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Feb 24, 2016

The rise and rise of Malcolm Abbott and the sex-obsessed right

While Malcolm Turnbull panders to the right, he looks more and more like the man he replaced.

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The horrible suspicion that Malcolm Turnbull, far from being the saviour of sensible, moderate, reformist politics in Australia, is a kind of dud version of Tony Abbott, is beginning to become widespread. The inept handling of the tax debate, then Turnbull’s own stumbles on tax this week, and his savaging of Labor’s negative gearing plan as sending a “wrecking ball” through the property market, were straight from the Abbott playbook, a document heavy on poor process, gaffes, inconsistency and scare campaigns built on slogans. Turnbull even dropped a “we’ve stopped the boats” last week at a media conference.

When Fairfax’s Ross Gittins, who’s not merely non-partisan but has seen prime ministers and treasurers of both sides come and go for decades, called Turnbull out yesterday for resembling his predecessor, he summed up a feeling that’s no longer contained within the Canberra political class.

Yesterday’s “review” of the Safe Schools program, however, signals that the development of a hybrid Malcolm Abbott is happening in other areas. Much of the criticism about Turnbull’s failure to demonstrate his progressive beliefs is misplaced. Turnbull gave his all for the cause of an Australian republic nearly 20 years ago; calls for him to make it a priority when he’s a Prime Minister without an electoral mandate, and while voters themselves remain diffident about the issue, are unrealistic.

And while the government’s climate action policy is currently nonsensical, Turnbull faces a real challenge in establishing an effective policy that won’t risk real problems with the denialists on his backbench, one that he probably needs to be armed with an electoral mandate to deal with. On same-sex marriage, Turnbull is in an invidious position: as a peace offering to the Abbott dead-enders and far right, he is maintaining the plebiscite silliness, but the right — knowing they are going to lose — are throwing it back in his face by insisting they will ignore the results.

There’s no such contextual justification for the Safe Schools “review”. This is simple cultural warfare by the extreme right within the Liberals, and it’s no surprise to see the likes of Andrew Nikolic and Andrew Hastie involved. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews nailed it when he said “I don’t think these extreme Liberals are actually offended by the structure of the program, or the teachers who lead it. I just think they’re offended by the kids who need it.”

These are politicians who are obsessed with sex — specifically, people who might be sexually different to their own white middle-aged heterosexual male selves. Obsessed enough that it’s all they want to talk about in their partyroom meeting, bandying about terms like “cultural Marxism” because they read it in the paper the other day. Not merely does the idea of alternative forms of sexuality offend them, it terrifies them, because it’s yet another symbol of a world that no longer grants automatic ascendancy to men like them. Safe Schools is one more reminder that the planet no longer revolves around them. That its purpose is to protect kids, to prevent them from being bullied, is of no moment; these men were never the ones bullied at school for being different. They’ve always enjoyed privilege, entitlement, status.

Turnbull might think that giving them an inquiry is the smart play — the inquiry will be controlled by the civil and sensible Education Minister Simon Birmingham. The inquiry will find no, or minor, concerns; further complaints can be addressed by noting the program has been reviewed and all’s well.

Except, the review also legitimises this kind of cultural war, a war in which LGBTI kids are collateral damage, just like domestic violence victims are collateral damage in the culture war waged by the likes of Mark Latham and Miranda Devine against their mythical “middle class feminist” enemy. And reviews are never enough for the far right — their concerns validated, they will push into more areas. For middle-aged white reactionary males, there’s always something about the 21st century to be outraged by. In fact, they’ve barely finished getting upset about the late 20th century.

Turnbull might merely be playing for time — hold out until the election, then once he has secured victory, move to positions that more closely match his own principles. But if there’s one truth we’ve learnt from recent years and especially from Tony Abbott, it’s that it’s awfully hard to change your style once you’re in power. Abbott could never shed his relentless negativity once he became prime minister. If Malcolm Turnbull thinks he can veer back to the middle after pandering to the right, it might be much harder than he thinks.

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42 comments

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42 thoughts on “The rise and rise of Malcolm Abbott and the sex-obsessed right

  1. shea mcduff

    Yet another article that apologises for Malcolm.
    Boring and repetitive – there must have been 100s such in the media in the last decade.
    All undeserved.

