Wanted: Bulletproof PR operative to hose down a story that’s flaring
out of control. Client: A marginalised group with limited assets.
The past 24 hours has been a PR disaster for those charged and, more
broadly Australia’s Muslim community. Moderate Muslim representatives
have been in the media condemning extremists, but the words of the
likes of Waleed Aly are being drowned out by the media clamour for blood.
Maybe it’s a job for Mike Smith, who’s carved himself a reputation as the PR flak of last resort: He’s acted for Mexican crooks on the run, the Japanese whaling industry and more recently Steve Vizard.
Global operator Burson-Marstellar has decamped from Australia – its
past CV includes acting for luminaries such as the Nigerian government
during the Biafran War, Romania during the reign of Ceaucescu and the
military junta in Argentina during the 1970s. While much of the damage
has already been done in the past 24 frenzied hours, the Muslim
community needs professional help, and quickly.
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Trying to control an angry fringe group will be tough enough, let alone
spinning a positive message on behalf of the Muslim community.
Yesterday’s scuffle outside court with the media played right
into the hands of authorities trying to portray the terror suspects as
dangerous extremists. And it sets the scene for an interesting
legal sideshow. Seven’s Melbourne news director Mike Carey said
today the network would pursue charges on behalf of its cameraman Matt
We didn’t see footage of news crews getting in the face of the young
ruffians before the punches were thrown, but eyewitnesses on radio this
morning spoke of media provocation before the action. Gary Tippet set the scene in The Age while the Herald Sun relied on its own witnesses in this account of events.