Instant Hagiography, Digital Mourning, Compulsory Euphoria

The death of Prince Phillip Battenberg-Mountbatten-Windsor, the Duke of Edinburgh has unleashed one of Britain’s (very) regular spasms of state-sponsored euphoria and compulsory patriotism defying any sense of perspective or rationality.

History has been instantly re-written: a man whose ‘career’ was littered with racist comments over decades is re-presented as a progressive environmentalist; and a man who experienced one of the most privileged lives imaginable on earth is portrayed as some kind of Stakhanovite worker, despite his job being – incredibly – to walk slowly behind someone else; and a man who received impunity from the law is portrayed as a victim who shouldered the burden of his role with immense grace.

Euphemisms abound as a selected brood of sycophants are hand-picked to cough-up hours of doe-eyed coverage. He was ‘straight-talking’, a ‘no-nonsense-father’, ‘gaffe-prone’.

This orgy of stupidity just rolls on through melancholy delirium punctured only by the joy of watching Britain disintegrate.

We are experiencing late or terminal Britishness. As Tom Nairn puts it in Pariah:

“Decline was the older, more genteel form of putrefaction which prevailed until the close of the 1970s. But from then on, a qualitatively distinct phase has taken over – the brazen simulacrum endured by all subjects of the Crown today.”

If bunting and confetti were important to Declining Britain they are essential to Parody Britain. But deaths can be as useful as births and certainly better than weddings, and we are currently being rained-on with a confetti of propaganda and a bromide of crude disinformation.

Deaths are certain events, weddings much less so. The solemnity of the next eight days is far richer than the jovial cheer of a wedding. A dark veil is far more potent than a white one.

The spectacle is essential and endless: the weddings of Charles and Diana (1981), Andrew and Fergie (1986), William and Kate (2011), and Harry and Meghan (2018) were interspersed by the Golden Jubilee (2002) the death of the Last Empress of India (2002) and countless babies. I may have missed out the epic events of the lives of the Duke of Gloucester, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince Louis, the Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra and many more forgettable but expensive appendages. Sorry.

This artifice of nationhood is both potent and empty- it appeals both constantly to the past – and tries desperately to adapt itself to the future – the ‘Royals’ are constantly ‘updating themselves’ and constantly failing to do so – because how can you update feudalism? You can digitise the message beamed out across ‘the nation’ …


It’s contemporary Hauntology – a digital image beamed simultaneously across the rotting Kingdom – it’s Sci-Fi Futurama brought to you by people who inhabit a Fairyland of Princes and Princesses – people we fund and act with impunity, people we are then forced to manufacture emotions for at their significant life-events: grief *sad face*; joy *happy faces*.

Actually it’s worse than that. People’s empty lives are filled with “genuine” emotion towards people they have never met and who fund and invest in despite their own poverty. Here’s an adult human welling-up at the death of a very very old and very very rich man who has led a life of unimaginable privilege.

What is possibly sad about this reality?

The treatment seriously challenges the idea of the BBC being a public rather than a state broadcaster.

Though it’s too late (and completely misses the point) the BBC was in fact inundated with complaints over wall-to-wall Prince Philip coverage as people baulked against the sheer crassness of the whole experience.

The coercive idea that “lots of people are very upset” becomes a sort of Hegemony Factory trotted out without any real evidence as does the notion that it’s somehow verboten to talk about Prince Philip and the state spectacle because it’s a private grieving moment. So the experience hovers between PRIVATE AND PERSONAL – as a deluge of personal tributes broadcast on all frequencies as Gyles Brandreth and a horde of obsequious fringe aristocracy cluster onto your screens  – and STATE AND PUBLIC – as normal functions of democracy are shut down and the vast infrastructure of carefully curated national mourning is activated.

While the salacious gossip about the royals and minor royals is an endless dribble into public life, and indeed has been a prime driver of the tabloidisation of the British media in the last thirty (fifty?) years, the wider framing, the meta-framing is really about deference.

This is the essential point. This is the essence of what you are viewing. The lack of any critical debate, the lack of any sense of perspective the massive over-hype and ridiculous hagiography is only possible in a society that expects fealty and demands unquestioning and slavish obedience.

The whole exhausting repulsive experience confirms what we’ve been saying for years: you can be an active Scottish Citizen or a passive British Subject.

Your choice.

There aren’t other alternatives available.


Comments (43)

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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Thankyou. A state built on lies and deceptions. And the monarchy is at the centre of it.

    1. Roger Gough says:

      Exactly like the current Scottish Government. Totally beyond the pale, yet you revel in it’s corruption.

