Mark Latham has resigned from The Australian Financial Review “amid controversy over his views on feminism and other social issues”. In a statement the AFR’s editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury said claims Latham had been dismissed were incorrect. Rather the former Labor leader informed the newspaper’s editor on Sunday he would not write further columns.
The statement is notable for its lack of explanation. What actually happened? Of course, the trouble created by pesky feminists is raised; has there ever been a group so set on ruining everyone else’s fun, particularly around ‘social issues’ like mental illness and domestic violence, than killjoy feminists?
That goes without saying but what prompted the resignation? Did Latham just decide on his own accord over breakfast on Sunday morning that his time with the Fin was up? Did the Fin raise the possibility of a rather vile Twitter account with its former columnist? Did they suggest that perhaps tweeting the way he, or at least the “real mark latham”, was tweeting wasn’t on?
So many questions, so few answered. Why now?
The context is this. For the past twelve months Mark Latham has used his column to cover social issues controversially. Or, in the words of Michael Stutchbury, “often from a self-styled western Sydney perspective, including a sharp critique of feminism, the medicalisation of mental illness and domestic violence. He even criticised the past two Australians of the Year Rosie Batty and Adam Goodes.”
There’s been very little sharp about Latham’s commentary in these areas. His various attempts to uncover “the truth” around oissues including mental illness (made up), post-natal depression (a construct of inner-city lefties that doesn’t occur in Western Sydney), domestic violence (a socio-economic issue), Rosie Batty (a woman with bad taste in men with the audacity to earn an income) have been inaccurate at best, irresponsible at worst.
Many of these columns have garnered Latham and the AFR a deluge of criticism. And not just from angry women or “feminist websites”.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists publicly criticised his inaccurate and irresponsible depiction of mental illness. Westpac’s CEO’s chief of staff wrote to Michael Stutchbury to complain about Latham’s “derogatory and offensive” comments and express the organisation’s disappointment, given the “counter-productive” message undermines the Women of Influence Awards.
The Army’s chief speech writer Cate McGregor expressed her personal disappointment and offence at Latham’s degrading use of He/She in a column. Lisa Pryor has commenced defamation proceedings in the Supreme Court, and Latham will face a jury in that matter.
The issue of Mark Latham’s association with the AFR escalated over the weekend.
On Friday afternoon Buzzfeed’s political editor Mark Di Stefano published a story called “The Former Labor Leader Who Spends Quite A Bit Of Time Trolling Women Online”. It revealed a series of tweets from a Twitter account called the @RealMarkLatham that were variously disparaging and derogatory towards Cate McGregor, Rosie Batty, Adam Goodes, Lisa Pryor, Tara Moss and more. Some of the material was truly vile: employees can be, and have been, sacked for far less on social media.
Di Stefano was forensic in piecing together references from this Twitter account and Latham’s columns. If it wasn’t him on Twitter, the then real life Latham had been pinching material from the @realmarklatham Twitter account to include in his own columns.
On Saturday Di Stefano published a second article exposing the pressure the AFR had been under to act on Latham. He made several attempts to confirm the twitter account with the AFR, Fairfax Media and Latham himself to no avail.
Earlier today he published a simple guide to discovering a person’s identify on Twitter and it’s difficult to dismiss. The evidence that the @realmarklatham is the real Mark Latham is compelling. The fact a resolution, of sorts, has been reached today seems consistent with that.
And yet the AFR makes no mention of this in its statement. It makes no mention of Latham’s often inaccurate and irresponsible treatment of subjects that deserve better. No mention of the individuals including Rosie Batty and Cate McGregor whom the paper allowed Latham to deny dignity. No mention of whether or not the AFR or Fairfax sanctions the kind of social media posting that the Real Mark Latham account has engaged in.
If this is a victory it feels hollow.