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It’s fake royal news! At long last, Harry gets it right and tells Britain’s reprehensible tabloids to get lost

Barbara McCarthy
Barbara McCarthy

is a freelance commentator, photo-journalist and travel writer based in Dublin. She contributes regularly to The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, The Sunday Times and others. Follow her on Twitter @BarbsMcCarthy

is a freelance commentator, photo-journalist and travel writer based in Dublin. She contributes regularly to The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, The Sunday Times and others. Follow her on Twitter @BarbsMcCarthy

It’s fake royal news! At long last, Harry gets it right and tells Britain’s reprehensible tabloids to get lost
It may have come 23 years too late, but finally the British gutter press is getting its well deserved comeuppance from a member of the royal family. This week, royal renegades Meghan and Harry did the unthinkable.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex wrote to four British tabloid newspapers stating they would no longer deal with them, because the outlets had run stories that were “distorted, false, or invasive beyond reason.

Their letter – to The Sun, The Mirror, The Daily Mail and Daily Express – stated that “there will be no corroboration and zero engagement” with the publications, their websites or their Sunday counterparts. 

The couple said in no uncertain terms that they will not “offer themselves up as currency for an economy of click bait and distortion.” 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have watched people they know – as well as complete strangers – have their lives completely pulled apart for no good reason, other than the fact that salacious gossip boosts advertising revenue,” the letter read.

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My first thought on hearing this was: what took them so long? This should have happened the day after Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, was pursued to her death in Paris by paparazzi on motorbikes on the night of August 31, 1997. The freelance snappers who – paid by and working on behalf of the British “red-top” tabloids and celebrity magazines – photographed Diana dying in the back-seat well of her crashed car, and wired those pictures back to the London offices of their newspaper masters.

They were only not published because even the slow-witted reptiles editing those publications guessed they would be committing commercial and moral suicide. But they didn’t stop them being passed around their offices for all to see.

The royals apparently continued to engage after that simply because it's somehow un-royal and uncouth and un-British to be seen to make a fuss.

Predictably, of course, the British tabloids took umbrage at Harry and Meghan’s belated two-fingered salute, and wheeled out their columnists and other toadies to express outrage. Stephen Glover, writing in the Mail, declared: “Prince Harry is naïve, pompous, [and] chasing the wrong demons.

Andrew Neil, the political broadcaster (and former Rupert Murdoch newspaper editor), said on Twitter: “As the world grapples with Covid-19, do they really think people care what media they deal with? Their solipsism is amazing. Can’t they just consign themselves to oblivion for a while?” 

Ian Murray, of the Society of Editors, declared that the decision by the couple was a “clear attempt to undermine certain sections of the UK media who often ask uncomfortable questions.”

I say, good work and good riddance. These purveyors of endless character assassinations, privacy intrusions, hounding and phone hacking, these publishers of lies, innuendo and rumor,  will no longer be communicated-with or engaged-with.

Harry and Meghan insisted they weren’t “avoiding criticism” or censoring accurate reporting, stating that the media have “every right to report on and indeed have an opinion on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, good or bad. But it can't be based on a lie.” 

I can’t but agree with them. Sure, Harry and Meghan have spent much of their married life playing the victim, pulling the woe-is-me card and the race card willy nilly, abdicating their senior roles within the British royal family without consulting with the Queen, and hightailing it across the water, leaving the UK behind for a life of Hollywood glitz and A-list stardom.

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But does all that make it OK to hound them relentlessly and vilify them? This week, Meghan is taking the Mail on Sunday to court over its decision to print a letter she sent to her estranged father.

The full content of a sensational letter written by the duchess to her estranged father shortly after her wedding can be revealed for the first time today,” the newspaper shouted in February 2019.

In it, she accuses Thomas Markle of breaking her heart “into a million pieces” by giving interviews to the press about her for cash, making up stories and attacking her new husband.

Does the average reader feel fulfilled over such airing of royal laundry? Not really. But it’s not just the Sussexes who have suffered such intrusion. Remember that we saw photos of Fergie – aka, Sarah, The Duchess of York, Prince Andrew’s former wife – having her toes licked by her Texan financial adviser John Bryan in St Tropez in 1992. Did we need to see those photos? Eeek, no!

What about the tapped phone calls between Prince Charles and his future wife, Camilla?  Or the topless snaps of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge? Or the dozens of criminal phone-hacking interceptions carried out on Princes William and Harry and others?

Free press is a cornerstone of our society and should never be compromised. The tabloids are part of it, and we can't start to censor free speech, but there's nothing wrong with giving them a kick of up the a**, for some below-the-belt antics like the hacking of ordinary people’s phones.

In times of coronavirus, where people are imprisoned in their homes, losing loved ones and their jobs, their businesses, and facing poverty, Harry and Meghan’s intervention can be portrayed as ill-timed and attention-seeking.

I'm not the greatest cheerleader of the indulged couple, but Harry must still carry much residual anger. Every time he thinks of his mother, he must think of the photographers taking pictures of her, dying in the car wreckage under the Pont d’Alma tunnel, while he was sleeping. He must often wonder, how could these paparazzi be so heartless, as to think only of taking those pictures, rather than trying to help her? And why did they do it? To satisfy the relentless demand from the gutter press for salacious detail about royal lives.

So why is William not yet following his brother’s lead? Diana was his mother, too. As heir to the throne, he and Kate play ball, and give the press the family photo on their ski trip or the traditional photo outside the maternity hospital after the birth of their children.

Of course, the press/media needs to report the truth, and royals should be critiqued and questioned. But the exercise of that journalism doesn’t mean engaging in criminal behavior, in intrusion, in destroying lives. There’s a very big difference. One’s moral, the other is immoral. A distinction that even the tiny minds of the reptilian tabloid editors should be able to comprehend.

Rather than deploy stiff upper lips and continuing to be their victims, the rest of the royal family should also send a letter like Harry’s. It needn’t be long. Princess Anne summed it up as a teenager. It should just say: “Dear tabloids, ‘naff off.” It's terribly royal and well mannered, but absolutely on point.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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