Hoax calls by radio personalities are nothing new. They have been going on for ages. For example, an unforgettable one involving our royal family was when Canadian DJ, Pierre Brassard, posing as the Canadian Prime Minister, made a call to Queen Elizabeth in 1995, asking her to record a speech in support of Canadian unity ahead of the forthcoming Quebec referendum. He sounded very credible and there were some red faces among officials who took the call and found out it was fake, especially as the Queen is not supposed to take sides in anything. That fact should have sounded an alert.
A lot of people would argue along the free speech lines, but the best hoax calls are not those involving other individuals. They involve things or people in general. They do not target vulnerable individuals at their worst moments, like this tragic one did - iIn essence, using people as fodder for cheap laughs. A prank call like the one made by the two Australian DJ’s was a cruel one because, at the basic centre of it, was a lack of respect: for the Duchess whose illness was no laughing matter, for the staff who would have had to deal with the fallout of that, for the British monarchy that most Brits love and many Australians couldn’t give a fig about, and for anyone on the receiving end of the so called ‘prank’.
Pranks should never be about specific individuals for a simple clear reason: What could be a joke to one person, could be deadly to another, as this poor unsuspecting nurse found to her cost, unwittingly caught up in something she did not ask for, or expect. Once that ‘prank’ is finished, how do we know the effects on the recipients?
Nurse Jacintha Saldhana said she felt ‘isolated and confused’ after the prank. Could it because the behaviour of the rest of her colleagues towards her was one of unstated blame for what happened, even though she wasn’t the one who actually gave the Duchess' information out? Who knows how she felt in those last moments being away from her family who was far away in Bristol while she was in temporary residence near the hospital? Would she have felt the same if her family was around her to comfort her? And worst of all, a glorious first moment which the Duchess should feel proud of will be forever tainted with the death of someone.
Australian writer, Michael Idato, commenting on why the hoax call crossed an invisible emotional line, summed it up neatly when he said,
The King Edward VII hospital prank is not funny. It wasn't funny when it was played. Not for some hand-wringing sense of righteous judgment, but simply because one of its targets - a mother to be whose pregnancy was causing so much discomfort that she had to be hospitalised - was so vulnerable, and its effect - to have details of her medical condition broadcast on radio - was an appalling breach of privacy.
What holds a civilised society together is an understanding of action and consequence, a duty of care to each other that allows some elasticity for fair mischief and good humour, but does not contravene a handful of basic tenets: humanity, dignity, compassion, respect.
Amen to that! Once we lack those basic and essential emotions towards each other, where exactly are we headed as a people?
DJ Michael Christian, who wanted to make his name quickly as a new recruit to the radio station, could not believe that the prank was so successful. He said that the only bad thing about it was “knowing that I will NEVER EVER top this,'' he told his Facebook friends. ''Less than a week in the job & I've already peaked.''
Tragically, he was so right, but not for the reasons he thought.