Jacintha Saldanha died when people laughed and made merry at her cost. Was there a plot against her?
The 46-year old Indian was at the reception of King Edward VII hospital when she took the fateful call. The caller, introducing herself as British Queen, asked after Princess Kate, who was under treatment there. Jacintha didn’t suspect any prank in the call. Who would think of silly pranks when the queen called? She connected the call to Kate’s nurse.
Just in hours, things blew out. The call wasn’t from the queen. Two radio jockeys from Australia had made the prank call. Australia’s 2Day FM, where the jockeys work, broadcast it.
It got very noisy. Three days later, Jacintha, the nurse who attended the call, committed suicide. A prank call killed her. The staff nurse seemed to have no idea about media pranks. Not she alone, anybody for that matter could get caught unawares by such pranks. The hospital had a royal patient, who was just out of a paparazzi attack. The poor nurse suddenly found herself at the centre of unwanted attention.
Franz Kafka's novel The Trial can help us in better understanding this situation. Joseph K, the protagonist, was suddenly arrested for no reason. The police failed to give any reason. Eventually he was executed after a court trial. But the court also didn’t give any reason. It was assumed that he had done a serious crime. Probably, Joseph K also believed it.
Media today does this job. It plots against people, and puts them on trial and eventually executes them. If they can’t do it physically, they do character assassination. This poor woman was subjected to severe mental stress and mounting humiliation. And both cyber- and terrestrial media riotously licked the bone. Yes, the fun-bone.
The idiotic public, as usual, discussed, debated and found it highly entertaining. The nurse, like Joseph K, might have believed she had done a serious crime. She was at a blind alley, a dead end; so she took her life. As the news of her death emerged, all crocodiles started shedding tears. Now they are playing the sentimental tune.
This must be the first time a prank call takes somebody’s life. But there were some historically damaging prank calls in the past. In 1995 a Canadian DJ, posing as the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, called Elizabeth II and requested her to record a speech supporting his government.
In another incident, a US-based radio station called up Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez posing as Cuban president Fidel Castro. They later called Castro pretending to be Chavez. Castro went violent on live.
Look at the media today. All kinds of media – TV, radio, newspapers, and net-based channels – survive eating controversies, laugh-gags, sitcoms, celebrity chats, and reality shows with no reality. They turn the world quite unreal, magical, eventually surreal, making people addicted to fun. Deaths and massacres are just funs now. They turn their cameras to your kitchen, bedchamber, and tap you. While you walk in the street you are filmed.
Individuals are turned into characters, and then sold. If you can turn ordinary people into characters, you can do away with scriptwriters, directors and settings. You can save all the money, and still make saleable items. All you need is a camera, or a telephone and some pranksters.
The theme is just to fool people. Victims do not always laugh over it. Some react, often quite violently. But those reactions (quite necessary) also are broadcast without their permission.
All pranks targeting individuals are a violation of their privacy. None should get away with a crime in the name of entertainment. No fun at the cost of disturbing others, who run with their daily worries.