Earlier this week one life was taken, whilst two more have subsequently been sentenced to endless abuse and the pressure to endure guilty charges.
On Tuesday 4th December, an innocent prank call was made by Australian 2Day FM radio hosts, Michael Christian and Mel Greig to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge had been staying. The fact that a hoax call had been made reached the news very quickly; the hospital had allowed confidential information about the Duchess’s medical conditions to be shared with the radio hosts, and was consequently under scrutiny. Three days later, the nurse who had answered the hoax call, Jacintha Saldanha, was discovered dead, by suicide.
A media storm erupted, as the headlines screamed Hoax nurse ‘died of shame’ and the incident became infamously knows as the ‘deadly prank call’. The media instantaneously spun the story in a way that directly linked the hoax call with the reason the nurse had committed suicide. The reporter on Australian current affairs program Today Tonight, perfectly exemplifies the media’s manipulation of the event in her statement, “how much the prank had to do with that death is open to conjecture”, straight after describing it as the “prank call that had such tragic consequences”.
In what is seemingly an attempt to cover their own backs, the hospital responsible for accepting the call has certainly not been shy in enhancing this absurd link, stating that Saldanha was a ‘victim of a cruel trick’. Royal College of Nursing chief executive Dr Peter Carter said it was “deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession“.
Firstly, this so called ‘cruel trick’ had no malicious motivations, and was designed to be an obvious, harmless joke. Secondly, Saldanha ‘is understood to be the nurse who answered the call, then, believing she was talking to members of the royal family, transferred it to a duty nurse on the duchess’s ward’ – the nurse had thus merely put through the call; she had not actually been directly subject t the main content of the hoax. Finally, the only reason this incident, both the prank call and the suicide, made the news is because it revolved around the nation’s precious Duchess of Cambridge. The purpose of this piece is not in any way whatsoever to undervalue the death of an individual – it is to highlight the cruel manipulation of the media, as they sensationalised a woman’s suicide purely because it was in relevance to royalty.
The Australian radio hosts were merely doing their job, and whilst they had absolutely no intention of committing what is now being called ‘manslaughter’, they should in no way be forced to live with ‘unbelievable regret’ for this woman’s death, quite simply because they did not cause it. What we have witnessed over these past weeks and continue to, is how irrelevant correlations can be easily over exaggerated and exploited by the media. BBC news involvement in this over exaggerated sensation is ironic, considering less than a month earlier they published an article highlighting how ridiculousl correlations can be constructed.
The media may be the culprits who stirred the trouble, but it is the general public who are happily being spoon fed it, swallowing it and regurgitating it with hateful means. The craze and obsession with the royals has gone too far, as it absolutely unacceptable for the Kate and Wills fan base to antagonise the radio hosts in defense of their beloved Duchess of Cambridge. It is shocking to hear about the surge of death threats and allegations that Greig and Christian have received, including being accused of having ‘blood on their hands’. Whilst their careers are now irreparably tainted, more detrimentally is the expectation for them to accept the blame for this woman’s suicide and thus suffer from tremendous guilt.
The media are accountable for starting this unjust witch-hunt, and many impressionable, naive members of the population are guilty of fueling it. The saddest thing about this whole episode, is it is very likely that the anger derives not from the death of Jacintha Saldanha, but from those who are outraged that the royals were the subject of a hoax.
An innocent joke may have preceded a fatal incident, but ultimately the only cruel trick being played here, is by the media.
Photo Credit: Todd Huffman