How disappointing to read about Prince Harry’s use of racist language in the press over the weekend, not so much because it’s Harry – it’s no surprise, really, that he’s prone to calling people ‘Paki’ and ‘Raghead’ in fun, given that his idea of fun has seen him dressing in Nazi uniform for parties – but because such language, behaviour and petty racism is still deemed worthy, at best, of only a mild rebuke by the Fourth Estate and by a worrying percentage of the public, as, by and large, the reactions to the News of the World story on their website proves.
Clarence House’s PR, of course, spun the story in the slickest way imaginable, by swiftly leaking the story to all the papers, to take the sting out of the News of the World’s outraged exclusive – a textbook case of lessening the impact of Harry’s unthinking tongue. It’s disappointing, though, that the Fourth Estate’s reaction, which on the whole amounts to little more than a slap on the ankle, tacitly gives permission for such language to remain in use. Surely they should be far more critical?
It’s possible, of course, that the Royal PR machine behind the Princes is just a little too good, but I wonder, in these recessionary times, if it’s not as much about the media keeping Clarence House sweet so they don’t lose access to William and Harry, whose antics, wholesome or otherwise, help keep their circulation up. The way the story has played out certainly suggests that the media were happy to collude with the damage limitation, because of the inside track they were given at the News of the World’s expense.
It’s disappointing that Prince Harry is not the role model he’s been asked to be. But then Harry is something of a blast from the past – he’s the product of a privileged lifestyle that is prone to be blunt of speech, sometimes to the point of rudeness or petty racism, unthinking of the consequences or the people he insults. It is to be hoped that Prince Harry will learn what it means to set an example, will learn the art of diplomacy, but it is equally possible that he will mutate into his grandfather if left unchecked and become another just chip off the block of institutionalized racism at the heart of the establishment.
At a time when tension in the Middle East is running dangerously high and all sides are digging in and whooping up new reasons for continuing the violence, however, surely the revelation that the third person in line to the throne is perfectly happy to bandy about divisive language in the name of fun should have provoked a sterner dressing down from the press and public.
Unfortunately, at the moment, it seems as if Prince Harry is dripping oil on the fire when he should be aiming it at troubled waters. Let’s hope Clarence House’s formidable PR team can point him in the right direction. I wait with interest to see what demonstration or stunt they will concoct in the near future to further limit the damage.