Comment Of The Day: “Will The BBC’s Princess Diana Scandal Be A Tipping Point For Public Acceptance That The News Media Can’t Be Trusted?”

Princess Di

As he (and other veteran commenters) often do here, Steve-O-in NJ doesn’t merely comment on the post but elaborate and expand it, for which I am grateful. Literally by chance, my wife was watching a Netflix documentary on the Windsors, a British production that discussed the Bashir interview of the late Princess but spun it as an example of her vindictive and manipulative use of the press to strike back at the Royal Family. The producers did not, when it was written, know that Bashir had deliberately deceived Diana and her brother to provoke her.

One bit of rebuttal to Steve-O is, I think, required. Diana may have been “not too smart, not too stable” as Steve says, but like Donald Trump, who is also described that way by those who underestimate him, she had her own special genius and unique gifts. The most stunning quote in the documentary is Charles’ statement, in a letter to a friend before the wedding, that Diana was going to have a difficult time “always living in his shadow.” I am a stage director who has made a lifetime study of what gives an individual “presence” and star power, but it didn’t take an expert to discern that however young, naive and ignorant she may have seemed, Diana had blinding charisma. People with that particular gift cast shadows, they don’t get covered by them.

Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Will The BBC’s Princess Diana Scandal Be A Tipping Point For Public Acceptance That The News Media Can’t Be Trusted?”:

So Bashir committed fraud and forgery, there’s no other way to describe it, and the BBC buried it. Generally speaking the elements of fraud are:

1. Misrepresentation of a material fact
2. Knowledge on the part of the accused that they were misrepresenting the fact
3. The misrepresentation was made purposefully, with the intent of fooling the victim
4. The victim believed the misrepresentation and relied upon it
5.The victim suffered damages as a result of the misrepresentation

Elements of forgery are:

1. False making – The person must have taken paper and ink and created a false document from scratch. Forgery is limited to documents. “Writing” includes anything handwritten, typewritten, computer-generated, printed, or engraved.
2 Material alteration – The person must have taken a genuine document and changed it in some significant way. It is intended to cover situations involving false signatures or improperly filling in blanks on a form.
3. Ability to defraud – The document or writing has to look genuine enough to qualify as having the apparent ability to fool most people.
4. Legal efficacy – The document or writing has to have some legal significance affecting another person’s right to something. A writing of social significance cannot be the subject of forgery.
5. Intent to defraud – The specific state of mind for forgery does not require intent to steal, only intent to fool people. The person must have intended that other people regard something false as genuine. A forgery is complete upon having created such a document with this requisite intent.

Sounds like both to me. Bashir should be in jail, but I’m sure the statute of limitations has long run. I’m disgusted reading this. He had written lies mocked up to fool Earl Spencer and Diana into believing that the Royal family was out to get her, to push her into spilling embarrassing facts and nasty attacks on her former in-laws. This would be criminal even if was just an ordinary woman having the ordinary problem of being dissatisfied with her marriage and not getting along with her former in-laws. It should get no pass because the people involved were public figures.

Just for the record, I think the whole Diana mess was just that, a mess, from the get-go. Diana was a poor choice of wife for Charles, or really for anyone at the time of their marriage. She was barely out of her teens, came from a less than stable home life, and, with apologies to both families, she was not only not the sharpest arrow in the quiver, but she was a pretty dull arrow (failed her O-levels twice, only got as far as finishing school). Charles, 13 years her senior, never really loved her. His heart was always with Camilla, and he never really even made a good faith effort to love her.

My sympathies, as someone who is now older and experienced, are at least evenly divided between the two. When they got married, Charles was 33 and very broadly experienced, a university graduate and master of arts, naval officer, helicopter and jet pilot (although not very good at the latter), charity executive, and diplomat, among other things. Against that, Diana was not much more than a shallow, inexperienced kid who’d been born with a silver spoon in her mouth and never done much substantive work beyond being a teacher’s aide. I was 33 once too, and I’d been practicing as an attorney for 8 years. I once dated (briefly) a woman who had only gone as far as high school, and knew we were not even close to compatible after one too many one-sided conversations. Unfortunately for Charles, he couldn’t just walk away and pick his own bride who was more compatible. He was pushed into this marriage. As you’re probably aware I’ve never married myself, and being unmarried has its drawbacks, but I’d choose a hundred lifetimes as a bachelor over marrying someone who was incompatible. The relationship was doomed pretty much from the get-go.

