People magazine had a 10-page spread. Its cover line exulted: “All hail the little prince!” It also breathlessly urged subscribers to read the interview with the doctor who “delivered the prince.”
The New York Times, usually a serious newspaper, gave the non-story page one news treatment and printed page-one pictures. U.S. television devoted nauseating coverage to the royal birth.
But entertainment über alles is the motto of the media in Britain and America. Trivia matters, not substance. A British journalism professor observed: “the media frenzy around the royal baby says everything about news-industry values.”
Lionel Shriver, American-born British novelist, noted sardonically but rightly: “The first-born of the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) being third in line for the throne of England is of no more importance than my being third in line at my local pub.”
The UK Guardian reported that the crowds outside St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, “erupted in full-throated cheers” at the announcement of a royal heir: “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!” In the swarms of people outside Buckingham Palace, one Londoner exulted that he attended in order “to soak up the history.”
“Brits lavished $95 million on sparkling wine to toast the birth, $38 million on celebratory party food, $37 million on royal baby-themed toys, $86 million on commemorative memorabilia like booties and $117 million in DVDs and books, including a history of diapers that have clad royal baby bottoms,” novelist Shriver wrote in a New York Times column.
This columnist holds to the stark view of Diderot, the grand 18th century Enlightenment philosopher. He constantly espoused matters of universal interest and urged international spread of ideas. The birth of Prince George is neither of universal interest nor an idea.
“Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest,” Diderot said. Perhaps that view is too harsh in these days of figurehead monarchs.
Nevertheless, royalty is a luxury Britain cannot afford with its dying welfare state. Neither can other countries in Europe, laden with debt and poverty, justify an obsolete monarchy.
Cromwell had it right in the 17th century: the Brits under his republican leadership abolished the monarchy.
Commerce trumps nature
One of the most magnificent sites in America, Yosemite National Park in California, has long been plagued by commercial interests. They should be scrapped. Commerce mars a sacred place.
But commerce always wins. America’s upside-down values prevail. Moneymaking matters, not natural wonders.
Nevertheless, the National Park Service is forging ahead with plans to remold the park’s commercial heart, the seven-mile stretch along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. It plans to restore 200 acres of meadows, reorganize transportation and reduce traffic and human congestion.
Above all, the Park Service plans to close rental facilities for horseback riding, biking and rafting and remove swimming pools and an ice rink.
The plan is as sensible as it is necessary. But a cretin from Congress, Rep. Tom McClintock, whose district includes Yosemite, lamented to a House committee that removing commercial facilities is meant to satisfy “the most radical fringe of the environmental Left.”
The nation could use many more “radical fringes” for the environment.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.