A tale of two Harrys: On the particular cruelty of the British press

While Prince Harry tries to escape the British media, Harry Cole rolls around in the filth...

Working for Rupert Murdoch — either as an employee of News Corp or a politician who cosies up to him in return for positive coverage — is often described as doing a deal with the devil. But that’s clearly unfair: Satan is much more reasonable than Rupert Murdoch.

Today’s newsletter is about two Harrys — one who was born into the jaws of the rat trap (Prince Harry) and one who will debase himself over and over again in his quest to be king rat (The Sun’s Harry Cole).

Besides both attending public schools in the Eton group (Prince Harry at Eton and Cole at Tonbridge) and having a youthful penchant for ill-advised fancy dress, the two men are very different. While the Prince has long despised the British media, Cole revels in it.

In his interview with perma-chuckling TV irritant James Corden, Prince Harry talked about his relationship with the British media and how it had affected his mental health and the health of his family:

It was a really difficult environment as a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like. And it was destroying my mental health. I was like, this is toxic.

Of course, that was a red rag to red tops particularly. The British press doesn’t expect to be criticised. Celebrities — and that’s what Harry is — are expected to keep their mouths shut about the way the newspapers act and turn up when required to grin and praise their ‘campaigns’. Bullying, harassment, lies, half-truths, racism and barely concealed hate are just ‘how it works’ and the British press expects famous people to accept those things as the inevitable side-effects of being well-known.

On This Morning, Camilla Tominey, The Telegraph’s Associate Editor for Politics and Royals (and frequent Prince Andrew excuse maker), railed at Prince Harry:

“… as we have become accustomed to in recent weeks and months, he did have a pop at the British press, saying that it was the scrutiny and intense coverage that they were facing when they were in the UK that led to him having quite serious mental health problems…

… I think it’s an interesting rewriting of history… we know they’ve faced intense press scrutiny but there was also a financial imperative for them to move to the US and that was to make more money.

And indeed they’ve landed these Netflix deals. It was quite interesting that Harry actually references The Crown when he’s on top of the bus, and if you were a cynic you might think, ‘Well, that’s quite a convenient plug given that you’ve just signed that multi-million dollar deal with them.

… He has a bit of a short memory if he forgets that it was the British press that has covered all of his charitable work with the Royals, the Invictus Games and everything else… this is him giving his one side of the story… the British press covered [the Sussexes leaving] all very accurately.

On the one hand, you want to be given a completely sympathetic audience with the likes of James Corden or Oprah Winfrey, that’s fair enough but it only gives one side of the story. And equally, it is quite different to argue about press intrusion, when you keep on doing things that engender headlines — we wouldn’t be speaking about them now were it not for the fact that he’s gone on the top of a bus with James Corden and equally when it comes to this Oprah interview that’s going to open another can of worms…”

Tominey repeats a claim often made by the parasites and prigs that make up this country’s seemingly endless stream of Royal ‘experts’, is that Prince Harry used to get on famously with the British media and that Meghan has turned the wean against them. That’s transparently horseshit: This is the man whose mother died when he was just 12, in part due to being pursued by the paparazzi, and whose family made him walk beside her coffin almost entirely for propaganda purposes.

A compilation of interview clips that’s been pinging around Twitter shows how long Prince Harry has been talking about his treatment by the tabloids (and sorry, Telegraph hacks but I consider your paper to be a tabloid like the rest regardless of the ridiculously unwieldy way you print it).

In the video montage, Prince Harry says:

I don’t want to sit around at Windsor because I generally don’t like England that much and it’s nice to be away from the press and the papers and the general shite that they write…

My father always says don’t read it, everyone says don’t read it because it’s always rubbish. I’m surprised how many people in the UK actually read it. Everyone’s guilty for buying the newspapers I guess but hopefully, no one believes what they read…

Of course, I read it, if there’s a story and something’s been written about me I want to know about what’s being said. All it does is upset and anger me that people can get away with writing the stuff that they do, not just about me, about everything and everybody. [Reporter: How far back does that mistrust of the press go?] I think it’s fairly obvious how far back it goes. To when I was very small…

Those clips come from long before he met Meghan and long before he decided, with her, to step away from the life he had been expected to live from the moment he was born. Journalists like Tominey claiming they would leave him alone if he simply shut up are gaslighting. If he and his wife decided to simply disappear, the paparazzi would still be on their tale and the newspaper columnist would be howling about the couple's ‘arrogant refusal to speak’.

The truth of the British newspapers’ rage about the Corden interview and the upcoming Oprah special has nothing to do with ‘disrespect’ for The Queen or a lack of compassion towards Prince Philip (a man not known for demonstrating that virtue himself) but everything to do with professional jealously and spite.

If Harry and Meghan played the game like William and Kate, whose children are pictured in tacky calendars given away with The Daily Mail, the newspapers would treat them far more kindly. For celebrities of any kind, the British press is a protection racket — if you cooperate, they’ll go easier on you.

Meanwhile, in today’s Sun, Harry Cole continues his self-abasement in service of his proprietor and his beloved Prime Minister. The spread above (Up For The Cup, Up For The Sup, Up For The Nup?) is arguably the most embarrassing thing Cole has ever been involved in and this is a man who drove a pink tank to Broadcasting House to protest about the sacking of Jeremy Clarkson during his time as Muttley to Dickhead Dastardly (Paul Staines).

To stand elbow to elbow with your ex-girlfriend’s new partner and write slurpingly fawning coverage of his transparently ridiculous claims (“PM teetotal till pubs back!”) is truly pathetic. Cole has done it time and time again. If he didn’t have a long and insalubrious history of cruelty and hypocritical cant across the pages of not just The Sun but The Mail on Sunday and Guido Fawkes, I’d almost feel sorry for him.

Having sold his soul to the tabloid beast for so long, Cole is now down to the bottom of the bag, scraping around for the last few crumbs to toss into Murdoch’s ever-hungry maw.

Harry Cole is 34-years-old but could pass for a contemporary of the 56-year-old Prime Minister in that picture. It may be that The Sun’s requirement that all of its journalists write with the vocabulary of an angry man in a pub sometime in 1978 is prematurely ageing or that Murdoch’s plan to live forever requires his hacks to offer up their life force to him. Who’s to say?

This tale of two Harrys illustrates the same fundamental truth about the British media: You either fall in line with its cruelty, spite and self-deception or those things are turned against you.

Even as a republican, I know which Harry I respect and which I pity.