March 29

Prince Andrew: Beat-ups, caricature journalism & glass houses


The campaign against Prince Andrew is a classical example of what we in Australia call a media “beat-up”.

A “beat-up” is a media report that has been sensationalized and made to seem more significant than it really is.


…caricature journalism…

A special category of beat-ups involves a tired and vindictive practice indulged in by lazy elements in the media. Usually directed at members of our Royal Family, we  call this as “caricature journalism”.

The first step is to paint the chosen target as a caricature. 

In Prince Philip’s case, this has centred on taking obvious examples of humour, received as such, and then categorising these as “gaffes.”   The caricature is that he is "gaffe prone".

The journalist  ask someone what the Prince just said, usually a witty comment and then beat this up as the latest "shock gaffe".  I expect that a computer programme will soon be developed to do this.

…Royal Watchers….

Those journalists given to producing beat-ups on matters royal are often known as “royal watchers”

Bruce Elder recently revealed the secrets of  royal watching.

Apart from rare interviews with members of “The Firm” (the  royal watcher's argot for the Royal Family), it is all surmise, speculation, guesswork, fantasy, widely available but unsourced gossip and innuendo.

“Having worked many years with a colleague who was a royal reporter (and a rogue, to boot), I know that a lack of hard evidence never meant a lack of engrossing copy."

Notice that even the gossip and innuendo is not that of some exclusive circle. It's widely available. So why is it published? Because this junk sells.

That of course  does not make it true.

It is not news. It is just surmise, speculation, guesswork, fantasy, and widely available but unsourced gossip and innuendo.

. royal watchers… 

Some  royal watchers have a political  agenda to remove the Crown from our crowned republics. One such Australian royal watcher used to write an occasional column in which he was described as a “republican royal watcher”.

This was in a well known Australian on line news service whose founder admitted that he did not worry whether what he published was true. His idea was to publish first and see what the reaction was.

As the republican royal watcher curiously hates the object of his interest, his purpose is malevolent and it is unremitting.

It is to destroy the institution. In  the vacuum that the Crown would leave, the republican royal watcher hopes  to see a significant  increase in  the power and role of their political media class in a politicians’ republic.

…the media… ( read more below)


One unfortunate result of caricature journalism is that even fair and experienced journalists will find it difficult to ignore something published even if it has been artificially manufactured as newsworthy.

This contrived capture of the news is something which serious journalists should consider carefully.  

 …Prince Andrew….  

A fair assessment of the Prince must begin with begin with his voluntary service under fire in the  Falklands.

 His considered comments on the 25th anniversary of the war, “I salute our servicemen then and now”   combine honesty with perception.

They are well worth reading.


His views generally indicate a reflective mind with a respect for and understanding of  history and military and defence matters.  His regret that the US administration did not pay sufficient attention to British advice and experience in the occupation of Iraq proved to be correct. An ancient imperial power would not have made the mistakes  America did.

"If you are looking at colonialism,” Prince Andrew told Stephen Castle of The New York Times ( 4 February, 2008) “if you are looking at operations on an international scale, if you are looking at understanding each other's culture, understanding how to operate in a military insurgency campaign – we have been through them all," he said. "We've won some, lost some, drawn some.”

President Bush recognized this in his memoirs, Decision Points.

The President  had reservations not only about the banner “Mission Accomplished” but more importantly, the orders issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority.  One was the extent of the de-baathification decree which removed members of the ruling party from positions of influence.

 It seems Ambassador Bremmer did not fully appreciate that in dictatorships people are obliged to belong to the ruling party or its fronts, or are enrolled there against their will.

How often do we read The Pope was as a school child a member of the Hitler Youth Movement, without the note that so were all children.

The other was the decision  to dissolve the Iraqi Army. These two orders effectively took out the organs of government, including instruments of public order and in the schools.

As Prince Andrew would say, British experience had been to try to leave such structures in place, and to work through them.

….criticising bureaucrats…

In addition Prince Andrew has not been backward in defending the armed forces. He has no doubt created enemies in criticising defence bureaucrats.  


He has an ability to encourage and to lead. His communication skills are excellent – in another life he could have easily taken toa career in politics. As an example, his address at the 2009 remembrance ceremony at El Alamein moved those who were there.


…the beat-up….

 As we pointed out here on 11 March 2011 “Prince Andrew: another media beat-up,” the current campaign against him is just another beat-up involving caricature journalism.

As you would expect, the local republican movement has unleashed its own republican royal watcher who has turned out the usual vicious bile based on recirculated innuendo and gossip.

The caricature chosen for the Prince is of  rude and vacuous  self indulgence and that his unpaid position is but a superfluous sinecure. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

…and who is indiscreet?… 

His straight talking has of course attracted enemies. His most public critic is one Chris Bryant, a member of Parliament and the shadow justice minister.

In a recent piece in the London Daily Mirror, Mr. Bryant accused the Prince of various indiscretions all based on previously published innuendo and gossip.

A former Church of England vicar, Mr. Bryant is best known for a revealing photograph of himself posted on a gay dating site. According to Wikepedia he  claimed over £92,000 in expenses over the five years leading up to the 2009 scandal over MPs' expenses.

“During that time he flipped his second-home expenses twice, claimed mortgage interest expenses that started at £7,800 per year before rising (after flipping) to £12,000 per year.

 "He also claimed £6,400 in stamp duty and other fees on his most recent purchase, and £6,000 per year in service charges.

“A claim that he made for £58,493.26, almost three times the annual maximum, in 2004, was disallowed.”

 So we have one question. Is Mr. Bryant’s latest dwelling made of glass? 


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