Ben Goldacre is distraught about a Telegraph piece on an epically dramatic suicide that reproduces details of the author’s methodology.
He argues that, because there’s evidence that gruesome and detailed coverage of suicides can contribute to raised suicide rates in the population, the media shouldn’t report on them.
My view is that this is bollocks: it works only if you think that a few extra deaths isn’t a trade-off worth making for great entertainment. And given the way society works, either you’re a pretty despicable puritan, or you do – whether you realise it or not – believe that said trade-off is worth making.
Otherwise you’d not only ban boxing (I’m aware that some idiots do want to ban boxing; fuck them, obviously), but also every other activity which is purely fun rather than ‘useful’ and which has the potential to kill people.
So as a result, and because the miserable sods at the Telegraph lack the courage of their convictions and so have taken the piece down, I’ve reproduced the ‘could be useful advice’ part here. Although I’ve anonymised, because it doesn’t matter in the slightest who the chap is, hence no reason to associate his family’s name with it:
[Mr X] tied the Black & Decker tool to a leg of a snooker table in his lounge, taped up the on-button and plugged it into a timer.
[Mr X], who had consumed a small quantity of alcohol but no drugs, then lay down under the snooker table face up and placed the chainsaw against his neck. A piece of the tool’s cardboard box initially cushioned the blades from his neck.
The hearing heard that the timer, which is usually used to turn lights on and off, was fixed to start up the chainsaw for 15 minutes.
When it activated, it sliced three-quarters through his neck and across into his right shoulder only stopping from a complete severing when his t-shirt was dragged into the blades.
That’s a pretty good effort. Lesson: don’t wear a t-shirt if you want to do a proper self-topping.
(as it happens, my dad knew someone who decapitated himself with a chainsaw accidentally. Surprisingly easy to do if you’re cutting above your shoulder height and at the limits of your reach, apparently…)
Finally, Ben’s piece is slightly personalised with a ‘I know the horrible effects of suicide and of media-reported violent death on the family’-ness. While as an anonymous blogger I’m asking you to take this on trust, I think it’s fair for me to make the point that I’m so fucking far ahead of Goldacre on that score it isn’t funny. So any Samaritanists, touchy-feely-ists, well-meaning-ists, etc who take issues with this piece on ‘you don’t understand the horrors of it all’ grounds can, with the best will in the world, go and fuck themselves.