Opinion from Peter Saxon
If Triple M wanted the media equivalent of “shock and awe” by introducing political bad boy Mark Latham to their line-up, they certainly got it.
From the moment the first podcast of “Lathamland” was launched online prior to general broadcast, the news sites were all over it and controversy raged. If that, in itself, is the ultimate goal, then “mission accomplished.”
But as recent history has shown, it doesn’t always finish right there. Social media can deliver consequences after the event that would not have been an issue a decade ago but now has the potential to cost a station more than the publicity is worth.
Within hours of Latham’s rant attacking Australian Of the Year Rosie Batty and the feminist movement in general, the feminist movement hit back with a petition on change.org demanding his sacking.
As we explained in our earlier story, he suggested domestic violence was a tool of the feminist left and railed against what he called “the curse of political correctness in Australia”.
Happily for Triple M, the change.org petition does not advocate a general advertiser boycott.
In 2011, when Kyle Sandilands delivered his infamous ‘fat slag’ monologue a change.org petition calling on clients to pull their advertising attracted around 32,000 signatories in just three days and cost 2Day-FM dearly – some estimates put the damage as high as $26 million in lost revenue.
At time of writing, after an initial spurt, the current petition has less than 3,000 adherents. But then the sponsoring group that goes by the brand name ‘Mad Fucking Witches’ was always unlikely to garner mainstream support.
Nonetheless, Triple M was forced to shut down comments on the Lathamland podcast page, presumably because it was inundated with negative feedback.
Many listeners brought into question Triple M’s sincerity in its highly visible support of White Ribbon Day causing the Head of the network Network Mike Fitzpatrick to issue a statement that read, ”Triple M stands side by side with White Ribbon and will continue to push conversations about domestic violence no matter how uncomfortable. This is an issue that needs to be spoken about.
“We call for all men to stand up and hold those who commit acts of violence against women and children to account.”
For the moment, it looks as if this particular controversy will be yesterday’s news by tomorrow. But what of Citizen Latham’s budding career as radio’s newest shock jock?
Mark Latham is a highly intelligent individual who was at one time Labor opposition leader and Prime Ministerial aspirant. Since leaving politics in 2005, he has written several books and pursued a career in the media. Here, he has played on the very weaknesses that made him a doubtful candidate for PM. Diplomacy being chief among them – a concept which, like music, most people can appreciate but few can actually perform. In that context, Mark Latham seems positively tone deaf.
Comedian Wil Anderson was reported by the ABC as saying Mr Latham’s keys to success were to: “Be loud, terrible, unpopular and low-rating, miraculously get new job. Repeat.”
Indeed, Mr Latham has not found it easy to hold down a media job for any length of time. His latest foray into television, The Verdict, was panned by the critics and canned by Network TEN after just a handful of episodes. While The Verdict’s failure can’t be pinned on Latham alone, shortly prior to that he resigned from the Australian Financial Review where he regularly published articles critical of women’s groups and prominent feminists – particularly those of the left.
According to Wikipedia: His resignation was linked to a series of “provocative” articles including columns critical of Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and transgender woman Group Captain Catherine McGregor. Tweets from the Twitter account @RealMarkLatham which is linked to Latham’s email address made personal criticisms of women, such as Mia Freedman, Annabel Crabb, Leigh Sales, Tara Moss, Anne Summers, Lisa Wilkinson and Lisa Pryor.
If that’s true, then one might reasonably suspect that it is bordering on obsession to revisit the topic as your maiden podcast to a fresh audience. On the other hand, it is a tried and tested way to get people’s attention – even if it is by pissing them off.
Still, I would caution that it was his obsession with Julia Gillard’s past that killed off the highly promising radio career of 2UE’s Michael Smith. It would be a waste of talent if Latham went the same way.
One thing Latham has already managed to do better than any of his contemporaries such as Graham Richardson is to make the transition from a leading light in left wing Labor to right wing commentator.
While Richo has gone out of his way to try to provide unbiased opinion and equal criticism of both sides of politics, conservative audiences refuse to accept him as anything other than a leftie.
Latham, though, seems to have studied the shock jocks’ playbook and has mastered a number of essential plays.
First off, rail against political correctness which, as every conservative knows, is a plot by the elitist left to shut down free speech. Do it loud and often even though it is self evident that, far from being denied free speech, you are getting more access to it than a stadium full of average Australians.
