Who watches the royal watchers?

Charles Winsor is to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles. The media is full of it (so to speak), but the public don't seem very interested. Compare the general public reaction to this engagement, with the last time Charles got engaged.

Then, reactions from the mainstream in the main street ranged from mild approval to tearful joy. Now, they range from mild disapproval to a shrug of the shoulders.

Royal-watching - taking great interest in royalty, their public appearances, and their commemorative mugs - was considered a mild eccentricity in the early 1980s. Most people were pro-royal in a vague, noncommittal sort of way, but collecting royal facts and memorabilia was thought a little strange. Now, the dominant attitude seems to be disinterest. Strong anti-monarchism is rare, but so is any strong attitude at all about the royal family.

When Charles married Diana (1981?) most people in Britain didn't realise it was a sham. Anyone used to thinking critically about politics and the media of course saw that it was arranged, and probably loveless from the outset. But way back then, that kind of thinking was vanishingly rare.

When Diana died (1996?), there was a vast manufactured public outpuring of grief. Real emotions, but artificially stimulated. In just a few years since then, the public have become less easy to manipulate, as demonstrated by the completely lack of public interest at the deaths of Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother.

We are not now living in a nation of skeptics. If we were the support for Tony Blair and the occupation of Iraq would be nonexistent, as opposed to just low. Nor (I believe) are we living in a nation of apathetics.

Think of the compassionate reaction to the asian tsunami, the virulent wave of racism against immigrants, the anti-war demonstrations, the mouthfoaming about terrorists, and the exaggerated fear of street crime. The politics in people's heads may be confused, contradictory, and sometimes repellent, but there is strong political consciousness.

So, the public don't care, and the media is trying to make them enthusiastic. What will be interesting is to see how far public attitude can now be changed by television, radio, newspapers and magazines. Can the general public be whipped up into yet another frenzy, like they were when Diana died? Can they be made to support this marriage, even if only weakly?

The marriage of two upper-class twits is of no consequence in itself. But the maleability of the public on this issue will be an index of their stubbornness, gullibility, and capacity for independent thought on other issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment