The death of Caroline Flack is really a tragedy. A beautiful, talented, successful young woman who felt so worthless and unloved, so scared and hopeless, that she decided to take her own life.
Someone who, despite the care and support of friends and family – and the boyfriend she was forbidden to see – could ultimately not find a way for himself.
My heart goes out to everyone who knew her and loved her, especially the friend who stayed with her at the time of her death.
For them, her death is a deep personal grief. But for the rest of us, for those who have never met or known her as a charismatic presence on the screen, it also hits hard.
Caroline Flack walks hand in hand with friend Lewis Burton who arrives in October last year at the Ivy restaurant in Soho
Because there is something about the nature and circumstances of her death that speaks of a deeper, darker truth about the world we live in, and about the kind of culture that we have become.
Because I have no doubt that, regardless of the problems that Flack has faced, she is just as much a victim of her own demons as of social media and her insidious influence on the human psyche – and on society in general.
At the time of her arrest for alleged abuse of her friend, Lewis Burton, last December, I already felt a sense of disaster.
It seemed to me that, regardless of the circumstances of the incident, there was simply no way this woman could ever receive a fair hearing, especially after her previous boyfriend, Andrew Brady, posted screenshots of a heavily edited confidentiality agreement that prevented him from discussing an relationship on social media, along with the message ‘abuse has no gender’.
The whole world seemed to be piled up online, so her decision to move away from ITV’s Love Island was inevitable. Within a few hours, her reputation was destroyed, despite protests from the alleged victim, who described her as “the prettiest friend.”
40-year-old British TV presenter Caroline Flack was found dead today in her home on Saturday
At this time it seemed to me, it didn’t matter what happened during a legal process: she was tried and convicted in the social media court.
Under the circumstances, even the most robust person, even the most half-full person, would feel completely sprayed.
I have come to the sharp end of such things a few times, I have an idea of how it feels. The wave of negativity hits you with a force that is impossible to describe.
It wipes you off your feet, leads you to distant shores of self-doubt and disgust, causing you to be shipwrecked in the darkest recesses of your mind.
Friends and family can offer support – but in the end it is not those whose essence is shattered into millions of pieces, each a small shard of aversion that strikes straight to the heart.
And it doesn’t stop there. Where organizations and institutions could once be relied upon to inhibit madness, to exercise a certain restraint in cases such as Flack’s, they now seem to surrender at the slightest hint of trouble.
Caroline Flack was found dead in her flat in London at the age of 40. Many have paid tribute to the star
In the case of ITV, a number of close friends of Flack have expressed concern that the broadcaster has not done enough to protect its star.
Just as recently, Alastair Stewart, an ITV employee of about 40 years old, talked about a stupid Twitter that spit on a Shakespeare quote, when Flack closed ITV and moved on as quickly as possible, more concerned about his costly reviews than the well-being of this young woman.
Regarding the CPS, the decision to continue with the prosecution – which she had heard shortly before taking her own life – seems to be the astonishing person.
Certainly on the surface of things, it is difficult to see what possible purpose it could have served, since Burton clearly had no desire to make a declaration.
Neither was Flack an obvious danger to the public – this was clearly a domestic dispute, although the full details of exactly what happened that night are still unclear.
The only explanation I can assume is that its eagerness to prosecute had something to do with the government’s new focus on cases of domestic violence, as set out in the recently published domestic abuse law, which aims in particular to “enforce control” tackle ‘and’ transform the reaction into the legal system ‘.
Flack is pictured above in a promotional recording for the 2019 series. She had previously presented the ITV show Love Island
Announced as a major breakthrough by women’s groups and campaigners, the bill emphasizes the protection of victims, in particular cases where perpetrators intimidate their victims to bring charges. (Note that a court order prohibited Flack and Burton from contacting each other.)
Anyway, what a bitter irony that has introduced a principle to protect the vulnerable may have inadvertently led – as the friends and supporters of Flack strongly believe – to her death.
Of course there is no doubt that something happened that night between Flack and Burton; but we don’t know if it was just a line that got a bit out of hand or a symptom of something more systematic and sinister.
But what I do know is this: without social media it would never have gotten so wildly out of hand.
Because for all gossip magazines who love a celebrity scandal, the fact remains that even the most beneficial elements of the press are obliged to work according to strict guidelines which, if violated, can have serious consequences.
The same is simply not true for social media. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, which host torrents of abuse of the most common kind, are not defined as publishers and are therefore not responsible for the rules of the game.
Also, the laws of slander and slander are not strictly applicable, meaning that everyone can say more or less everything they like about someone – and even more so if the person is known or successful, as was the case with Flack. The larger the poppy, the more they will try to break it down.
No matter how stupid Flack behaved, whatever mistakes she made, she did not deserve to pay them with her life.
That is why the government’s decision announced last week to introduce proposals to regulate platforms hosting user-generated content is coming so quickly. Although campaigners in freedom of expression are rightly concerned about her mission, the call for regulation certainly comes from good intentions.
Over the past few years, these multi-million pound companies have made no effort to control the tens of millions of offensive and illegal posts that populate their platforms.
Thanks to them, we live in a world that is spit on gall, where armies of the professionally offended march in the simplest way, where gossip and speculation are passed as truth, where the least error of judgment is strengthened to destruction and where the reputation of a person can be stripped in seconds by a bloodthirsty, predatory crowd against whom there is simply no legitimate protection.
Social media companies have had ample opportunity to control themselves, but they have not. As a result, countless vulnerable individuals, famous or otherwise, have suffered and paid far too much with their lives.
It is time to clear the swamp – and ultimately be responsible for the death of Caroline Flack.