Media Analysis

Queen's critics met with media backlash

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

The mainstream media has demonstrated its allegiance to power through its one-sided narrative of the Queen's death, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.

IT’S BEEN A TRYING couple of weeks for those among us who don’t give a toss about the British Monarchy, are actively opposed to the concept and the reality, or wish only to acknowledge a timely death and move on without being subjected to what I like to call an orgy of “mawning”.

(A maw is the jaws or throat of a voracious animal or the mouth of a very greedy person, both metaphors for an insatiable media and the celebrities who feed and are fed by it. It seems an especially appropriate analogy for the current frenzied gorging on the Monarch’s death.)

Anyone reckless enough to protest the media-driven grief binge over the death of Queen Elizabeth II has been met with backlash, especially those who dared to raise the spectre of British colonisation and racism.

Particularly puzzling is the argument that the late Queen must be viewed separately from the sins of the Monarchy. Given that she was the head of that institution and dedicated her life to its furtherance and survival, it requires a spectacular act of cognitive dissonance to claim that she is in some mysterious way also separate from what it represents and the suffering for which it is responsible.  

The Queen was known to most of us as an icon, a synecdoche — a figure of speech in which the part represents the whole. None of us, apart from a very select few, could separate our knowledge of the Queen from the Monarchy of which she was the head.

We had, to varying degrees, a parasocial relationship with her, entirely one-sided and built on her persona. Both the affection and the dislike expressed by people who never knew her are a combination of the parasocial, projection and fantasy, fed by a media desperate for engagement and for whom celebrity is bread and butter.

There is little of the real involved, yet vast amounts of energy and emotion are invested. Bread and circuses, with increasingly smaller portions of bread as the circuses, amplified by media saturation of personas and pageantry, control the story.

Hegemonic power has ensured, through its media propaganda arm, that a specific royal narrative will dominate. The veneration of the late Queen, centred around her stoic adherence to duty and public service and her much-admired work ethic, has smothered dissent and served to portray dissenters as mean-spirited and disrespectful.

Undoubtedly, the Queen was a hard worker, however, it was in her own interests and that of her family that she market the Monarchy to the best of her ability. While the Queen’s life is frequently described as one of “service” to the public, without the public, the Monarchy would mean nothing. Her service was not entirely altruistic. Charming the public into paying her and her family to continue to charm them is a notable feat.

We have yet to endure the funeral and the coronation of the new King, and then, hopefully, it will all be over. But what the death of the Monarch has revealed is a deep schism in Australia between those who mourn and those who do not wish to.

There are, apparently, state and socially sanctioned emotions considered appropriate to the death of a foreign monarch that may be publicly expressed. Other points of view are considered to be at best “disrespectful” and at worst deserving of abuse on a scale that caused the excellent Twitter account @IndigneousX to halt their commentary.

This requirement that we either share a particular perspective or shut up is ironic, coming from those demanding respect.

There’s also a schism between those who want to deal with the reality of the British Monarchy and those who prefer to maintain the fantasy. Kings and queens, princesses and princes, golden carriages and vulgar jewels, none of these have a place in a world ravaged by climate crisis, extremist politics, hunger, disease and fear. They are distractions, of course, and that is their reason for being — but they are distractions we can ill afford.

If ever we needed proof of the media’s allegiance to power, rather than its allegiance to speaking truth to power, it has been chillingly demonstrated in their coverage of the death of the Queen and the determination to silence all dissenting perspectives other than those that perpetuate the fantasy.

What should matter most is that this death has been co-opted by the ruling class and their lackeys as yet another opportunity to silence and shame disparate voices, voices that speak from painful experience, voices from an inconvenient reality seeking to speak their truth. Yet again, the establishment has decreed: “This is not the time to speak.” Weaponising, yet again, “manners” and “civility” to silence all reference to its crimes.

Is this, after all, what the Monarchy represents?

Dr Jennifer Wilson is an IA columnist, a psychotherapist and an academic. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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