      1. Graeme McCormick says:


  2. GM Stevenson says:

    As I’m bald, am I exempt from having to tug my forelock?

  3. Squigglypen says:

    Couldn’t have put it better myself.
    When will these feudal islands follow the example of other nations and dump these arrogant s***s who lord it over us with impunity.
    I watch the crowds of peasants run to the railings, like so many monkeys in the zoo, hoping to catch a glimpse of their betters..while waving pathetic little union flags up to the hallowed balcony …..and oh joy!.. the gods respond with a twirly little wave of the hand…aghhhh!
    Cheer up Scotland..independence is coming….and a republic with watch it Nicola…don’t cancel our country and election for one old git.

    1. ScotsCanuck says:

      …. just one correction …. “one DEAD old git”

  4. Ian says:

    Very well put. Exactly how I thought about the whole situation , just couldn’t find the words. Thanks

  5. Karen says:

    The Queen Mum got blood transfusions from young people at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary when she was at Balmoral. Told to me by a consultant there, who was obviously angry, and told everyone he could. Vampires, almost literally.

    1. Drew Anderson says:

      So she maybe had some Scottish blood after all; depends on where the students originated of course, but…

      If you scroll down to “ancestry” in her Wikipedia article, you’ll find she was born in London, as were her parents. All her grandparents were English born, as were the 6 great grandparents where a place of birth was given. The other 2 weren’t given, but their names certainly didn’t scream outlander.

      1. Pub Bore says:

        Does blood have a nationality?

        1. Drew Anderson says:

          Just highlighting the oft used, but erroneous, claim that Betty Bowes-Lyon was in any way Scottish.

          I’m guessing you knew that, but let your propensity for being a smartarse get the better of you.

          1. Pub Bore says:

            She was ‘Scottish’ to and only to the extent that she participated in the civic life of that imagined community. In this day and age, nationality has b*gg*r all to do with where you were born or (metaphorically) what blood flows in your veins or in what culture you’re embedded; it’s all down to citizenship.

          2. Drew Anderson says:

            I don’t know why you’re choosing this particular hill to die upon.

            The Royals were perfectly happy for the myth that the QM was Scottish to go uncorrected; why? They also went out of their way to make sure Princess Margaret was born in Scotland; again why? To con a few people into thinking an Anglo-German dynasty was in some way representative of them?

            You can bang on all you like about citizenship, but I and many others self-identify as Scottish, not British and are actively campaigning for Scottish citizenship to be recognised globally.

            Owning a rather splendid holiday home, the Castle of Mey; attending a few Highland Games and shooting grouse on manicured monocultures does not, in my opinion, a Scot make.

            Anyway, all I was doing was giving a light hearted, if irreverent, reply to Karen’s post. It wasn’t an invitation for you to live down to your handle and bore me personally.

            I’m out, feel free to get in the final word.

          3. Pub Bore says:

            You can self-identify as much as you like, Drew. Maybe the Queen Mother did too. Would that be enough to make her Scottish?

            But, wheesht! Daena rile yersel intil sic a fash! All I’m doing is having a laugh, giving a light-hearted, if irreverent, reply to your post.

  6. Alice says:

    Just looked out of my front window to see a huge photograph of HRH Prince Phillip positioned on an electronic billboard in Hamilton Road Cambuslang, This billboard usually advertises the wares of several shops on a rotating basis. HRH’s is static.

    HRH is aged about 50 – 60 yrs with his chest heaving with medals pinned to a military uniform. My breath was taken for a minute . Whit is this ? Compulsory mourning ? Kin Jong- UN eat your tattered heart out!,

  7. Pub Bore says:

    That said, one of the best places to go to learn about ‘hauntology’ is the evil BBC:

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Of course, all that critical theory is really nothing but ‘clever b*ll*cks’.

    2. There’s lots to love about the BBC – I didnt call it evil – the drama mostly and a ton of content people adore (much of it groundbreaking and award-winning) – the issue is its role at pivotal moments such as this.

      1. Pub Bore says:

        According to its charter, the role of the BBC is to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality, and distinctive output and services that inform, educate, and entertain across its various platforms. Why should that be any different now, at this ‘pivotal moment’?

