The Murdoch press have led the charge in savaging The Latham Diaries,
which begs the question as to why on earth they bid $80,000 for the
exclusive rights to extracts from something which is so despicable?
Given Latham’s spirited attacks on various Murdoch hacks and the family
itself, surely the strategy should have been to minimise the exposure
the Diaries got.

What Latham has done is quite similar to the experience I had with Jeffed.com
in 1999, where the strategy was to initially cultivate the media to maximise pre-publicity for
something they hadn’t seen and them dump all over them from a great
height, after which you’ll be banned.


On the morning of September 5, 1999, when jeffed.com went live with its Lathamesque spray
alleging a great media and political conspiracy, the Sunday
Herald Sun
carried a cheery gossip item on its back page which included the following:

www.Jeffed.com

A nose-thumbing website that promises to spill a few beans in coming
weeks. It belongs to the newest would-be political candidate, Stephen
Mayne. Unfortunately, celebration turned to disappointment next day
when it was ruled he was not eligible to run. As you know, he wanted to
stand in the seat of Burwood against Jeff Kennett, well-known premier.

Mayne, more than
two metres tall, was sorely disappointed but he has not yet given up. “I will
continue with the website,” he told me. “I am writing a detailed personal
explanation about why I threw in a great job to do this. It will not be a
political document. It will be a personal one.”

Thank you very much for the pre-publicity, Rupert. At 10.28am that
morning the initial 11,000 word spray against Jeff Kennett, the Herald Sun and the rest of the commercial media went live and thereafter I was totally banned from the Herald Sun and relied primarily on the ABC to get the message out.

Isn’t this precisely what Latham is doing? He certainly understands the irony as you
can see from this exchange with Tony Jones on Friday night’s Lateline:

TONY JONES: Paul Kelly says the diaries raised the question of whether the
sickness lies within the party or whether it lies within yourself.

MARK
LATHAM: Oh, I don’t really regard Kelly as all that reliable. I mean…

TONY JONES: Well, you gave him an exclusive interview.

MARK LATHAM: Well, News Ltd were bidders for it. Fairfax didn’t put
anything in, News Ltd bid some money, the publishers took the money,
and if News Ltd want to promote a book that exposes some of the true
nature of News Ltd, well, that’s their business as far as I’m
concerned.

TONY JONES: Did you think twice about that – by the way, just
on that subject – did you think twice about taking money from News Limited?

MARK LATHAM: Oh, I don’t know if it affects my case.
It probably doesn’t sit as comfortably with me as other parts of my life. But,
you know, in Kelly’s instance, telling me that it was a good move to get the
troops out of Iraq, put the pressure on Howard, and shortly thereafter – a
company man, he’s very much a Murdoch company man, he’s towing the company line,
the Murdoch-American stance – to be bagging me for that policy position that in
his private moments he supported.

News Ltd placed Paul Kelly in the ridiculous position of
interviewing Latham about a book which embarrasses Kelly and reveals
some of their private conversations. Even more incredibly, the book
quotes News Ltd executive chairman John Hartigan as being “poorly briefed”
and calling Latham to whinge about something he said in 2002 and then
says: “This is what Paul Kelly has always said about the management of
News Ltd – they hardly give you confidence in the quality of business
management in this country.”

No wonder The Australian went absolutely berserk against
Latham in Saturday’s editorial, which sat very strangely next to the
promotion of their exclusive extracts. The same went for all of
Murdoch’s Sunday tabloids across the country. There really should be a
big inquisition inside News Ltd as to why they bought the rights.
Fairfax knew they’d be getting a huge towelling for the notorious
Deborah Snow/Damian Murphy feature on Latham’s sexual history in The SMH, so they didn’t offer anything for it.

Peter Fray

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