Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 10/04/21

I'm Sorry, But I Can't

I tried, really I did.

(It's difficult to type with your fingers crossed, isn't it?)

But I simply can't work up even the slightest effort to view the death of Philippos von Battenberg as anything more significant than the demolition of a crumbling landmark which one might have been used to seeing in the far distance, just on the edge of vision so long as you squinted a bit. For that was surely all that he could possibly be to all bar that few thousand people who had actually encountered him at close or close-ish quarters.

And yet that is, of course, not what we find in the official narrative which has been hurled at us from every conceivable direction in the last thirty-six hours. From all the official orifices of State and commercial media alike has come a torrent of sugar-water designed implicitly to induce mental caries in all who imbibe it.

So we are told of the Duke's great service to 'The Nation'; about his devotion to his wife's career; about how much he did for young people; about how supportive he was to his grandson when his mother was killed, and how supportive he had been to her when the son who today referred to The Deceased as his 'Dear Papa' when said pater held his eldest son in scarcely-disguised contempt was busy knocking off Mrs Parker-Knoll; and about how distraught he was over Aberfan (at least, unlike the unspeakable Robens, he didn't pretend to have been there when he wasn't).

Left largely or entirely out of the version of events we have been bombarded with in the last couple of days are: his unabashed bigotry and bad manners; his constant ability to engage his mouth without any intervention from his cerebral cortex (both of these attributes cloaked - where mentioned at all - in standard obit-speak about his being 'controversial', 'outspoken' and 'A Character'); and certainly no mention of his philandering even during the earlier years of his marriage, this last leading, by all accounts, to him and Betty sleeping in separate rooms for years (and which - when mentioned at all - was portrayed as some sort of act of pious chastity rather than his missus telling him clearly that two in the marital bed constituted an Unlawful Assembly and kicking him out to one of the hundreds of spare bedrooms at their disposal). Not that she herself was blameless, if this document is to be given any credence.

I suppose it's a case of de mortuis nil nisi bonum taken to its most radical degree, but one would have to be naïve beyond human endurance to think that any disobliging truths will ever be revealed even a hundred years hence, any evidence in support of them being destined to be walled up in one of the more obscure wings of the National Record Office for twenty-third century historians to coo over.

The utter disproportion of the media's response was to be expected, of course: even in a time when the cloying deference previously held in the hearts and minds of all bar that tiny proportion of the population at large which was determined to be contrary has faded somewhat, the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-von Battenberg family is always Big News (except when one of its senior members is accused of being a serial child-rapist, at which point things go strangely quiet); enough newsprint has been expended on them over the years to have completely deforested Finland several hundred times over, and the broadcast media know that anything royal - even fictionally so - is a huge ratings banker.

So the papers went into hyperdrive (with some of them trying to tie the Duke's demise to That Interview which Harry and Megan gave to Oprah Winfrey a few weeks back, in a desperate attempt to create a cause-and-effect meme in the minds of the readership), with even the smallest surviving local rags filling their pages with uplifting and inspirational stories about when Philippos visited their patch.

So far, so routine; and understandable in as much as they have papers to sell, clicks to encourage and profits to make.

(The most emetic examples were to be found in the self-styled 'liberal' papers, where the Guaraniad and the abubindependent were stuffed with encomia which were intent on portraying the departed as some sort of embodiment of modernisation, or even as a species of radical).

A similar rationale can be provided for the behaviour of the commercial broadcasters.

No such excuse can be provided for the reaction of the BBC.

By what earthly sense could the Broadcorping Castration justify effectively closing down all bar one of its television channels and eviscerating its radio schedules to broadcast nothing but a vortex of self-referring and self-reinforcing variations on the theme of "The Duke of Edinburgh is still dead"? Because that is what they actually did, referring the viewers and listeners to those myriad channels of which we are supposed to be so proud as evidence of a vibrant, diverse media economy to their 'prestige' outlets of BBC 1 and Radio 4, where the 'rolling news' was actually trundling at ever-increasing speed over the cliff-face of fatuity into a sea of well-deserved ridicule and opprobrium.

Two slight defences may be made of the Corporation; one minor, one more significant.

The minor defence is that they felt that they had to obey the official protocol on handling Phil's fade-out, as laid down in what is code-named 'Operation Forth Bridge'. The problem they faced was that those orders - for such they were, to all intents and purposes - seem not to have been revised in fifty years, since those times I referred to above where an anti-monarchical position would only openly be adopted and expressed by cranks and Trots. That that landscape had changed markedly - even after the froth-fest around Diana - seems never to have been factored into the orders since then, failing to take into account that a far larger proportion of hoi polloi is now prepared to state openly their indifference, yea their antipathy, to the institution set over them by a long chain of robber-barony and hereditary power entrenched as deep as Mariana.

(The oft-times thoroughly batty affection for the monarchy is far from spent, of course; witness the twit who brought his kids to Buckingham Palace to 'pay their respects'...at one o'clock on Saturday morning).

