Friday, August 13, 2010

It’s A Cunning Plan…

Forget about the Chaser! Political parties are now on the lookout for the marauding Mark Latham as he prowls about the election campaign trail looking for material to use in his forthcoming 60 Minutes report. Following the hue and cry over last weekend’s confrontation with Julia Gillard, Mr. Latham has been attacked from almost every quarter, including by the network which has hired him in the first place, for becoming a serial pest. Yesterday he appeared at a Tony Abbott function at the Penrith RSL and instantly became the centre of a media frenzy. Cameras and microphones were thrust into his face, and journalists pelted him with a barrage of inane questions which he had no interest in answering. It was almost enough to make us all feel a bit sorry for him. Almost.

It’s hard to know just what he was supposed to do in the circumstances. He has been hired by Channel 9 to prepare a report on the election. While he may not be a professional journalist, he is a published author, a qualified economist, and his credentials as a political commentator are hard to beat. It is reasonable to assume that this part time role as television reporter should put him on the same side of the velvet rope as all the other media representatives, and his presence at any campaign event should be no different from that of any other camera crew. Even if we do not accept him as a reporter, is it really fair to consider his current activities as any less valid than the antics of the crew from “The Chaser’s War On Everything”? Or even, to take another example, the methods and tactics of American documentary maker Michael Moore? But of course, it really isn’t quite that simple.

It’s a free country, and Mr. Latham is free to take up this opportunity of employment, just as Channel 9 is free to engage his services. But the comedy has reached the level of farce when Channel 9 has now begun referring to him in their own news bulletins as a serial pest when they’re the ones paying him to do it! Regardless of what any of us might think of Mr. Latham’s political career, or his personal behaviour, if there is anyone to blame here surely it is the network which gave him the gig. Obviously, it was a decision made with an eye to creating a sensationalist piece of television in pursuit of ratings. Obviously they must have known that they were throwing the cat among the pigeons, and not just any cat but a wounded leopard with a cranky attitude and a score to settle. Why should anyone be surprised that the fur has been flying?

It’s not hard to see a cunning plan behind all of the contrived outrage about Mark Latham’s activities. While the Labor Party has been struggling to overcome the residual effects of the shock change of leadership on the 24th of June, they have been concerned about the presence of Kevin Rudd. Whether he campaigned or he didn’t campaign, the mere fact that Kevin Rudd exists at all had the potential to be a distraction from the campaign. But have you noticed, in the last few days, nobody’s worried about Mr. Rudd undermining the campaign at all? Instead all the focus has been on Mr. Latham, who by accident or design is now serving as the perfect diversion to deflect attention away from what might have otherwise been an unwelcome distraction. It seems that, rather than just being a nuisance, Mr. Latham is actually the Labor Party’s secret weapon, popping up to take all the flak, and taking the heat off Kevin Rudd.

Don’t laugh! It’s really no more incredible than the fact that Mr. Latham was ever actually leader of the Labor Party at all.

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