When you find yourself thinking Mark Latham makes sense, you should probably say no to that next beer.
So I’ve been on the mineral water since Latham’s piece for 60 Minutes went to air on the Sunday night before the election.
It’s not that Latham had anything new to say about the campaign, as though we needed him to tell us we’d been witnessing the triumph of spin over substance for the past several weeks.
It’s not as if Latham, after all, who lead Labor to defeat in 2004, was the last “honest” politician in the country, never tailoring his messages for nightly news grabs or participating in stage-managed events.
It’s not as if Latham was any less media conscious in 2004 than he accused Gillard and Abbott of being today.
Indeed, modern political campaigns - since at least Eisenhower’s “I like Ike” US presidential campaign of 1952 - have been increasingly designed for media consumption, and Latham knew this. He knew that many voters would judge Gillard and Abbott on how they sold their policies, and “themselves”, through the media.
He knew that, in modern politics, images are usually far more powerful than ideas.
That’s why Abbott’s preference for budgies over boardies was not politically insignificant, at least not in electoral terms.
But images, no less than words, don’t have fixed meanings: while some voters may have thought Abbott looked daggy in Speedos, others no doubt thought he looked virile.
None of this is new, and we hardly needed Latham to remind us of it.
So to this extent the Latham piece for 60 Minutes was little more than an embarrassing parody of a hard-hitting news story, not unlike Dick Smith’s self-obsessed “home movie” posing as a serious documentary on the ABC the week before last.
Was there no one at the national broadcaster who found it even faintly ironic that a film arguing for a “small” Australia, which called on ordinary Australians to curb their consumption habits, was made by a multi-millionaire whose wealth derives from the sale of electronic goods built with cheap, off-shore labour?
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