Moral Panic 101: Equality, acceptance and the Safe Schools scandal (Quarterly Essay 67)
Black Inc., $22.99 pb, 144 pp, 9781863959513
It is rare, in 2017, to return to a long news story’s beginning, to untangle its threads and find how it came to occupy its looming position in the cultural imagination, to learn how the dog-whistle words gathered their energy. Impressively, Benjamin Law’s Quarterly Essay achieves this feat. It is a meticulously researched piece of writing, clear-eyed and forceful. Law makes the unambiguous case that conservative media figures and politicians lied about the Safe Schools program and ruthlessly exploited the queer community as a battleground in the culture war. He traces Safe Schools’ transformation from a policy launched by the Abbott government and happily supported (or at least tolerated) by both sides of politics, into a political football about which The Australian wrote thirty-one stories in 2015 alone.