The Royal Crisis of Hauntological Britain

Britain is in crisis (again), trapped in deep denial and haunted by it’s own past it is cracking under the strain of it’s own hypocrisy. It is not so much a Failed State as a Parody State groaning under it’s own ridiculous malignancy. What the Meghan Markel crisis has exposed is this: Britain can’t change, it can only break. So entrenched are it’s institutions, so broken are its power structures that it has little or no ability to reform or adapt.

As David Clark has noted: “The Royal crisis illustrates the two fundamental political truths of our age. The extent to which the UK is now imprisoned by a fantasy version of its own past and the inability of the British state to modernise in any real way. Only the end of the UK can break this spell.

Britain is a Hauntological State perpetually trying to escape the spectres of its past: the war, the 50s, the 60s, the 80s, the Good Old Days, the Empire, the Commonwealth, Rhodesia, all the pink bits. The grotesque media landscape is a mirror of corporate interests and a generational warzone. Nothing expresses this better than Ross Greer’s appearance on Good Morning Britain. Now, the expanding crisis of the monarchy has morphed into a discussion about racism that spools out across a generational void with each staring at each other in mutual incomprehension.


As the historian David Olusoga has put it, Britain is: “Trapped in denial – about everyday racism, structural racism, slavery and empire – there are parts of British society that appear incapable not just of change but even of its necessary precursor: honest self-reflection.”

This is why we have to witness the newly departed Nigel Farage claiming:



If the ever-present Farage represents this broken country best, for his denialism, his racism and his blazored bigotry, it also points to how the media operates through what Mark Fisher called: “the solitary urinal of male subjectivity.” And so the British media is in full meltdown. Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, has resigned after publishing a ridiculous articles saying that it was untrue that sections of the UK press were bigoted, claiming “It is not acceptable for the Duke and Duchess to make such claims without providing any supporting evidence.”

And so the media is in full meltdown with David Aaronovitch and Robert Peston, circling the wagons and rushing to defend their racist mate …


As Coogan pointed out one of the reasons that the media attacked Harry and Meghan was because the couple took legal action against them. In this sense the Harry and Meghan saga is the ongoing saga of Tabloid Britain, a disgraceful press whose paparazzi were in part responsible for his own mothers death and keep large sections of British society in a perpetual state of hyper-arousal and advanced ignorance. Leveson failed and the notion of any regulation of the industry will be squealed at by the “free speech” misdirection brigade.

The British media has a hierarchy of tiers demarcated by vast salaries, political access and readership/viewership.
This top tier of media commentariat is almost uniformly white, middle-aged, middle-class and male:  Robert Peston, multiple Dimbleby’s, Jeremy Clarkson, Andrew Marr, Andrew Neil, Brendan O’Neil, Nick Robinson, Jeremy Vine, Michael Buerk, Nicholas Witchell: they dominate our airwaves and newspapers with their palid monotony.  This is why the crisis has shifted from the crown to the media, as the sycophants and apologists whose job it is to frame the debate, to spread tittle-tattle and leak gossip from on high are shuddering in incomprehension.
These individual’s output range from erudite to grovelling, but all play their part.
The Windsor’s aren’t racist because William says so. The press isn’t racist because Ian Murray says so. Churchill wasn’t racist because Piers says so. You might have noticed a flaw in this Caucasian cock circle.
This crisis has a long way to go as bits of the Commonwealth crumble off into Republicanism; as Britain descends further into cringe and parody; as Prince Philip teeters on (for now), as the prospect of Randy Andy’s activities being revealed hangs in the air awaiting Ghislaine Maxwell’ s trial (July).
Ironically this generation infantilises the public debate, a debate mis-characterised as a “private matter” or a “family feud”. When you get such a singular lens to look through as this white male prism, the quality of our shared knowledge and our public debate is eroded and level of discourse needed for anything resembling self-understanding is minimalised. As David Olusoga (again) says:
“When racism is acknowledged in Britain, it is portrayed not as a structural, social problem, but as a minor, if regrettable, fact of life – one that black people have to tolerate and learn to live with. Appeals for help or support are often mis-characterised as requests for special treatment.”
And so the quality of debate founders and descends into banalism fealty and cliché.
The white commentariat are rallying to the cause of their colleague, the monarchy and their industry (not necessarily in that order).
In a touching – but I think naive eulogy – the BBC journalist Clive Myrie has warned that the UK must retain a strong independent broadcasting regulator or risk echoing America’s “ultra toxic media environment”. The problem with this is that the doesn’t have a “strong independent broadcasting regulator”.
In the lecture and an accompanying Guardian piece, he said: “In any case Ofcom, the regulator is watching. Impartiality rules and strong regulation are the bulwark against the disaster of the American media jungle being replicated here.”
Myrie has argued that the case of Piers Morgan, the subject of 41,000 Ofcom complaints over his questioning of the Duchess of Sussex’s claims about the handling of her mental health concerns, was evidence that Ofcom was working saying: “He has been flexing the guardrails when it comes to fairness and impartiality, but the guardrails ultimately are there.”