  2. Wayne Robinson

    And how can Turnbull claim a mandate for a moderate position if he’s reelected pandering to the Right? At least Republican Presidential candidates, after they’ve achieved nomination by appealing to the extreme right wing, seek a mandate in an election when they move towards the centre.

  3. paddy

    I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder mcduff.
    I thought Bernard laid out a pretty good summary of Malcolm’s large and growing problems.

  4. klewso

    Malcolm and his “Crown of Thorns Chocolate Starfish Party” – he may well think he can “veer back” (after winning the next election) but he’ll still be stuck with these prickles.

  5. Derek Condle

    This is probably the worse possible outcome for a liberal party that has just hit parity in the polls, hardly what you would call a recovery , makes you wonder if the polls have given rise to this sudden re emergence of the jittery right wing backbench.Who can really blame Shorten for his open hostility towards Bernardis heckle this morning , its a loosing position, to pick on children then discriminate on sexual grounds , he cant win that argument so the more energy he puts into it the more damage he does to the already damaged Liberal brand. I don’t think their re electable to be honest , too many stuff ups this builds up associations it becomes toxic. Its got that Campbell Newman ring to it.

  6. shea mcduff

    Could also be on the record too paddy.

    Worst communications minister ever – deliberately destroying the NBN and lying about it.
    Worst environment minister, until Hunt arrived, his high point being fluro tubes for houses.
    Threw the republic under a bus more than a decade ago and made sure it was still there a few times since.
    Godwin Greched himself with the aid of a complicit media.
    Chickened out over SSM by agreeing with a $160 million proposal to waste money.
    Hides money in the Caymans from the tax man aka us.
    Goes into full Abbott mode to protect his rich mates from losing their negative gearing tax subsidy – and I note even Onselen has pointed out that 6 COALition MPS own 99 properties between them.

    Unlike the flatulent flattery of Gittens “Malcolm missed his chance to be a GREAT PM”. I expected pretty much we have and not being Tony is not good enough by itself.

    I’m sick of excuses being made for him when his recent performance thus far is exactly the same as he has performed in the past decades.

    Oh and just to put the rotten cherry on top of the rotten cake there is this:
    The ABS report shows Australia had the lowest wage and salary rise ever recorded in 2015.
    Unemployment is well above that of the previous govt [ALP]

    And Malcolm as a Senior Cabinet Minister and shadow for yonks has to take some responsibility for that.

    Too much apologising for him.

  7. shea mcduff

    Moderated.

  8. John Newton

    It’s a cliche, but it certainly applies to Malcolm in a muddle: be careful of what you wish for.

  9. zut alors

    The crunch will come for Turnbull when he has to declare policies prior to an election, albeit the old Abbott policies. Long & mellifluous oratory will not cut the mustard with voters, he will need to state the LNP’s clear position…and convince us he means it.

    Currently, the media allows him to get away with prolonged responses which may have once been efficacious when addressing a jury or judge but which are bound to send the electorate to sleep.

  10. Aethelstan

    With comments and announcements and reannouncememts correcting and conflicting with each other the Turnbull/Morrison government is beginning to look like a ship of fools … …

  11. Dog's Breakfast

    Worse still for the LNP, if Labor are emboldened by the response to actual good policy and produce just a few more, and then add their policy of putting marriage equality before the parliament, rather than this wasteful plebiscite, then there could be a real contest.

    LNP are looking like a tired and worn out government, like Labor in their 5th term in 1993.

    That they have been able to do that in one term is quite an achievement. Well done, lads.

  12. AR

    The oft noted lack of judgement for which Talcum is famous is most obvious in his really, rilly dumb desire to be PM with such unwholesome “colleagues”.
    How does he bear a party of people upon whom he wouldn’t deign to piss were they ablaze?
    Why does he bother?

  13. En Quiry

    Australia, the young country; very young; infantile. The place where everybody wants it all at once. The current media brouhaha about Turnbull is only because it was time for another media tantrum. This is what sells newspapers, 7.30 et al, and click bait. If he were replaced tomorrow by Shorten, the same thing would happen vice-versa. The only reason Labor cobbled together some (maybe) policies was because Turnbull was appointed PM. If people want Labor to form a lasting social democratic alternative, the best way of doing it is to support Turnbull and Turnbull’s alliances with the Greens and Xenophon for the next couple of terms. Only with solid electoral support can Turnbull, Greens and Xenophon replace the colonialists (including the unrepresentative Nats).

