I deliberately refrain from writing political commentary. And I certainly won’t be endorsing any political party during the run up to the Australian Federal election. I’m still unsure who I will be voting for, myself! But I feel compelled to comment on the outrage that erupted as a result of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s “blessed” comment, during his recent debate with the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese. He has been strongly criticised for supposedly saying that he has been “blessed” not to have children with disabilities. This was in response to a question by a mother with an autistic son.
The speed and vehemence with which people piled onto the PM was quite remarkable, accusing him of gross insensitivity and of insinuating that children with disabilities are not a blessing.
But let’s be clear about what Scott Morrison actually said, and what he meant by it. His actual words were:
“Jenny and I have been blessed, we’ve got two children that don’t – that haven’t had to go through that. And so, for parents with children who are disabled, I can only try and understand your aspirations for those children.”
The “outragist community” have widely interpreted these words as effectively saying, “It sucks to be you. I’m so glad my kids aren’t autistic. My wife and I are so lucky; what a shame you lucked out.” But anyone with even a modicum of sense can see that that was not what Morrison was saying at all! He was making the point that he can’t begin to fully understand the challenges that the woman questioner faced on a daily basis, because he hasn’t had to face those challenges himself. Rather than crowing about his own good fortune, he was actually being humble enough to admit to this struggling mother that he can’t even begin to imagine how difficult her situation is. He was empathising with her, while simultaneously acknowledging the limitations that anyone without disabled children has in fully comprehending the challenges she and many others in her situation face.
I’ve used the term “outragism” before. It describes the current propensity for people to seek things to be outraged about. Wokism, using the platform of social media, has created a society which now craves outrage. People are looking to be outraged. They scour the internet and newsfeeds seeking to hunt down any comment or belief that offends them, so that they can then destroy both the opinion and the person espousing it. In doing so, outragists often rely on the technique of deliberately misconstruing and misrepresenting someone’s argument in order to exaggerate its evil and justify their evisceration of the perpetrator. This is known as the straw man fallacy – deliberately exaggerating, distorting or misrepresenting an argument or position in order to then attack that distorted interpretation.
And this is what has happened with Scott Morrison’s comment. People have deliberately misconstrued it to mean something that the PM simply wasn’t saying and never intended to say. A humble admission of his own limitations in understanding a mother’s challenging situation has been completely turned around into some kind of insensitive gloating! As if he was saying, “It sucks to be you; I’m so glad I’m me!” How absolutely ridiculous! Anyone with even a modicum of common sense can see that that was not what he was saying.
What is to be said of those who are currently howling down the PM? I can only assume one of two possibilities. Either they are decidedly stupid – that is, they can’t see what Scott Morrison was clearly saying – or they are deliberately misconstruing his words for political purposes. Either way, it is just one more example of the outrageism that has taken hold of our world and which now dominates social media. It’s so sad.