It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult.” – The Queen, 1957
Journalism/social media has has a bad week. Another one.
Through manipulated images, doctored videos and plain misleading reports, agenda driven individuals employed by once reputable media outlets and the usual fake angry Twitter mob have sullied a successful, joyous royal tour of Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Catherine/Kate). As an important sidenote, the tour was part of celebration of the platinum Jubilee of the Queen to mark the 70 years she has spent as a head of state, the longest serving female one. It was not a ‘jolly’. It was not to demand the three countries keep the monarchy against their wishes. It was the soft diplomacy of royalty rarely achieved by divisive politicians. The resulting worldwide media coverage of a royal tour mostly helps the country being visited. They get to show off their culture, hospitality and heritage and people who might never have thought to visit them see the coverage and decide to boost their tourism. Local and British designers and artisans benefit from the international promotion of their products. Royal tours are a cultural, commercial and diplomatic event that benefit many, not least the media.
But currently the coverage by some media is Orwellian. We are being asked to ignore the evidence of our own eyes and ears in order to buy the narrative of the kind of people who insist that milk and rice are ‘racist’.
Before the tour even began they claimed it would be marred by protests. This claim quickly fizzled out when it became clear that the ‘protestors’ could be fitted into a British telephone box with room to spare. (The protest in Belize was about a longstanding land dispute unrelated to the visit. The protesters later protested that they’d been deprived of a chance to meet the royal couple)!
In Jamaica the worst and most misleading claim was made with this photograph (above).
‘William and Kate meeting children in cages’ screeched the naysayers, sitting at home in their bedsits in London, typing furiously.
No, said the reporters actually on the tour. It’s a football pitch and the fence is a permanent fixture to separate the players from the crowd. It was not set up specifically for the tour. And Raheem Sterling, the Jamaican born footballer also shook hands with the children through the exact same fence without any criticism. Plus it was only a small section of a larger walkabout.
The photographs of the royals and Sterling were taken from different angles. Whether this was intentional or accidental, is not clear but the misinterpretation seemed deliberate. Especially, since some people maintained the lie even after the Sterling photos were posted for the comparison.
If the royal couple had ignored the children, the criticisms would have been worse. They were responding, in the moment, to the excitement of children desperate to see them. I doubt they were thinking of ‘the optics’ for unhappy race baiters on Twitter who were never going to support this tour because racial division is a lucrative business.
‘The large, cheering crowd was only there to see Sterling’ was the next claim. Except that in the videos of the exuberant event the crowd can clearly be heard calling out for ‘Prince William’ and ‘Kate’ to come over to them.
The next claim was that the Duchess had been ‘snubbed’ by a female politician, a former Miss World. The latter had to deny the claim on her social media and call out the video clip used. Even a 3 year old can see that the video of a charming, smiling encounter has been doctored.
The next misinterpretation of a photograph was the royal couple’s homage to William’s grandparents when they had made a similar tour. The young couple saluted the Jamaican military display from a jeep once used by the Queen and Prince Philip. It was a charming tribute (remember the purpose of the trip). Military inspections are routinely made by Jeep, including by black heads of state (see below). But no this was ‘bad optics’ apparently because it was ‘1950s and colonial.’
It was nostalgic, yes. Tributes usually are. But colonial how if it is routinely done by heads of state?
What most people saw of this tour was that William and Kate engaged with grace, charm and enthusiasm with every activity their hosts laid on for them.
They interacted beautifully with the enthusiastic crowds who came out to see them. The joy on the faces of the locals in each country who got to meet them was real. The media ‘outrage’ is manufactured.
Public trust in the media is already low. Celebrities are losing their lustre. The rise of the Royals is real – just check out the number of royal accounts on social media and the huge numbers following them ( a video of William and Catherine on this itsalawyerslife account received 3 million views alone).
For sections of the media to create a false controversy about this tour and this hugely popular couple may well prove to be the actual disaster, for them, as more people turn away and go to other outlets. After all, it’s not as if people no longer have a choice of media.