  14. paddy

    Lulz. You might be a tad too “passionate” for the moderator mcduff, but gosh I enjoyed that spray.
    Nailed it pretty well actually.

  15. MAC TEZ

    “These are politicians who are obsessed with sex — specifically, people who might be sexually different to their own white middle-aged heterosexual male selves. Obsessed enough that it’s all they want to talk about in their partyroom meeting, bandying about terms like “cultural Marxism” because they read it in the paper the other day. Not merely does the idea of alternative forms of sexuality offend them, it terrifies them, because it’s yet another symbol of a world that no longer grants automatic ascendancy to men like them. Safe Schools is one more reminder that the planet no longer revolves around them. That its purpose is to protect kids, to prevent them from being bullied, is of no moment; these men were never the ones bullied at school for being different. They’ve always enjoyed privilege, entitlement, status”
    this paragraph stood out to me,as it matches my perception of the likes of Hastie & Nikolic. A pair of self-serving career public servants (straight from the ADF to the LNP and a suitably safe seat) with an ingrained disdain for a great deal of the public they are meant to serve. Two more terrible tea party types that are all too close to PhoneyTony and all too keen to trip up Talcum Turncoat.
    With “friends” like these…

  16. Draco Houston

    Remember when our incompetent LNP prime minister would do things for us like eat an onion or knight a prince? That’s over now, all we have is the terrible government and it isn’t even funny anymore.

  17. Venise Alstergren

    The fact I predicted precisely this outcome for Turnbull gives me a real schadenfreud moment.

    Yes, it must be a nightmare to be laden down with the religious nutters/lunatics/far righters. BIG BUT, isn’t this exactly what a PM is paid for?

    Ever since he got into parliament his spin machine has told us how clever, and well educated he is. What a splendid lawyer we was, etc, etc. But if he hasn’t got enough street smarts and bollocks it is all useless.

  18. Venise Alstergren

    PS: My new name for Malcolm Turnbull is Mabbott.

  19. CML

    I am at a loss to understand why everyone thought Talcum would be any different from rAbbott. The rhetoric was different, but the background? Not a whole lot.
    Seems to have escaped all comers that Talcum converted to Catholicism a few years ago…a belief system I discarded decades ago.
    But I always remember noting that the most intense Catholics were the ‘converts’…they were like born again Christians before the fundamentalists got started!
    So when I became aware that Talcum had joined the RC believers…I was not surprised at all by his increasing RWNJ deeds, as opposed to the waffle.
    Just a thought!!

  20. christine gibson

    When is someone actually going to say that Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t got the intestinal fortitude to stand up for what he believes. He so badly wanted to be PM and he could see that going down the drain fast with Abbott as PM and he was terrified that Julie Bishop or Morrison might jump in before him and challenge and so he sold his soul to,get the job.
    The night he became PM I actually think Bill Shorten got it right when he said “ITS ALL ABOUT MALCOLM”

    One wonders if he thinks it was worth the effort, because now everyone expects him to deliver and it takes more than charm and a nice smile.

  21. Duncan Gilbey

    The Far Right faction of the LNP are on a mission from God; they can be neither contained nor reasoned with.

    The only way for Malcolm the Magnificent to negate them is to destroy them.

    Should be a fun few months leading up to the election.

  22. Jaybuoy

    Turnbull is a highly overated spiv who made most of his uninherited money bottom feeding..he should have been porridged with Rodney for his little cameo at the HIH swindle..

  23. Frank Johansen

    Well said McDuff.

    AR – Malcolm is just as narcissistic as Tony, he is just better at convincing people he is not.

  24. Charlie Chaplin

    “Suspicion” Bernard? Surely you mean “realisation”?

  25. Matt

    [Turnbull might merely be playing for time — hold out until the election, then once he has secured victory, move to positions that more closely match his own principles.]

