Caroline Flack and the issue of Media Witch Hunts

Words by Sian Irvine

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On 14th February 2020, TV personality Caroline Flack took her own life. Following a well documented legal battle whereby Caroline had been accused of assaulting her partner, the tabloid papers hounded Caroline both in and out of court. She had stepped down from her role in Love Island, come off social media and by all accounts was keeping her head down in lieu of the trial. Yet, the papers were hungry for blood.

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This trajectory of the press hounding women in the media spotlight is not unusual, nor is it new. Just days ago, Jameela Jamil came off all social media platforms following a tirade of abuse after coming out as bisexual. Piers Morgan frequently attacks Jamil (amongst others) on Twitter, accusing her of having “Munchausen’s Sydrome”, a mental disorder whereby the person repeatedly and deliberately acts as though they are sick, when they are in fact in full health. Jameela, who suffers from Elhers-Danlos Syndrome, which affects the joints, skin and scar formation, has also battled with eating disorders throughout her life and currently pioneers the “i weigh” campaign, which seeks to actively fight eating disorder and diet culture.

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Meghan Markle is no stranger to being attacked by the press. From being accused of cradling her baby bump too much, too single handedly causing famine and deforestation due to her eating of avocados, Meghan’s vilification by the British press is made all the more insidious by the side-by-side comparison between her and Kate Middleton.

And of course, Meghan is not the first to have married into the royals to be persecuted by the British Media. Her Mother In Law, Harry’s mum Lady Diana had been the subject of intense press scrutiny for months in the run up to her death in 1997.

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More recently, Amy Winehouse frequented the front pages of tabloid newspapers prior to her death in 2011. Despite clear battles with addiction, ongoing health issues and a lack of support from her family, Amy was made the laughing stock of the nation.

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My question is, when will it end? When will we, as a nation, learn to stop bear-baiting women in the public eye until it pushes them to the brink, or to death?

Caroline Flack was due in court in March ahead of the case against her. She never got there. She never got to see the outpouring of love for her after her passing. All she knew was the vitriol she received from the papers in the run up to her death- something we have seen so many times before.

Being kind is not only underrated, but it is important. It is becoming rarer in the world we live in. There is a social disconnect between our words and the people they are directed at. But they, like us, are all human beings just trying to navigate this often difficult world.

May Caroline’s death be a lesson to all of us. And, in a world where we can be anything- may we be kind.

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