Latham's Law

Latham’s Law

22 January 2012

2:00 AM

22 January 2012

2:00 AM

Saturday morning at the nearest coffee shop, marvelling at the power of Murdoch self-promotion. One paper presents a profile of Elisabeth Murdoch, stepping over the strewn remains of brother James. Another speculates about a reconciliation between Lachlan Murdoch and his father, sealing the News Corp succession for the middle child.

So much sibling rivalry, so many birthrights in motion. I am reminded of the words of Murdoch doppelganger David Penberthy, writing in the Sunday Telegraph on 18 December:

The one thing I love more than anything about this company [is] its hostility towards the establishment, its mistrust of authority and institutions, its instinctive dislike for toffs who get ahead not on ability but by birthright.

When working for the Murdochs, it pays to overlook the obvious.

•••

The Sunday Telegraph has also continued its investigation into the new Watergate: my concern for the way in which my sons were wasting their time in the water at Camden pool under the tuition of Bev Waugh and Penny Sexton. Like the Murdochs, the Harveys have created a media dynasty. Thus Peter Harvey’s daughter Claire was assigned to snoop around for a new Watergate angle. What a terrible waste of resources. The initial Tele reporter, Jennifer Sexton, could have written  a follow-up story over Christmas lunch with her mother Penny, the anonymous ‘witness’ in her original story. After all, it’s not Watergate without Deep Throat.

•••


At the 1908 London Olympics, the champion Australian sportsman Snowy Baker won a Silver medal for boxing, losing his final bout to J.W.H.T. Douglas (who subsequently became England’s cricket captain, known to Australian crowds as Johnny Won’t Hit Today). Years later Baker reflected on how ‘some people say I should have won on points. The referee was the winner’s father.’

This was J.H. Douglas, who also ran the tournament in his capacity as President of the Amateur Boxing Association. Today he is a role model for Neil Breen, the editor of the Sunday Telegraph.

Like Douglas Snr, Breen has no comprehension of conflicts of interest.

He readily allowed Jennifer Sexton to write a story which pitted her mother’s version of events against me. No one would expect a daughter to do anything but favour her mother. When asked about this problem by the Crikey newsletter, Breen replied: ‘So what, that’s how we find out stories.’

For many years News Ltd has run a ‘Right to Know’ campaign. Apparently this does not cover the public’s right to know when a journalist is using her mother to ‘find out stories’ and publishing material from this supposedly anonymous source. In stories on consecutive weekends, the junior Sexton failed to declare her mother’s involvement — a clear conflict of interest. The same disregard for ethics which lay behind the phone-hacking scandal at Britain’s News of the World is evident in Murdoch’s Australian tabloids.

•••

If you think I show too much interest in the media, check out Gerard Henderson, formerly The Spectator Australia’s penultimate pager. He spent Christmas Day listening to a radio show he despises. As he confided in the Sydney Morning Herald on 3 January:

When minding grandchildren at the beach in shallow water, there is not much to do except listen to the radio. And so it came to pass that on Christmas Day, with earpiece attached, I switched on the ABC Radio National Artworks program.

Not much to do? How about beach cricket? What about building sandcastles with the grandkids, demonstrating the benefits of a wave-proof moat? How about a refreshing dip, instead of flogging yourself, earpiece in place, over arty-farty types at the ABC? Q&A is bad enough, a self-flagellation hour for political tragics. Henderson has gone a step further, turning this most joyous of Christian days into a self-flagellation festival.

His column banged on about a ‘home-knitted lesbian fling-up’ (whatever that might be) and the ‘(un)loveliness of non-reproductive sex’. Personally, I have always found non-reproductive sex to be no less enjoyable than reproductive sex. The concept, if I recall correctly, is to wait nine minutes, not nine months, for a satisfactory outcome. So, too, I have a lot of time for lesbianism. What I can’t stomach is the sight of two blokes kissing — a horrendous by-product of the television coverage of Australia’s gay marriage debate. I want the private member’s bill to pass later this year, if for no other reason than returning this file footage to the archives.

When I was at university, a girlfriend gave me a prescient book, Tamara Deutscher’s Not By Politics Alone (1973). I have now posted a copy to Hendo. It offers a portrait of ‘the other Lenin … the Lenin of work and leisure, geared to his life’s purpose and yet enjoying to the full all the pleasures of a healthy human existence’.

Vladimir Ilyich, it turns out, was a dab hand at sandcastle construction on the banks of the Caspian Sea. Gerard, by contrast, is wrapped tighter than Joe Hockey’s underpants. He needs to read this book.

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