Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq
On the weekend of the 10-11th April there was no news. The world stopped, or at least if you were watching British news coverage, that is what you would have been lead to believe. News coverage revolved around one thing only: the death of prince Phillip. Of course, events elsewhere continued to happen, but the deafening clamour made over a royal death was such that everything else was drowned out. Whatever one’s personal feelings are regarding the late prince, the hullabaloo caused has shown at least two grievous faults in the media’s priorities, as well as what the public are interested in.
The first grievous fault is obvious: it has conveniently distracted public attention from more important news. It may come as a surprise to learn that there had been riots in Northern Ireland during the time everyone else was grieving for a man they didn’t know. Sporadic violence has been occurring in several towns and cities since the end of March, involving young people and children in violent clashes with the police. These riots have been linked to the problematic Irish Sea border put in place as a result from Brexit negotiations. How surreal it must be to have your street the site of bricks being thrown at advancing police in riot gear, and to then turn on the TV to see the UK news crying over a Prince. To think, the violence erupting in a nation part of the UK gets less attention than the death of one person!
Then there was also Greensill. David Cameron lobbied the government through personal contacts on behalf of Greensill Capital for easier access to government loans. But there was very little coverage on this; the Duke of Edinburgh’s death meant that Cameron’s dodgy dealing was, blessedly for him no doubt, very far down the list of headlines. And it was a grim twist of irony wherein the man who fired the starting gun for the Brexit referendum was just as anonymous as the violence in Northern Ireland that originated from his decision.
The second grievous fault is far more serious: prince Phillip’s death shows that the public has a gramophone mind – by which I mean the ability to think according to public opinion regardless of contradiction. Take these two articles written by Piers Morgan. The headline of the first, written in 2019, reads, ‘It’s time the Queen gave her rude, stubborn, insensitive, arrogant and dangerous Duke of Hazard his driving marching orders’. The headline of the second, written on 9th April, reads, ‘Thank you, Prince Philip – you were the greatest of Britons, a selfless, strong-willed and ferociously loyal man who devoted your life to public duty, your beloved Queen and your adoptive country’. Piers Morgan is always a contentious example of public opinion, though it goes to show how easily news is spun out depending on whatever prevailing record of public opinion needs playing.
But there is worse than Morgan’s amnesia. For we have forgotten how, in early February, it was revealed that the Queen lobbied the government in the 1970’s to insert a clause in a draft transparency law that would allow her to conceal the extent of her wealth from public inquiry. Such cases demonstrate that the royals aren’t merely a harmless antique to be pulled out for diplomatic missions, but that the Queen’s consent can still be used to alter law to the gross benefit of the crown. Other than make us wonder whether the royals are proud nationalists themselves, this should decry the ease in which the public forgets and returns to the simple adoration of pomp and prowess. Another royal story, and the plot has not changed: regardless of what royalty does, we bow down before them.