Lest it be forgotten, Diana was not the long-suffering, unhappy, unloved wife the media would have us believe she was. She had at least three affairs during her marriage to Charles: salesman James Gibley, army officer James Hewitt (whose red hair has led many to speculate he is Harry’s real father, although that’s not possible because the two did not become intimate until 2 years after Harry was born), and Metropolitan Police protection officer Barry Mannakee (who Diana thought was murdered by the UK security services after the affair was discovered and he was kicked off the royal detail, to die soon after in a motorcycle accident).

Diana was not too smart, not too stable, already suspicious, bitter about her treatment by the House of Windsor, eager to stay relevant, and easy to prey on by unscrupulous journalists looking for a scoop, especially one who confirmed her worst fears to her…or so she thought, because she was too eager to believe.

Frankly, this was worse in some ways than Mary Mapes and Dan Rather’s attempts to slime George W. Bush during the 2004 campaign by relying on unauthenticated documents and cutting other journalistic corners to air a new story criticizing his Air National Guard service in the hopes it would do fatal damage to his reelection campaign. At least there was no out and out lying or deliberate deception on their part, although the results could have been much more consequential.

There are many more examples of media malfeasance to influence the news that I could give: the unfair late hit on Bush the elder to sink his reelection campaign, the refusal to let the Valerie Plame story go long after it had ceased to be a mystery, and a lot more that’s happened recently.

It should terrify everyone that the media has shown the lengths it is willing to go to get a story or to get the story it wants. It should terrify everyone more that the media has shown it’s willing to out and out lie and deceive to get what it wants, regardless of the consequences for others. Accurate information is the key to almost every aspect of life. It’s why governments, militaries, and other agencies responsible for policy decisions or public safety inevitably have people tasked with gathering relevant intelligence (and please no jokes about military intelligence being an oxymoron. It’s not true, it’s not funny, and it exhausted its limited appeal three decades ago). You can’t invest wisely if you can’t get accurate news about the stock market. You can’t transfer property to best effect if you can’t get accurate news about the real estate market. You cant vote and have it mean anything if you can’t get accurate news about the candidates. And you can’t govern your own behavior towards others if someone who’s supposed to be trustworthy is lying to you about them.

I used to believe that the news agencies were wise people who reported accurate, relevant information, neatly broken down into international, national, local, business, sports, and weather. Then I believed that some of the news was that way, some was more the gossipy guy looking to grab your attention and hold it, i.e. infotainment. Now I’m beginning to believe that the news agencies and media are simply liars and manipulators, no better than a villain in a story who intercepts messages between nearby rulers and changes a peace overture to a challenge, an offer to trade into an accusation of unfair practices, and so on.

2 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Will The BBC’s Princess Diana Scandal Be A Tipping Point For Public Acceptance That The News Media Can’t Be Trusted?”

  1. A woman’s perspective: Diana was the last suitable virgin in a late 20th century world controlled by an early 18th century cabal. Diana did not have to be anything other than what she was in 1980. Steve implies an unimpressive and unaccomplished female cavorting about her high fashion digs. Despite the big lie, Diana, in reality, was a shrewd observer of her own circumstance and did fulfill her only function which was to deliver two males of the family line in order to maintain its historical and tenuous seat on an obsolete chair.

    What Diana didn’t do was go away quietly and comport herself as instructed when she realized she possessed a power that could not be fought against or legislated away by the Privy Council. She did not manage that power well, ultimately, and she died having given away her only possession of value which was HRH status for more settlement money.

    Without the HRH status the press could manage Diana without reprisal instead of the other way around and thus her downfall. How classic when the men explain it. DOWNTON ABBEY as the most accomplished representation of a moment is a silly but destructive fairy tale about a fabled past that never existed without speaking plainly about the females crushed underneath it all.

