Support for the monarchy is the result of brainwashing on an Orwellian scale, argues novelist Will Selfby Will Self / March 23, 2011 / Leave a comment
I haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet. This isn’t just because I’m a republican. I’m not such a zealot that I think ideologies which I have no sympathy with cannot still form the backdrop to compelling drama—I loved Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of Hitler in Downfall, so why shouldn’t I enjoy Colin Firth’s Georgian shtick? No, I haven’t seen it because whatever the disavowals of its makers, it serves royalist interests in an infuriatingly ingenuous way. It doesn’t matter if it portrays the Windsors as individuals, the net result is that its audience is more inclined to acquiesce to an institution that has a stultifying effect on our political culture.
Even watching the trailer, I could feel it wreaking this sinister effect on me: as Colin-cum-George stammered in front of an expectant crowd I could feel tears pricking my eyes; this was, I realised, exactly the sensation Winston Smith must have had as he looked up at the poster of Big Brother and realised he loved him. But at least Orwell’s protagonist had rats applied to his face before giving in. We Britons are conditioned from birth to accept there’s only one form of government being held up for us—constitutional monarchy—no matter how many others we can see.
Monarchism is the default setting for the way we think about our constitutional settlement. Those of us who question it are subjected to the usual blah-blah about the evolutionary character of the British constitution: the way our law is based on concrete precedent rather than Frenchified abstract principle, the way our democracy has grown incrementally and organically from Runnymede to the present day, the way our Queen’s prerogative exists as a means of negatively inferring the real source of executive power, and so on. The overall message is: see that noble oak over there? That’s our system of government. What kind of a foul oik are you to chop it down with your regicidal axe?
Another favoured argument of the default royalists is: Ooh, I know it’s not a perfect system, but what would you have instead? I mean, imagine having a head of state like Sarkozy/Bush/Gaddafi (delete where appropriate). This is another appeal to inertia. The political classes often agonise as to why there’s so little popular interest or enthusiasm for politics but part of the answer, surely, is this unreal counterfactual constantly…