We live in a society of contradictions. That’s the easiest and probably the most honest way I can begin an article about the suicide of a public figure. Our natural instinct is to look for clear cut and irrefutable answers to questions, and consistent opinions to hold, but the world is often much more complicated than that.
Caroline Flack’s death was met with shock and mourning from all corners. People in newspaper columns, on the television and on the radio were queuing up to give obituaries of a beautiful character taken way before her time. Then, before the ink was dry on those stories, the inquest began. Fingers were first pointed at Love Island, the ITV reality show that Flack presented, with which there had been three associated suicides. The argument was that if Jeremy Kyle, who for a long time had a show on the same channel, was taken off the air after one associated suicide, Love Island was on borrowed time.
However, the point was rightly made that the intense media pressure on Flack’s life had not come as a result of her actions on Love Island, especially given that she was a presenter and not a contestant. Flack had been charged with assault of her ex-boyfriends, who had described in graphic detail some of the vile things that she had apparently done to him.
Domestic abuse is a vile and serious crime
This is where the back and forth of moral judgment begins around this story. As sad as the death of someone is, whitewashing the abuse and the hurt they caused is not right. Flack was due to be trialed for serious crimes with a weight of evidence against her, and thus was not the angel that some have been trying to paint her as, and it is grossly indecent to her (alleged) victims to do that.
The phrase “people make mistakes” was banded around a bit yesterday, too. Forgetting to turn the lights off when you leave the house is a mistake. Domestic abuse is a vile act and a serious crime. Whatever you may have thought of Caroline Flack otherwise, if there’s any truth to the allegations you must treat them as seriously as they deserve to be treated.
Despite this, Flack’s actions did not warrant the media’s reaction. Unless you support the death penalty for assault (and I don’t), you must agree that the media driving someone to suicide over it is disgusting and disproportional. And it was the media that made this happen; the same media fawning over the loss of a “loving character” and printing the numbers to suicide hotlines in this morning’s issues were relentlessly badgering Caroline Flack over the last couple of months.
We must be more considerate than we are now
Story after story after story, most probably reporters on doorsteps and cameramen at every turn in her life. What little privacy she would have had as a public figure will have evaporated. In the modern world, too, there is no escaping it. Sure, print media and television have been around for a long time at this point, but you could in the past not buy a newspaper or leave the television off. With social media now prevalent, there is no easy escape like there used to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong advocate for social media and I’m not about to go on a “we live in a society” rant about how the world was better before the iPhone was invented, but with the world at our fingertips these days we must be more considerate than we are now. We are geared towards seeking out other people’s dirty laundry, and I can’t really blame anyone for wanting to read an invasive gossip story if the headline is tweeted in capital letters. We do however owe each other a modicum of consideration, to ask ourselves “is it really any of my business?” before reading, sharing, or responding to one of these types of articles.
The media, too, ought to be more considerate. Churning out “gossip” and relentlessly going after one celebrity or another might sell papers and harvest clicks, but is it the right thing to do? No. Regulating the press isn’t the sort of route I would want to go down given the freedom-of-speech-based repercussions, but the media must learn to check itself. Moreover, if people stop consuming the type of celebrity-gossip “news” that came about via an effective media stalking of one person and did her such damage that she took her own life, then they will stop creating it.
In short, Caroline Flack was neither the angel some would paint her as, nor deserving of the awful treatment she got from the media.