Freedom News

Mournful monarchists, media absurdity and mixed messages

As Mrs Windsor’s funeral is over and the national press wraps up its coverage it’s worth taking a look at the chaos (and order) imposed on us over the last few weeks and asking what lessons can be learned. What we have witnessed is an impressive coming together of the state, the media, and sections of the public, all acting in unison to portray a nation in mourning and paying tribute to a much beloved Queen. This piece of grand propaganda has been fairly effective, round the clock coverage has featured excerpts from Elizabeth’s long and embellished life story. We have been shown crowds of thousands of subjects past and present queueing just to get a glimpse of the royal person. Any dissenting voices have been swiftly and firmly put in their place.

But it should be clear to anyone who has actually been outside or spoken to their fellow humans that the picture the media has tried to create, of a nation united by grief, does not hold up to scrutiny. While it is clear that there are absolutely people out there who see the death of The Queen as the loss of a mighty figurehead, and as such a national tragedy, there is little to suggest this attitude necessarily represents a majority view.

Official estimates are that only about 250,000 joined “The Queue” to see Mrs Windsor lying in state. Meanwhile, despite being featured across multiple channels and being pretty much the only thing on, TV viewing of the funeral supposedly peaked at just 19.5m. This compares to the peak of 25m who watched the Euro 2020 final. In both these cases it is worth remembering that these figures are estimated and as such are affected by the biases of those reporting them. It is well documented that the police like to overestimate numbers for events that go well [for them] and underestimate numbers for protests and demonstrations, numbers that the media are always happy to uncritically share.

Even here though there has been plenty of speculation about people’s exact motives for joining “The Queue”. Experts in crowd psychology have already chipped in, suggesting that many people merely recognise the historical relevance of the moment. A view that seems to be supported by the people I’ve talked to in the last couple of weeks, who spoke of family, friends and colleagues whose interests in the lead up to the funeral were mostly about the prospect of the bank holiday, or the extra pay for working through it.

It’s been further suggested that the sudden removal of The Queen as a historical mainstay, who has been to many, an ever present feature lurking in the background, could be symbolic to many as the final curtain on an era of certainty. With that loss comes the realities of an uncertain future, something that hits harder than ever with the current cost of living crisis and further economic hardships on the horizon.

I don’t want to suggest that there hasn’t been genuine public grief on display here though. Obviously there has, and the media would not be able to push their narrative as effectively without it. But once again, we need only look closely at what people are saying to get an idea of where they are at. Many of the people interviewed compared the loss of The Queen to losing a grandmother, others referenced relatives who had recently passed away as a cause for empathy. Given that Elizabeth was one of the most famous and recognisable people in the world, it shouldn’t be too surprising that her death would invoke a wide spread emotional reaction. Humans are social creatures after all and collective grief has been a part of our social dynamic since time immemorial. Given the closeness of the chaos of the pandemic and the delays in mourning caused by it, it would make sense that the death of such a high profile celebrity would shake loose emotions put on hold.

None of this, however, makes the socially enforced mourning put upon us by the state, media and monarchists acceptable. To say the Queen was a divisive figure is truly an understatement. Under her reign, Elizabeth directly oversaw and legitimised the crimes of imperialism and colonialism. These crimes were done in her name and carried out by men with crowns and other symbols of the monarchy emblazoned on their uniforms. It should not be surprising to anyone that there are many people out there with memories of and who are still suffering at the hands of Her-now-His Majesty’s Armed Forces. As such, the hostile treatment towards anyone who dares mention this during “this time of reflection” on her legacy, is typical of the patronising cruelty of the Empire and its defenders.

The impression that both the British people, and those of the Commonwealth, are united and coming together regardless of “race, class or creed” is clearly just another attempt by the establishment to whitewash our colonial past. Over the last few decades support for the Monarchy has been dwindling across the Commonwealth. In particular the Caribbean nations, many of whom were already open to holding referendums due to declining public approval, have spoken of more concrete plans now that the Queen died. Even among Australia, Canada and New Zealand, where support for the monarchy has traditionally been strong, the idea that the death of Elizabeth leaves a void that can be filled by republicanism is gaining traction. It seems pretty clear that the cult of personality surrounding Elizabeth doesn’t quite extend to the Monarchy as a whole.

