Socialist Worker

Suicide and the hypocrisy of the media's royal love-in

Issue No. 2333

It all went a little sour a little quickly. The pregnancy that was meant to lift the hearts of a nation was only a week into its overhyped, wall to wall coverage when things went wrong.

The media feeding frenzy over the royal foetus led to a prank call from one of those annoying radio stations that, well, do prank calls.

It was the sort of classy intervention that you might expect from the radio station. It had previously persuaded a young girl doing a lie detector test to admit to being raped while on air.

Within days the nurse who had the misfortune to take the prank call, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead at her flat. She is believed to have killed herself. She had worked at the Edward VII Hospital in Central London for four years.

What followed was a flurry of hypocrisy that only the British establishment could try and pull off.

“Outrageous” cried newspapers that had helped put the hospital under siege. “Scandalous” said journalists who had offered cash for inside information from the hospital.

“They have blood on their hands,” squealed the same media organisations and journalists who have systematically paid corrupt private detective firms to get hold of patients’ hospital records in the past. They felt no such shame when they paid small fortunes for pictures of dying celebrities.


Kate and William issued a statement saying they were “shocked and saddened” by Jacintha Saldanha’s death. Those politicians who had hoped to use the royal foetus to divert from austerity did the same.

Some used the death to back up their calls for media regulation. Press barons and politicians have argued over various bad proposals over the past week.

Yet none of them would stop things like the prank call from happening. And they would do even less to take control of the media away from the powerful.

The real issues are studiously being avoided, as is the reality of suicide. More than 5,500 people committed suicide in 2011 and as many will have done the same this year. The attacks on ordinary people that make our lives hard are part of the reason why that figure is so high.

Put at its simplest you are more likely to commit suicide if you are poor. One study showed that a 3 percent rise in unemployment is linked to a rise of 2.4 percent in suicides in people under the age of 64.

It is a cruel indictment of our society that people are pushed to end their own lives. Around one in five people will suffer from some form of depression during their lives.

We should oppose the poverty, alienation and misery that isolates people in despair. And we should have no truck with the hypocritical handwringing of those at the top who cause that misery.

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What We Think
Tue 11 Dec 2012, 18:11 GMT
Issue No. 2333
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