The Fourth Estate, entrusted by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with acting as a check on the abuses of government, has become a purveyor of inane coverage of unimportant events that cannot even be remotely construed as newsworthy.
The imprisoned desperate people of Gaza continue to grieve over the Israeli slaughter of over 60 civilians during protests coinciding with the dedication of the illegally re-situated U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Parents and relatives in Texas were mourning the deaths of 10 students and teachers in yet another horrific school shooting at the Santa Fe High School, near Houston.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who continued to offer his “thoughts and prayers” over another snuffing out of the lives of students and educators, while he and his fellow Republicans continue to pocket millions of campaign dollars from the National Rifle Association, threatened the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice’s Special Counsel, and the U.S. Postal Service in a manner befitting a La Cosa Nostra crime boss.
Trump believes that FBI “confidential informants” are actually “spies” and that he has the right to illegally cancel shipping contracts between the U.S. Postal Service and companies like Amazon. Trump is illegally using the presidency to financially damage Amazon because its owner, Jeff Bezos, owns “The Washington Post,” a frequent Trump critic. In normal times, such malfeasance of office would dominate the news cycle.
So, what did the U.S. corporate press decide was more important than mass murder in the Middle East and Texas or high crimes and misdemeanors in the Oval Office? The answer is the royal pomp and ceremony of the Windsor, England wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The fascination of the American media with the British royal family has always been an enigma in a nation that fought a revolution against monarchical rule from Britain. Nevertheless, in the post-World War II era, U.S. press coverage of British royal funerals, coronations, and weddings was relatively restrained. The 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Royal Navy Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten was, by a decree from King George VI, a modest and frugal affair, with no grandstands lining London streets and no electricity wasted on floodlighting Westminster Abbey for the new medium of television. The 1947 royal wedding was forced to share the above-the-fold front page headline space in the November 21, 1947 “New York Herald Tribune” with President Truman’s foreign aid bill for France, Italy, and Austria and Prime Minister Leon Blum’s attempt to form a Cabinet in France.
Journalists and editors decided there were much more important things going on in the world than to devote blanket coverage to an arcane ceremony, with historical roots in the largely abandoned ideology of feudalism and the “divine right of kings.” Gradually, however, the press decided that the masses should be tranquilized by entertainment and not information.
When King George VI died in 1952 at the age of 57, “The New York Times” provided a banner headline for the death announcement. However, even a royal death had to share above-the-fold front page space with the approval by New York State of a 2.5% interest rate for savings banks; a People’s Republic of China demand for the United Nations to determine the final status of Formosa (Taiwan); a Pentagon denial to the U.S. Senate that it was wasting the taxpayers’ money; and the introduction of one-way traffic signs in New York City’s Times Square. Alas, even a king had to share top billing with one-way signs on New York streets.
When Elizabeth was crowned queen in June 1952, The “New York Times” gave the story only a half a page headline above-the-fold. The story of the new Queen of the United Kingdom shared headline space with New York’s mayor deciding to abandon a sales tax on services, a raise in New York City real estate taxes, and congressional Republicans scrapping a rider on a bill funding the United Nations. The “Times” and other papers let it be known that the world did not stop as a crown was placed on a young woman’s head in London.
Some apologists for the over-coverage of the Harry-Meghan wedding cited the fact that the story was important because it involved the wedding of an American, a mixed-race woman, at that, to the sixth in line for the British throne. “The New York Times” front page of April 20, 1956, gave no ink to the marriage of actress Grace Kelly, a U.S. citizen and daughter of a Philadelphia bricklayer and Olympic rower, to Prince Rainier of Monaco. The marriage was a page 27 story. The front page was reserved for important news, including a UN-negotiated truce between Israel and Egypt; the visit of Soviet Communist Party First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev to Britain; U.S. House Appropriations Committee approval of a $1.2 billion soil fund for farmers; and the signature of a bill by New York Governor Averell Harriman to bring labor union welfare funds under state supervision. “The New York Times” story on the engagement of New York socialite Hope Cooke to the heir apparent to the throne of Sikkim, a Himalayan country that was later brutally invaded, occupied, and annexed by India, received page 6 coverage.
“Newsweek,” which, once, reported actual weekly news, offered its readers the tantalizing headline question: “What is Prince Harry’s Last Name and Will Meghan Markle Take it?” Not to be outdone by “Newsweek” in offering absolutely nothing even remotely newsworthy, ABC News, which is owned by Disney – the company that uses a cartoon mouse’s head and ears for its corporate logo – offered its website readers the following “earthshaking” development: “Meghan Markle’s Mom Meets Prince Charles, Camilla for Tea.”
“The Boston Globe,” which has a rather snooty clientele that includes the Boston area campuses of Harvard, Boston University, Wellesley, Tufts, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, decided that its well-educated readership should be cognizant of the following: “Ahead of Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s Wedding, look back on past royal wedding dresses.”
Trump, a product of the same corporate media that decided to send crews of reporters to London to fawn over a second-tier royal wedding, was not invited to the betrothal at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. However, by spending so much airtime and print space on a wedding that attracted such celebrity guests as Oprah Winfrey, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, and Elton John (the original “Rocket Man,” not Trump’s appellation assigned to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un)), the corporate media lowered itself to Trump’s world of television ratings, artificial reality, and “fake news.”
Trump’s Twitter feed was unusually silent during the wedding, with no mention of the fact that Prince Seeiso of Lesotho and his wife, Princess Mabereng, were among the invited guests at Windsor, while Trump was not. Also invited was former British Prime Minister John Major, who had recently attended former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush’s funeral in Houston, an event to which Trump was also uninvited. It is very easy to become engrossed in the inanity of celebrity protocol and the corporate media takes every opportunity to do so.
Prince Harry and his wife wanted to invite former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama to the wedding, but the government of Prime Minister Theresa May, who was also not invited, urged the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to change their minds to prevent worsening of already poor relations between London and Washington.
The Fourth Estate, entrusted by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with acting as a check on the abuses of government, has become a purveyor of inane coverage of unimportant events that cannot even be remotely construed as newsworthy. Trump and his assemblage of con artists, family grifters, embezzlers of public funds, hatemongers, and neocon war hawks have turned the corporate media into a acquiescent foil for Trump’s reality television show that is masquerading as a four-year administration.
Top Photo | Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wave to the crowd in a carriage after their wedding ceremony at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, near London, England, May 19, 2018. (AP/Emilio Morenatti)
Wayne Madsen is an investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist.He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club.