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Daniel Alexandre Portoraro Headshot

Prank Calling DJs Don't Deserve Death Threats

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This has gone on long enough. Nearly a week after Jacintha Saldanha -- household name of the week -- committed suicide, it is now being reported that the two kangaroo DJs who played the prank that allegedly led to her death have been moved to safehouses this Thursday due to threats on their lives.

Let's be blunt, it's a tragedy that the woman killed herself -- as so far as any suicide is -- but unfortunately, it seems to be lost on many that the tragedy of an act does not validate it.

This may sound callous, yes, but when there are people sending the DJs death threats, such a tone should be taken.

There are two ways to look at Saldanha's suicide: the first (and most popular) is that her death was the result of the prank phone call. The second is that the prank phone was the hair that broke the camel's back.

Let's look at the latter first. One would have to be incredibly naïve to think that someone would kill herself over such a small thing. Saldanha was a wife, and mother of two; she had the mental faculty, and resolve, to become a nurse at King Edward VII hospital - certainly no small feat. Her suicide was likely the consequence of a cocktail of issues, and this prank that gained international exposure and her involvement with it simply threw her over the edge.

If we are to accept this reasoning -- as we ought to -- we still cannot place the blame on the DJs, let alone send them death threats. After all, how were they to know? Ask, in normal Australian accents, "Sorry, are you having troubles? We only ask because we want to play a phone call, you see, and don't want a situation which outrages the public more than, say, Assad massacring his own people every day."

The DJs had no way of knowing of her life, and we would be very much amiss if we were to think we can always know what others are going through. We cannot always put ourselves in the shoes of others. We cannot, and should not be forever walking on eggshells; unless, of course, we intend future generations to be emotional anaemics who second, triple, quadruple guess everything they're about to say.

But the more popular train of thought vis-à-vis Saldanha's suicide is far more troubling. Already, there have been stories questioning the end of prank phone calls, and certainly, if Saldanha's suicide note reveals she hanged herself (meat is hung, men are hanged) solely because of joke call, we can almost certainly expect to see a motion in the House questioning the issue.

But if this were the case, if the note did blame the DJs, under no circumstances whatsoever does that mean they are valid. The DJs ought to feel bad, but they oughtn't feel guilty. And under no circumstances should we allow this extremist reaction from a then-deeply troubled woman to dictate how we live and, yes, find humor. Again, the tragedy of an action does not validate it, however frigid that may be to hear.

In all likelihood however, the situation is closer to the former illustration. And yet, there are those who refuse to accept it. It is not interesting enough, I suppose, to accept that suicides are often the consequences of compounded action as opposed to instantaneous, one-time things. We seem hell-bent on living with blinders, always seeking to blame one group.

And there are times for such blame. When a gay teenage boys kills himself because he's being beaten every day, we can place the blame on a specific group; they who willingly sought to cause harm. When a girl purposefully overdoses and dies on pharmaceuticals because she's being constantly molested by an uncle, we can blame him, for he willingly sought to inflict pain.

But these DJs did nothing of the sort. Their intent was innocent. Their act itself was chaste, and childishly construed -- there was no dark matter in the prank itself -- and they do not deserve messages such as "[there are] bullets out there with your name on [them.]"

There are moments for anger, and there are moments for blame. This is not one of them. This tragic situation is being used by those with too much time on their hands (and rice paper skin) to feign outrage so that they may feel virtuous until next week's tragedy. This is a moment for silence in the passing of a troubled woman -- a victim of a series of occurrences, not just a phone call. And if those who seek to bubble-wrap the world had even a modicum of respect for the deceased, they would accept the sad situation, shut up and move on, giving the grieving Saldanha family the peace they deserve.