They really aren’t.
The idea being put out there that “the big mad bad US model is coming” and our Blighty’s feisty model is working is quaint to say the least.
The British media is dead on its feet, killed by it’s own in-breeding and one-dimensional subjectivity. It’s like a long-running (but really shit) TV show.
We are tied to a country soaked deep in nostalgia, endlessly longing for its icons of yesterday. But the deeper hauntology is the empire and it’s consequences for confronting race and racism. A nation (sic) that can’t begin to face that past can’t possibly be coherent or rational. Britain is so mired in the past it doesn’t even know it.
Ironically, Britain needs to actually face its past – not just glory in a photo-shopped image of it.
One of the perpetual questions about the independence referendum (and since) was why it seemed so impossible for them to construct a forward-facing case for the Union. Now we know. It’s a mindset and political project hurtling backwards – deeply committed to – and wedded to the past – which finds it impossible to articulate a different future because it is so obsessed with a confection of an illusory past.
Today Morgan tweeted saying: “I had one goal when I joined @GMB – beat @BBCBreakfast in the ratings. On my last day, we did it.” It’s a sort of moral void where the clickbait and the race for eyeballs is the only thing that matters. It’s debased democracy and it’s almost irretrievable.

The crisis of the media and the crisis of the monarchy are deeply intertwined. They are a festering symbiotic relationship that feeds us puerile **** about a family of non-entities – and the cumulative effect is to stop us becoming citizens with agency.
As Philip Collins puts it: “They raise a serious flaw in the monarchy, which is that a white hereditary aristocracy cannot possibly hope to represent an increasingly diverse democracy.”
Another media is possible.

[Hauntology (which combines haunting and ontology) is a concept referring to the return or persistence of elements from the past]

Comments (19)

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  1. Shaun MacDonald says:

    After reading Mark Fisher’s excellent books I came to appreciate that I wasn’t slowly going mad and that I was not a victim of multiple perpetual conspiracy theories but that I was in fact being haunted. Excellent article’ bring on the Exorcisms.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Yep, paradoxically Fisher is a spectre of Derrida.

      The irony here is that, according to the spectre of Derrida that haunts me, haunting as such is not a Bad Thing; indeed, it is rather ‘the state proper to being as such’, which entails neither presence nor absence but only the deferral or ‘extended credit’ or ‘promise’ thereof. As a cultural phenomenon of our postmodern credit-based society, the Royal Family is thus (and beyond Good and Evil, purely anthropologically-speaking) an expression of this temporal disjunction or deferral; a spectre if you will.

      Vide Derrida’s Spectres of Marx.,%20the%20Work%20of%20Mourning%20and%20the%20New%20International.pdf

      1. Pub Bore says:

        Anyhoo: subgenerically, I’d celebrate the cultural phenomenon that is the Royal Family as steampunk, its retrofuturistic productions inspired by 19th-century aesthetic designs.

  2. Derek says:

    I’d’ve been happy to read that if it’d’ve been proofread. The lack of care makes me twitch…

    1. Daniel Raphael says:

      I noticed this as well, but considered that I *was* able to divine the meaning throughout, and the content, of course, is the crucial dimension. So…I sent it along to my usual bandit gang, and I’m sure they will like it just fine, whether or no they share my proofreader’s twinges. I should also add that as a frequent producer of typos on Twitter, I am more tolerance than I otherwise would (need to) be. Fine, timely, useful, and creative article.

