Published: March 13th, 2018 2:22pm

Open to Debate

Focus is a journal I value, and I am pleased that it is now including pieces on matters of political substance such as Chris Moores' article in the February edition. But after reading the responses to his piece, and other items in the March issue, I seriously wondered about cancelling my subscription. This is not about my personal agreement or disagreement with the Moores piece, but about the norms of debate set by the journal.

One point is the way in which 'liberal' is used as a term of abuse in the letter from Greg Foster. I may have misread his point, but there is an implication that where questions of the sexual morality of political or business leaders are raised by the 'liberal press' this 'deprives people of their livelihood and threatens conscientious freedom'. It's not clear who he is referring to, but his point raises a general question about the groundswell of current resistance to the widespread sexual abuse of women or children. Of course there is a debate to be had about how to balance justice for individuals accused of 'immorality' against the need to redress the longstanding tacit acceptance of sexual abuse (including by the church). But this was a throwaway reference not a substantive point, and the tone of the letter was to close down rather than open up such debate. And I don't think that we can any longer accept that such matters can be solely for individual conscience.

Several of the other letters, and the otherwise excellent article 'Dream Big' by Charlie Carter, refer back to Chris Moores' February article; but all do so in a very snide, dismissive, almost personally abusive, tone. I hope that Focus does not avoid 'difficult' issues in future editions: there are lots of serious matters that need to be publicly discussed. In the process, I also hope that the rather clubbish, all-boys-together atmosphere might be challenged.