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Marwan Bishara
Marwan Bishara
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.
Media and journalism: the wedding crashers
Nowhere to hide as media coverage of the 'wedding of the century' forces all and sundry to witness the great charade.
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2011 20:34
Some estimates put the figure of royal wedding viewers at some 2-3 billion people [EPA]

I ran away to Paris to avoid the wedding circus in London. Little did I know the fever had reached France and beyond.

TV channels and radio stations in the French republic that killed its own monarch were celebrating British monarchy, totally enamoured by the "fairytale" of the bride and groom.

Apparently, the same was repeated elsewhere.

Some estimates put the figure of viewers at some 2-3billion people. I doubt that, but don't doubt the media's capacity to interest and brainwash people.                                                   

The next day, each of the continent's newspapers made available at the Eurostar slapped the wedding pictures on their front page with much more on the inside.

There was just no escape from the "wedding of the century", alas.

If you can’t beat them, then join them. And so I joined the charade.

Bimbo journalism

You might think television would take the lighter, shorter view and the printed press would take the long view.

In fact, both sides of the media isle have adopted the same reactionary fairytale narrative as though we still live in the medieval ages.

Their fascination with and projection of the story of "a prince marries a commoner" and "love beats class" has been at the heart of the wedding coverage.

Anchors and journalists had a job to do: entertain. And that they did, in the most superficial of ways.

Expressing their fascination with the parade, complimenting the bride and bridesmaids' dresses, singing the praise of the groom's love, and detailing the body language and romance.

As one commentator put it, "Never has royalty looked better on the small screen - or the commentary sounded worse" - projecting their own dull and infantile fantasies on the rest us.

The flip side of it was just as comical, when certain media outlets predicted a different kind of fairytale where the heroine "Kate the Great" saves a bereaved son and a depressed royalty from their miserable lives.

Their marriage, we are told, will open a new promising future to the royal family and perhaps close the curtains on the bitter and complicated divorce and death of princess Diana.

So why should one or two billion people around the world give a damn about the psychology of Britain’s royal family? Don’t they have enough to worry about?

Well, it is because the Western/international media told them so. And the same media told women they had to see Kate's dress! A question of life or death.

Wedding crushers

What they don't tell us, is how terribly cheap and uncontroversial it is to produce these events and how fantastically profitable it is for media outlets to promote them, especially television networks.

Even when controversy cried out to be covered, most outlets decided to downplay it or ignore it all together, as in the case of the two former Labour British prime ministers, Blair and Brown, not being invited to the wedding.

To do so, is to undo the presumed fantasy and reveal the politics that underline it.

One of the rare interesting and clever commentaries came from Polly Toynbee at the Guardian:

"The glorious pomp and circumstance did not disappoint those two billion worldwide watchers, indulging vicariously in the theatre of majesty. They tell us this is what we are best at, the great parade, the grand charade."

It is such critical and controversial coverage that differentiates serious journalism from generic lighthearted media, that differentiates news coverage from entertainment, comical or harmful.

Journalism does what it must regardless of the ratings, the profit or the popularity of what it produces.

But today's media seem to care more about form than content, glitter than nuance, and certainly ratings and distribution over substance.

Speaking of substance, hatless Samantha Cameron saved the hat-ful day.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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