A brief note on the hospital call prank


by D.J. Webb

We have probably all listened to the hoax call to Edward VII Hospital in which an Australian radio show phoned the hospital pretending to be the Queen in the hope of obtaining information about Kate Mountbatten née Middleton’s confinement. While, of course, I do not celebrate the fact that a nurse is believed to have committed suicide, I cannot join in the condemnation of the phonecall.

The phonecall was funny, lighthearted in intent, and transparently not from the Queen. The accents were extraordinarily phoney, and the call was littered with humorous comments about the Queen having to go and feed the corgis, etc. The male presenter also attempted to imitate the yapping of corgis at one point. The call was just “high jinx” — a joke. They could not have known that the nurse would commit suicide — and such a reaction is by no means a logical consequence of having been the “victim” of such a prank. There must be more to this story. Was the nurse already suffering from depression? How did the hospital management regard her failing to observe protocol and put this call through? This is a top private hospital, after all, and it can be expected that the management of such facilities do have words with members of staff who do not protect the privacy of their patients.

Whatever the background, the radio station making the prank call is not responsible for the suicide. It was not “quality journalism” — there is nothing ‘Reithian’ about this radio programme – but it was not highly objectionable either. Now, to my dismay, the two radio presenters involved have been disciplined, and their show may be permanently cancelled. I would not like to see two promising careers ended over this incident, as the extreme reaction of the nurse could not have been foreseen. This could feed into calls for more controls on the press, including arrangements for the protection of privacy. Most of such laws and proposed laws go too far – and the Royal family are about the most legitimate targets of an intrusive media in Britain today.

You could argue that ordinary people should not be subject to scurrilous media attention, but the Royal family have courted the attention of the Press when it has suited them. We should always err on the side of press freedom, although that does mean that silly prank calls will take place in a free country.

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16 responses to “A brief note on the hospital call prank

  1. i totally agree with you. one has to question the mental competence of anybody who could be fooled by such a farcical impersonation, parody rather, of the royal family (especially charles going “mummy” in the background). and mental competence is a key requirement in the nursing profession i would have thought.

  2. Well, I’m the one person in England who hasn’t heard the phone call. This did make me think that, since such calls were a mainstay of Noel Edmunds’s radio career, maybe he can be sent down for that if no woman comes forward to claim he looked at her in a funny way in 1973. We can only live in hope.

    Seriously, a suicide is tragic. But is not a rational response. The way this is now being “spun” as proof that the media and internet need to be controlled is ridiculous, but typical of our oppressors who will latch onto and exploit anything for political gain. After all as I intimated above, “prank” phone calls by DJs are hardly new.

    It may well also be that the hospital management are now trying to cover their arses having given her some apocalyptic disciplinary carpeting for her mistake.

    In the end, this in my view comes down to the absurd deification of the royals by our (literally) “princess culture” that wants some woman to marry into the royal family and thereafter shit rainbows. The whole business is ridiculous.

  3. The call was high jinks, not “high jinx”, as you say, although your slip may be unintentionally accurate.

  4. As the War Secretary of the coming UK Libertarian Government (minimal-statist, Classical Liberal), I don’t think it’s very funny of a mere Australian “wireless staion” to let its DJs pretend to be our “Head of State”, and try to get through on a phone call, to…..what? Why? Was it supposed to be funny, or what? Why would they need to talk to these people on the other end, be they “royals” or whatever?

    The Australian State is very very touchy (being rather young), and very protective of its “Big Country Status”. Let it behave as if it is, please. Its Prime-Ministress even falls over herself in her desire to be seen at events.

    What were the buggers trying to prove?

    Do they really “like themselves”?…as a teacher disciplining us once asked us, after a transgression?

    I’m not saying we should censor the internet or phone calls etc. I’m merely trying to highlight why “modern people” who listen to wirelesses need to find strange things funny, like trying to phone up a woman who has got morning sickness while pretending to be her father-in-law and her father-in-law’s mother, as opposed to real comedy – such as listening to the dying gasps of politicians falling into very very deep and warm wet cowshit, and struggling for breath subesequently, and stuff like that. That would be funny. I’d let DJs phone up to take part in that, me, I would.

  5. I mean really, as a sort-uf-a-kinda-“own goal”, they could not have done better…

    In trying to hurt the poms and twist the tail of the Lion, and take the piss outa the pommie bastards, ‘coz they thought it was funny, they’ve killed an “Aussie Sheila”.

    Really well done, guys. That was clever that was, wasn’t it. 100% (not.)

    Sorry, people. I have nothing against ordinary Australians: merely the ones belonging to your Austrailian-Political EnemyClass, mostly who work in politics and media like here, and who join our own BritishPolitical-EnemyClass in making us so angry and hurt and insulted, that in the end there may be an outlashing of ire and hurt, and innocent people may get hurt. The British have not done anything wrong in showing The Rest Of The World How To Live, and you ought not to lampoon us for this.