    2. Apologies for my corona brain. I hope you get something for the twitch.

      1. Wul says:

        “Covid brain”. We are all suffering, and making eejits of ourselves, Editor. You’re in good company.

        Just today, my other half had a four-and-a-half hour food shopping run. Normally completed in 90 minutes.

        Highlights included; losing mobile phone and debit cards, returning home to borrow my card to pay for food and search for phone & cards. Realising phone & cards must have been lost in a different shop and town. Puncturing & destroying a tyre on a sharp kerb on the way to look for lost phone. Being unable to call for help with burst tyre due to lost phone. Having to chap random doors to borrow a phone to call me for help.
        Me, in rescue mode, making an arse of jacking the car up to change the wheel on a steep hill, almost crushing my own foot and driving over the foot pump after re-fitting the spare wheel.

        Our brains are mince.

  3. James Mills says:

    I thought Nigel Farage ‘s quote was spot on – except for the misplaced preposition :

    He said -” Nobody in the History of the world has done more for people of colour than the British Royal Family”.

    He actually meant ; ”Nobody in the History of the world has done more TO people of colour than the British Royal Family ”.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @James Mills, I suppose you may have a point. As Wikipedia puts it:
      “The Royal African Company (RAC) was an English mercantile (trading) company set up in 1660 by the royal Stuart family and City of London merchants to trade along the west coast of Africa. It was led by the Duke of York, who was the brother of Charles II and later took the throne as James II. It shipped more African slaves to the Americas than any other institution in the history of the Atlantic slave trade.”
      And what did they do about cousin Leopold II’s genocide in the Belgian Congo? Didn’t the British royals get him off on a charge relating to child prostitution when he visited London?

  4. SleepingDog says:

    The reality is much worse. British royals have plotted to crush democracy abroad and at home, and as Commander-in-Chief of imperial forces, the Queen is ultimately responsible for some of the millions of excess deaths caused by British foreign policy during her reign, although far from the only recent royal implicated in such crimes. Mark Curtis, a historian specialising in declassified British official records, produces a summary here:
    although he mentions Crown immunity for ministers (part of the wide-ranging medieval royal prerogative powers the monarch still retains today) rather than the executive orders. In fact, because of UN prohibition on open aggressive warfare, the Queen is even more at the helm, using the Privy Council (which she or her heir has to oversee) or the other royalist institutions (like the security and intelligence services, whose licence to kill also derive from the royal prerogative).

    A problem for getting to an accurate record of British history is that the royals and their imperial subordinates have already destroyed much of it, hidden more besides, doctored some and much of the remaining kept private, like the Royal Archives at Windsor. There is probably a Beefeater with a lit torch on guard at all times, to burn the lot at the first sight of an enraged mob.

    According to Norman Baker MPs’ sources, the Queen Mother was a vile racist, but (interesting, given the Conservative furore about anti-semitism in the Labour Party) the Royal views on Jews were even more extreme and negative, which I guess fits in with their aristocratic Nazi sympathies. I think one or two might be allowed in the Privy Council, as long as they stand at the back or something (Jews, not Nazis; I guess the latter will be front and centre). Apparently the Privy Council Office does not keep tabs on such things commonly used for diversity reasons, being exempt, one supposes.

    Anyway, it was interesting to watch royal historian Lucy Worsley’s recent docudrama on the Blitz, and Blitz myths. I wonder to what extent royalist sympathies in the UK (and elsewhere in the British Empire) are mythical? Would a poll showing a republican majority sentiment be censored in the British press, I wonder?

    1. Golfnut says:

      The conclusion reached in Curtice’s article that the monarch and government ministers can’t be prosecuted is wrong, a clear indicator of how preconditioned we are to accept convention. The Judicial review by the Inner House of the Court of Session on the unlawful closure of Parliament killed that particular myth stone dead. The ruling was explicit, ‘ neither the Crown( by extention her ministers ) or Parliament are above the law ‘.

