Sattlerism 101

Let it be understood that it will henceforth be known in the journalistic trade as “The Sattler”: an impertinent and salacious question asked of a public figure and with no basis in anything but unfounded rumour and reportorial chutzpah.

For example: “Prime Minister, can you confirm the whispers that you have adapted a room at The Lodge for the holding of black masses with your parliamentary staffers, after which you typically repair to the lawn abutting Dixon Avenue for a tournament of nude shuttlecock against the Governor General and her retinue?”

The titillation that arises from the asking The Sattler may be reward in itself for the interviewer, notwithstanding protestations of outraged innocence from his or her interlocutor.

By all decent standards the asking of The Sattler is undoubtedly questionable, but in this age of moral relativism can one reasonably condemn a journalist who sees the device as a ticket to notoriety and perhaps professional advancement? In the case of Perth radio personality Howard Sattler things didn’t quite work out that way, as he was barely given time to switch off his microphone before being shown the door. Others, however, have suffered no ill effects for what media non-practitioners might regard as gross bad manners.

Who can forget Channel 9 reporter Mark Riley’s suggestion to Tony Abbott that his overheard “sometimes shit happens” comment in regard to the death of a digger in Afghanistan amounted to a case of both scurrilous misquotation and a scandalous disrespect.

Even the Sydney Morning Herald’s Tim Dick thought Riley was out of line on that one, although he still managed to fault Abbott, but the reporter’s career has continued to prosper. Indeed, not long after, Riley was favoured with a beaming Prime Ministerial smile when he asked our nation’s leader how the press corps might be of more useful service.

Despite Sattler’s career setback, are we to expect our media will refrain from obnoxious triviality? As we observe celebrities rewarded for displaying unadorned genitalia while exiting limousines or profiting from the viral distribution of videos documenting their trysts with sports star and fellow members of the glitterati, how can members of the Fourth Estate be expected to restrain from courting fame via impertinent questions?

The simple answer is that we can have no such expectation. Whatever it takes, as they say.

Thus The Sattler is now firmly ensconced, and Media Studies academics must even now be re-evaluating their curricula to add explicit instruction for aspiring Public Relations professionals on how best to respond. In Sattler’s case, reactions to his now-notorious questions about the sexual preferences of the First Bloke have split along party lines.

The left see once again the hand of the ILO — the Insidious Leader of the Opposition — from whose office a wave of misogyny scours and curses the land like the baleful glare of the Eye of Sauron.

On the conservative side, many have been bemused at the PM and her supporter’s howls and protestations, particularly as Ms Gillard has chosen to appear at a recent series of staged photo opportunities with the undisputed king of on-air prurience, Sydney radio DJ Kyle Sandilands, in an obvious attempt to recruit his large Sydney listening audience to the Labor cause.

The root cause of Howard Sattler’s bizarre decision to query the First Bloke’s sexual preferences during an interview with the Prime Minister is ultimately difficult to fathom, and the outcome somewhat ironic. The axed broadcaster has announced he will contest his pink slip from Fairfax Media before Fair Work Australia, a creation of the Prime Minister herself.

Even were the PM to have answered Sattler’s questions in the affirmative, it would hardly have been the cause of her downfall, as the Australian electorate has already displayed it is quite capable of electing MPs in non-traditional relationships. It might be a source of titillation for a time, and the exclusive “coming out” story would likely result in bumper sales for mass market women’s magazines.

That said, the accusation implicit in Sattler’s Sattler does not make any sense. Of all the places one might imagine a cosmopolitan gay man choosing to establish his holiday retreat, a lonely caravan on a remote bush block would be nowhere near the top of any credible list.


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