The below piece has been submitted by ACL supporter Emma Lauren. It is written to help stimulate thinking about how same-sex marriage has come to be so prominent in our national debate.


The Nations’ New Clothes - By Emma Lauren

Hans Christian Anderson’s popular tale of The Emperor’s New Suit was first published in 1837.  It tells of two swindlers who parade as weavers before a vain emperor.  He agrees to provide them with expensive silk and gold-cloth to spin magnificent patterns in an exquisite light-weight material, which they determine to fashion into a new suit for him.  The Emperor’s vanity is stroked by the weavers’ promise that the cloth will only be visible to those suited to, intellectually and/or skillfully equipped for the position in his kingdom which they hold.   The proud emperor, apart from wanting to look grand himself, looks forward to uncovering those in his court he should remove from service and those whom he should keep or  even promote.

Children and adults of every generation since have enjoyed H.C. Anderson’s conclusion to his tale. The unaffected, honest voice of a young boy ignores the cries of admiration of the entire crowd fearfully praising the newly ‘dressed’ emperor and entire court’s parade.  He simply states the obvious: it is the emperor himself who is uncovered - literally and metaphorically.  The whole procession designed to show off the emperor’s fine apparel and wisdom, as well as the talent of his entire court, proves sadly to be nothing more than a cruel charade.  

The emperor is naked.

Exactly one hundred and fifty years later, in 1987, a similar tale is spun.  Two young men, social science graduates from Harvard University, well equipped in the ways of advertising, selling, psychology and social conditioning,  decide to stroke the new vanity of their times.  They determine to weave a suit of every colour of the rainbow to sell to the entire nation.  

In the sunset years of the twentieth century there are very few emperors. Essentially none are needed.  Parliaments govern the masses among the wealthy western nations.  It is the people who, ideally, give authority to Members of Parliament and their Prime Ministers and Presidents.  Every three to seven years each person of adult age is entitled to one vote (of equal value to every other vote) to elect the peoples’ representatives in the parliament.  So it is the people who really hold the power.  It is the people’s vanity our two young men decide to stroke.

People are proud of their democracies and the more enlightened use their one vote wisely.  Millions, however, have long lost even the notion of wisdom.  They’ve handed their moral formation to the media – words written, sung and spoken; pictures and characters presented for public adulation or assassination via musicians, pop and movie stars, journals, newspapers, television and film.  In a post-war prosperity boom their generation imagines they’ve developed the arts of sex, music and money-making to never-before reached heights of liberty, equality and prosperity.  They have important things to teach the aging and ignorant world of their forefathers.  

Our would-be weavers, our two modern men, know the new age of ‘back to nature’ and ‘do as you please’ which absorbs their culture does not always match the fast-moving world of scientific and technological advancements.  One theme, however can be tapped, a common thread our weavers of fiction can sell as a yarn and spin at their looms: the notion of equality.  Not a suit of fine light-weight gold thread to distinguish the royal personage – no! Members of democratically elected Parliaments (MPs) wear egalitarianism as their royal costume. Anyone born in the land who is not convicted as a criminal can stand for election to Parliament.  When a man or woman receives enough votes, a new MP is born. He or she carries the responsibility, dignity and value of their representative vote in Parliament to make, break, refine and rethink laws and traditions of the land.  

Our weavers have been beset by problems of late.  Friends are growing ill, spreading a new disease … and some have died.  Worse still, a media advertisement warning of the infectious nature of the disease has the nation on high alert.  People are afraid of any who might propagate the mysterious illness.  Long accustomed to a lifestyle wrapped in a cult of silence, our two bright young men understand it is time to speak. Their very survival is at stake. People must begin to like them.  How? They determine to spin a new thread, weave a new cloth of all the colours of the rainbow and design a suit to outfit the entire nation. Like it or not, people will wear it, and like it or not, people will be too afraid to not ‘see’ and ‘admire’ the new cloth they’ll be spinning.

Our two weavers set up their first loom in Guide Magazine in 1987.  In 1990 their article expands to a handbook for winning the war against those who oppose their lifestyle. They don’t aim to reach the nation’s entire population in one day.  They seek at first to organize like-minded people to participate in their weaving work, spinning the yarn, controlling public discourse, and manipulating the people to admire their garment, a uniform for the entire nation. The clothes, they know, fit the mindset of a very small percentage of the population indeed.  Never mind! The strategy is to legitimize their own group at the expense of over ninety percent of the population.  Chanting ‘equality’ they’ll undermine millennia-held beliefs, wisdom, society’s fabric and foundations.

