The political uses of monarchy

by niamh on May 4, 2011

The recent British royal wedding left me wondering what it was all about. One million people were said to have gathered on the streets of London for the occasion, and media coverage is estimated to have reached some two billion worldwide. Normally I’d be happy with a bemused shrug: ‘has the whole world gone mad?’ (Especially when I realized the staff in my local optician’s in Dublin had come to work dressed as if going to a wedding, to watch the proceedings live online). But massive state-sponsored pageantry can’t be brushed aside so easily, and the impending state visit by Queen Elizabeth to Ireland prompts me to pay it some attention.

It seems to me that we might take four possible views, not all of which are entirely independent of one another. The monarchy and all it entails could be seen as a matter of abstract constitutionalism; as an offshoot of modern celebrity culture; as a focus of political legitimation within Britain; as an immediately recognizable global brand.

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A quick update on torture

by John Quiggin on May 4, 2011

In my post on bin Laden’s death, I noted the spin in a New York Times story suggesting that torture had helped to extract the clues leading to bin Laden’s location, even though the facts reported suggested the opposite. This analysis, also in the NYT, confirms both the spinning and the fact that the evidence produced under brutal torture was deliberately misleading. Given the failure of the Bush Administration to get anywhere near bin Laden, it seems likely that they were in fact misled, deluded by the ancient belief that evidence extracted under torture is the most reliable kind.

It’s noteworthy that the URL for the story is “torture”, but the article itself doesn’t adopt that description and doesn’t even use the word until well after the lede.