  6. yes, high jinks

  7. Article super interessant. Beaucoup de discernement dans tes explications. Je met ca en favoris. Merci pour le partage !

  8. Oh no! The radio hosts who made the prank call to the hospital are reported today to be on the verge of suicide themselves! When will the cycle end? See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/kate-middleton/9732609/Duchess-hoax-call-radio-hosts-fragile-as-Metropolitan-Police-make-contact.html

  9. I renew my call for the dastardly Noel Edmonds to finally face justice for his “Gotchas”.

    Not to mention dropping that bloke off that crane.

  10. What we do not know is whether it was suicide. It is possible that it was either a natural death through pure coincidence or a natural death bought on by the stress of the event, for example, a heart attack. It is rather odd that the nature of her death has not been revealed publicly, at least in general terms.

    If it was suicide, it was such an extreme reaction to the event that it could not be reasonably anticipated. It could have been the straw which broke the camel’s back, a final stress building on unrelated existing stress.

    As to the woman’s competence, it is noteworthy that both she and the other unnamed nurse who gave the medical details are/were foreign. Had the nurses been English, it is unlikely they would have fallen for the scam because they would be familiar with British mores.

  11. Will Wolverhampton.

    Well, I’m the one person in England who hasn’t heard the phone call.

    No, there are others. I wasn’t interested. But I wonder if this was another example of how we’ve been blessed by Vibrancy? This seems to count as a “cultural misunderstanding”, and we all know that whitey is the only one to blame for those.

  12. my earlier response about the unfortunate lady’s mental competence was a bit hasty – i had forgotten that she didn’t hear the whole call, just the first line of it. as robert henderson points out, such a consequence could not reasonably be foreseen. i would go further – not even an unreasonable person could have foreseen it. i doubt whether there is a single person in the combined populations of australia and the uk who can say “they might have know this might happen”. of course with hindsight everybody is jumping on the bandwagon to condemn the radio station and their unfortunate announcers.

  13. Will Wolverhampton

    Yes, it is indeed a vibrancy story. Keith Vaz, that improved and updated version of Uriah Heep, is now involved:

    “Saldanha’s husband, Benedict Barboza, and their teenage son and daughter met Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, at the House of Commons, after the DJs responsible for the hoax call to the private hospital that was treating the Duchess of Cambridge for acute morning sickness said they were “gutted, shattered and heartbroken” by the nurse’s death.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/dec/10/hospital-radio-station-hoax-broadcast

    “Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee…” Dear, dear me. And poor, poor England.

  14. Will – Once Vaz gets comes into the picture you know that the matter has moved from a simple family tragedy to being a pc propaganda vehicle.

    I don’t know it is true, but I have just received an email saying that the Mexican media are saying she died of a heart attack. This is not implausible because (1) suicide has not been definitely stated as the cause fo death and (2) subcontinental Asians have a very high incidence of of heart disease.

  15. i believe she was found hanging from rope, so your diagnosis is probably a bit off!

  16. Will Wolverhampton

    Robert Henderson:

    Once Vaz gets comes into the picture you know that the matter has moved from a simple family tragedy to being a pc propaganda vehicle.

    Yes. Vaz is a vibrancy indicator: a kind of human prejudometer.

    The Peter Simple Column
    13 Apr 2001

    THE Macpherson Report’s definition of a “racist incident” as “any incident perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person” is causing immense trouble and confusion for all concerned. Yet there is a simple answer. As I have pointed out before, the Racial Prejudometer was originally developed by the West Midland firm of Ethnicaids for use by the race relations industry, but is now available to everybody (ask your nearest race relations stockist). Inexpensive and handy for pocket or handbag, you simply point it at any person (including yourself) you suspect of “racism”, press the easy-to-find “action” button and read off the result in prejudons, the internationally recognised scientific unit of racial prejudice.

    A satisfied client writes: “After reading the Macpherson Report, I began to worry about being racist. I was sleeping badly and losing my appetite. My job in an important call centre was at risk. My marriage was on the rocks. Then a friend told me about the prejudometer. What a difference! As I began to use it regularly, all my worries about racism vanished! Now I sleep like a baby, eat like a horse and am so full of energy and keenness that I have been promoted call centre section leader. I have just returned from an idyllic ‘second honeymoon’ in Florida and feel like a million dollars. Thank you, Ethnicaids, for all you have done for me.” (Name and address supplied).

    This is only one of thousands of testimonials. Why, then, is the prejudometer not in use by everybody in Britain today? Is it because of an all too common fear of science and technology? This simple electronic device is admittedly not yet perfect. There have been incidents in London when black people, Indians, Pakistanis, Somalis, Chinese, Japanese and others have all been involved, causing their prejudometers to “over-read” and implode.

    “There are still some snags and headaches to be ironed out,” says a spokesman for Ethnicaids. “But the backroom boys in our research division are working flat out, and one of these fine mornings they’re going to come up with the complete answer. Then we’ll all be able to think about racism not just some of the time but every minute of our lives.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/4261218/The-Peter-Simple-Column.html