NEWS

Journal Distances Itself From Research Cited On Homophobic Poster

'We strongly condemn any attempt to justify hate speech.'

22/08/2017 2:13 PM AEST | Updated 22/08/2017 2:14 PM AEST
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An academic journal which published a rubbished study about health issues for children in LGBTQ families, which was cited on homophobic posters in Melbourne over the weekend, has tried to distance itself from the article and the posters.

Pictures of a poster reportedly spotted in the heart of the Melbourne CBD popped up on Twitter over the weekend. The material, headed by the screaming headline STOP THE FAGS, pictures a young child cowering before two rainbow-coloured belts, seemingly about to be punished.

The image, HuffPost Australia has learned, seems to trace back to the message board of a neo-Nazi website called Iron March, with one version of the poster bearing the website's URL.

The claims about child abuse, depression and obesity in LGBTQ families come from a thoroughly rubbished study from D. Paul Sullins, which was published in an open-access journal which requires authors to pay for publication. Sullins' article -- which claims children of LGBTQ families are at higher risk of suicide, depression and other health issues -- was a study of just 20 children.

A spokesman for Hindawi, the company which owns the Depression Research and Treatment journal where the article appeared, contacted HuffPost Australia after the publication of our original article on Monday to provide context around the paper's publication.

"Peer review is a confidential process, but I can inform you that the paper in question went through two rounds of peer review. The reviewers raised concerns at each stage, which were addressed by the author in the form of revisions to the manuscript. The Editor and the Peer Reviewers were ultimately satisfied with these revisions and felt that the paper met the requirements for publication in the journal," the spokesman said.

"In the interest of discourse we ensured that a comprehensive response from one of the article's critics was published as a Letter to the Editor."

The spokesman said staff at the journal were also "horrified" that their publication was used as a source for the homophobic Melbourne posters.

"There is no justification for this type of discourse. I was revolted to see them when they were shared on Twitter this morning and immediately contacted my colleagues to discuss our response," he said.

On Monday, Hindawi also added an 'Expression of Concern' at the top of the webpage hosting the online version of Sullins' study. The statement again spoke of the concerns raised prior to the study's publication and further explained how it came to be published.

"The article has been cited to support arguments about same-sex marriage that Hindawi believes to be hateful and wrong. These arguments do not represent the views of Hindawi, our staff, or the editorial board of Depression Research and Treatment. We strongly condemn any attempt to justify hate speech or bigotry through reference to the scholarly record," Hindawi wrote in the statement.

"In June 2016, several readers raised concerns about this article. At that time, we evaluated the article's peer review process and brought several concerns to the handling editor's attention. These included: the study's small sample of same-sex parents, the lack of discussion of other influences such as family breakup on the wellbeing of the children included in the study, the implied causation in the title 'Invisible Victims,' and the potential conflict of interest implied by the author's position as a Catholic priest."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has continually expressed the (now seemingly dashed) hope that Australia would have a "respectful debate" in the lead-up to the marriage equality plebiscite, was asked about the posters in a radio interview on Tuesday.

"I deplore disrespectful abusive language whether it is directed at young gay people, or people of other religions or other races," Turnbull said.

"Mutual respect and a respectful debate is what we should have in Australia."

In response, Turnbull was told by host Em Rusciano that, "Your respectful debate, with all due respect, is in the toilet".

As HuffPost Australia's Karen Barlow reported:

After a surprised pause, the PM reminded the hosts that Australia is a democracy. "People will often say, in any democratic debate, they will often say things that are hurtful and unfair and sometimes cruel. That is part of a debate.

"The only way to stop people from saying things that you find hurtful is to shut down free speech."

Turnbull said he found the posters hurtful.

"If you have friends who are really distressed by this sort of language, stand up for them, put your arms around them," he said.

"This is a time to put your arms around them and give them your love and support."

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