The social media buzz about the story of suicide of Jacintha Saldanha is rapidly diminishing. It’s how it happens. But if you see the pattern of coverage, it reveals an interesting trend.
First the prank call, then some coverage the first day, then less coverage the next day, then even lesser over the next couple days. Then comes the nurses’ suicide, then a media firestorm that just seems to be getting stronger and stronger. It seems it will not lose power till the blood of two radio hosts is shed on the street.
Would the hoax call been “not so bad” if the nurse hadn’t committed suicide?
This is far too typical. Two incidences, one foolish and one tragic, linked to each other. So the ethicality of the foolish incident is being determined by the pain caused by the tragic incident. Something in this chain of incidents appeals very much to the judgmental voice in our head. Seems like we can let out the anger inside us with clear conscience. Seems like an ideal opportunity to reinforce our self-image as torch bearers of the truth, protectors of the weak.
This is exactly the problem. Here is why.
I think the prank was tasteless and the two DJs are dumb. I have never heard their programs, and after this incident I don’t think I ever will. However they are not the illness, they are just the symptoms. And they are not the only ones. People like these are abound. Howard Stern, Kardashians, and the whole reality TV industry is the shining examples.
As a society, we have created an environment where these people thrive. We are in dire need of validation. We choose to get the validation from not healthy sources like nurturing relationships. Instead we turn to the sensational incidents, and the judgmental voices in our head, to make us feel good quickly, make us feel validated without any significant efforts.
This exactly creates a culture where the sensationalism, and all these people who provide it, thrive. This culture creates opportunities for more people like these DJs. The voice in social psyche that is asking for these DJ’s blood today is exactly the same voice that made them, and thousands like them, rich and famous. This is the same voice that assured big incentive for sensational pranks.
The point of this article is neither to launch defense of two Australian DJs, nor to make the tragic death of a dedicated nurse sound less tragic. The point is to invite the larger society to introspect on this tendency to latch on to something sensational and get carried away. As long as that remains in place, the same story will be repeated again, just with different actors.
If we ever to stop the witch-hunt, we would realize, we are all witches. We are all guilty.