Friday, December 07, 2012

A Prank Too Far

I woke up this morning to a shocking piece of news. The hospital receptionist who were tricked into transferring a phone call to the nurse in charge of the Duchess of Cambridge's medical care have committed suicide. What began in some stupid fun and childish prank ended in tragedy. It was simply a prank too far.

Kate's hospital nurse pranked by Australian DJs
The news is everywhere. I went on Twitter to do a search on the word "prank" and all the tweets happen to be on this unfortunate suicide. Many are disgusted. So am I. When I think about it, with the media focus and hunger getting more uncontrollable each day, horrible things are going to happen. We have seen how the paparazzi was blamed for the death of Lady Diana. We have seen how the photographs of William and Kate's private vacation were illegally taken. We have seen how every piece of news on the British royalty commanded premium public viewing.

For all the invasion of privacy and the unethical practices done by certain media members, this latest suicide is a result of a prank too far. Sadly, this case reminds us that it is only a matter of time before it takes a tragedy to instill some semblance of discipline and proper behaviour among media people.

1) Unequal Public Footing

Some people may be saying that it is all in "good fun" when two Australian DJs impersonated the Queen of England in their call to the private British hospital. For all their shock at being put through, and their excuse of a poor imitation of royal voices, the fact is that the hospital staff are not trained at public exposure as much as radio DJs. Radio DJs interact with people all over all the time. Not private hospital staff. At the onset, any prank, or any attempt to have "good fun" represents an unequal footing in the first place. For anyone who says that the suicide victim, Jacintha Saldanha has taken her mistake too seriously, I will refute by saying that the radio DJs have not taken the deliberate invasion of privacy serious enough. Even if the DJs are to say that they welcome pranks by others on them, it does not mean that people like Saldanha has given people a blank cheque to prank them any time.

Key Point: What is fun for one may not be fun for the other.

2) Social Media Play and Replay

In the old days, news come at longer and more infrequent intervals. Sometimes, people will need to wait till the next day before the latest edition can be read. Moreover, one cannot rewind the news and replay them as freely as we can right now. The social media and the modern Internet has changed all that. News comes through at up to the second speed. It can be put onto Youtube, to be replayed over and over again at any time. It can be quickly distributed worldwide. Anything private can be placed in public spheres within a matter of seconds. Once it is out there, it stays there.

I was appalled to see how the royal pranks continue to be played and replayed on national television. Put on Youtube, it gets viewed by the millions. Imagine the agony Jacintha Saldanha had to tolerate each time her voice was replayed by anyone, anywhere, and anytime?

Key Point: What Goes Out to the Internet Stays There. Be careful what you put there. 

3) Is It the Hospital's Fault?

While we may not know the full details, some may accuse the hospital for its lax of security. I think it is unfair to blame them. With the gloomy reminder of Lady Diana herself being a victim of invasion of privacy, surely the authorities and the royal family security team would have put in place steps and processes to protect the royal family more. While their due diligence may not be perfect, why try to exploit loopholes and then point to the hospital and the security staff as their fault?

Yes, the hospital's processes may need to be improved. The ease of a telephone call being put through may need to be addressed. Yet, if there is no initial trigger, none of it will have happened right? Give people the benefit of the doubt. Do not presume and make innocent hospital staff members look bad. Many are basically trying to make ends meet.

Key Point: Even if one can break through security checks, it does not absolve one from the crime.

4) Privacy Matters

This is a case of a prank too far. It is unavoidable. Stupid. Childish. Inappropriate. Whatever you call it, the golden rule applies. Jesus has said,

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

You do not need to be a Bible believer in order to see the relevance of Jesus' teachings. Remember that pranks can hurt. No matter how the interpretation of fun is, this suicide is a grim reminder that a prank too far leads to fatal consequences. Here is what I strongly suggest.

  • Stop replaying the "royal prank"
  • Australian DJs Mel Grieg and Michael Christian are to apologize, quit their DJ jobs, and to stop mentioning anything pertaining to the prank
  • The rest of us take note that privacy matters are serious matters
  • Have fun but not at the expense of other people
  • Pray for the family of the bereaved
  • Respect the privacy of the royal family.

May the press, the media, and all on social media do the most sensible thing. Respect the privacy of others as much as you want others to respect your privacy, and those of your loved ones.

With prayer for the family of Jacintha Saldanha.


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