On the surface, I wouldn’t think there is anything terribly wrong with ringing a hospital and, in a voice one would think not remotely like the Queen’s, asking questions.
Compared to Murdoch’s phone tapping invasions of privacy, it seems like nothing.
That a nurse appears to have taken her life over this business is appalling. I don’t doubt that DJs Mel and Michael feel like crap today – after all, their names are neither Kyle nor Sandilands.
My problem is with the response of two key people in all this.
Let’s start with the response of Mr Beyond Blue himself – Jeff Kennett.
Kennett makes the predictable claims that pranks and jokes are part of the Australian make-up, just good fun, and that no harm was intended. His response has a positive in that it expresses some concern for the welfare of Mel and Michael – and I think that is appropriate.
Interestingly, the Hun article which quotes Kennett goes on to quote the Hun’s usual psychology expert, Michael Carr-Gregg.
“suicide [is] never simple… Eighty percent of people who commit suicide worldwide have mental health problems…When you have a psychological gun that’s loaded it doesn’t take much to pull the trigger… It might have been something else…”
What he says is quite right and also appropriate.
But I think they are both missing a point as important as the welfare of the pranksters themselves.
The important point is highlighted by the response of the radio network’s boss. The screaming headline in the Sunday Hun seems to summarise his attitude quite well:
WE DIDN’T BREAK THE RULES.
One might well ask “what rules”? Would the network boss be someone who has, at least once, bemoaned the fact we are living in a
Well, here’s a good chance for someone to take a leaf out of the Cherry Tree
Story and say “The consequences are unintended, we are deeply sorry, but we cannot
tell a lie, we did it and we accept responsibility for doing the wrong thing.” Nanny State
Maybe finishing off with something pro anti-suicide efforts would show that they have reflected on the matter a little.
Phone pranks are not inherently evil, but before the
there was a thing called duty of care. Before the demise of formal religion
there were rites of passage that highlighted the need to accept a duty of care. Nanny State
A duty of care asks us to think before we open our gobs. If I say A, what will be B?
Pranking is not a generic joke which takes its humour from the acknowledgment of a universal truth.
[What did the bald man say when he was given a comb for Christmas? I’ll never part with this.]
Pranking is not a joke on the teller.
[Norman Gunston, when told he should use an electric razor, says “I do!”]
Pranking is pure schadenfreude. It isn’t the laugh we get when we feel relief only after we discover the person who slipped on a banana peel is okay. Pranking is about having a laugh at someone else’s expense. It is an attempt by one person to make the other look a prat.
I have my own reasons for not finding pranking funny – lots of reasons. It’s not something I do, or take kindly to. It’s not something I find amusing. But other people enjoy it and it is not inherently evil.
I doubt anyone – certainly not me – could have foreseen the result of this particular prank. But what could we learn from this?
Responsibility. If we don’t want to live in a
then we must make
our own actions considered. If something goes wrong we should gather some
insight from it. Nanny
The Royal Family is “fair game”. But the Royal Family is an institution, not a person. The Royal Family is fair game, but its members should not be fair game with no hesitation at all.
The Royal Family is fair game but, most of the time, the Royal Family is surrounded by people who are not members so much as innocent bystanders.
A comedian might suggest Prince Charles has been given a comb for Christmas and sworn he would never part with it. Charles would probably find it funny or not depending on his existing relationship with the comedian.
If I rang someone like Bob Hawke and using the same voice as Mel claimed to be Kate’s Mother in Law, someone like Bob Hawke would just dismiss me as a ****ing idiot and give me a mouthful.
Goodo. It would seem a safe thing to do because I think I know the man a little. There is a pre-existing relationship of sorts.
Jacintha Saldanha had no existing relationship with Mel and Michael. She was an anonymous cog in a big wheel but a cog which had a huge personal and legal obligation to her patient, and was publicly humiliated.
Beyond my general opinion of pranking, I don’t believe Mel and Michael committed a crime or should be punished. But as they probably [hopefully] realised by now, they did make a mistake. If they are decent people we don’t need to punish them because nothing we might dish out could be worse than the punishment they will dish out to themselves.
But… if we don’t want to live in a Nanny State it wouldn’t hurt for us to hesitate occasionally, or give a little more thought to what we are doing. It’s not enough to say people who commit suicide are usually on the edge anyway. This does not make the result okay.
When we ask “If I say A, what will be B?” we need to remember that we can’t presume to know who is on the edge.