The more significant reason why the BBC felt that it had to conduct the electromagnetic equivalent of a twenty-one gun salute every five minutes for a day or more is that that is its function. That, in short, is what it is there for (as Rory Bremner used to say when taking off Barry Norman). It is, let us always remember, the State Broadcaster. It has - at various times, to varying degrees and with varying levels of success - been able to disguise this simple fact in the normal run of events. But when there is a Big Event - or something which those in largely unaccountable power over us wish to have projected as same - the tarpaulins come off, and the arms of propaganda are duly revealed in all their glory (draped in the Butcher's Apron, of course; some Tory MPs, so deeply patriotic that they keep their wealth on the Isle of Man, would be deeply offended if they weren't).

In contrast to the print media's low-calibre guns on swivel mounts (to adapt the fine phrase devised by Edward Pearce to describe fellow hack Paul Johnson), these are high-spec weapons, designed to deliver their payload at high density over a wide area, with every barrage of messages bearing an imprimatur as officially-approved as anything emanating from Moscow, Beijing or Pyongyang and with much the same underlying tone. So it is not enough for us to be told in sæcula sæculorum what has happened (even when nothing is actually happening; "He's still a stiff, folks!"), but - most rebarbatively - what we think and feel about it.

It is this last element which really sticks in the gullet of anyone who values their right to make up their own mind: we are told that 'the whole country' haz a sadz over the Phatality of Phil; we are assured that everyone in the whole wide world feels down about it. Both statements are made with utter self-assurance and with an equally total lack of substantiating evidence. I mean, I went shopping early this morning and at a quarter to eight on a Saturday, even in Sainsbury's, I heard no-one talk about the event, and saw no-one bowed down by grief over it. I am equally sure that the relatives of the 160 000-plus people who have already died unnecessarily from COVID-19 due to the indolence, insolence, incompetence and corruption of the Ukanian government don't feel strongly about it, especially as their own losses have been subject to rather less comprehensive coverage (especially the 'corruption' bit). Similarly, I somehow doubt that the people facing being gunned down in the streets in Myanmar (whose fate was, let us remember, supposedly so high upon our list of Official Concerns just a few hours ago), or Yemenis facing yet another onslaught from a régime led by the finest minds that the seventh century could produce, armed with weapons supplied by Britannica Redux, could give an exploded camel's arse about an extremely old man dying a few thousand miles away.

I refer the reader to this infographic I made nearly eight years ago in connection with a similar Royal Occasion).

But - however crass the attempts to get us once again to believe that the inhabitants of the Sacred Realm of Outer Gammonia are all of like mind and sentiment - the line has continued to be pushed, and will carry on being so projected. No dissenting voice may be aired, no discord may be allowed to spoil the Singing Of The Anthem. We Are All One.

That this is trumpery (and Trumpery) should be clear to anyone with a functioning intellect. But that category is an ever-shrinking one today, in no small measure due to the same media who would seek sedulously to convince us - in contraindication to the unstoppable reality which our own eyes and ears can sense - that This Is The Way It Is. It is an unspeakably insulting and patronising way of treating the people who pay for all of this (BBC and monarchy alike), but they will almost certainly get away with it.

(Things like this can have their uses however, in that they help expose hypocrisies. When the BBC - wishing to make it appear as if they treated the views of their funders with some degree of respect - made available a web-form for people to complain about their hyper-extended coverage, a group of so-called 'libertarians' who wish completely to defund the Corporation screamed in outrage that they should actually allow members of the public to have their say).

(And, for a thorough overview of the perversion of Libertarianism in the USA - and by inevitable extension, in the Untied Condom - I recommend this piece by Chris Wright in Counterpunch earlier this week).

That a 99-year-old man who had lived long and comfortably in a conglomerate of palaces with the best healthcare that other people's money could buy should be sent off by such a ludicrous outpouring of appliquéd grief and officially-confected unanimity is insulting not only to the intelligence of the intelligent, but is disobliging to the memory of the man himself, as he may well have felt had he - as it were - lived long enough to see it.

(By the way, I think it's quite sad when anyone pops off at ninety-nine. When I see such deaths reported - be it of a prince or a prole - I always have the urge to scream at Atropos, "Why didn't you give him/her the extra few months, you tight-arsed bitch!". Still, I suppose in the case we've been discussing here, it'll save his wife from having to send a congratulatory telegram from her bedroom to his).

I'll end with my favourite anecdote about Philippos von Battenberg:

He once attended a state banquet in Brazil. This was the time when that huge land was under the stomping feet of a vicious military dictatorship (not that this has ever bothered the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-von Battenberg clan; as is well enough known, they have long been partial to brutal autocrats - even ones they have not been blood relatives to - as ample photographic and other evidence attests).

Sitting opposite him was a senior member of the junta who, as a top military man, was suitably arrayed in the whole 'fruit salad'. This annoyed Phil, who asked in his customarily diplomatic fashion,

"Where did you get all those medals? In the War? I didn't know that Brazil was in the War that long!"

Which elicited the reply:

"At least, senhor, I didn't get mine for marrying my wife."