I moved to the UK in the fall of 2010, knowing no one. Starting over in a new country, learning a new culture, and being isolated is a lot, but Caroline Flack was there to welcome me to my new home, the friendly face on television who hosted multiple reality shows. She, along with Emma Willis, taught me the colloquial phrases that would help me assimilate into UK daily life, as well as gave me something to talk about with strangers at the pub. “Did you see the latest episode of…?!”
Then there was her personal life, which I mildly kept up with when I was over there, primarily because it was something to do while I watched TV, or had a few spare minutes to mindlessly browse the internet.
The point is I liked her, and the larger point is—I’m complicit in her death, which occurred yesterday, and is widely reported to be death by suicide.
For at least 10 years, she was a staple in the UK tabloids, and I gave trash publications like The Daily Mail and The Sun their coveted clicks for years. It wasn’t until recently, with the daily soul-crushing hate of the Trump administration barreling down on me that I made a conscious effort to stop giving clicks to publications that go out of their way to build public figures (who not surprisingly, are almost always women) up, only to knock them down in the most vicious way possible. I could no longer shield myself from the negativity and hatred they spewed, and it was affecting me. I can only imagine what being the subject of that kind of gleeful vitriol does to someone, and I’m ashamed of my complicity in the process.
Caroline had recently hit a very rough patch in her life and career—in mid-December she was arrested and charged with domestic violence against her boyfriend after an alleged attack that involved striking him in the early morning hours in her home. She lost her Love Island hosting job and was forced to not have any contact with her significant other, as the system designated him the victim in the attack. Her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, denied he was the victim of any attack and instead considered himself a “witness.” Caroline was due to stand trial in early March.
The press, of course, had a field day with this. There are multiple images out there of blood drops on her door, and of course, The Sun managed to get an image the blood-stained mattress inside her home to run on their front page.
The UK tabloid media is vicious—there’s a reason why Prince Harry has done his best to shield his wife, Meghan Markle from the constant onslaught of abuse she faces, including suing The Daily Mail, and ultimately leaving the Royal Family in order to live in another country, away from their constant stream of vile conjecture, and stolen personal information. When I was in the UK (2010-2013) one of the big scandals at the time was the prosecution of the voice mail tampering of Milly Dowler’s phone. Dowler was a missing teenager, and members of Rupert Murdoch’s publications hacked into her voice mail (while she was actively missing) and because her voice mailbox was full, deleted some of her messages in order to get access to any more incoming voice mails. The result of which was the assumption that if someone was deleting the teen’s voice mails, it could be Milly herself and she might be alive—she was not. Milly was murdered by a serial killer, and her body wouldn’t be found for approximately 6 months. Other phone-hacking victims include members of the Royal Family, victims of the July 7th London bombings, and relatives of soldiers who were killed in combat. It’s sickening.
Of course, everyone was upset for a while about this, some people lost their jobs, others went to jail…and then nothing changed. This scandal came to light in 2011.
Not surprisingly, the publications that gleefully posted all reputation damaging content they could find, scrambled to take down their vile content once Flack’s death was announced, in tandem with their mournful, solemn, tributes to her life and career. The day before Caroline’s death, The Sun, which along with The Daily Mail, are the scummiest of scummy publications, posted this:
Here come the tweets saying how tragic her death is but just yesterday it was this trash being posted. pic.twitter.com/WwspCeik8b— Adam Davies (@Adlightning) February 15, 2020
Not deleted quick enough pic.twitter.com/OAlqxgCdfZ— soph (@sophie72_) February 15, 2020
Here’s a columnist for The Sun, crying crocodile tears over Caroline, in a series of tweets he’s published in the past 24 hours…driving people to read his column at The Sun about her.
Caroline is one of the most extraordinary woman I’ve ever met. She was kind to a fault. She cared like no one else. She was vulnerable. Other people’s feelings meant the world to her. She deserved so much more. I am truly heartbroken. This is so wrong. So wrong.— Dan Wootton (@danwootton) February 15, 2020
Gotta get those clicks, in, I guess. Death is good for business.
This headline is especially ghoulish, please be warned if you expand the image of it:
Leave her be for GOD SAKE pic.twitter.com/HrJy6c9gSE— Rachel (@Snoopy74) February 16, 2020
Nothing will change from this. The press will eventually move on, picking their next target, and when the inevitable happens again (and it will happen again.) The same tributes will be written, and the same clicks will be generated. It’s an unending cycle that puts the onus on the person being harassed to find a way though, because they’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
Staying silent diminishes the space you’re allowed to take up, making you eat shit and take the abuse that gets heaped your way, never defending yourself, with the subtext that you should be grateful to be in the public eye at all. Speaking up puts you at risk for further scorn and shitty headlines—just ask Meghan Markle.
Might want to reflect how he criticises people himself. He's a hypocrite pic.twitter.com/6wYPDdt9Wv— Carl (@carl_brace) February 15, 2020
The best anyone can do is try to disengage with the entire process. Celebrity gossip can be mindless fun but not when it comes at such a great cost.
The prevailing sentiment in the wake of Caroline Flack’s death is to be kind, you never know what someone’s going through, a statement Caroline made herself only a few months ago:
View this post on Instagram
I wanted to write something about mental health day last week but I was knee deep in work. And some days it’s hard to write your feelings of your not in the right place. The last few weeks I’ve been in a really weird place… I find it hard to talk about it .. I guess it’s anxiety and pressure of life … and when I actually reached out to someone they said I was draining. I feel like this is why some people keep their emotions to themselves. I certainly hate talking about my feelings. And being a burden is my biggest fear…. I’m lucky to be able to pick myself up when things feel shit. But what happens if someone can’t . Be nice to people. You never know what’s going on . Ever
However, what good is kindness when the system is set up to reward cruelty and hate?
What happened to Caroline Flack is heartbreaking. It will be heartbreaking when it happens to the next woman, and it will continue to be heartbreaking until something finally changes. I hope that change comes sooner rather than later. There’s no need for the level of intrusion and gleeful cruelty that gets inflicted on these women by the tabloid media.
Header Image Source: Getty