    1. Assumes that Turnbull has principles.
    2. Assumes that Turnbull will win the next election.
    3. Assumes that the Right won’t just turf Turnbull the moment he departs their reactionary orthodoxy.

  26. Matt

    Venise @18 – Not Malcy Turnbott? XD

    CML @19 – The Catholic Church is actually far more humanistic than Turnbull OR Abbott. There’s a reason Abbott was informed he should probably not bother finishing the seminary training – his prosperity-gospel politics are heterodoxy, bordering on heresy.

  27. klewso

    “Better than Abbott or his successor, with his S&M fetish (he chose to be hand-cuffed to that Abbott bed of intrigue, if it meant getting to play PM)”?
    Personally I want, and think we deserve, better than that.

  28. GideonPolya

    The Turnbull-lead KOALition retains the Abbott policies of being pro-coal , pro-gas, pro-oil, anti-science, anti-environment and climate criminal as well as being pro-war, pro-Apartheid Israel, pro-US, warmongering, war criminal, human rights-abusing, civil rights-abusing, young-abusing and child-abusing (see Gideon Polya, “Coalition Climate Crimes & 200 Reasons Why Australia Must Dump Pro-coal, Pro-war Coalition PM Malcolm Turnbull”, Countercurrents, 1 November, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya011115.htm ).

    The anti-environment stance of Turnbull (e.g. refusing to sign up at Paris to banning fossil fuel subsidies that would save over $7 billion annually; approving the Shenhua Liverpool Plains and Adani Galilee Basin coal mine obscenities) is the more surprising (1) in view if his former strong stance on climate change action that cost him leadership of the KOALition 6 years ago, and (2) Turnbull is a Catholic but scientifically-trained, chemically-trained and science-informed Green Left Pope Francis recognizes a looming climate “catastrophe” and “millions of premature deaths” from carbon burning pollutants, demands massive decarbonisation and conversion to renewables starting “without delay” “in the next few years”, rejects Carbon Trading as a dishonest “ploy”, advocates a “fully borne” Carbon Price (Carbon Tax) on polluters, proposes “boycotts” to bring neoliberal polluters to heel, and suggests “intergenerational solidarity” to address the worsening intergenerational injustice inherent in climate change inaction. Green Left Pope Francis’ demand in his 2015 Encyclical “Laudato si’” for massive urgent action now is precisely that urged by scientists both individually and collectively. Thus the Synthesis Report of the March 2009 Copenhagen Scientific Climate Change Conference concluded that “Inaction is inexcusable” and the 2010 Open Letter by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, including 11 Nobel Laureates, concluded that “Delay is not an option” (see Gideon Polya “Western Mainstream Media Censor Green Left Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si’” Message For Urgent Action On Climate Change”, Countercurrents, 20 August, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya200815.htm ; Pope Francis , Encyclical Letter “Laudato si”, 2015: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html ; Gideon Polya, “Green Left Pope Francis Demands Climate Action “Without Delay” To Prevent Climate “Catastrophe””, Countercurrents, 10 August, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya100815.htm ).

    Decent, science-informed, pro-Humanity, pro-Biosphere Catholic and non-Catholic Australians will utterly reject the anti-equity, anti-environment, climate criminal KOALition led by the charming and all-smiles but neoliberal, Catholic-Abbott-lite, Abbott-in-sheep’s-clothing, lipstick-on-a-pig Catholic Malcolm Turnbull – they will vote 1 Green and put the KOALition last.

  29. Luckyduck

    I think the LNP strategy will be to go to he election retaining Abbott’s policies. Note how Turnbull is going for a minimalist tax policy.
    As the LNP has 90 seats and Labor has only 55, it is unlikely Labor will win the election.
    With the changes to Senate voting passed, even in a normal election it is likely that the LNP may have a Senate majority in its own right.
    With control of both Houses you will then see Turnbull’s true colours -Tax, Superannuation, Negative Gearing, Medicare, ABC and SBS policies will all be drastic and regressive.

  30. CML

    @ Luckyduck…so why would anybody, even those with only half a brain, vote for this putrid lot in the first place???