    • Huh? This sounds a bit like conspiracy theory stuff, and I am a CHARTER member of the skeptics club when it comes to conspiracies. The House of Windsor, then the House of Hanover, was invited in by Parliament after the so-called Glorious Revolution drove the Stewarts from the throne of England for intolerant Catholicism. George I spoke almost no English and George II spoke broken English. However, they were compliant enough and popular enough to keep the monarchy afloat, and stability was all Europe wanted after the Napoleonic Wars. T

      he 19th Century is almost all about one queen, Victoria, who came into a world of flintlocks and Landaus and left a world of machineguns and locomotives, with the airplane just on the horizon. Edward VII was the last king of the gilded gingerbread British Empire before kings and queens had to become serious war leaders in a modern world. Thankfully George V and Queen Mary and George VI and Queen Elizabeth were up to the task.

      Unfortunately, George VI’s heavy smoking caught up to him too soon, leaving Elizabeth, 26 and a young mother of 2, to shoulder the burden of being queen probably a good ten or twelve years before she would have expected it or wanted it. As such, she couldn’t be as present in her children’s early lives as she would have liked to be, and as often as not she was there as queen as mum. Frankly, at 33 Charles was already a little late to the game in terms of marriage, though not for want of trying – three other noblewomen turned him down, including Lord Mountbatten’s granddaughter Lady Amanda Knatchbull (did not want to lose her freedom) and Scottish heiress Anna Wallace (knew she’d be second banana to Camilla). It was actually his father, Prince Philip, who pushed him into marrying Diana, saying it was time to fish or cut bait and that it was wrong to string a young girl along. So the wedding everyone got up at 5 a.m. here to watch happened, and the rest is history, except the fairy tale didn’t end with happy ever after. Diana was initially pretty clueless, although eventually she realized she had charisma and could use that to her advantage. She duly produced an heir and a spare, but the fact is she was never happy, in fact Charles told her he didn’t love her the night before the wedding.

      After 11 years the marriage collapsed, although it had been on the rocks for a long time. Diana tried to use her charisma to make herself greater than the royal family, who were of course constrained by protocol from replying. To some degree she succeeded for a time, campaigning against land mines, etc., but ultimately the House of Windsor is too powerful of an institution to fight. Some say she could have intervened to stop wars, but if you believe that you are kidding yourself. She was a charismatic spokeswoman, but she was no diplomat. She had some further relationships, in fact the Pakistani heart surgeon she dated before Dodi al-Fayed was close to being the new love of her life, but he broke it off, realizing that, due to her celebrity, a life with her would never be a normal life.

      Even if her success began to wane, it was becoming impossible to talk about the British Royal Family without mentioning her. I don’t doubt that more than a few of her former in-laws and senior courtiers breathed a sigh of relief behind the scenes after the tragic accident that claimed her life. Oh, they’d have to walk behind the coffin and look appropriately sad, and say all the right things for a while, but just for a while. As with John McCain here, eventually the coffin took its final journey, the crowd from the funeral cleared, and life went on. She was spoken of less and less, and now is just a footnote in the history of the United Kingdom. Incidentally, you realize that she is buried among dogs? Prior to her burial, the Round Oval, that island in the middle of a lake on the Spencer estate, was used exclusively for the burial of family pets. It wasn’t chosen because of its innate peacefulness, or because her burial place was so damn special we hoi polloi could never be allowed to pollute it. It was chosen to give the Spencers some peace, at least for the first few years, until the grief died down, by putting her out of sight and out of mind.

      I don’t feel any yearning or need to personally pay my respects to her. I’ve been right up to the graves of far greater people than her, presidents, fighting kings, generals, heroes, even a few saints. Truth be told, the four graves I felt the greatest respect for lie at the base of the Congressional Column in Brussels, beneath the Arc de Triomphe in France, at the entrance to Westminster Abbey beneath a stone that even the sovereign is not allowed to tread upon, and in Arlington National Cemetery overlooking the mall, beneath the inscription “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier, known but to God.”

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