1990s >> 1998 >> no-1130-october-1998


Media Manipulation

Dear Editors,

I want this letter published because I believe my voice is not being heard. I want my voice heard because there is nothing so frustrating as not being given a chance to speak.

My subject is this: Princess Diana. Old hat? Maybe. At the time of writing, it has been a year since she died, and by the time you get round to this, it will probably be long gone, but I need to speak.

I was inspired to speak by a radio phone-in on Radio One about Princess Diana and death in general-asking opinions, that kind of thing. I tried to call with my opinions but my efforts proved fruitless. I listened to the calls that were aired. They were all grieving citizens, shocked and saddened by her death, feeling they had lost someone special to them.

All I wanted to say was this: I was surprised when I heard the news, as it is not the kind of thing one expects to happen. But Princess Diana was such a tiny, incidental part of my life-a mere face in the background-that in (literally) a matter of minutes (I can’t really remember how many), I had consigned Diana to the same mental file that held such people as Kurt Cobain-dead people who have had virtually no impact on my life. In other words, my life went on as per usual-in my mind and in what I did.

Then they called off the Top 40 out of respect. It may sound cruel, but this made me angry. Are my interests not as important as the media’s? Someone who I don’t know, never have known and have never been connected to in any way is dead so I have to put my little bit of Sunday pleasure on hold?

Loads of people who I don’t know die all the time. While I write this, while you read this, while you do anything. Millions of people die in their mid-thirties. Millions of people die in agonisingly gory road accidents. So? Would you, or I, or anyone give a flying one about these people if we only barely knew them from a few pictures and stuff someone else has told you. Yeah, you might think “Oh, dear, what an awful shame”, but you wouldn’t cry and send thousands of presents-it’s none of your business. So why does it matter if this person’s rich or royal?

The socialist follow-on from this argument was inevitable. The first socialist point is the money/royal thing of course. The implication from the outpouring of grief is that royal, rich, famous people are all far more worthy of mass mourning than people who are “normal”-if such a thing exists. The logical conclusion is that royal, rich, famous people deserve better treatment in all aspects of life than other people, people who are moderate in money and quiet of life.

I think this media hype about the royals is getting ordinary Joes to view the royal family as demi-gods because of their status. They are the ruling class and if the working class is brainwashed by the media into hero worshipping the rich and famous, they will believe that with them in charge everything’s great and so no need for any kind of change.

The second socialist point is that all the callers to the aforementioned phone-in were Di fans. One man likened her death to losing a sister. Several of them said it had changed the world for the better-since people had become more socially aware and eager for Diana’s charity work to be continued. (The world getting better? The word “bollocks” springs to mind.)

My point is that there were no indifferent people. There were no anti-royals. Where are they? Surely some must exist. I saw “Diana-the mourning after” on Channel 4 and there I saw people who thought how I did. Where were those people?

The first possibility is that people were put off from phoning with those kind of views because they thought they wouldn’t be listened to. This is an example of how people can be forced to give up through the use (by others) of the powerful capitalist weapon of “not taking any notice”. They try, try, try and fail, fail, fail. Not everyone is strong enough to continue.

The second idea is that people got through to a researcher, said what they intended to say on air and were “refused access”. The calls were screened. They don’t want those kinds of nasty views dirtying up the airwaves. This is censorship, which only promotes one image of Britain. The world as we know it. Thus, the media can convince people they are alone in feeling like this. No-one wants to be alone, so they conform because they are scared of being noticed or hated or whatever may happen if you stand out. People will be convinced also that it is wrong to be different. This is probably because lone people and titchy other radical groups cannot be controlled with the great mass and so present a terrible inconvenience. Being different and alone is therefore wrong. People must conform. This worry about if you are weird stops you from worrying if the system is weird. Plus they can make you buy things to make you look less weird! Profits up!

CELIA GARDNER, St. Austell, Cornwall

We hope you like the article “Digging up the dead” in our September issue.

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