Saturday, 28 November 2015

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Sympathy? Don’t make me laugh

Bad humour has a horrible habit of going terribly wrong. Pranks and practical jokes, by their very nature, rely on causing their victims pain.

From planting a banana-skin slip to making some hapless soul feel foolish, selfish laughter comes at the expense of the one who suffers. That’s what pranksters want. It’s what they do. For fun.

Deliberate, well planned pranks are, of course, a form of targeted cruelty. Victims are supposed to take it all on the chin, shrug off their humiliation and join in the goofy giggles. Some can’t. That’s the gamble any prankster takes.

Goodness only knows why any would find stitch-ups funny. But they are much loved by radio presenters the world over – or used to be. They make perpetrators look smart and edgy, apparently.

The laughing stopped suddenly last week when nurse Jacintha Saldanha, a victim of a bad practical joke, took her own life leaving her distraught husband and children to grieve in bitter, heartbroken disbelief.

Now the pranksters are feeling the backlash of their fun. Australian DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian have been seen weeping on TV, apologising and pulling on hairshirts of remorse, having been targeted massively with accusation, venom, threat and bile – all understandable, natural reaction to the appallingly bad humour that looks to have left blood on their hands.

The pair had pretended to be the Queen and Prince Charles enquiring after the Duchess of Cambridge, who was being treated in hospital for acute morning sickness. Mrs Saldanha had the misfortune to take their call, trust the callers and put them through to another nurse, who detailed Kate’s condition.

It seems Jacintha couldn’t overcome her shame and pain at having been duped into compromising her professionalism. The tragedy that followed shocked and disgusted millions all over the world.

The presenters, interviewed for an outpouring of regret, said they’d heard about Ms Saldanha’s death in the early hours of Saturday morning.

“It was the worst phone call I’ve ever had in my life,” said Mel Greig, still managing a crass disregard for the consequences of her jape – she does at least still have a life.

Consequence is the key to this dreadful tragedy. Every action has one. And it must have occurred to someone in that radio station that playing fast and loose with patients and staff in a hospital for a bit of a laugh had potential for wreaking distressing, if not life-threatening havoc. It produced the worst.

It must surely have occurred to someone there, when international outrage had been sparked by the juvenile prank, that continuing to promote, broadcast and boast about it could only have made matters worse... for someone.

The DJs, foolishly reckless and self-seeking beyond measure, are now receiving counselling and support. They are said to be emotionally fragile, frightened for their own safety. They are in hiding. We are asked to feel sympathy for them in their burdening predicament of deep, gnawing guilt. And I have tried. I really have.

It is no doubt true that no single event or issue is ever likely to be the sole trigger of suicide. It is also surely true to assume the thoughtlessness of a couple of giggly broadcasters was a symptom of their air-headedness and had no evil intentions – thoughtlessness rarely does.

But sympathy? That’s asking an awful lot. Too much.

And in respect for Mrs Saldanha’s grieving family, with sorrow for her friends, colleagues, the bereaved who have lost someone they loved dearly and who will forever hear the echoing belly-laughs of a couple of kids targeting prankster cruelty to further their careers, most reasonable people will find it impossible.

And that’s another consequence of an appallingly ill-considered action that tipped an unsuspecting woman over the edge of despair.

Have your say

I can't see much wrong with Kieron G's post, its clearly PaulM who is "making up his own interpretations and casting aspersions". Unless of course you are going to say that you are naive enough to believe every word you read in the national press.
There is one fact here, nobody knows what made this woman take the course of action she did. For all you know she may have been about to commit suicide before the high profile admissions to her hospital and didn't get the privacy to do so until after the royal party had left. You do not know, I do not know, nobody knows. So stop pretending that you do.

Posted by Tony on 19 December 2012 at 17:25

PaulM Suicide has not been a criminal offence since 1961. You cannot assume that the nurse took her own life because of the silly phone call. As a former nurse I believe I would have been disciplined for giving out confidential information; are we sure this wasn't the case, and that lack of support from the staff at a private hospital who may have felt embarrassed and do not want to lose the patronage of the Royal family may have contributed to her decision? As for the DJ's surely it is their editor/manager who is responsible as it was a pre recorded call and the decision to broadcast was not theirs. The whole affair is tragic and I feel sorry for the family and the DJ's. As the sister of someone who killed himself, I know you can never really know why.

Posted by Deb on 18 December 2012 at 23:43

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