A local news channel in Australia staked out bathhouse, pointed a camera at the door and recorded for several hours, and caught the state's transport minister coming out. Of course, this is a brave new world, and since the doors to bathhouses go out to the street, TV news should just set up a camera in front of all of them and press record. People don't have any expectation to privacy outside their own homes, so if they want to do anything private, or do anything they wouldn't want their families or employers to find out about, they should close all the doors and windows, invite no one over, and turn off their internet connection. That's freedom.
Everybody is talking today about Channel 7's questionable decision to publicly out NSW Government minister David Campbell in the worst way possible - by filming him leaving a gay sex-on-premises venue.
Was that decision, which cost him his front-bench position, motivated by homophobia? Or was it, as they claim, in the public interest because it exposed the double standards of a man who campaigned on family values?
American gay activists justify outing by bringing up "hypocrisy," and media organizations will usually report it if someone broke a law. Neither really apply in this case, so this case shows the real reason most people follow outing cases: homophobia and gossip.
Channel 7's first excuse was that, since Campbell used a government car, he was breaking the law. NSW's premier agreed:
She did not think it was acceptable for him to abuse the benefits of his office, his car in particular.
But here's what she told the Telegraph:
Mrs Keneally said ministers are allowed to use their taxpayer-funded ministerial cars for personal use, noting that she used hers to attend church, go the grocery store and her children's soccer matches. Even so, she said Mr Campbell had perhaps shown a "lack of judgment", but stressed he was living with a long-held secret.
So a government car can be used to subsidize a politician's religion in Australia, but not for social outings? She sure has a great interpretation of the law, one that works out for her, personally.
The other reason they say it's news is because Campbell is a hypocrite. He's never said anything homophobic (at least publicly) and he's never tried to, say, ban gay bus drivers, but...
The journalist responsible for the story, Channel Seven reporter Adam Walters, told ABC Radio this morning it "was in the public interest to broadcast details of Mr Campbell's personal life" because he campaigned on family values.
"It's blindingly obvious that, since 1999, Mr Campbell has purported to be a family man," he said.
"He's represented himself to the people of [his electorate] Kiera as a family man, even going to the extent of sending Christmas cards to his constituents highlighting the fact that he is a man of family values.
That's it? That's the hypocrisy? A Christmas card and a meaningless campaign slogan?
Of course, that would assume that Adam Walters is referring to the same thing as American gay activists do when they talk about hypocritical politicians - that Campbell was gay in private but anti-gay while on the job. Walters means something completely different - people voted for Campbell because they thought he was straight and he hasn't lived up to that promise. It's only in that homophobic context that Walters's statement makes any sense at all.
Campbell resigned, and NSW's premier said he did the right thing considering how "concerned for his family and his wife in particular" she was. The bathhouse has lost business:
The management of Sydney's Ken's at Kensington sauna, the sex-on-site premises Campbell was shown exiting in 7 News' video footage, has so far declined to talk to mainstream media about the story. Manager Bruce Dallas told Same Same this afternoon he was still reluctant to make any comment, but revealed that a TV crew has been filming outside his venue today. "Of course this has had a detrimental effect on business," he added.
Same Same emailed 7 News this morning to ask what justification it had for 'outing' Campbell, and whether further stakeouts outside gay sex venues were planned. So far there has been no response.
I'm glad that there are gays in Australia who see this for what it is: a sensationalistic story used to get ratings in a homophobic culture. Some are saying that it has to do with Campbell's confrontational relationship with the press, and the fact that Adam Walters, the reporter to staked out the bathhouse, lost his previous job as a political strategist, lashing out against the labor party's leaders, which included David Campbell at the time. Or maybe it has something to do with his ex-girlfriend, who has an ax to grind with the labor party as well. Who knows.
But Campbell is not George Rekers or Larry Craig or Ted Haggard, so there isn't any joy here.