Sunday, December 09, 2012

Jokes Gone Bad [344/365]

Practical jokes are serious stuff.
They are intended to be humorous, but sometimes can go seriously wrong.

I'm sure we would have heard of atleast one such joke that went horribly wrong.
Today, the world heard of another practical joke that ended in tragedy. Of Indian-born nurse Jacintha Saldanha.

The unfortunate victim of a prank call made by Australian DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who masqueraded as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles. The voices were a poor imitation of the royals, but the damage was done. Ms Saldanha was found dead in her nurses' accommodation today.

What provokes anger in a sane person is how the radio station continued to play the prank call eight hours after news of the suicide was made public.
While the station promptly suspended the DJs who have not spoken 'out of respect' for Ms Saldanha, this incident has gone a couple of notches beyond comic relief.

Surely, the radio station did consult their well-paid attorneys before their elaborate stunt, but all sane advice cannot bring nurse Saldanha back to life.
A couple of months ago, I recalled how practical jokes can be cruel. Even demeaning and potentially traumatic. Today, the world saw the dark underbelly of practical jokes gone bad.

With the details of the prank call trickling out, we are now aware that nurse Saldanha only received and transferred the call to the ward nurse caring for the duchess. Apparently Saldanha was not reprimanded nor put through the wringer for doing what she did.
While I lament at the lack of a system that should have screened and filtered calls before being transferred to a patient of such a profile, I think what the world is really aggrieved about is the callousness of the radio station DJs and the management who have stood by their prank.

Nurse Jacintha will not be able to see the lighter side of this prank. Being the person that she was, I'd imagine she held herself responsible for the incredible mess. She would've blamed herself for transferring the call that resulted in so much fuss. But we'll never know.

While the radio station never meant for things to turn out the way it did, and may have just followed in the time-tested tradition of pranking, will it apologize for the insensitivity and the loss? It may bow down to pressure but never mean it.
Will this mean the end to all practical jokes in the media? Definitely not.

Was there a more sinister reason why she took her own life? Inquests will reveal that.
Was Jacintha right in taking her own life? I doubt.

Killing herself was such a cowardly way to go especially when she was as talented, as intelligent, as caring and as hardworking as her friends, colleagues and family say she was. Why didn't she think of the trauma and the loss that her family will suffer upon death?

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