Prince Harry is the ultimate recruitment poster boy for the Call of Duty generation. As a soldier Prince, he is in his element: today’s media is plastered with pictures of him in subtle battle dress, poses framed by an apache helicopter gunship, underlining his sense of purpose and presenting him in hero-like dimensions.
From Las Vegas to Camp Bastion, Harry’s headlines – both good and bad – build a modern heroic monomyth around him. He may be a professional soldier – but am I alone in preferring to read about his rock ‘n’ roll hedonism rather than this latest “I killed in Afghanistan” meme?
Hadley Freeman made an apt caricature of Harry’s media appearance in the Guardian, comparing them to “an especially sloaney university’s production of Top Gun (it’s the sunglasses)” and bringing attention to the media “omerta” that surrounds him.
Despite spending a considerable amount of money keeping Harry physically safe, the investment seems to be missing when protecting his image during his end-of-tour media commitment. Arguably, his complacent PR minders dropped their guard. However, some of these soundbites are already having negative resonance in the region he works hard to improve.
Harry uses the language of the squaddie in his interviews, comparing his experience to that of a computer game. Such comments have angered senior officials who have said it is disrespectful to those who died alongside Captain Wales.
Criticising the media was another own-goal – by now the prince should know better and should rise above the clichéd clamour. Harry is popular with the crowd, so why does he allow his cynicism towards the Third Estate create future tensions?
Harry’s comments have been a media failing for the military, diplomacy and his supporters here in the UK. As Rob Crilly pointed out in his recent Telegraph article, the fight against insurgents will be “as much about PR salvoes as it is about rockets and bullets”. Flippant comments have handed extremists a propaganda prize that will have a far more enduring sting than the inconvenience of the media junket.