Posts Tagged ‘Prank call’

With malice aforethought

December 9, 2012

After 18 hours of travel I have been catching up on the news. I find I still can’t get Jacintha Saldanha out of my mind but the news today is still disturbing.  Now there are a number of apologists trying to play down the consequences of the hoax perpetrated by Mel Greig and Michael Christian and their radio station. Even Piers Morgan tried to play it down – but with his role in the hacking culture, that does not surprise very much.

 Daily Beast: “Prank calls have been going on for 50 years in the radio industry,” says Sandy Kaye, a spokeswoman for Southern Cross Austereo. “It is not designed to humiliate or embarrass.”

But of course it was meant to humiliate. 

 Globe and Mail: “As we have said in our own statements on the matter, the outcome was unforeseeable and very regrettable”. ….. 

Ms. Greig and Mr. Christian have both apologized. Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, said they were “shattered” and undergoing counselling.

Guardian: Editorials in Australian Sunday newspapers said the DJs were not responsible for the tragic death.

“While the prank may have been stupid, Mel Greig and Michael Christian surely did not mean to hurt anyone,” said the editorial in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday Telegraph newspaper. “Prank calls are among the oldest tricks in radio. Occasionally funny, mostly cringeworthy, they usually result in mere pointless humiliation of a hapless victim.”

A columnist for the Fairfax-owned Sun Herald, Peter FitzSimons, said the death of Saldanha was a “tragedy of unspeakable proportions”. ….. He said there was not a shred of evidence there was any malice in the prank call. “Who could possibly have thought that a silly prank call like that – one of thousands of prank calls, no doubt, made by radio stations around the world on that day – would have led to the young woman taking her life?” wrote FitzSimons.

I got to wondering why I was getting so upset. And then I realised that it was because it was always the intention to humiliate someone for the sake of a few laughs. For the “prank” to succeed somebody had to get hurt. The humiliation was not unforeseen. The laughs were obtained. Whether Australians like it or not Mel Greig and Michael Christian represent the face of modern Australian humour.  And it wasn’t thoughtless as I have previously called it. It was a deliberate attempt – after legal consideration – to continue with the humiliation and for the station to play for the laughs even after she was dead.

I have heard regret about her tragic death but none of those responsible has expressed any regret or seen fit to apologise to her family for humiliating her. It is too late to apologise to her.

The perpetrators are to get counselling! Poor things! When in the depths of her humiliation and they were gloating on air, Jacintha Saldanha could have done with some but there was none forthcoming. A public birching or a period in the stocks might seem appropriate for these 2 bright sparks, but that just wouldn’t be right. But instead of getting counselling perhaps they could volunteer for a year or two at a hospital?

When Jacintha Saldanha filled in at the reception that night she had no reason to expect to be humiliated for doing what any conscientious nurse would have done. She should not have been. Malice at any time and even against the rich and famous cannot be  justified. But malice against someone defenceless and vulnerable is worse than contemptible.

For all the apologists for Mel Greig and Michael Christian and their radio station:

The humiliation was intended.

The laughs were obtained as intended.

With malice aforethought!

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