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charlie, computer cat

August 2018



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When famous people die, particularly, it seems, members of the royal family, there is a great deal made of it in the media. All too often we are told that the whole nation is mourning. I remember it in the case of the Queen Mother, Jill Dando and Diana in particular. It's actually something I find deeply alienating. I was pretty much untouched by all three of those deaths. I didn't know them and wasn't interested in them. That feels to me like a perfectly normal reaction, but there's a constant barrage of coverage surrounding these events telling me that it ought to mean something - that there is some kind of national coming together over these deaths that everyone else is a part of. It's even more pervasive than sports - I have similar but less strong feelings about things like the world cup and the Olympics. I think the reason that they're less strong there though is that I'm aware of being part of a larger group of people who's just not interested whereas I'm not concious of a vocal community of disinterest in these cases. So, is that community there but silent? The only way to find out is a poll :)

Poll #1048051 10 years on...

At the time of Diana's death

I was deeply upset or saddened
I was somewhat upset or saddened
I was a little upset or saddened
I was indifferent
I was actively annoyed by the constant coverage

Looking back on her death now

I am deeply upset or saddened
I am somewhat upset or saddened
I am a little upset or saddened
I am indifferent
I am actively annoyed by the constant coverage

TBH, if I could figure it out clearly enough, I could write a very long rambling post about my lack of sense of any national belonging of any kind (and my inability to comprend it in others) but it's still to up in the air in my mind, so you're spared :)


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I'm kind of upset/saddened AND annoyed by the constant coverage. I'm generally easily emotional when it comes to deaths. Some deaths, I'm ashamed to say, I'm pleased with. But most do make me sad.
In general, when I hear about a violent death of someone I don't know, I'm more likely to react with indignation at the person who caused the death than with saddness for the victim personally - I guess it partly depends on how strongly you empathise/identify with the victim or the family.
My sadness for Diana specifically is the real loss her death has been to some of her champion causes. Her continued pain-in-the-backside role on landmines may well have pushed that cause further in my country, for example.

On national mourning - it definitely is a manufactured event calculated for political benefit. Sometimes worthwhile, like Poppy Day, sometimes not. There is certainly a fanbase associated with a given celebrity's death, which does put it in the category of Olympics or World Cup, and I am pleased to say that other fandom, like ours, doesn't particularly believe a WorldCon has anything to say for national or international representation in quite that way. :-)
I heard a very early announcement - about 4:15 a.m. on the World Service - by a young and inexperienced announcer who had to get a grip on his wobbly voice as he read the news straight off the wire. So I caught a bit of his shock; it was a sudden and an ugly death.

I found her death shocking and thought-provoking (not in terms of conspiracy, but wondering what it meant for constitutional and family relationships) but not upsetting as such; I was very sorry for her children. She was intensely annoying whilst alive.

As for the coverage of her memorial service now, I don't think it's OTT; but it again, it's not upsetting or saddening independently of the loss her children suffered. I have a rather curious memorial volume of pictures from ca. 1935 of the reign of King George and Queen Mary, when the Empire still existed and Queen Mary was also the Empress of India; the pomp and circumstance of the Royals now is as nothing to what it was a short time ago.

It is widely said amongst commentators on the English character (including most of the English ones) that a sense of "patriotism" in the French manner, for example, is unknown to the English; and that indeed most English people wouldn't say they had a sense of belonging until the country was under some kind of fairly direct and credible threat. So maybe you're just being Very English about it all. [TM] That Is Not A Criticism.
As for the coverage of her memorial service now, I don't think it's OTT

To me, having it headline the BBC news website and the Today programme is OTT. "In other news" maybe, but not headlining.

most English people wouldn't say they had a sense of belonging until the country was under some kind of fairly direct and credible threat

How does that fit in with the constant anti-immigration attitudes that get pushed in the popular press ("coming over here, taking our jobs...") or the intensly nationalistic attitude to sporting events?
I do remember distinctly when and where I heard the news of her death. And I remember being kind of shocked and sad -- for ooh, about a minute and a half. Then I thought what an absolute media-fest it was going to turn into, and got instant blasé-ness. Since when it's exceeded the worst of my worst expectations, of course...

I remember saying pretty much exactly this when I got interviewed by the Express or something like that (just asked for a vox-pop soundbite, you understand) on Waterloo International Station on an anniversary -- probably the first -- of her death. I fully expected that if they printed it I would return from France to public lynching :) They didn't and I didn't, needless to say.
They didn't and I didn't, needless to say.

