Piers Morgan is working on a new career as a martyr for free speech after resigning from ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Even though Morgan has, with some justification, been termed a “bloviating bully”, he has a point.
He stormed off the set after being berated for questioning what Duchess of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey about her mental health. “I don’t believe a word she says, Meghan Markle,” he said. “I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report.”
Morgan later backtracked on his characteristically caustic comments. “Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on,” he tweeted, along with a pompous Winston Churchill meme, but it was “not for me to question if she felt suicidal”.
The Duchess confided to Oprah Winfrey that she was denied medical help when she had suicidal thoughts. A close friend, fellow actress Janina Gavankar, told the media that there were many emails and texts to prove this.
It has also emerged that the Duchess had personally contacted the CEO of ITV to complain that Morgan’s scepticism could prove damaging to others suffering with mental health problems.
It’s not just freedom of speech which is at stake here. It’s also the freedom to roll your eyes, raise your eyebrows, frown, look askance, grimace, groan, or glare.
It now seems that claims made by superior persons about their mental health must not be questioned even when such “personal and private” matters are described to millions of TV viewers. And while we are sternly warned that we must refer to disabled people as “living with” a condition rather than “suffering from it”, apparently it is still OK to refer to the famous and wealthy as suffering with their mental health.
It is unlikely that viewers could identify with the plight of the Duchess unless they had inadvertently married into the British Royal family. But even in that situation most people would seek mental health help from a doctor rather than from the human resources department of Buckingham Palace.
Prince Harry undoubtedly sympathised with his wife’s plight, but social isolation must have played a great part in her mental suffering. Were there no ways to relieve her pain other than knocking at the door of a palace bureaucrat? Although the Duchess has cut herself off from her father, could it have been arranged for her mother to stay with her if she needed personal support during her pregnancy?
The mental health charity Mind joined the chorus of critics against Piers Morgan, saying: “It’s vital that, when people reach out for support or share their experiences of ill mental health, they are treated with dignity, respect and empathy.”
And yet there are many people with real mental illness and disabilities in this country who are not treated with “dignity, respect and empathy”. What about the “Do Not Resuscitate” orders for mentally disabled people in the Covid-19 crisis? They can also find themselves at the tender mercies of the Court of Protection, which can, and does, order the withdrawal of treatment (formerly known as artificially administered nutrition and hydration).
And Mind does not seem to mind too much about campaigns for assisted suicide, which promote depression and anxiety by spreading fake new about people dying in agony. Nor does it seem to worry about the fact that legalising assisted suicide leads to a rise in all suicides.
Social justice activists are happy to whip up fears of suicide when it comes to insisting, for example, that children and young people should be able to access puberty blockers, sex hormones, and/or sex-change surgery. But when it comes to allowing sick and old people to be killed when they should be cared for, it becomes perfectly acceptable.
Piers Morgan’s abrasive interviewing style was seen as a plus by ITV when he was hired. Are all interviewers from now on to be clones of the empathetic and unchallenging Oprah Winfrey? Some guests, especially the powerful and privileged, need to be told, “hang on there, that’s rubbish, isn’t it?” But this will be seen as an affront to their human dignity.
If that should happen, TV interviews will become little more than virtue-signalling for the rich and famous.
Mental health has become the latest victim-status category. How much better would it be if the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, instead of weaponising their fragile mental health, were to use their Royal status to promote the welfare of those really suffering from mental illness?