  5. Keir Hardie says:

    I couldn’t take what Clive Myrie said seriously once I saw him saw that Andrew Neil was “too good a journalist with a reputation to protect to want to be associated with a news channel that peddles conspiracy theories and propaganda.”

    1. James Mills says:

      Isn’t Piers Morgan being recruited for this new ‘news’ channel ? He will fit right in – right being the appropriate word !
      So , his ‘walk-out’ during GMB and his subsequent resignation was a nice little stunt to garner publicity and attract the right kind of audience to this new alt-right beacon of democracy .

      1. shaun macdonald says:

        I couldn’t stop myself from immediately coming to the same conclusion, I’ve been casually observing Morgan morphing into a “man of the people” mouthpiece for common sense and have been worried by the gullibility of some who should know better.

  6. Blair says:

    Everyone must remember that their God works through them. Artists cannot do anything without receiving a thought first. We are all artists, we may all have the impression of freedom but really it is our higher self that works for us. We are just mere machines in a system that we cannot understand. I am just glad my father is alive.

  7. florian albert says:

    ‘Britain . . . . . . not so much a Failed State as a Parody State.’

    Britain as a ‘Failed State’ is a common trope of the pro-independence left. It is entirely inaccurate. Britain has been able to borrow vast sums of money in the past year precisely because it is so far from being a failed state.
    A state with an incompetent government would be nearer the mark. However, the record of the past year shows that Scotland’s government has, in most respects, not done significantly better. Only in presentation can Scotland claim to have been decisively ahead.
    Even on the charge of incompetence, the British government’s record is – due to the vaccination programme – starting to look better. In the last two weeks, deaths from corona have been lower in Britain than in Germany, France, Italy or Spain.
    Anyone with even a brief knowledge of British history will see a recurrent theme; initial failure followed be improvement as the strengths of the state and society kick in. The soap opera involving minor royals is best ignored. (At its heart is the fact that Harry and Meghan have been made redundant, like so many coal miners and steel workers .) Already, it is ‘last week’s crisis.’

    1. ST says:

      The UK has been n steady decline since the end of WW2. But for a brief spell in the 50’s ( You’ve never had it so good ), and the much hyped Cool Britannia Blair years its influence has steadily declined in reverse proportion to its corruption and diminishing democracy.
      English exceptionalism has poisoned the logic and rational of our southern cousins ( Brexit, UKIP , English Nationalism etc. ).
      While the Scottish system is not perfect it has clearly demonstrated that the system works and that MSPs CAN be held accountable to some extenet.
      Ptitti Pattel , guilty of misleading the House . Where is the accountability ? You are in denial
      Matt Hancock , guilty of defrauding PPE procurement . Where is the accountability ? You are in denial
      Prince Andrew , on some level guilty of sexual misconduct . Where is the accountability ? You are in denial.
      Boris Johnson , breaking International law via the GFA, illegally proroguing Parliament , the highest per capita Covid deaths in the world. Where is the accountability ? You are in denial.
      40% reduction in UK EU exports since January. Where is the accountability ? You are in denial
      3 million unemployed with 3 million on furlough. Where is the accountability ? You are in denial
      The list goes on, and on , and on ……
      ALL Empires come to an end. Roman, Austro Hungarian, etc. and so too does the British Empire and its influence.
      There is clearly a market for post traumatic stress counselling for Unionism and Unionists. It is clear that you and yours are in complete denial as to the state of this State. Like a dead body the UK is a shell. Its soul has passed. It cannot be re-animated like some Frankenstein creation.For those who support it there is a grieving period. Its safe to say you are still very much at the first stage of denial. Some have moved on to acceptance. I sincerely hope you can allow yourself to do the same soon

      1. Wul says:

        “Like a dead body the UK is a shell. Its soul has passed. It cannot be re-animated like some Frankenstein creation.”

        That’s a good way to look at it. The “soul” of the UK project, what gave it it’s animus and vitality, was founded on racism, pillage, enslavement, land grabbing and invasion.
        Those things are frowned upon nowadays and a different kind of engine would be needed to “Make Britain Great Again”. However, our establishment is incapable or reimagining the UK. They have too much power, wealth and identity invested in the old ways, hence their outrage, anger and sense of victimhood.

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