On Friday, I wrote about a terrible "prank" pulled by two Australian DJs, which appears to have contributed in some measure to the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, a woman on whom the prank was played (among others, including Duchess Kate Middleton).
Over the weekend, it was reported that the DJ duo [edit: and/or other DJs at the same station, which may simply or additionally indict their employers as general bad decision-makers] has previously pulled other "pranks" that necessitated investigation, including fake calls to emergency services and a "prank" that involved hooking up a teenage girl to a lie detector while her mother interrogated her about her sex life, during which the girl revealed to having been raped at age 12. Hilarious, this pair and their colleagues.
The show is on indefinite hiatus, with at least one report I've seen that it's been canceled. Speaking to A Current Affair, the duo defended themselves by implicitly blaming the victim:
Michael Christian (who is a white man): "When we thought about making a call, [we thought] it was going to go for 30 seconds, we were going to be hung up on, and that was it. As innocent as that."So, you see, if only Jacintha Saldanha had hung up on them, none of this would have happened. Since, you know, Christian and Greig were apparently incapable of hanging up themselves or simply not widely promoting and broadcasting the call.
Mel Greig (who is a white woman): "We thought a hundred people before us would've tried it. We thought it was such a silly idea and the accents were terrible, and not for a second did we expect to speak to Kate, let alone have a conversation with anyone at the hospital. We wanted to be hung up on."
Further, the DJs talked about how terrible they feel. Christian explained he feels: "Shattered, gutted, heartbroken, and obviously, you know, our deepest sympathies are with the family and the friends. Prank calls are made every day, on every radio station in every country, around the world and they have been for a long time, and no one could've imagined this to happen."
We feel so bad, but geez, not that bad, because it was just a prank, and no one could've predicted it.
Here's the problem with "no one could've predicted" a terrible outcome of a garbage prank: There are people who could have predicted it.
There are people who do predict it, loudly and often. There are people who have survived loved ones' suicides as a result of being targeted by a prank, and people who have themselves survived suicide attempts as a result of being targeted by a prank.
There are people who self-harm, or people who just value and practice basic human empathy, who might have said, if asked whether it's a good idea to involve people in a prank surrounding one of the most famous women in the world, no. No, that is not a good idea, for several reasons, one of which is that not everyone wants and not everyone is capable of navigating international notoriety. No, you could be harming those people. No, you should not do that. To anyone. Ever.
Suggesting that "no one could've predicted" that what happened might happen is to disappear all the many people who absolutely could have, and would have, predicted that it was one potential outcome. And not an unreasonable one, given the numbers of people in our fucked-up world who—by virtue of mental illness, or lack of a solid emotional support system, or having survived trauma but being left with an indelible urge to self-harm, or any one of a number of other reasons—don't have the capacity, every day or any day, to process international humiliation.
Or humiliations much smaller than that.
There are people who could've predicted. It's a damnable lie that no one can conceive of self-harm in response to ignominy, to ridicule, to nonconsensual exposure on a massive scale.
It's a damnable lie told by shameless dirtbags who want to pretend that their individual antipathy is universal ignorance.