In the biggest news story of 2023 so far, Prince Harry’s memoir Spare has become the fastest-selling non-fiction book of all time, raking in 400,000 copies so far in Britain alone. In turn, it has once again started off much of the media outrage machine, specifically that of Conservatism Inc., of which has eaten up such content since the departure of the Sussexes from the Royal Family in early 2020.
Endless stories of how disgraceful, reckless, and damaging Harry has been by revealing the information featured in the book has entertained hours upon hours of right-wing clickbait.
And, admittedly, the inner right-wing reactionary within me wants to join in with the mass hysteria and bash the couple for such misdemeanours, especially since they have provided plenty of obvious targets to take aim at in that regard.
Despite this, I just can’t. Worse than that, I feel that not only are such efforts by the right futile and crass, but also damage our cause as well.
There are two main reasons for this. The first is that whatever one may personally think of them, whatever publicity they continue to garner in the future is simply going to be unabated by the criticism that they duly receive. Their royal stature and continued media ventures will ensure their established presence in the media for some time to come.
Meanwhile, being a secure part of the current cultural hegemony means that much of the vitriolic criticism of them is mostly confined to right-wing echo chambers. As such, no minds are seriously getting changed who haven’t made their own up already. If you’re of the mainstream ‘I just want to grill’ stripe of politics, whatever reservations you may have of them aren’t going to be strengthened, nor are they your main concern.
Harry and Meghan clearly know this, hence why much of their content seems specifically designed to annoy as many of their critics as possible. Stuff like accusing the Royals of being racist or Meghan’s curtseying episode may be true, or it may be not, but it doesn’t matter either way. Such displays are seemingly tailored to anger their critics, not simply because it will lead to their like-minded supporters backing them on a whim on a similar notion, but also because it drives publicity to their brand.
The more important reason however is a more basic one: what is all of this criticism (justified or not) doing to improve the lives of anyone in Britain at the moment? Literally nothing.
Neil Postman in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death (which is critical of the dumbing down of political and cultural discourse through technological advancement) coined the idea of the ‘information-action ratio’, which noted the connection between the information we receive from the news and the subsequent action we take to address it from that.
In short, in a multi-media age, Postman concluded that information concerning the weather and crime was more important to an average person in regards to that ratio than that concerning stories of foreign conflict and the environment as there was literally little to do about the latter two beyond occasionally voting to change the status quo, as opposed to the direct change one could take for the former option.
There are parallels between that notion and the connection between the endless news coverage of Harry and Meghan to the current major crises Britain now faces. Instead, much of the government and its supporters in the press and right-wing commentariat focus on two vapid L.A. narcissists over several others, and entertain the kind of stories usually relegated to the likes of OK! And Hello magazines.
Case in point, when the first episode of their Netflix documentary came out, I can distinctly remember every newspaper covering whatever juicy revelations came out of it – with the exception of the i, which focused on the current strike action facing Britain, and criticism of the government’s draconian legalisation in response. How fitting.
This isn’t to say that the culture war doesn’t matter either, as some takes suggest. What kind of country Britain will become is undoubtedly an important debate to have. However, because of the way the British media treat it, it is often reduced to laughing at ‘woke’ culture and Piers Morgan eating a burger in front of a vegan.
Now, no doubt while the Harry and Meghan saga fits into such a matter, it will do the right no good to keep wallowing in this stuff. It may provide easy news coverage and insatiable clickbait for the aforementioned Morgan and his anti-‘woke’ peers, but it will matter little for those in the country under serious duress right now.
Until we start focusing on them instead of the latest Sussex circus, their far more important plight will never improve, and for that the right will pay the ultimate price.