Posted by David Davis
Yesterday, ten years after, the British people tanked-up and fuelled by the media that they have come to deserve, buried Lady Diana Spencer, all over again. In the meantime, the indescribable and now globally-public tragedy of the McCanns’ little girl’s sudden and complete disappearance, while her parents were in a tapas bar, thunders on. Almost as if on cue to keep the furnaces of public sorrowing fully stoked, comes the terrible murder of a little boy on the way home from his football practice.
I have reasonable memories of life in the 80s and early 90s but I do not recall the general climate of collective emotional incontinence about celebs, lost children or flawed icons that seems to sweep up in its insistent blast, millions of otherwise quite sane and ordinary people, and makes them do things like cover the railings of our town’s grand War Memorial with teddy bears, and (laminated!!!) newspaper portraits of the poor little McCann girl. Next to said display, is a lovingly crafted banner that states: “WE FEEL YOUR PAIN”………
……no, I don’t think so, I’m sorry. No parent that has not lost a child without trace can make such a statement about one who has. In this, All Men Are Islands, and perhaps the emotional damage that Diana did to us in her life was to make unfortunate people think she could really do that, and…………she did it to camera (as well as, it must be admitted, in private, where it really belonged.)
An increasingly fascist-oriented government slashes at the bonds that bind individuals and communities and generations to each other via nuclear families and free institutions, and within which all emotions can be expressed and worked out privately among those who really know and care. These are natural structures that more-or-less free people in more-or-less free civilisations have come to preserve, or more accurately, CONSERVE.
In default of these arrangements which it has acted consciously to destroy, a state has allowed the media equivalent of GOSPLAN to take over the management and planning of the emotional responses of an entire people. I expect that – if he had been party to the media sales objectives of the various tabloid papers – Goebbels would have been not unimpressed.
In the case of Diana, I bet you all 7p that the extent and what’s more the tone of the coverage of the past week or so has been planned for months.
In the two others I have mentioned, you have to wonder about two possibilities; Firstly, to what extent the two sets of distraught parents have either actively wanted to go along with their forced celebritization on the grounds that “it might help” (that is to say, catch the kidnapper/find our daughter/ arrest the murderer…..and the like.) Or secondly, whether the media now act consciously or otherwise to fill the gap left by the broken private support institutions I mentioned earlier. Either way, emotional expression has been nationalized. A quote from Mark Steyn’s recent article “The transfiguration of Diana” says it better than I:
No one could doubt the sincerity of the people’s reaction. But their sincerity did not make it any less repellent. The supposedly reserved, bloodless Brits had, like the Princess, swallowed wholesale the vocabulary of American “Oprahfied” psychobabble, a depressing enough prospect. But they had fused it with the brutish vulgarity of modern British mass culture to create a truly horrible mutant: aggressive empathy. Their message to their Sovereign was in essence: If you can’t come out and feel our pain, we’ll come in and give you some of your own to feel. Through a spokesman, the Queen protested to the British people that she was not indifferent to their grief.
Hang on: She’s not indifferent to their grief? The Queen, who had known Diana Spencer since she was a little girl, has to prove that she grieves as much as people who have never met her? On the one hand, the masses disdain the paparazzi for intruding into the privacy of their beloved Princess; on the other, the masses are quite happy metaphorically to storm Balmoral and intrude on the most private moments of all – the right of a family to grieve in their own way for someone close to them. In the week after Diana’s death, the moral decay of the British people plumbed new depths. At least the paparazzi, in their own crazed fashion, were seeking something objective: a photograph of two lovers canoodling. The mournerazzi who flooded London were demanding only that those who knew the real Diana sign on to the approved myths: Diana was the queen of hearts, her mother-in-law is a Queen with no heart; Diana was a warm mother, Charles is a cold father. Were they? Who really knows? (©Mark Steyn 2007)
Either something has happened to people regarding how they manage emotionally-charged times, in the closing part of the 20th century: or else a particularly anti-Libertarian strand of modern British government thinking has undone the existing structures on purpose, to bring about the ability to “manage” the “people’s feelings”, treating us and our polity no better than a dull mob.
Do any of you have a view?