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Monarchy's undemocratic war on The Chaser

  • 29 April 2011

Clarence House's ban on ABC2's The Chaser's Royal Wedding Commentary has irreparably undermined the House of Windsor in Australia.

Until the ban, monarchists and the ambivalent masses alike could argue that monarchy was an effectively powerless symbol of the Commonwealth's cultural longevity and propriety, which did not impinge on liberal democratic values.

Ironically, its effective ban on democratic media representation provides a welcome jolt back to reality.

British monarchy is not the benevolent and benign institution we pretended it was, but a neurotic, self-perpetuating liability. It was their benevolence alone that guaranteed our unquestioned support, or at least tolerance, of their persistence as anachronistic figureheads in our parliamentary structure.

The BBC says royal wedding footage is not to be used for 'drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment purposes'. It claims this has forever been the standard, yet the 'satire' clause was added just days ago.

Under directives from royal spokespeople, the BBC is comfortable ignoring the fact that the media's exploitation, and our consumption, of contemporary British royalty is far from reverent. They are a real-life melodrama, ripe for the picking.

Lush and grotesque royal housings provide 'women's magazines' the ideal backdrop for the painful divorces, scandalous speculations and failed diet regimes that drive magazine and advertising sales. We consume the Windsors as we do soap operas. We want them to get fat and to struggle. Celebrity culture is fundamentally about schadenfreude, even where it is disguised as idolatry.

The Chaser's response to the monarch reads, 'To ensure that our coverage was respectful, we were only planning to use jokes that Prince Phillip has previously made in public, or at least the ones that don't violate racial vilification laws.' The ban has revealed that the royal establishment in all its pomposity is above criticism, and highly capable of implementing censorship to enforce this.

Recent polls reveal Australian support for a republic is at a 17-year low (although outright support for republicanism is still more common than for monarchism). One can only hope the swinging monarchists will be dissuaded by this propagandist interference. But is it enough to dissuade dyed-in-the-wool types?

Since WWII, the Windsor House has played a strategically emotional role in the hearts of the English and, to a lesser extent, Commonwealth subjects. Without doing much, they presented