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Opinion

The Harry and Meghan interview shows the right-wing media at its worst

Royal ‘experts’ and commentators are circling after Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey aired on Sunday night, writes Mic Wright.

We knew what the royal commentators would say about Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview before a moment of footage was broadcast.

Not only because the creaking cabal of creeps and crooks are so predictable in their sucking up to privilege and dog-whistle racism, but also because Josh Pieters and Archie Manners tricked a handful of prominent ‘experts’ into giving their outraged opinions days before the interview went out.

But, because the tabloid media is so dependent on royal ‘experts’ to give their coverage a rusty patina of relevance, most newspapers and websites have ignored Pieters and Manners’ sting, or simply dismissed it as a ‘bizarre prank’. We are not supposed to know how the malign magic trick is done, so the ridiculous royal writers continue to scream, “Don’t look at the man behind the curtain”.

Meghan and Harry’s interview won’t be broadcast in the UK until Monday evening, but the morning papers are unsurprisingly full of analysis and outraged opinion. Most couldn’t get Oprah onto their front pages in time for the first editions, but their websites make up for that, with even The Guardian putting a story about the “extraordinary encounter” front and centre.

The Daily Mail’s diarrhoea spray of coverage includes a piece dedicated to the views of various royal ‘experts’. Robert Jobson, author of Diana: Closely Guarded Secret, chunters:

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“They have accused the Royal Family of being racist, but they have not said who. That is cowardice. You cannot make that slur. They are saying the British Press are racist. Where is the evidence?”

The evidence is in numerous front pages, it’s written through every word of The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the couple like a sour message in a stick of Brighton rock, it’s in insinuations and sneers that stretch back to before the couple got married — whatever columnists and commentators may claim about the ‘love and support’ Britain gave to Meghan. 

Inevitably, The Mail has also trawled Twitter to find people demanding that Harry and Meghan be stripped of their titles, a line that was pushed by talkRADIO ‘host’ Mike Graham last week (along with a demand that they and their child be stripped of British citizenship rights).

The first four tweets in the article come from a young Tory, a woman in Canada whose tweet got a single like and zero retweets, a Thatcherite cosplaying as a cartoon mole, someone using Dave Batista as their profile picture whose tweet is clumsily censored by The Mail to hide the word ‘bitch’, and a German account that is spamming every thread about the interview with racist cartoons.

‘Professional’ commentators aren’t any better. In The Times, Clare Foges — in a break from her usual obsessions of punishing the poor and ‘dealing’ with Gipsies and Travellers — writes under the headline “Harry and Meghan must pay the price of their burnt bridges, in a column composed before the interview aired.

“The truth is, it is not Meghan’s race or Harry’s union with a mixed-race woman that many in this country find insufferable but their evident self-regard and self-pity,” she writes. “In Britain it is a cardinal sin to take yourself too seriously. We like our public figures low-key, self-deprecating, as humble as fame and fortune allow. Perhaps the Queen’s greatest PR master-stroke was the revelation that she serves her own cornflakes out of Tupperware containers.

“… In a game of chess, a queen sacrifice is made in order to gain a more favourable tactical position. The Oprah interview seems like the Sussexes’ own queen sacrifice: a strategic decision to burn bridges with the British in order to build them with the Americans. Well, it’s the Queen’s move now, and there’s only one thing for it. Your Majesty: remove their titles.”

Of course, Foges, a former speechwriter for David Cameron, dismisses claims that the Royal Family are racist despite mounds of evidence and falls for the claim that the Queen is very ordinary because she keeps her cornflakes in Tupperware. Foges exists to justify the status quo and only accepts things that allow her to continue doing that.

Quentin Letts was assigned by The Times to review the interview with the same sneering half-arse tone he applies to theatre. He attacks the setting of the interview, Meghan’s dress, her makeup and her eyelashes before he even gets to her words. The revelation that people in the Palace were worried about “what colour” Archie would be doesn’t get a mention because Letts would have to accept that the couple were complaining about something untrivial. Instead, he went for the easy attack:

“Stories were duly delivered, a steaming dump of indiscretions: whinges about money and titles and bodyguards and the rotten tabloid press (which must be quite different from tabloid television). That Kate Cambridge? A B*I*T*C*H! ‘But I have forgiven her,’ purred Meghan with her truthful lens.

“Further atrocities: she had had to teach herself the words to God Save the Queen; no one had advised her how to keep her legs crossed; people had been beastly about her on the internet. We had our first blinked-back tear at 1.54am. Either that or some unfortunate midge had made it past the ravens’ wings and had jabbed her in the eyeball.”

But even Lett’s leering and sneering seems mild compared to the efforts of Camilla Tominey writing for The Daily Telegraph. Tominey, who has gone easy on Prince Andrew while obsessing about his nephew and his wife, writes of the ‘marmalade droppers’ she witnessed in the couple’s chat with Winfrey:

“Those already doubting whether there would ever be any way back into the royal fold for the Montecito Two – also dubbed ‘Duchess Difficult’ and ‘The Hostage’ by palace staff – had their worst suspicions confirmed when Meghan then went on to accuse the Royal family, their staff and the British press of being, well, outright racists…

“Not only had Archie been denied a title and his own security detail – but an extraordinary conversation had also taken place behind palace gates about how dark his skin might be when he was born.

“Harry was later invited to expand on the issue but declined to do so, leaving the viewer guessing as to who the hell came out with this.

“Meghan said: ‘Those were conversations family had with him,’ but Harry refused to elaborate. The unfortunate inference was that Prince Philip may have put his foot in his mouth again, while the 99-year-old was in his hospital bed 5,400 miles away.

“Or perhaps it was the wearer of ‘racist’ brooches, Princess Michael of Kent? As we are never likely to know, we may as well consider them all white supremacists along with any journalist who has ever written anything vaguely negative about them.”  

Those scare quotes around ‘racist’ tell you much of what you need to know about The Telegraph and Tominey’s approach to this story. The brooch worn by Princess Michael of Kent was racist and she knew what she was doing when she chose to wear the ‘blackamoor’ jewellery to meet the first mixed-race person to join the Royal family. But Tominey and The Telegraph will now double down their attacks on Meghan in particular because they can’t stand anyone identifying their racism for exactly what it is.

The timing of the interview’s broadcast means that most columnists weren’t able to pontificate in time for today’s papers. That means we can expect the real avalanche of Oprah opprobrium to fall on us tomorrow. You can expect a thorough analysis of it.

This article originally appeared as part one of a two-part series in Conquest of the Useless, a media criticism newsletter by Mic Wright. Subscribe to read the second part here.

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