Comment permalink

Caroline Flack seen at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, on December 23, 2019 in London. Photo:...
Caroline Flack seen at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, on December 23, 2019 in London. Photo: Getty Images
It is possible not many New Zealanders have heard of Caroline Flack, nor of the reason she has become the subject of another round of soul-searching about the potentially lethal influence of reality television, tabloid news coverage, and social media.

Ms Flack was the former host of British television show Love Island, one of those wretched programmes beloved by a disturbingly large proportion of viewers but appearing to possess no redeeming qualities.

We speak of her in the past tense not only because she left the show but because she took her own life last week.

Splashed across the pages of the famously brutal British tabloids following charges of assault against her partner, Ms Flack — who had been open about her battles with mental health — then became a target of social media trolls. Eventually, the pressure and the nastiness became too much for her.

Her death has prompted much discussion about both media intrusion — including lobbying of the British Government to look at a "Caroline’s law" to rein in the most ravenous paparazzi — and the need to stem online abuse.

Many have pointed out the inherent difficulty in ensuring a situation like this does not happen again, given lots of the same people leaving gushing notes for the dead host on Twitter were earlier feverishly reading the Daily Mail and Sun websites for the latest update in her personal drama.

The inclination, of course, is to blame "the media", that amorphous concept that now encompasses everything from relatively staid public broadcasters like the BBC to the sensationalist tabloids to the various opinions expressed on social websites.

As media columnist Roy Greenslade told the New York Times, it was "one of those great hypocrisies of the British public, that they indulge in reading, and often writing, about these celebrities and then when things go wrong, they turn on the media and say it’s all the media’s fault".

The Sun has fought back by directing criticism at the British Crown Prosecution Service for "its pursuit of fragile Caroline Flack" in forcing her to trial.

In the bigger picture, the rise of reality television over the past two decades is a factor to address.

It is, of course, anything but "reality" to be plonked on a "love island" with other Millennials, changing partners at the drop of a hat, all while being under the constant watch of a television camera.

Reality TV can chew people up and spit them out. A Metro investigation last year found 38 "celebrities" around the world with links to reality shows were suspected to have died by suicide. Most, for whatever reason, had become "national hate figures’’, amplified by online trolls, and that is no fun for anyone.

New Zealand, being a much smaller pond and with no publication that remotely resembles the Sun or the Daily Mail, tends to avoid this sort of issue, but it is not unfamiliar with the pressure social and celebrity media can have on people with a public identity. Look at the fish-bowl existence of people like the late Charlotte Dawson and Max Key.

The lesson, here as in Britain, is that we could go a long way as a society by being kinder, and by working together to clean up online abuse.

If we knew little about Caroline Flack during her life, we can try to make positive change following her death.


They did it.

Of course they did it.

Southlanders, as we all know, are an innovative and resilient lot, and their words should never be doubted.

So, there should be little surprise — but plenty of admiration — at the news the Southland community and its supportive licensing trust have made such progress towards the establishment of a charity hospital in Invercargill.

Our heartiest congratulations to Melissa and the late Blair Vining, who worked so tirelessly to improve cancer care for their people.



The reality is trolls and online commenters are nonentities.

I'm not Norwegian, but my threads have no imprimatur of MSM.

Dead loss, the bully narcissists.