Our weavers are at their looms day and night and are very successful in achieving their aims. Their nation is extremely powerful.  Leaders, wanting to be seen as fit for their positions in an egalitarian, democratic world, challenge, even threaten other nations to try the new costume of all the colours of the rainbow.  “It is all about equality, equal rights!” they preach.  We are enlightened: we wear, we see, we feel, we admire the fine thread and the cloth of every colour of the rainbow.  See, some of our elite people are already designing suits from the cloth and wearing them in their powerful positions and in conferences, in halls of education, science, medicine; in arts, in multi-media empires and in powerful forums of international relations.  In religion some too are adapting ancient texts to avoid the conflict they fear and the angst they feel.  The spinners, weavers and tailors follow their masters’ pattern:

At least in the beginning, we are seeking public desensitization and nothing more.  We do not need and cannot expect a full ‘appreciation’ or ‘understanding’.  But if only you can get them to think that it is just another thing, with a shrug of their shoulder, then your battle for legal social rights is virtually won.  And to get to shoulder-shrug stage … a large-scale media campaign will be required in order to change the image.  Any campaign to accomplish this turnaround should do six things.

1. Any behavior begins to look normal if you are exposed to enough of it at close quarters and among your acquaintances.  The acceptability of the new behavior will ultimately hinge on the number of one’s fellows doing it or accepting it.  As long as Joe Six-pack feels little pressure to perform likewise, and as long as the behavior in question presents little threat to his physical and financial security, he soon gets used to it and life goes on.  The way to benumb raw sensitivities is to have a lot of people talk a great deal about the subject in a neutral or supportive way.  Constant talk builds the impression that public opinion is at least divided on the subject and that a sizable segment accepts or even practices it.  The main thing is to talk about it until the issue becomes thoroughly tiresome.  The masses should not be shocked by premature exposure to the behavior itself.  Instead such imagery should be downplayed, the issue reduced to an abstract social question as much as possible.  The visual media, film and television are plainly the most powerful image-makers. Support more moderate churches, undermine others as moral backwaters.

2. We must be seen as victims in need of protection so some are inclined by reflex to assume the role of protector.  We must forgo the temptation to strut our pride publicly when it conflicts with our victim image. Media campaigns should make use of symbols which reduce the mainstream’s sense of threat, lower its guard and enhance the plausibility of victimization.  Commercials should present sympathetic figures of nice young people, old people and attractive women.  Groups on the farthest margin of acceptability must play no part at all in such a campaign.  The mainstream should be told that we are victims of fate, in the sense that most never had a choice to accept or reject our preference.  As far as we can tell we were born the way we are, just as you were born white or black or bright or athletic.  Nobody ever tricked or seduced us; we never made a choice, and are not morally blameworthy. The twist of fate could have easily happened to you!  We must be portrayed as victims of society.  The majority does not recognize the suffering it brings to our lives: use graphic pictures of the brutalized, dramatization of job and housing insecurity, loss of child custody, public humiliation.

3. The media campaign that encourages some mainstream people to be our protectors must make it easier for those who respond to assert and explain their new protectiveness.  Our campaign should take anti-discrimination as our theme.  Our defenders must be ready to counter dogma with principle.

4. To make our victim sympathetic to the mainstream you have to portray him as Everyman, but paint him/her as a superior pillar of society.  This trick is so old it creaks.  Other minorities use it in ads all the time.  ‘Did you know this great man/woman was …?’

5. At a later stage of the media campaign it will be time to get tough with remaining opponents.  To be blunt, they must be vilified.  We seek to replace their pride with shame and guilt; we intend to make our opponents look so nasty that average people will want to dissociate themselves from such types. The public should be shown images of ranting opponents, bigoted opponents drooling with hysterical hatred to a degree that looks both comical and deranged, menacing opponents, thugs, convicts, Nazi concentration camps.

6. Any massive campaign of this kind would require unprecedented expenditures for … years. There are ten to fifteen million of us in this country; if each one of them donated just two dollars to the campaign, its war chest would actually rival that of its most vocal enemies. Eventually donations would be solicited directly alongside advertisements in major media. Newspapers and magazines may be hungrier for our advertising dollars than television and radio. Billboards will tap patriotic sentiment with an agreeable public service message, each signed courtesy of us to build positive associations and get the public used to seeing such sponsorship. For television and radio we must continue to encourage the appearance of favourable characters in films and TV shows. Well before the next elections we might lay careful plans to run symbolic candidates for every high political office in this country.  Our candidates would participate in debates, run advertisements, demand equal time on the air.  They could then graciously pull out of the race before the elections while formally endorsing more viable mainstream contenders.  With malicious humour perhaps we could endorse our most rabid opponents.

