I believe great catastrophe is always rooted in small carelessness. An unlocked pool fence, guns left in plain sight, a birthday forgotten, a child ignored. These things take on a life of their own – gradually gathering momentum towards disaster. Seconds for pills to be swallowed, a few minutes for a child to drown, a lifetime of lonliness for a classroom to be massacred. When I want to test my theory – I read the news of the day and trace each disaster back to the crack that became the chasm. And I always find it lurking in the small print.
It was there when Princess Diana ignored her bodyguard and exited the Ritz hotel despite the paparazzi. There when the chauffeur took that extra drink at the bar. When the doors of the Mercedes Benz were over-armour plated – causing it sit unbalanced on the chassis. When she left her seatbelt unbuckled. There as the driver went against instructions and raced the cameras. There as the flickering wreck lay against a wall in a tunnel in Paris, surrounded by photographers.
This week, two Australia ‘Shock Jocks’ picked up the phone in Sydney and placed a prank call to a Hospital in London. The call was taken by a nurse called Jacintha Saldanha, who thought she was speaking with the Queen and Prince Philip. She nervously answered some questions regarding the famous Royal patient in her care. And then put the call through to a ward, the one that held the Duchess of Cambridge. The hoax call was broadcast on Australian radio and then went viral – replaying over and over again around the world. And Jacintha became a laughingstock.
The carelessness here? Two brash radio jocks thinking it ok to humiliate a decent woman for a laugh, a Radio Network deciding it was ok to broadcast it for ratings. Overnight an excellent nurse, a mother of two, a wife – became a global joke. The chasm yawned and she fell in. The coroner’s van picked up her body the next day. Jacintha had committed suicide.
The radio show posted an apology for the call on its official Twitter feed on Wednesday, and issued a statement. “2Day FM sincerely apologises for any inconvenience (italics mine) caused by the enquiry to Kate’s (italics mine) hospital, the radio segment was done with light-hearted intentions”. An earlier tweet by 2Day FM had described it as a “hilarious prank.” Not so funny now – is it guys?
The irony that these women died in similar circumstances should not be lost on us. Nor should the fact that they are linked by their association with England’s Royal Family. Without the tabloid press and the unrelenting hounding by salacious pack of voracious mercenaries – they both have been alive today.
But it’s not just the gutter press’ fault. We allowed it to happen. We watch or listen to the shows, we read the articles and devour the pictures. And we pay richly to do it. How careless of us.