A young man ends his own life, and hundreds of people cheer and laugh, confident in their assessment that he was a bad person and therefore, the world is better without him. It seems the internet has created a generation wherein cruel comments and self-righteous indignation are as freely posted and forgotten as emojis in a text. But these words last forever, and they show us the world in which we live. Cruelty as social justice? The leaders of the left stay silent.
The day before Wilson Gavin, a 21-year-old gay conservative student, took his life, he was leading a protest of a Drag Queen Story Hour hosted by a drag queen named Diamond Good-Rim at the Brisbane Square Library in Australia. A group of about 15 students interrupted the event, chanting, “Drag Queens are not for kids!” Jess Origliasso, half of the singing group The Veronicas, quickly posted a video of the event on her Instagram, shouting her outrage about the protests to her 319,000 followers.
Soon after, the Liberal National Party, to which Gavin and his group belonged, denounced the demonstration, saying, “The small group of people involved in this completely inappropriate display do not in any way represent how we as a council and the LNP feels, and it will not and never will be tolerated. They are not a part of the LNP.” As many LGBT media outlets described, Gavin faced nationwide condemnation and intense bullying and harassment online for taking a stand.
The LGBT Mob Doesn’t Really Care About Bullying
It is difficult to imagine the weight Gavin carried, with nowhere to turn while the full force of the LGBT media raged against him. Some people on the right who have risked standing up to the left know exactly how intimidating and frightening it can be. Seeing your name, your face, and your reputation distorted into a caricature over which you have no control is something no one is prepared for. The cruelty and determination of the LGBT mob is unlike anything else one can experience.
In his death, LGBT media headlines say, “Gay right-winger who protested drag queens & marriage equality died by suicide,” and the comments on Facebook are filled with mocking, smug dismissals of his humanity sprinkled with laments of his “self-hatred.” The LGBT mob and media simply cannot see that they are the source of hatred and bullying. The movement has built this toxic culture of political dissent.
Despite its calls for ending online bullying and protecting LGBT youth, the Human Rights Campaign likely will not honor Gavin or remember him as a bullied and harassed young activist. His suicide is unlikely to be a catalyst for discussing depression and anxiety in the LGBT community, and the reality that the LGBT world came crashing down on him for the act of standing up for the innocence of children will be lost on them.
Russell Blackford, a lecturer at the University of Newcastle, speaking of the backlash Gavin received, recognized that the demonstration deserved criticism but that the outrage was out of proportion. He argued, “The feeling that this is how you do activism — by destroying someone — doesn’t sit well. And it happens on both sides of the political spectrum, it should be said.” He said redemption or even the opportunity to defend yourself has become impossible, as the speed of outrage increases and people with remarkable social power abuse it for temporary gratification. This has become sadly and deeply true.
Life Matters More than Winning a Culture War Fight
Fighting for what you believe isn’t easy, and those of us who fight for the lives of the unborn, the rights we see steadily chiseled away, and for the simple ability to practice one’s religion in peace know this all too well. Over time, the rage and insults lose their force.
Although Gavin had been advocating for conservative views in Australia since he was 19 years old, he may not have had time to build up the strength to withstand the left’s wrath. At 21, he barely knew who he was as a person, let alone as an activist. The hatred he felt from his own community may have simply been too intense and too strong to battle.
What we can do as a community of reason and compassion is to recognize that regardless of how confident they appear to be, the targets of bullying and outrage campaigns are vulnerable and isolated. We have the ability to prop each other up, stand up for good people, and make sure no one is piled on until he can no longer breathe. Most importantly, we must remember that while our culture war fights matter, our lives matter far more. Family, friendship, and faith keep us afloat, and we can each offer these things in our own community.
The right has the ability to stand up to the outrage mob by refusing to back down on issues they deem forbidden. Gavin defended those standing up for traditional marriage and then, a few years later, recognized drag queen events were inappropriate for children and stood up against them. To view only the left’s response to Gavin might lead one to assume his positions were so socially taboo as to deserve universal public shaming. Why must we allow the left to so aggressively intimidate and shout down the most moderate and responsible of political positions?
The young are brave and reckless, and we have a responsibility to stand around them, let them make their own mistakes, and help them stand back up. I hope Wilson Gavin had the love and friendship I rely on every day, and I pray for his friends and family during this profoundly devastating time.
Beyond politics, we are all people with real lives bigger than social media and the LGBT mob. As long as we remember this, hatred cannot take a foothold. Fighting for what is right matters, but so does kindness and community. Remember Wilson Gavin, and remember what he was fighting for. His fight is our fight, and he didn’t deserve to feel its weight all on his own.