Dec 10, 2012

Resisting the witch hunt on the royal prank call

The royal phone prank may have been poorly executed, but the witch hunt ensuing from the death of one of the parties shouldn't be the basis for further media regulation. Hard cases make for bad law.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

According to 2010 figures, on average around 11 people take their own lives in the UK every day, but the apparent suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, unsurprisingly, garnered far more attention than most. The sickening feeling of reading about it on (for most of us) Saturday morning, of course, doesn’t begin to encompass what her family and loved ones must feel, made worse — if that’s humanly possible — by the time of year.

In response, the social media equivalent of an angry, torch-bearing mob formed quickly on Saturday. Information is transmitted at the speed of light online, but on social media outrage is carried at warp speed. Ill-informed outrage, in particular, barely needs to travel at all, and instead can blossom simultaneously in multiple minds.

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62 thoughts on “Resisting the witch hunt on the royal prank call

  1. klewso

    The Herald Sun, with their record, wanted to get out and lead a lynch mob?

  2. ulysses butterfly

    The professional media have a blind spot on their abuse of power because they are addicted to hyperbole and emotional violence, where a debate is a “war”, irritation with a stakeholder is an “eruption”, and a response is an “explosion”. These are the immoderate words of the leading practitioners Oakes, Clennell, Benson etc.

    Mike Carlton taking the hypocrisy line himself is hopelessly immoderate to get attention. The very description reptile eating carrion exists for a reason.

    Really you are the last people to judge on emotional violence. Fact is a prank is a fraud, probably an illegal impersonation of a public official (no less the head of State), and a calculated cruelty by immature buffoons. It’s Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King only it’s not fiction.

    Fact is you pros in the professional media all feel dirty and you probably should because you all live in that house.

  3. Mark out West

    Bernard are these are not the foreseeable consequences;
    1.If their call was put through the first person to take the call would be in trouble for not vetting the call properly.
    2. Once through, to ask for confidential medical information would also bring into question the person who provided that information.

    Given the high anxiety of the British to intrusions of the press, the consequences it had on the Royal Family in the past and the high regard the two individuals are held in, is there any wonder those poor nurses felt under pressure.

    The antic was morally bankrupt as it was seeking to obtain confidential medical advise and it was obvious those providing it would be under enormous pressure to explain why.

    Bernard have you been pulled into the office and asked to be more right wing to broaden the readership?

  4. Gavin Moodie

    If the nurse did suicide because of something related to her work did her employer the hospital monitor and protect her health appropriately?

  5. Venise Alstergren

    BERNARD K: Good one. Also, the pranksters involved were merely playing to the crashing obsession of the average Australian who grovels towards British royalty. Without this unhealthy interest in foreign royalty, there would have been no prank.

    Despite the waffling of the British press, to suppose the nurse committed suicide because of it, is ludicrous.

  6. klewso

    Would they have been “Murdoch journalists” (with that institution’s record for man-handling the truth – anything for a by-line) despatched to Australia to hunt down Greig and Christian, for another head-line?

  7. kraken

    Whilst I agree with many of the sentiments expressed here – particularly the breathtaking hypocrisy of the British & Australian gutter press – I’m afraid BK goes a little lightly on radio jocks who breach privacy through low-rent pranks – it is a form of bullying and public humiliation that privacy provisions are supposed to prevent, especially protections around the recording and broadcasting of material. The rights and wrongs of how the British establishment and all media respond are tangential to the overriding privacy issue. This has little to do with ‘class’ but everything to do with common decency, with an emphasis on ‘common’. Yes, the royals are fair game but hospital employees are not reasonable collateral victims under any circumstances.

  8. Shakira Hussein

    The most likely outcome is that the barriers between public figures (not just the royals) and the rest of the world will be further reinforced, which I would consider A Bad Thing.

  9. ulysses butterfly

    And to add a little more legalese to the analsis, it’s the emotional violence version of connecting with the proverbial eggshell thin skull victime in an accident in a civil claim for negligence as taught in torts in first year law degrees.

    Such as this

    You didn’t know the victim was extra vulnerable, but you could reasonably foresee some degree of injury if only to reputation and emotional well being. The extreme consequence is but an extension of the same qualitative wrongful action. A question of degree not type.

    Better get a lawyer, better get a real good one.

  10. drsmithy

    The only good that might come of this is a self-imposed ban by radio stations on prank calling – quite possibly the lowest form of humor one can find on radio (and that’s saying something).

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