  31. Neil Aitchison

    Exposing deceit and dishonesty can be “tough love”: If the “Safe Schools” program continues, it is inevitable now that schools will be polarised into “gay schools” and “non-gay schools” as the “gay schools” shout homophobia at anyone who does not want to be a homosexual (it will be a witch-hunt on all the time to “catch-out” the heterosexual and spew abuse at them just like Bill Shorten did to Cory Bernardi – no one wants to be on the run from the homo hit squad all day long) and the “non-gay schools” who are sick in the gut of having rampant hedonistic humanism/atheism shoved down our throats and so they want to live in peace by teaching their children the 3Rs and decency. The creators of the “Safe School” program obviously didn’t think through how their initiative will cause polarised “gay schools” and “non-gay schools” that will now eventuate – that is the path that we are now heading down. For schools/universities to support such a destructive program like “unSafe Schools”, it drags down their reputations and has me, for one, warning people not to send their children to such institutions – parents will vote with their feet (and their wallets) by not sending children to skewed schools/universities that are only into political activism and not into educating people.

    What a disgraceful joke!

    ….and there are gay-only groups that teach people how to have gay relationships, gay sex, etc….so much for homosexuality being “normal/natural” if you have to be taught it….and it is discrimination to make the group a gay-only group (oh….that’s right…..discrimination and abuse only works one way, the heterosexuals have to cop it).

    There is no homophobia…..just a different opinion. People who disagree with same sex relationships simply disagree, nothing more. Calling it homophobia is a cop out for not having a legitimate reason to have a same sex relationship and so to silence your critics, you use emotive name calling. The whole name calling stunt has worn out and people are not put off by being called homophobia, hate speecher or bigot because name calling is an acknowledgement that you have lost the argument. If equality is what the same sex marriage advocates want, then equality for all types of marriage would be allowed. To limit their marriage re-definition to only include “two consenting adults” is being unequal to the people wanting other forms of marriage – so it is quite a big lie to claim that SSM is “marriage equality”. If you want to save money on a “wasteful” plebiscite, then simply leave the Marriage Act as it is – no cost involved then!…..but the same sex lobby pushing for a change are creating the cost.

    Also, the same sex lobby have used the Anti-discrimination Act to try and silence the Roman Catholic Church in Tasmania…..so already this bully tactic has been used. The Australian Christian Lobby are addressing this existing misuse of the Anti-discrimination Act and simply saying that such bully tactics should not be used by anyone (either the “yes” side or the “no” side) to silence people and stop free speech. The way that the media has made out the ACL are wanting favouritism or somehow circumventing the Anti-discrimination Act is further evidence of how devious and deceitful the SSM advocates are. The obvious outcome is that it will backfire and more and more people will be chased over to the “no’ side – that’s what happens when you lie too much for too long. 

    There is no hatred, bigotry or discrimination to uphold the millennia-old understanding that marriage is solely between a man and a woman. At worst, it is just a difference of opinion, and at best, it is upholding history for a reason – opposite sex marriages are the only way that civilizations can thrive and be prosperous (you can have children to start with and then to structure ethics, honesty and decency). The family unit is vital to how society functions and when it is distorted or changed, so does society. Already, heterosexual children are told not to use the terms “boy, girl, him, her, mummy, daddy, etc” because these terms are gender specific and oppose the same-sex/transgender identification – so heterosexual people (from a very young age onwards) are impacted in thousands of ways by the same sex marriage re-definition. Plus all heterosexual marriages change from being recognised as “married to a member of the opposite sex for life” to “someone I am temporarily having sex with” which, for me, would be insulting if I was in anyway assumed to be married just for sex or to another man. So every time I say the words “I’m married”, my marriage is being damaged by the re-definition of marriage. My feelings are as valid as any homosexual’s feeling and should be equally considered seriously in the whole same sex marriage debate. Failure to do so shows that the same sex marriage issue is not about love and equality, but solely a political stunt to legalize rampant hedonism and a blatant attack on Christianity. If you want honesty, then there it is. 

