Sunday, 9 December 2012

Prank calls, pregnancy and popular hypocrisy

Very few people were completely po-faced after hearing the prank call from Australian radio station 2Day FM to King Edward VII Hospital, where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness. Prank calls are juvenile and frequently about as funny as burning orphans, but after it happened, there was plenty of chatter, largely along the lines of: "Well, it was an idiotic thing to do, but how lame was her impersonation of the Queen? And seriously, how stupid would someone have to be to fall for it? Hahahaha!"

Now that the nurse who answered the call and put it through to another nurse has committed suicide and a dreadful blame game is being publicly played, most of us are not laughing quite as hard. Nobody with any compassion would think that a silly mistake, even one as public as a prank call that went viral, should lead to one of the people involved paying the ultimate price.

But this awful situation has exposed awful hypocrisy on a global scale. Newspapers that we know have been involved in phone hacking are now coming over all self-righteous. These are the same newspapers that have employed staff who previously had no issue with hacking phones to get the kind of information that 2Day FM obtained in a prank call. These are the same newspapers who couldn't wait for the presses to roll after the story broke about the tapped phone conversation between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, featuring the infamous tampon remark. These are the same newspapers that have been obsessed with the Duchess of  Cambridge's uterus from the day she got married.

The cognitive dissonance required to simultaneously be horrified by Jacintha Saldanha's suicide and to continue to pry into the gynaecological business of the Duchess as well as other famous women is astounding.

The Guardian, meanwhile, as the chief cheerleader for the Leveson Inquiry, is also suitably dour about it all but not necessarily any less hypocritical. When the Leveson Inquiry was in full swing, The Guardian was the go-to paper for live updates as the testimonies took place. Except that on the one lonely day that the inquiry devoted itself to the portrayal of women in the media, The Guardian didn't bother with a live blog and coverage the next day was scant. It was the one day of the inquiry where the issues surrounding the news values of women's bodies were under the microscope and The Guardian was strangely silent.

But no amount of pontificating by Lord Justice Leveson or regulation of the press can shoot down the big elephant in the room - why we are so concerned with the intimate details of celebrity pregnancy in the first place. As long as the news about any famous pregnancy is obtained legally, there's not much that Leveson could have put in his 2,000-page report to stop intensely personal matters being made public. While the British public has a right to know that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with an heir to the throne, we don't have any right to know intimate details about said pregnancy.

Not even the power, privilege and money of the royal family could guarantee the Duchess's stay in hospital would remain private in this internet era. As such, the pregnancy was announced before the end of the first trimester, just in case someone was tacky enough to leak pictures or information to the wider world. Kate could not enjoy the luxury the rest of us have of keeping her pregnancy quiet until the 12-week mark was safely passed. It's easy to call "first world pains" on that but it is a sad reflection on where we are as a society voraciously hungry for information that is none of our business.

Tellingly, the information contained in the prank call was pretty much already in the public domain. But at the time of writing, on Sunday, December 9, 2012, we should have still been in blissful ignorance about it all.


  1. Pretty lively in here !!!
    Wouldn't it be utterly fabulous if the nurse isn't really dead and that this is the best-ever reverse-hoax in the history of Royal Familywatching...

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