls and quads feel a little off? The right of women to work and learn has never been more broadly accepted as it is today. And men are far softer than they were just 20 years ago. The top-down beseeching of young blokes to ditch the swagger and get in touch with their inner sap has made Crocodile Dundees a thing of the past, replaced by confused lads more likely to tweet their feels than wrestle wildlife or wolf whistle at passing sheilas.
Anyone who has recently encountered gangs of teen schoolkids and watched as the girls expertly swat aside irritating spotty lads will raise a sceptical eyebrow at the idea that a couple of years later, once at uni, the boys will become marauders and the girls victims. It seems iffy, shall we say.
And that’s because it is iffy. Actually it’s BS. Everything about the AHRC’s survey of 30,000 students should set off alarm bells among those who care for truth and reason. For a start, the survey, far from being neutral, is riddled with moralistic missionary zeal. In a section on page 226 titled ‘Caveats’ — I love that; it might as well say ‘WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE THIS SURVEY WITH A GIGANTIC PINCH OF SALT’ — the authors admit it’s a product of ‘years of advocacy by survivors of sexual assault’. This survey was inspired and produced by people already convinced sex hate is viral in the academy, and they set out to prove this dogmatic belief by any means necessary.
The main mean they used was definitional dishonesty. It is only through defining sexual harassment so promiscuously that even overhearing an off-colour joke counts as misogynistic oppression that the AHRC could arrive at the demented claim that half of students suffer sexual victimisation.
The three most common forms of sexual harassment complained of were ‘inappropriate staring or leering that made you feel intimidated’; ‘sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made you feel offended’; and ‘intrusive questions about your life or physical appearance that made you feel offended’. This covers everything from clumsy come-ons in the student bar to the sad 19-year-old lad still waiting to pop his cherry gawping at an attractive girl as she crosses the quad. In other words, perfectly normal young-people behaviour. It’s amazing only 51 per cent of students experienced such ‘harassment’.
The AHRC might be staffed by stiff bureaucrats who wouldn’t recognise true freedom if it slapped them across the face. But these people aren’t stupid. They have degrees. They know the meaning of words. And I’m convinced that as they gathered in one of their plush boardrooms to pat themselves on the back over the media splash their survey made, they will have seen press phrases like ‘wave’, ‘epidemic’ and ‘sexual assault and harassment’ and thought to themselves, in some deep, unexcavated part of their souls, ‘That’s not really what it’s like on campus. But hey.’
Why do they do this? Why do they devote so much energy and taxpayer money to pumping out what can only be described as misanthropic misinformation, as severely twisted ‘facts’ designed to cast young men in particular in as grim and unflattering a light as possible? Why be so cruel, so quick and crooked in the hurling of aspersions at a section of the public?
It’s because it’s their job. There is a nasty bureaucratic imperative today to make society and its inhabitants look as vile as possible; as in dire need of mind-policing and behaviour modification by the self-styled enlightened set who stink up the corridors of bureaucracy.
It’s the logical outcome of an era in which a vast, Byzantine layer of state machinery has arisen to watch over and improve people. Such machinery must, for its survival, convince us that the public, we ourselves, are horrible creatures, and therefore that a decent, moral, lavishly funded administration is needed to lecture and save us. This machinery’s every instinct is to uncover or outright invent human wickedness; that’s its fuel.
This is why we see survey after survey claiming to show people are becoming more Islamophobic, more sexist, more racist, more ‘microaggressive’ (that’s when you say something racist without even realising it, probably because you didn’t actually say something racist). ‘Islamophobia is still raising its ugly head in Australia’, said the Oz Centre for Islamic Studies last month. ‘One in five Australians has experienced racism in the past 12 months’, said a report by academics at Western Sydney University in March. ‘Sexist attitudes in Australia are on the rise’, said gender researchers at Deakin University a couple of years ago. Gender researchers: I wonder if by any chance they already believed sexism was rampant before they’d interviewed a single person?
These claims run counter to everyday experience; to the great gains made by ethnic minorities and women in Oz and across the West. That’s because most of these studies also rely on definitional dishonesty, so that Islamophobia includes everything from mercifully rare assaults on Muslims (which are criminal) to people saying they hate the burqa (which is fine), and racism can include being pushed past in a queue by a white man (bloody white men), and sexism stretches to being asked out on a date by a weird bloke.
They are lying about you. They’re depicting the populace as a swarm of spite. They have to, because in order to get funded and prop up their presumed moral authority, this nannying, nagging section of society must continually find hatreds to fret about and make war against. Imagine that was your job: to spread misanthropic misinformation. How tragic. How low. They rail against hatred and yet their currency is hatred — hatred of us.
John Slater is a policy analyst and regular contributor