The hounding of the two Australian radio station
presenters involved in the Duchess of Cornwall telephone hoax by a pack of ether-dwelling
scavengers brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s foxhunting aphorism about the
unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.
It is hard to summon a great deal of sympathy for the
perpetrators, even after hearing their sobbing confession, or even after
learning that some of their superiors are prepared to hang them out to
dry. It does become a little easier,
though, after reading about the vitriolic abuse being heaped on them by the vengeful
mob that wanders aimlessly in their quest for fabricated controversy in that intellectual
wasteland we call the social media.
No doubt Wilde would have come up with an updated
aphorism to describe the phenomenon.
The stunt was crass and juvenile. In other words, ill-advised, even though – to
revert to the popular phrase of the day – the consequences were unintended. Didn’t the jerks higher up in the radio
station’s hierarchy, including – no, especially – the legal department,
recognize the risk inherent in all practical jokes? Did nobody in the room cough quietly and venture
to suggest that a hospital might not be the best choice of target venues?
I’m not against pranks, but any fool knows that they
come with the same potential for backfiring as a car filled with the wrong
grade of petrol. And the more ‘harmless’ the prank, the greater
the risk may be.
None of which excuses the hysterical response from the
unchallengeable ether. It is the
mindless masses of tweeters who create the kind of sensation-hungry environment
in which guileless radio presenters with airwaves to fill respond to the pressure
to find apple-carts to upset. Any old apple-cart
will do, just as long as it satisfies the apparently insatiable appetite for
mindless chatter, preferably the kind that comes with opportunities for feigned
The networks that were supposed to herald an era of
freedom are instead rapidly imposing a tyranny of vacuity. An acquaintance of mine calls the syndrome
SINC – for Social Intercourse of No Consequence.
The sad nurse who allegedly took her own life is a
victim, but not so much of a pair of brainless Australian disc jockeys as of a vast
horde of thrill-seekers, spurred on by unscrupulous agents, devoid of purpose
but intent on dragging us all down to its level of mindless fatuity.
Even brave Justice Leveson was afraid to take