Christmas lunch table

It’s that time of year again, where you sit at a long table with people you are related to by the coincidence of birth, and you grit your teeth as you wonder what political myth you will have to counter this year. While we don’t have comebacks to every instance of “fake news” that has made its way onto your Aunt Robyn’s Facebook feed this year, here are some well-argued retorts (with evidence) to help you keep sane around the relatives this festive season.

“Dan Andrews has banned husbands and wives.”

Has the Victorian Premier banned public servants from talking about their husbands and wives? Not so much. Despite headlines in The Australian and the Herald Sun, the Victorian government’s Inclusive Language Guide does not discourage people from calling their own partners “husband” or “wife” but says “It is better to use the word ‘partner’ than ‘wife/husband’ where the gender, sexual orientation or relationship status of a person is unknown”. Waiting for someone else to use the term they are comfortable with, whether they are queer or not, is pretty basic stuff.

“Safe Schools is teaching kids to be gay.”

Safe Schools is about creating empathy. If kids are made to put themselves in other people’s shoes, like an LGBTI kid struggling in class after being called “fag” or “dyke”, they might think twice about bullying that kid. Or as Safe Schools Coalition put it:

“No one suddenly chooses to become LGBT simply because they heard about the topic in school, from friends, or via their social circles”

“Safe Schools wants people to tuck their penises and bind their chests.”

This frustratingly constantly repeated claim by the Australian Christian Lobby does not stand up to scrutiny. It stems from a guide developed by Minus18, an LGBTI youth group associated with Safe Schools but was not included in the Safe Schools resources. It is designed only for trans people specifically seeking out such documentation, and designed to help them do it safely rather than potentially relying on Dr Google, where the results may be much more damaging.

“Safe Schools is Marxism.”

Roz Ward, who was involved in the Victorian component of Safe Schools, is a Marxist, but that doesn’t make the program Marxist, any more than Medicare is a neoliberal program because it is currently run by a neoliberal PM (although …). In any case, the resource has gone into the control of the Commonwealth government everywhere except Victoria, but even in Victoria the state government has just announced it will take responsibility for the program and its contents internally within the Education Department.

They claim it is Marxism because it is “cultural relativism”. This just means people like Cory Bernardi et al don’t want people’s actions to be considered in the context of their own culture … while also demanding their own culture be respected.

“Donald Trump will drain the swamp and get the elites out of Washington.”

One of the ways Donald Trump spruiked his credentials to disaffected American voters was his promise to “drain the swamp” and clear Washington of the elites in power keeping the everyman down. Well, since his election, Trump has appointed three Wall Street insiders from Goldman Sachs, and his cabinet has a net worth of $4.3 billion. The swamp has been fished, but maybe not drained.

“All Donald Trump voters are racist/poor/uneducated.”

It’s not just conservative members of your family who will come up with blatantly wrong statements this year, so let’s cover this one. If you really get into a conversation about why people voted for Donald Trump, it would pay to read a few interviews with Trump voters or look at a range of factors in Trump’s appeal to voters. Short answer: it’s complicated, and even if your cousin listened to the FiveThirtyEight podcast every day he probably doesn’t have all the answers.

“Young people could afford to buy a house if they stopped buying avocado on toast.”

Discussing house prices at Christmas is as Australian as playing cricket in the backyard, and this year we have an extra reason to create resentment between generations. If your uncle with four negatively geared investment properties points to your brunches and social life as a reason why you don’t have what he has, there’s a range of figures you can use.

This handy graphic shows that if you want to save for a deposit on a median-priced house in Sydney (so $204,400), and you could save $100 a week, skipping a $22 avocado on toast once a week would shave just 3.6 years off the 26.8 years it would take to save for the deposit. ABS data also shows that 24- to 35-year-olds in 1984 spent a larger proportion of their wages on food, alcohol and recreation than in 2009-10, while as a proportion of income, housing has gone from 13.7% to 18% in the same time.

“More people voted for Hillary Clinton than any other presidential candidate in history.”

Yes, more people did vote for Hillary Clinton than any other presidential candidate in history, and yes she did win the popular vote if you just compare the total number of Americans who voted for Clinton and the total number who voted for Trump. It’s also necessary to note that more people now live in the US than ever before. So it’s not unusual that Clinton got more votes than JFK; there are more voters than ever. As a proportion of the population though, voter turnout was the lowest it’s been in 20 years, with just 55% of the population executing their right to vote. In 2012, it was at 60% and 2008 was 63.7%.

“18C is stifling free speech”

It certainly hasn’t stopped the Oz publishing more than 135,000 words on it. While there are probably ways the process can be improved to ensure that cases like the QUT case don’t drag on for three years, there are, in reality, very few 18C cases that end up in court. And those that do are generally not about the media

Look at all the 18C cases (not many). And what about defamation law? And obscene language laws? And the Border Force Act? We have bigger threats to free speech.

“Climate change is a fraud invented by NASA.”

You’re either stuck at Christmas dinner with Malcolm Roberts or one of his acolytes. Just point them to this article, in which NASA has actually refuted Roberts’ “misconception”.

“The ABCC is going to crack down on union thuggery.”

Just kidding. No one is going to be talking about the ABCC at Christmas.

Peter Fray

Inoculate yourself against the spin

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today to get your first 12 weeks for $12 and get the journalism you need to navigate the spin.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW