The whole tragic farce of the 2DayFM radio prank seems a bit distant now, but I’ve got some thoughts on the matter in the new Spectator Australia. In short, as dumb as the prank and the pranksters were, we should do our best to head off the collective punishment – in the form of further attacks on freedom of speech – likely to follow:
It is a bizarre world we live in where Julian Assange can be hailed as a hero for exposing military secrets and putting Western soldiers in danger, but a couple of dim-bulb radio presenters are all but run out of town on a rail for calling up a hospital and finding out the last time a pregnant woman puked. Yet here we are.
Without fear of hyperbole it can pretty safely be said that Mel Greig and Michael Christian, the two radio DJs who infamously rang King Edward VII Hospital pretending to be the Queen, Prince Charles and a pack of corgis, are never going to win a Walkley for investigative journalism. The same goes for all the other hosts, DJs and shock jocks who fill the commercial FM airwaves with gossip about B-list ‘celebrities’, goofy phone calls and thumping ‘music’ to simulate sex at house parties by.
But it must be said that the two have also been blamed, completely unfairly and wholly prematurely, for the death of a nurse in England who had the misfortune to transfer their telephone call when the pair rang up pretending to be the royals. The fact is we may never know why Jacintha Saldanha took her own life; suicide is intensely personal, she only put the call through and did not ‘fall’ for the gag, and any number of other things may have been going on in her life.
No, Greig, Christian and the rest of the Austereo crew — some of whom have done some truly shocking and legitimately inexcusable things in the past — are being utterly and unfairly pilloried by a mob whose outrage has been whipped up by scolds with outsized megaphones who would make life as drab and colourless as one of those new cigarette packets they have lately foisted on society.
The hysteria mounted against Greig and Christian this week is only a small stage of a bigger trip down the road to dreary humourlessness where everyone makes for the exit at the first sign of a gag lest they be accused of tacitly supporting something that gave someone, somewhere cause to take offence.
Read the whole thing, as they say.