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The freedom of media; titillation has a cost

Mark Roche of The Daily Shift offers his opinion on the power of the Media and how its power to incite suicide without recompense lies in the hands of millions…

Last week I was inspired to write a piece condemning the Catholic Church and the criticism it projected towards the media for portraying a certain opinion in the name of comedy.

While the subject of this week is altogether different some similarities pertain, at least enough to propose a juxtaposition of opinion. Today I find myself vocalising a very different argument; an antithesis to the suggestion that the media and freedom of the press should remain as it is.

While I was quick to condemn the Church in its accusations of blasphemy towards RTE (and I still fervently believe that), the suggestion that the ‘free press’ has the right to produce content for entertainment regardless of whom it hurts seems, to use a phrase I used last week “inherently wrong”; the terminology is perhaps the secret to regulating such material. To distress and affect a person seems a world apart from offending people.

I was deeply saddened to read that as a result of a prank, a poor woman was compelled to take her own life; one can only speculate as to whether the woman was unhappy prior to the call from two Australian radio presenters. Mel Greig and Michael Christian rang King Edward VII Hospital in order to gain information on the Duchess of Cambridge’s status following her hospitalisation with acute morning sickness.

The victim, although never intentionally subjected to criticism by the perpetrators was the subject of worldwide criticism and censure of the press and royal family. The event is indeed a tragedy and I don’t wish to publicly crucify those presenters whom already surely feel as though the world is crumbling around them; it’s safe to say they will never work in the media or public sphere again.

I’m not particularly sure what could ever remedy such a tragedy or indeed from it happening again but the simple fact of the matter is that, thoughtless entertainment and titillation needs to be strictly curtailed. The obvious flaws in such a suggestion will of course flow from the fingers of keyboard warriors  with any ignorant opinion on the matter but if we take a comprehensive view of the means made available to people on a daily basis through which they can torment and abuse for the entertainment of others transforms society into one audience, attending some digital Colosseum of debauchery and immorality.

While the result was not as extreme, one could easily cast their thoughts back to a phone call made by British DJ’s Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand to Faulty Towers star Andrew Sachs who played the role of Spanish oaf, Manuel. While the intent was to entertain at the expense of Sachs, it quickly became clear that a line had been crossed and any respect that a fellow human being would have for another would not allow for the derogatory comments directed at Sachs and his family. The result effectively ruined Jonathan Ross’ ranking among his peers; the ban for both hurt their careers (admittedly, Russell only became more infamous) and Ross’ prime-time show never reached the heights it was lauded for before.

In a similar vein, there has been quite a lot of media coverage of the amount of adolescent suicides caused by internet bullying. Technological advancements have allowed sites such as Ask.Fm to grow and become a global playground for both the harmless children who genuinely just want to have fun and their opposites; in Ireland alone there were two shockingly close victims of internet bullying who took their own lives.

Both victims were teenage girls, Erin Gallagher (13)  posted her intentions online according to the Irish Examiner which reported that she had been tortured by a “bullying campaign”. Ciara Pugsley (15) suffered a similar torment, her bullies using Ask.Fm to tease and insult her. Canadian teenager, Amanda Todd (15) was the first case of suicide which suggested such outlets were harmful to adolescents although all three suicides have occurred in the latter half of 2012; any reasonable assessment would measure the amounts of undocumented lives taken as a result of bullying prior to press coverage as startling.

During research for this article, I made a truly horrific find. On the popular site, Reddit there is a subreddit entitled ‘SuicideWatch’ in which people considering the act voice their concerns, sometimes in a hope of being talked out of the resolution and other times, simply leaving their final words with faceless strangers they have never met.

A cross-section of threads on /r/suicidewatch – Screenshot taken from Reddit.com/r/suicidewatch

The reality of the situation is that we have given ourselves the tools that destroy life without any recompense; many may hold the Australian DJ’s guilty for the suicide of Jacintha Saldhana but thousands of journalists that stoked the flames of critical thought towards her actions remain simply faceless jurors. The teenagers that anonymously bully others every day remain faceless while their victims faces pepper news articles. As the eldest of three brothers, I genuinely fear for my younger siblings and what they may be subjected to. There is no comeback. There is no protection. There is no way to bring any victim of suicide back.

*Lead image courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk
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About Mark Roche

After realising at age 12 I would never be the next R.L Stine, I donated most of my time to Music, Gaming, Film and TV. Since then, I have collected an extensive knowledge and eclectic taste in all things entertainment.

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