Obviously it’s not just anti-imperialists on the receiving end of public vilification and denunciation. As predicted, any attempt to voice even the mildest republican sentiment has been met with aggressive hostility from the media and full on state repression from the police. People around the country have been arrested for supposed “public order” offences or an alleged “breach of the peace”, simply for holding signs or shouting a quick slogan. This will not seem particularly unusual to anyone who has attended a demonstration or picket, as the police regularly use these powers to quell even the most timid display of public dissent. But it is still worth recognising these as examples of the flimsy pretexts on which the threat of state violence can and will be used against those opposing the status quo.

This combination of enforced public conformity now seemingly backed by threat of state violence has contributed to widespread uncertainty on the correct way to appear respectful. While businesses and events rushed to assure the public that they would shut down out of respect, several unions also called off strike actions that coincided with the official mourning period and funeral. While there is definitely room for discussion around mainstream trade unions and their relationship to their members and the wider public, I think the most noteworthy part of this is in the statements put out. Here they paid lip service to the well worn slogans about the Queen’s years of “service to the country” and joining the “whole nation” in paying their respects. Sentiments, those at the top, almost certainly do not feel and yet still felt the need to include.

Even among those more accepting of the monarchical status quo, the excessive coverage and changes to TV scheduling has been a point of contention. Even in sports the disruption has been felt. While there was apparently no obligation beyond the sycophantic social pressure of the monarchists and toadying media to cancel events, many people noticed the seemingly classist nature behind deciding which sporting fixtures would be affected. Football was cancelled while rugby, cricket, golf and horse racing were allowed to continue. There has been some speculation that this decision was made because of the mixed reactions of football fans during attempts to hold silences for the queen. At several games in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of her death, these silences were met with booing and jeers from sections of the crowd. Hardly demonstrative of the deep sadness the whole nation was supposed to be showing.

This relentless coverage has also been a perfect smoke screen for Liz Truss’ new government. They wasted no time, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the distraction of the Queen’s death. The cost of living crisis and looming strikes have been pushed to the back burner, the expense of the funeral and upcoming coronation swiftly brushed under the rug. The government also took the opportunity to present various policy changes including quietly lifting its own ban on fracking, a move opposed by the majority of the population as well as most MPs.

The most obvious beneficiaries of this media blitz are the royals. Prior to the Queen’s death support for the monarchy was at a record low. Alleged sex offender Andrew has taken advantage of the softening of attitudes, emerging from the shadows, proudly wearing his signature contempt for those calling for justice. The media have of course played down his “past controversies”, referring to an obscure “fall from grace” in the aftermath of a “car crash interview” about nothing in particular, and certainly not about his relationship with certain dubious characters. This out of respect for the queen, you understand.

None of this quite paints a picture of national unity despite what the coverage might suggest. While many do feel that Elizabeth deserves some recognition for her years of supposed “public service”, few appear to appreciate the disruption to basic services such as supermarkets and medical appointments. Others have questioned how cancelling long planned community events, something that actually does bring people together, makes sense as a sign of respect. This seems to suggest a more general respect for Elizabeth as a person rather than as a Monarch.

Whilst not as polarising a subject as Brexit, public opinion surrounding the monarchy continues to be complicated and in some cases paradoxical. Full-throated support for the monarchy and the disruption caused by the Queen’s death definitely seems to be patchy outside of the fairytale world created by the media and the state. In the end though, the Establishment did manage to give the Queen and the institution she represented the most appropriate tribute. Built upon a millennium of tyranny, lies and theft, they bullied us into compliance, told us we will be respectful and never mind the cost.

Stanton Cree

Image: Si Tex

Discover more from Freedom News

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading