“DO NO HARM’ is No Laughing Matter

560064-jacintha-saldanha-india-britain-royal-pregnancy-hoaxFrom news.com.au

Last week royal prank DJ Michael Christian has been given an award in an internal competition that recognizes his company’s “best in the land”. He was awarded a trip to Los Angeles as part of his prize.

Although Christian and fellow DJ Mel Greig have been linked to the suicide of a nurse after making a prank call to a London hospital, the folks at Southern Cross Austereo think he’s one of the best employees they have. If he is the best employee they have, one can only wonder about their worst or even average ones. It looks like that prank – the act of colossal bad taste, insensitivity and arrogance – was no fluke after all.

Australian disc jockey Michael Christian told an interviewer that “Prank calls are made every day on every radio station in every country around the world, and they have been for a long time, and no one could have imagined this to happen.”

He was talking about the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse who was on the receiving end of a prank call he made with co-host Mel Greig. Saldanha felt so humiliated by falling for the ruse that she took her own life.

Is humiliating and degrading others a laughing matter? Or are there other ways of ‘entertaining’ audience without inflicting unnecessary harm to others?

As Bruce Weinstein points out, the ethical principle at the heart of that matter is simple: Do No Harm. We associate this principle with health care professionals, and rightly so: We’d like our physicians to make us better. But at the very least, we can expect that they won’t make us worse. Yet Do No Harm applies not just to health care providers but to everyone else. Although prank calls are part of radio programs around the world, the public still has a right to demand that media professionals avoid doing or saying things that would cause others to feel humiliated or degraded.  Therefore letting the person who took the call know that the whole thing was a joke is a common practice with prank calls.

There are lots of good entertainment shows that ‘do no harm’. Let’s take as an example Ellen Degeneres – one of my favourite comedians. Every day Ellen ends her show with thanking her guests and then saying “Be kind to one another, bye”. So entertainment shows can by kind as well as fun after all. I wish one day entertainment industry all over the world adopts “do no harm” principle in their work and starts rewarding and encouraging ‘kind fun’, that spreads kindness and compassion. Let’s be kind with our laughter.

Do no harm

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12 thoughts on ““DO NO HARM’ is No Laughing Matter

  1. Good for you for speaking out. People need to take responsibility for their own actions and words, not hide behind a generalization.

  2. Certain things are just not funny and not worth the potential harm they can cause. Case in point…

  3. melanietoulouse says:

    I do recall that sad story… No, definitely not we can’t laugh at everything or worse at everyone! Such a pity and such a shame that it’s often easier to harm than to do good, unfortunately… Human nature hasn’t changed since “homo sapiens”!
    – – –
    Great and realistic post, merci-thanx a lot! Have a serene day!

  4. feralc4t says:

    Radio presenters seem to think they are above reproach in every way, not true,,

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Very good point. I wonder where they got that notion though, those ‘Radio Gods’, who believe that they can ‘play’ with ordinary mortal humans in any way they like.

  5. Jane says:

    I am all for doing things in the spirit of fun, but this was mean, which is often what we do in the name of humor. We are a society of poking humor at folks all in the name of a joke. It is a form of bullying.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Totally agree with you on that. Also, I feel that people often forget that sense of humour varies from culture to culture as well as from individual to individual within the culture. Something that might be funny and appropriate for one person can be hurting and insulting to another, especially when like in this case that ‘prank’ turned into a public humiliation of a person.

  6. bittygirl51 says:

    I agree with Jane and there aren’t too many ways I can personally be treated that offend me, but belittle, humiliate or make fun of me in a mean spirited way and I become very offended and feel as though I’m being “bullied”!

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Very good comment, bittygirl51. It is interesting to note that schools nowdays put a lot of effort into preventing bullying and explaining to children that it is not OK. Unfortunately, not much done about that in the world of adults.

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