A royally dangerous obsession

I haven’t had the time, nor do I have the inclination, to do any in-depth research on ‘the royal pregnancy’. As a result, this may be misinformed, or not comprehensive in analysis. But it is exactly my instinctive sentiment towards this issue that prevents that being a realistic possibility. I simply refuse to spend much of my time thinking about this bizarre family. But now others have been involved – two Australian DJs and a tragically unfortunate nurse. This should be a warning to us all about the nature of public obsession, especially obsession of such an obsessive variety. But I don’t see anywhere it being taken as such.

I do not intend to assess the full cause of Jacintha Saldanha’s death. That would be insensitive and ignorant.  I do however wish to suggest that this hoax call was a contributing factor (with immediate influence), and that it itself would be inconceivable (along with its consequences) in the absence of a gloablly pervasive obsession with the British royal family.

Saldanha was the nurse working at King Edward VII hospital who took a hoax call from two Australian radio DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian on the 4th December, as Kate (of ‘Wills & Kate’ fame) resided in the hospital recovering from morning sickness. The DJs pretended to be the Queen, and Prince Charles, and succeeded in being put through to the duty nurse, via Saldanha, who revealed medical details of Kate’s condition. Beyond being barely believable, this is clearly a serious breach of a hospital’s responsibility to protect the privacy of those it treats, and no doubt it was both distressing and very unsettling for Kate herself.

Yet somehow, in the media malestrom that followed, as joyful celebration of the latest royal addition mutated into shock, outrage and sympathy with the Duchess, a death was manufactured. A death that surely didn’t need to happen. This was supposed to be about birth. If our obsession with the royals didn’t exist, nor would that hoax phone call have. Nor would its impact, when revealed to a feverish press and public, have contributed to such extreme emotional distress in a professional who made a mistake that they might consider taking their own life.

Unless we can say to ourselves truthfully that there would have been this level of public feeling towards an identical instance of deception involving an ‘ordinary’ member of the public, then the thoughtlessly intense focus on this case due to its royal flavour must bear some responsibility for events that followed.

It seems to me it is the dangerous construction of the royal family as an object of  national obsession that was the essential factor of this death occurring when it did. Perhaps because the conclusions required from it – primarily that no obsession is healthy, and that this is no exception – are too inconvenient and unprofitable to bear, this thought appears not to have emerged in the thousands of column inches being dedicated to the story. I haven’t read them all, as I said. I may be wrong. But I don’t think I am. I wish I was.

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