Even the ‘Mad Fucking Witches’ on change.org agree, “Latham is free to speak, and we are equally free to be disgusted with what he says.” That’s how free speech is supposed to work. But then they contradict themselves, insisting that he be silenced by being taken off air.
The fact is that most of us, whether we lean left or right are vigorous defenders of free speech for ourselves and those who agree with us. Everyone else should just shut up and suck it up.
Shock jock 101: We are the right and the enemy is the left. Or vice versa for leftist media. Every hot topic: drug laws, refugees, terrorism, marriage equality, the republic, climate change and others, is seen through that political prism. The actual “truth” runs a poor second to the “position” predetermined by people’s chosen side of politics – the tribe to which they belong.
As Paul Murray quickly found out when he left a relatively apolitical Drive show on Triple M to do breakfast on (then) ultra-conservative 2UE, you can’t cherry-pick your positions and be left wing on some things and right on others. You can be tough on crime and border protection as well as be a staunch monarchist but Murray’s talkback career was almost over before it started the moment he suggested that he was further down the track with accepting that climate change may be real than most of his colleagues at the station. That notion was enough fro regular listeners to question his credentials as a conservative.
Perhaps the most important lesson in any advanced course for shock jocks, at which Mark Latham excels, and which I wrote about in more detail here, is: Play the Man, Not the Ball.
To this end hard left feminists provide ample fodder because it does not necessarily follow that a feminist group should also be left wing. In fact it is often contradictory to their cause. By taking up every leftist position, many such groups subordinate their core values to other issues. Often it seems they would uphold everyone elses rights ahead of white Judeo-Christian women ecxcept, of course, white Judeo-Christian men.
In Germany and Sweden recently, there was barely a peep from the feminist left when it was found that authorities had tried to cover up hundreds of indecent assaults on young women by crowds of mainly north African male immigrants for fear that it would provide their enemies on the right the ammunition to derail those countrys’ generous refugee programs.
I have no idea whether the self proclaimed Mad Fucking Witches are part of the loony left but they’ve caught Mark Latham dead to rights on domestic violence regardless.
For all Latham’s mastery of the shock jocks’ manual – which rivals Jarryd Hayne’s remarkable performance with San Francisco in the NFL – in my opinion, like Hayne, he dropped the ball on debut.
Attempting to conflate domestic violence as a product of left wing man-hating feminists is a coward’s punch. His suggestion that “men who have lost their self esteem” turn to domestic violence “as a coping mechanism” and “should not be demonised” is an absurd argument.
The fact is domestic violence is a crime that is almost always committed by men against women. To excuse it because of socio-economic factors or low self esteem is to excuse every other form of violent criminal behaviour including so called honour killings because of outside influences.
Sure, lots of men struggle coping with life. Organisations such as Beyond Blue, Black Dog and Lifeline do marvellous work in helping them get over anxiety and depression. And some of what Latham says about addressing the underlying causes of why men might turn to violence has merit. But at the same time that’s being addressed, men need to understand that you don’t coward punch strangers in the street for a bit of fun and you don’t hit your spouse no matter how bad you feel or how much you reckon she deserves it.
It may well be that Mike Fitzpatrick is right in saying Triple M will continue to push conversations about domestic violence no matter how uncomfortable. This is an issue that needs to be spoken about.
I guess it’s true that this column today would have been about a different topic altogether if Lathamland had not bumped others out of my head. Almost as importantly, we and the rest of the media have been talking about Triple M. I get it. All publicity is good…
But was it absolutely necessary to attack Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty? Ms Batty has borne little malice towards her late husband who killed her only son in a murder suicide. She has always maintained that it was due to his mental illness and not some male gene that renders all men suspect.
To implicate Ms Batty as ‘anti-men,’ Latham has latched onto her speech at The Press Club where she said words to the effect that men are born entitled compared to women. That’s hardly news. There are many high powered right leaning women – even some in radio – who will tell you the same thing.
In almost everything, the world is changing rapidly around us. We are all, men and women alike, struggling to adapt to some degree. But regardless of gender, there is no excuse, ever, for violence against your partner.
BREAKING NEWS: The Australian reports that Mark Latham is in line to get his own column at The Age in Melbourne.