7. Once we have our foot in the door it is time to ask the networks to accept our sponsorship of certain ads and shows.  Timing is critical.  The request must be made immediately after our national political ads disappear.  We should request sponsorship the next time one of the networks struts its broad-mindedness by televising a film or show with characters like us.  If they wish to look consistent instead of hypocritical we’ll have them on the spot. But the networks would still be forced to say No unless we made their resistance look patently unreasonable and possibly illegal. Viewers would be treated to squeak-clean skits on the importance of family harmony and understanding – this time the narrator would end by saying, “This message was brought to you by …‘us’…”  All very quiet and subdued.  Remember: exposure is everything and the medium is the message.  Our community should join forces with other civil liberties groups of respectable cast to promote bland messages – always ending with an explicit reference to us.  We can also propose sympathetic media appeals for gifts and donations to fund research into diseases prevalent in our communities.  Our next step will be to advertise locally e.g. for ‘Parents of people like us’ on behalf of support groups peripheral to our community.  Formal TV ads should use familiarization, testimonials, positive associations, celebrity spots, victim sympathy and campaigns e.g. against child abuse, and identification with the victim.  Make the mainstream walk a mile in our shoes and vilify our opponents. Ask for funds.

The Harvard graduates have three tools of psychological warfare they unashamedly employ: desensitization, jamming and conversion.  Some assistant spinners, weavers and tailors are simple folk who do not understand how it works, but they follow the pattern set out in 1990 by their clever masters.

Twenty-three years on, the people are growing weary.  MPs in lower houses, Senators in upper houses of Parliament, Kings and Queens and courts of justice throughout the world are learning compassion by fatigue for the weavers and their suits of all the colours of the rainbow, however badly they fit, however uncomfortable they feel.  One of our young men from Harvard has died.  The other lives, but on an internet blog denies any connection between his authorship of the 1990 war manual and modern rainbow mania.  The people want joy again.  They want the clothes to go away, to hang tidily in a department of the government, rather than on the streets and in the mail. The rainbow coloured suit is on sale in every nook and cranny of every organization, in every home of nearly every nation on earth.  In some nations the weavers’ outfit has been purchased for all the people by an act of parliament, without asking all the people whether they want it or not.  In fact some MPs no longer care what the majority of people think.  

All seems hopeless.  There’s no unaffected ‘young boy’ speaking out to rescue the ‘emperor’, his ‘court’ and the people, as in H.C. Anderson’s tale.  If there is, no-one is reporting it.  Truth hides more easily in 2013. 

History however often turns on small personal decisions and ‘coincidences’ resulting in outcomes, that months of careful planning  could never have achieved.  And so it is in our modern tale.  One evening, May 24, a political analyst sits at her computer and posts her comments re the previous day’s news on a blog:

“Sixty percent of the 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts voted to allow openly ay members, but not leaders yesterday, in a predictable change to the 103 year-old civic organization.  What are the possible outcomes? Litigation?  Most likely.  Defections?  Definitely.

Those lobbying the Scouts to change their policy on homosexuality knew the best way to do that was to do so internally, to change the rules that would in essence, eliminate the involvement of faith-based organizations.

The problem is that Christians were asleep at the wheel and didn’t see it coming, but the gays certainly did.  They’d been planning it for quite some time.” 

An aging journalist reads the political analyst’s comment.  He speaks with her by phone, then writes the story for the human interest section of a major daily newspaper.  To his surprise his report is picked up by the editor the following day and subsequently appears as a front page headline supported by cute photos of boy scouts setting up camp in dense Australian bush land.  It proves a very popular story.   

In Anderson’s tale the young boy’s words of truth broke the fear imprisoning the crowd, the emperor and his court: “’But he has nothing on at all,’ cried the people.  That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, ‘Now I must bear up to the end.’ And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train (of his ‘robe’) which did not exist.”

Within a year in our modern account much has changed.  In 2014 there’s a bill before the upper house: Enshrining the traditional Marriage Act in the Nation’s Constitution.  Another important addition to the nation’s Constitution is also being put to the people in the referendum to be held in November: the original inhabitants of the land are at last to receive their rightful recognition.  As the sun goes down one hundred and seventy-seven years after Hans Christian Anderson published his tale, the bill to enshrine traditional marriage in the Constitution passes the upper house by a clear majority.  

Christmas brings all the usual family excitement and joys of gift making or shopping.   A suit of clothes of all the colours of the rainbow has been placed in a glass cupboard in the national museum. The former spinners, weavers and tailors are celebrating with their friends; exonerated of wrong-doing on the grounds that they felt threatened.  Psychological warfare has been exposed.  No party or person by law may engage in psychological warfare against fellow citizens or opposition.  Acts or accusations that amount to treason or violence are forbidden. True egalitarianism is birthing inside a newfound peace.   

Mutual respect is slowly growing between original inhabitants, who are willing to forgive, and new settlers and immigrants, who are willing to understand the pain suffered by those who once owned the land.  Citizens are encouraged to work hard, to blame self before others and to appreciate others before self.  The nation is happy again.

“Thank you, Hans Christian Anderson!” echo the crowd of diverse cultures gathered for the Festival of Carols on the lawn by the lake.  The PM repeats for emphasis: “Thank you, Hans Christian Anderson … for reminding us, that wisdom is eternal, and that wisdom comes from God.”  The people cheer. Soothing sounds of ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’ drift over the capital and all over the land.  A distant didgeridoo sings to the moon and a brand new star peeps out through the host along the Milky Way.