The Diamond Jubilee celebrations in England took place across an extended public holiday. The festivities could be interpreted as capturing a mood of escapism to an Olde England, and a yearning for cultural continuity, in times of radical change
The novelist Julian Barnes described a surrogate England in the future which has been established off-shore with all guile and marketing skill of an all-powerful media magnate who was behind the venture . Visitors could enjoy the nostalgia provided, cleansed of uncomfortable aspects of reality.
In that respect, the celebrations [June 2-5, 2012] of Queen Elizabeth’s sixty years as constitutional monarch, chimed with the dystopic vision in the novel.
Drizzle, drivel, and magnificent pageantry
The BBC reporting of any national event may be taken as convenient shorthand for an official State view of the nation. It does so while signalling its commitment to free speech and yet offering provision for expression of alternative views.
A Supernova and an informational black hole
Over the period of the celebration, the various events collectively produced a Supernova of dazzling intensity. Almost all other news disappeared into an informational black hole.
The BBC courageously undertook the required wall-to-wall coverage. The procession of 1000 vessels down the Thames was magnificent. It was intended to surpass a royal regatta of 350 years ago.
The unremitting drizzle was creatively reported as demonstrating the British spirit when facing adversity.
The event lasted less than three hours, so that seven hours of radio commentary resulted in inevitable drivel. I base this mainly on sampling snippets as I dipped in and out across the four days:
First snippet: “What kind of dress would you say she is wearing”
Second snippet: “The crowd are staying loyal although they must be very wet by now”.
Third snippet: “A bottle has floated down the Thames. That’s brought a cry from the crowd”.
Fourth snippet: “You are dressed in a Union Jack. Are you proud to be British [cheers from crowd]”. “Yes. Anyone who’s not should go back to wherever they came from” [more cheers].
Fifth snippet: “Everything has been a highlight…but perhaps the real highlight is to come with the appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace this evening”
Sixth snippet: “The royal loo is now open to the public”
Seventh snippet: [Repeated chanting, apparently by young and female participants directed to an intrepid group of anti-royalists] “God save the Queen”.
The journalists, as indefatigable as the Queen herself, gallantly repeated the marathon at the variety performance. This was another magnificent spectacle, drizzle count low, drivel count high, celebrity count very high.
Somewhat strange end to the event:
Prince Charles paid a personal tribute beginning ‘Your majesty… mummy’. Mentioned sad news of his father’s hospitalization after the boat trip, and asked the crowd to cheer up Prince Philip with a cheer and another three cheers for the Queen.
Then The Queen lit the last of 4000 beacons in an echo of the symbolism of the Olympic flame, still in transit around the United Kingdom.
With still time to fill in, and suffering withdrawal symptoms, BBC’s Radio 5 resorted to phone-ins and crowd-sourced debates on ‘Should we get rid of the Monarch?’ [No], and ‘Are you proud to be British?’ [Yes].
Behind the headlines
The event will become distilled into a footnote of Modern history. The orthodox version will accurately capture widespread respect for The Queen, observed in the four days, and amplified into a popularist near-idolatry.
After the glitter has faded, the Diamond Jubilee will be examined for implications of the current and future branding of GB Limited. Students of leadership may be motivated to contribute to reflections on the dilemmas facing hereditary monarchies around the world.
Note: LWD still awaiting restoration of normal service. Apologies.