Richard Elliott gives his take on the coverage of the royal baby’s birth
I am pretty certain that I am the first person you’ve heard this from: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge birthed a kid on Monday evening. That is, I’d be pretty certain of that if you haven’t left the house, or turned on the television or the internet in the last 48 hours. I’d still wager that this wouldn’t save you from the news, however, as no doubt emotionally delighted but slightly confused Britons can be heard (if one listens carefully) barking the same drivel at each other and indeed all citizens in between them, across the primeval swamps of the United Kingdom.
The unrelenting coverage of the baby hasn’t just been enough to make a cat laugh; the cat has sadly passed away as a result of its sides having split, and I am now planning on skinning the thing to make a scarf out of it. Take stock of the treats we have had to endure, spanning from the pre-natal run-up (this included the Radio Times with a hypothetical royal baby on the cover and the gossip magazines punching out the usual bile with a monarchic twist) to the post-natal. Now that the sprog has been born, the madness has continued, ranging from the comment from David Cameron that the whole country will celebrate [see image 1], to the illiteracy [see image 2] of on-hand medical professionals, presumably so overcome with emotion that all of their linguistic faculties have gone to pot. ITN I’m sure will be very proud of the hours-long live coverage of a door they keenly provided for their audience last night.
Now, I am not doubting that I have an a priori interest in the reproductive cycle of a beautiful young woman (don’t kid yourselves otherwise, fellas). But the interest should not be extended beyond either the sexually primal or the sentimental into the social, be it a Duchess or a dressmaker. It is clear from the predictable and overblown homage played by all parties of the press, however, that they do not share my view on the matter. In fairness, a lot of credit must go to the House of Windsor on this matter, including the new mother and its newest member, in the light that this social coercion is not perpetuated by them themselves. It is in fact exclusively the media which informs us that I must care about this baby, either as a royalist in celebration or as a republican in protest. Even vanguards of republicanism such as The Guardian and Laurie Penny have provided their own offerings of unceasing coverage, writing in protest of the monarchy, attributing more fodder to the perpetual ‘story’ (note: I am aware of my own meta-hypocrisy here).
The whole spectacle already emanates hysteria akin to the emotional outbreak which followed the death of Princess Diana, so it may be wise to use that event as a yardstick to judge this one for my purpose here. The British viewing figures for the royal wedding, and Diana’s funeral numbered at over 24 million and 32.78 million respectively, according to the Beeb and Wikipedia. This suggests that there is a huge amount of the population who, contrary to the impression given to you by the press, share my thoughts in these supposedly universal moments of emotional release; that, namely, royal business isn’t that important to me, or to them. It is to the great discredit of the press that catering for this unsung crowd, often in the majority rather than the minority, is discounted. The arguments against the monarchy have been done to death, of course. But the key problem I have with monarchy is that I (and you) are in effect being told coercively from every flank that we must have an affection, shared with all other British citizens, for these people, and that that we must derive at least some part of our characters from our ruling family. This, I would contend, is the only argument against monarchy exclusively confined to the libertarian viewpoint, since it is the only one which holds the freedom of the individual as the social summum bonnum. As soon as the press recognise that there’s a large bunch of us who don’t want to be Universally bombarded with images of flag waving, homages to the family, recantations of the deep personal bond we all have with them, etc., the better for all of us. Because frankly, that recognition is long overdue.
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