Last year I wrote a response to the media debacle surrounding the prank phone call made by a couple of Australian radio presenters to the hospital in which the Duchess of Cambridge was staying.
Reading the news yesterday, I learned of another debacle worthy of mention. Another radio presenter in Australia, Chrissie Swan, was put in a difficult situation when a photographer took some shots of her smoking a cigarette whilst alone in her car. The reason it was difficult is because she is currently pregnant. She apparently attempted to bid on the photographs to prevent their being published but lost to a women’s magazine. So to pre-empt the inevitable, she went on radio and television and tearfully admitted to having struggled with her nicotine addiction with this, her third pregnancy, and was having a sneaky cigarette once a day, unbeknownst to her family, colleagues and friends. Her positive slant on the story is that at least now the shame of the whole experience has put her off smoking altogether. But she also said people are “rightly disgusted” by her actions.
There are so many things wrong with this story it’s hard to know where to begin. So I will begin with profanity:
Why the fuck don’t people mind their own fucking business?
I mean really, just because someone is recognisable by their public persona it shouldn’t follow that their private life is a topic open to scrutiny by one and all, especially against their will. Chrissie’s losing bid was allegedly $53,000. She was prepared to pay that much to protect her privacy. But what’s really disturbing is when the women’s magazine outbid her at the last minute by $2000 she felt her only recourse was to go out and publicly debase herself before anyone else got the chance. How is that acceptable?
Why is a pregnant woman having a smoke such a big deal anyway?
It’s not as though it hasn’t been going on for as long as tobacco has been in use, is it? Obviously if a man smokes alone in his car whilst his spouse is pregnant it’s not exactly newsworthy. So what made this story newsworthy was the fact that a woman was doing something that is seen as being WRONG. Medical science tells us that smoking when pregnant can cause a range of things to happen to the unborn child that may result in health problems later in life. Most pregnant women will be aware of the facts about smoking during pregnancy. A lot of them will attempt to quit, and many of them may succeed. But quitting is hard. Nicotine is a bastard of a drug, horribly addictive. Not to mention easy to obtain and perfectly legal. If a pregnant woman struggles to quit, then that makes her no different to anyone else who attempts to give up smoking. Being either pregnant or a woman should have no bearing on that discussion.
Most importantly, being pregnant does not make a woman’s body public property or the object of public inquiry.
Well, I suppose in reality people seem to think it does. What’s important is that more of us refuse to agree with them.
I’ve been reading about the 2DayFM DJs and their prank call to the hospital in which the Duchess of Cambridge was staying for treatment. Much as you’d expect, there are some parts of the media calling for the severe discipline of these two young people and another part rather pompously justifying their actions and telling the rest of us to just calm down because they’re not really to blame.
Blame is the thing, though, isn’t it? I imagine the family and friends of the nurse who seems to have taken her own life as a result of this debacle would feel like blaming someone for what happened, if only to help make sense of what would otherwise seem a senseless loss.
Blame seems to be apportioned in increasingly stupid ways in this case. You could blame the two DJs for making the call, but then they are just a couple of people trying to be amusing for our benefit, or at least the benefit of their employers’ advertising revenue. They claim they weren’t trying to be invasive of privacy, in fact they claim they were surprised their inept antics weren’t spotted immediately and the call terminated. They also claim that the decision to air the call was made by people higher up the chain of production, which is undoubtedly true, and so it’s really not their fault that any harm resulted from the call.
So yes, it was the 2DayFM management that are really responsible for the call being aired, but of course they claim that they haven’t broken any laws so really they’re not in the wrong. They tried, they claim, five times to contact the Hospital and couldn’t get through to anyone. The Hospital claim they received no calls. To my mind, at least, the decision by management to opt to seek forgiveness rather than permission and air the call anyway was cavalier, to say the least. Irresponsible, definitely. But their actions can be justified by the fact that they are simply trying to make their product stand out in a competitive marketplace. So it’s not exactly their fault, either.
The nurse who took the call and forwarded it through to the nurse treating the Duchess could be blamed for making an error of judgement. People will tend not to, quite rightly, because we’re all entitled to make mistakes and after all, this is the BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY we’re talking about here. The pressure of dealing with the Monarchy in person, combined with the pressure nurses are under just in their everyday course of duty must have been huge. Hence, if this error of judgement really led to that nurse taking her own life as is being suggested then it’s hardly surprising. I’m not much of a monarchist but I am a professional person and I would feel pretty awful if I allowed a breach in privacy like that to happen. So she’s not really to blame, either.
Then who is to blame? Everyone seems to be looking around for someone to pillory over this incident, but unsurprisingly they are looking in the wrong place. Instead of looking all around, they should be looking within. We’re all to blame for what’s happened. Every time we partake of the culture of celebrity we’re enabling these kinds of events to occur. Every time we gossip about people we don’t know personally for no reason other than that the details of their lives seem more interesting than our own, we enable these kinds of events to occur. Many Australian journalists are making merry with the irony of the UK media being up in arms over this in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry. It’s as if they’ve never seen hypocrisy before. So much of the media is occupied with gossip, celebrity or otherwise, that it’s all some people ever talk about. Numerous people make a living out of making the regular lives of people sound salacious and entertaining. Of course even more people feed off this information, become absorbed by it. The really awful part of it all, apart from the “dumbing down” of society that seems to be accompanying this trend towards gossip (which, I acknowledge has been happening for at least a few centuries – and ironically really took off during the “Enlightenment”), is the fact that an industry has been created merely to perpetuate the process. Huge sums of money are being wasted on this kind of information. Who benefits from it? Am I a better person for knowing who, or indeed what, “Snooki” is? Of course not. The only people who benefit are those who profit from it. Everyone else is just a greasy little cog in a dirty big machine.
It’s absurd. That’s the best description for it. Not only does the inane nature of popular media result in moronic pranks like the one that sparked this all off, subsequent moronic behaviour acts as tinder to set the incident ablaze. When lives are threatened, damaged and lost because we live in a world where there’s apparently nothing better for people to think about than taking the piss out of other people they’ve never met and shouldn’t have any business interfering with, it is absurd. That the people who actually profit from this absurdity actually refuse to see that there’s anything wrong with that, and indeed retort that they should be able to do whatever they like to whomever they like and can pay for the privilege, that’s absurd.
Where is the meaning in any of this? Why should we tolerate it? Comments are welcome.