by Walter Brasch
Long after the American colonials broke away from the British monarchy, long after George Washington refused to take the title of “king,” Americans are still fascinated by anything British and royal.
The media incessantly pumped out news and features about the royal birth. TV networks gave us several “special reports” when Kate Middleton checked into the hospital, and then even more reports when the birth was announced, and then when Middleton, Prince William, and their baby went home. The 30-minute network evening news devoted as much as half of its time to the royal birth.
There was live coverage. There was taped coverage.
Radio gave us near-instant updates.
Just about anyone in London with a cell phone camera sent visuals to TV or YouTube. Twitter was all a-flutter with messages of 140 characters or less; instant messaging swamped almost every known hand-held device. FaceBook lit up with pre-announcements and announcements. Newspapers and magazines opened up full pages for pictures. All of this media coverage is for an infant who is three generations from being king.
Speculation about the unannounced royal name briefly dominated headlines. The royal couple had nine months to determine a name, but still needed an additional two days—fast by past royal naming practices—to come up with a royal monicker, something that would be dignified yet carry on British tradition.
The infant is George Alexander Louis, to be formally known as His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. The “George” carries on a tradition of six previous British kings, including George VI, Queen Elizabeth’s father, who ably and courageously led his nation during the darkest part of World War II. “Louis” is for Lord Louis Mountbatten, admiral of the British fleet, a war hero who later became a diplomat. Lord Mountbatten was a mentor and close friend of Prince Charles, the infant’s grandfather.
As for “Alexander,” it could be for Alexander the Great who didn’t invade England. It could also be for British poet Alexander Pope; for Alexander Graham Bell, a Scot whose invention of the telephone led to the iPadization of world communications or for Alexander Fleming, a Scot who discovered penicillin. It’s even possible that the Infant Royal was named for Alex(ander) Trebeck, who always manages to get a question about Canada into every “Jeopardy” show.
It’s doubtful that the future king would be named for any of the seven popes named Alexander, since Henry VIII, an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II, separated England from the Catholic church.
But let’s think about all of this coverage and speculation a bit longer.
While the media are fixated upon the birth of a future monarch, they have cut back their incessant incoherently babbling about the lives and misfortunes of American celebrities. Because of time constraints, they aren’t broadcasting or printing as many of the latest fashions, work-out plans, celebrity diets, and food crazes.
They aren’t devoting as much air time or column inches to whatever it is that New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner is or isn’t doing with his Twitter.
They aren’t splashing multiple-column headlines across every fender-bender or marijuana arrest story. They aren’t repeating, without verification, incessant lies and half-truths told by politicians and the corporate PR cartels.
They aren’t the vehicle for the endless spreading the nonsense and rants about the George Zimmerman verdict or trying to give us pseudo-sociological explanations about race issues in America. They aren’t reminding us that the federal government is bugging us—in so many ways. They aren’t making fools of themselves trying to find where Edward Snowden is or where he’s planning to go, or even if he’s a hero or traitor.
Because it’s August, Congress is on vacation. Media coverage shouldn’t change—they’ve been reporting that Congress, hamstrung by the obstructionist minority, hasn’t done anything for the past four years.
So, for a few days, coverage of a royal birth is a welcome relief to what now passes as news.
[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is the critically-acclaimed Fracking Pennsylvania, which looks at health, environmental, economic, agricultural, and political issues.]