        1. Because it slips from being a public broadcaster to being a state broadcaster, in which its nakedly political and partisan and the culture of deference and hegemony that surround such moments make it impossible to regulate or criticise

          1. Niemand says:

            But would the BBC not be *required* to cover such royal deaths like this? Like they don’t have much choice / leeway? I have a strong suspicion it might be part of the charter or something. So in that sense they do become a state broadcaster at moments like this, and they have little choice (so the state / public broadcaster perspective can shift). What is frustrating is that so much of this kind of thing is secret and shouldn’t be – as a license fee payer it should be transparent i.e. what can we expect when the Queen dies – a whole week of enforced media mourning? We should know as we pay for it.

          2. Pub Bore says:

            I don’t see how it ceases to perform its function as a public broadcaster. If anything, the current outpouring demonstrates how the BBC still functions as a medium through which the public can (among other things) grieve its lost future in the totemic form of (in this instance) Prince Philip.

            Whether or not you participate in that grieving as a private individual is, of course, entirely up to you. Nobody’s making you.

            More generally, politicos who’d undermine the independence of public broadcasting through state regulation, in order to ensure that it conforms in its output to what they consider to be politically correct, should be careful what they wish for.

            In many countries, public broadcasting does still function as an arm of the state, which finances it, selects its managers, and maintains strict censorship over their content. Thankfully, however, the proliferation of private media, made possible by the digital revolution in media technology, has broken the dependence public broadcasting once had on the state. Public broadcasting is now not just the authoritative voice of corporations like the BBC, but a polyphony of competing voices within which everyone can and, indeed. must seek and find his or her own ‘truth’ or interpretation of events.

            So far, I’ve managed to avoid the collective grieving of Britain’s lost future by avoiding the media channels through which it’s being enacted. If you too don’t want to participate in it, I’d suggest you do likewise. Public broadcasting is wider and more diverse than it’s ever been before; avail yourself of its possibilities.

          3. Pub Bore says:

            Niemand: what secrecy? The BBC’s charter is accessible to anyone who wants to view it.

            And in what sense is would the national mourning of the Queen’s passing (or any other totemic event) be ‘enforced’? I remember the day Charles and Diana got wed; it was such a rare day, weatherwise, that I took the weans swimming up by Tweedsmuir. Participation in these public observances is, surely, optional and voluntary.

          4. Niemand says:

            PB what I mean by ‘enforced’ is that, as a consumer of the BBC big time (I like it and am not down on it like so many here – it is actually pretty balanced no matter what some think – all they want is for it be biased in their favour), I would simply have to turn it off for the duration (i.e I would be ‘forced’ to do so) to avoid such coverage as they blanket the entire output. As a license fee payer who would only have a passing interest, this seems unfair given they have several output streams they could dedicate in various ways. Weird marshal synth music on 6Music 24/7 just seems bizarre.

            As for the Charter, yes of course I could look at it and I wonder if what I am suggesting is there or not? I think the BBC should be obviously transparent and up front on this saying clearly what they will do. The BBC do have a coyness on certain matters that isn’t justified much of the time.

          5. Drew Anderson says:

            @ Niemand, Pub Bore,

            I’m sure it would’ve been entirely possible to cover the news and broadcast tributes, even extensive ones, without going completely over the top.

            At one point, they were churning out exactly the same programming on BBC1, BBC2, BBC Scotland, BBC News & BBC Parliament. Five channels simultaneously punting sycophantic dross, which was heavy on the gaslighting.

          6. Pub Bore says:

            Yes, Drew. But the fact remains that, if you didn’t like what the BBC was broadcasting on Friday, you could have switched to media channels that were broadcasting stuff you do like.

          7. Drew Anderson says:

            5 publicly funded channels broadcasting exactly the same content & your recommendation is just switch over?

            No, I don’t think that’s, ahem, remotely okay. I’m not alone, apparently the complaints system broke down due to the volume of complaints.

          8. Pub Bore says:

            Yes, Drew; the universal license fee has become a pretty unsatisfactory way of paying for the BBC’s content. Why, indeed, should you pay for content you don’t like? I’d be complaining too.

            Now that there’s so much choice available within public broadcasting, with everyman and his laptop capable of producing and publically broadcasting content, we should be free to choose to which media channels we subscribe. Then, when we didn’t like what the BBC’s broadcasting, we could vote with our feet, taking our money with us. The Beeb would start broadcasting more popular content then, I’d wat.

