Monday, November 27, 2006
I reported the funeral of Princess Diana. Perhaps I went a little over the top. But I had just 80 minutes to write the piece and, inside the Abbey, only the dead kings would have been immune to some kind of intense emotion. Possibly my report would have depressed political blogger Stephen Tall. It seems internal BBC research has shown that 44 per cent of the population thought that media coverage of Diana's death was excessive and over-emotional. This, it seems, made them feel 'alienated'. Tall himself says he felt 'utterly disenfranchised'. These words are absurd. If such news coverage makes you feel alienated, then you must be pretty alienated to start with. If it makes you feel 'utterly disenfranchised', then your political sensitivities and your language are out of control. Now, here we go again, next year there is to be a charity concert to mark the tenth anniversary of Diana's death. This will re-start the attacks of the hard-ass right on the 'soppy' Diana cult and the attacks of the touchy-feely left on the 'cold' institution of the monarchy and the oppressive class system, yaddy-yadda-ya. I've been on both sides for the purposes of getting through dull dinner parties. In hard-ass mode, I agree that Diana and her entourage were a bunch of flakes. In touchy-feely mode, I accept that she seems to have been tortured. One book I reviewed, however, made me realise that my feelings on the matter were irrelevant. In The Likes of Us: A Biography of the White Working Class, Michael Collins shows, among other things, how such mass acts of mourning are a distinct tradition within the London working class. They confirm identity and perpetuate consoling stories of community and solidarity. After reading Collins, I abandoned my posturing. I am neutral on Diana for the simple reason that she was not meant for me. She was meant for people who had much more urgent needs and reasons to belong.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 5:47 am