    The Rome Empire that had rampant hedonism and debauchery in the 1st-3rd centuries were not Christian (they killed Christians for sport in the “circuses” where lions would eat Christians) and the Emperor Constantine turned to Christianity as a way out of the horrors going on in the Roman society. So there is a perfect example of how we must also avoid the same horrors of rampant hedonism and debauchery by following the Christian teachings. In other words, we can be “saved from ourselves”. The ACL and Senator Cory Bernardi are highlighting the unfair and dishonest name-calling and dirty political tactics used by the same sex lobby group to silence their critics and shove their agenda down our throats. This will be highlighted a thousand times as the same sex lobby group continue with their dishonest bully tactics and prove the ACL to be true over-and-over-and-over again. 

    I am loving to homosexuals (the people), but I hate actions that are deceptive, hurtful to people and unnatural (including homosexuality). There is a difference…..plus I am talking about the “same sex lobby group” and not individual homosexuals. I have met many homosexuals who don’t want same sex marriage laws because they don’t want the association with marriage – it is the same sex lobby group that spews out lies and name calling…..and the “unSafe Schools” propaganda. If you think it is Leviticus that I am following, then try reading Romans 1:16-32. No one can disagree with the passage because it is being fulfilled before our very eyes (for example: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”, “vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened”, “uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts”, “God gave them up unto vile affections”….and verses 28-31 describes most of our politicians perfectly).  Amen!

    Neil Aitchison
    http://www.users.on.net/~mec/evangelical/advertiser/index.html

  32. Karen

    As time wears on, Malcolm appears more and more as the smiling, well-suited version of Abbott, we all suspected he was – as Abbott said, himself, Mal’s policies are his, no change. Unfortunately, Shorten is hopeless and has no traction, so the Right are making hay while the sun shines at the moment.

  33. shea mcduff

    Neil Aitchison

    You are a poor excuse for a human being.

  34. AR

    N/A@31 – interesting attempt at satire but you’ve overeggged the omelette and turned in into a damp squid with a hard road to ho-ho.
    Points though for the raving lunacy of “the homo hit squad ” – the boggles mind.

  35. Venise Alstergren

    MATT: (26) Thanks for your reply.
    The thing that really gets on my quince is the fundamentalist religionists lack the guts to stand on their religious beliefs. They get elected on their ideas of infrastructure, rural affairs, knitting socks for orphans, whatever. Before long the electorate discovers their real goal is to form a block, to support a right-wing plan to destroy the government.

    As with CML,(19) I’ve noticed ‘born again’ religionists make the most fervid converts. Tiny little Mabbott being the latest example.

    Anyone believing Oz to be a democracy is being misinformed.

  36. Venise Alstergren

    NEIL AITCHISON: Take your obscene beliefs and insert them up your fundamental orifice.

  37. Venise Alstergren

    NEIL AITCHISON: (31) Take your obscene beliefs and insert them up your fundamental orifice. It is people like you who have caused Oz to be a fifth rate nation.

  38. Hector

    Extraordinary. Yet again, another journalist too gutless too call the “extreme right” of the LNP what is really is – the “extreme CHRISTIAN right”. Like their counterparts in the Labor Party (and in the US Republican party) this issue has nothing to do with male dominance and everything to do with blinkered bigoted religious viewpoints using a hideously contradictory and hypocritical fairy-tale book as a guide to moral certainty on issues of gender and sex. When will commentators stop giving the religious a free ride and an automatic social license? When was the last time a journalist did a “fact-check” piece on religious dogma so many of our (mostly) Catholic/Christian politicians base their disturbing viewpoints around? I dare the ABC’s fact check to look at Biblical references (the Torah/Pentateuch or Koranic/Haddith references for that matter as well).

  39. shea mcduff

    Hector
    You are correct – I looked at the article again and could see no mention that the far right, at least in his case, are Christian fanatics.

  40. Mike Smith

    %Deity% Neil, lose all the ironic quotes in that spiel so that it’s a bit more understandable.

  41. Neil Aitchison

    Hello,

    The Sanctuary Shop in Adelaide has also been attacked by the homo
    hit squad – for more info and a picture of the smashed window see:

    http://www.users.on.net/~mec/evangelical/advertiser/index.html

  42. Wayne Robinson

    Neil,

    How do you know that there’s ‘a homo hit squad’? Your bigotry is showing again. I’ve had a glance at your earlier diatribe (it’s not worth much more). I was bemused with your explanation as to why Constantine adopted Christianity – it had nothing to do with combating debauchery and everything to do with consolidating power.

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