Probably for the best :)
But a great deal of news coverage actively annoys me, so the annoyance isn't/wasn't specific to the coverage of Diana's death.

you missed an option

I'm actively considering emigrating to some less fucked-up country.

Re: you missed an option

Hah! I bet most of them are just as bad :)
Like you I don't have particularly strong views of Diana's death. Her death was no more but no less sad than some random person dying in hospital from cancer. I think there are two issues that friends have commented on in the past.
The first is that some people think they know celebrities because they appear on television so they get upset by their deaths as you would anyone you know well. Interestingly this also applies for soap stars so they can get upset by the death of characters in a soap. I think this is misidentification but is linked to very empathic characteristics.
The second point is shared experience. People think they should feel what other people feel. For instance when someone who was quite like died at school where a friend was the head many people were very upset (including my friend) and the whole school stopped. Most people at the school didn't know the person who died but were still upset. As my friend's husband said people like us don't think that way but you need to understand that a lot of people do. Interestingly that didn't happen at my school when someone who was not particularly liked died.
I could ramble on about the socialogical advantages of shared group emotions but it would probably be rubbish.
At the time, I thought it was very sad that a young person who I quite liked had died in such a tragic way. But I felt the public outpouring of grief was completely disproportionate and lost sight of the fact that Diana was only ONE person and that her death was not going to have any real impact on the world. It scares me that people could be so utterly heartbroken over the death of someone they don't even know... don't they realise young, nice people die every day?
I did feel regretful, as you do when someone fairly harmless dies unnecessarily but I wouldn't put it as strong as sad - I didn't feel like I knew her so I didn't really react.

It scares me that people could be so utterly heartbroken over the death of someone they don't even know

Yeah, it did rather freak me out at the time. And I still get unnerved by the fact that there are people who go along every year and leave tributes and so on.
I was 13 at the time, and I remember remarking to the therapist that I didn't understand what the big deal was. The therapist noted that all of her patients that week had mentioned the death of princess Diana.

Now, my only real exposure to media is the internet and I can usually avoid constant coverage about things that I don't care about, except for the events that 90% of my friends page goes on about it (this wasn't one of them). So that works for me.

Actively Annoyed

I think I was annoyed because I felt pressured, at least in public, to express emotions which I did not feel over someone I didn't know and whose public persona I disliked. I remember at the time someone came out with the phrase "emotional fascism" and being so pleased that I wasn't the only one who felt like that.
The news of the deaths of the three people you mentioned above didn't really make its way here (except that death of Diana), but periods of national mourning leave me alienated for the reasons you mentioned above.

Even when I do mourn the person in question, it feels somewhat impersonal and distant, and I never seem to mourn as long and as deep as everyone else does. Sometimes I wonder whether anyone actually mourns as long and as deep as the media says they should/do.
I am annoyed by constant coverage of any news agenda's new poodle, but its rarely I'm placed in the situation of having to take it. There are plenty of places to go in this age of design-your-own media guide.
I ignore most of the news media, so I don't get annoyed by the constant coverage.
I was in bed with Tanaqui at the time... Being a relatively rare occurence, that's what I remember about it! Tanaqui was upset at the anticipated media circus, but it didn't bother me.

While the media could be accussed of hype, I think the decision of a large number of people in London to attend the funeral procession and lay flowers was genuine and personal for many of them. I don't think it's sad that some people's death is treated as a bigger deal than others, because by definition high-profile public figures do affect large numbers of people, even though it's not a one-to-one personal relationship. And there's plenty of people who say that Diana did personally touch them in their lives for one reason or another. I'm not one of them.

At the end of the day, all things pass away, and seem individually small after a long enough time.
I would probably have been annoyed by the coverage if I'd been in the country but I was in the States on a high intensity work related piss-up study tour so I missed pretty much all the coverage - UK and US. I remember crying over a documentary about George Gershwin that I put on whilst brushing my teeth one morning, the memory of his death affected me rather more than hers (although I wasn't exactly anti-her; she seemed to have made a decent effort with the intermittently crappy hand she'd been dealt).

I know that He has never really forgiven me for (unintentionally) abandoning him in and England which suddenly became a country of mad people speaking a foreign language. Live Journal would have helped him a lot I think.
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