  8. Daniel Raphael says:

    All you highlight (lowlight?) Michael, PLUS the important detail that the monarchy is not merely ornamental and ceremonial–it also serves as an emergency go-to run around parliament and the rabble, when desired. The Chagos Islanders know something of the effect of these private soirees, much to their suffering and loss–but does the UK public bear this in mind? What has surprised me as I’ve become more familiar with the UK variant of capitalist democracy, is just how obviously unaccountable anyone is, suffice they have wealth and power. It reminds me altogether too much of our own febrile faux democracy here in the States, where “the revolving door,” as it is called, passes corporate hacks to government and round to further enrichment in the private sector, and back. We share seemingly endless, feckless commissions, inquiries, and other empty rituals, but I had thought Parliament really wielded power alone. Alas, I was so mistaken; real power rests with these degenerates in feudal get-up. Why does the UK populace put up with it?

  9. John McLeod says:

    Meanwhile in Ireland, President Michael D. Higgins leads the nation in a series of events designed to face up tp the collective amnesia of colonialism….

    Could we dare to imagine, and hope for, anything similar in our own country?

    1. Paddy Farrington says:

      Indeed. And Mary Robinson before him was another exemplar of the philosopher presidency that Scotland might one day aspire to. The tawdry spectacle of the British state at its present nadir contrasts strikingly with the institutions of the Irish Republic.

  10. Graham Ennis says:

    Well, I have a small dog in this race. (Not of my doing. )
    My father, (Ex-RAF, WW2) had the wierd experience of being born as an exact double of the Prince. (I kid you not)
    After the war, he was in then then BOAC (Now BA) and wore a uniform covcered in Gold Braid. With uniform war ribbons.The resulting confusion was hilarious.
    People looked at him on buses and trains, with slight awe and in public buildings. Nobody talked to him. Eventually, My father got posted to a remote airport in Canada, where the royal flight always did refuelling, before going on to the USA. My father had the job of supervising the transit. My father had no advance warning of who was on board, except the usual message “V:I:P onboard”. He went on board to see flight crew. They were a bit startled to see him. Even more was the VIP. There was then a huge burst of laughter from everyone. This then happened about five times a year. I was taken to the airport once and met the Duke. I was about 12. I was instantly struck by what I saw. This was a rather guarded man with a thick shell of bonhomie, humour, and bad jokes. Cautious, and even in private not that happy with his situation. he was a typical Royal navy Officer of his time, trapped in a situation far above him. I thought that the whole thing was a play act by him. He could also swear like a sailor. I have no doubts that the office was unwelcome. Sad, really. The Navy are very good at teaching behavior. I add this contribution not to boast in any way, but to show that he was acting a part, most of the time. It now turns out that his family werre flat broke, and so was he, when he married Elizabeth. He had to be given a royal grant from the estate of £10,000 a year, plus all bills paid for by the Crown estate. I got an impression he was trapped in his situation. Sad really. He was acting out a dangerous role. Hired help.

  11. archie macalister says:

    Splendid, Mike

  12. Mr Tim Hoy says:

    There are frequent times when I am reminded why I subscribe to Bella Caledonia. This is one of them. I watch very little television, but it will remain switched off for the foreseeable future until this tedious and festering obsequiousness and rewriting history comes to a close. Thank you Mike.

    1. Tim Hoy says:

      Oops sorry – autofill put a “Mr” before my name.

  13. Bill McDermott says:

    You tell it like it is Mike. This crazefest by the BBC, ITV and Sky is enough to put anyone in to a deep slumber. I long for the day when we can escape the madness and reclaim our country as the Republic of Scotland.

  14. SleepingDog says:

    “countless babies”. Oh, I would count the babies. Royals tend to practice infanticide. Or in the last century, locking them up in The Asylum rather than The Tower. Getting Burke’s Peerage to misreport their deaths.

    Why is the Queen absent from the Harry Potter series, set in the UK? You have the Prime Minister. I suppose the answer is obvious, when you think about it.

  15. Dougie Harrison says:

    Of all the printed dailies yesterday, only the firmly leftwing Morning Star had no photo of the dreary auld man on its fromt page.

    The National, disgracefully, succumbed.

    Where is the fiercely republican element in our national movement? The ‘Scottish breakaway’ (or Coronation Coronach) git it right:

    ‘Her man’s cried the chookie Edinbra
    an he’s wan o yon kiltie Greeks,
    ach but dinnae blaw his kilts awa
    For it’s Liz that wears the breeks.’

    Just wait till Lizzie (the First) herself dies!

    1. babs nicgriogair says:

      Active Scottish Citizen anyday !
      Really threw me that even 6music a celebrated alt-voice at the Beeb tugged their forelock.
      The sooner we create our own media in tandem with Bella and Commonspace etc the better.

  16. Jim Bennett says:

    Excellent article. Thank you, Mike.

  17. David McCann says:

    Thanks Mike!
    Excellent observation!

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