The September 2019 issue of Vogue UK, guest edited by HRH The Duchess of Sussex, included a sit down with HRH The Duke of Sussex and the legendary primatologist and ethologist Dr Jane Goodall. It was an interesting conversation, offering an insight into the prince’s and doctor’s varied area of interest. There was a lot that could have been written about but, the following day it was a passing remark by the Duke that made the headlines. From commentators to columnist, tabloids to trolls, there was a unified declaration of outrage expressed as variations of a common, albeit false, theme: Two kids only, to save the planet. A small sample is shown here.
The major grievance was that Prince Harry and his wife’s decision to have two children was out of concern for the environment, and was viewed by critics as preachy and even an affront to any Brit who has more than two children, especially as a slight against his brother William and the Queen(The horror!). While Prince Harry spoke of the number of children he hoped to have, and his concerns for the environment, he said nothing about having two children out of concern for the environment. For clarity, the relevant portion of the interview has been presented below in a tabular format .
|Speaker||What they SAID||What we can INFER|
|Prince Harry||What we need to remind everybody is: these are things that are happening now. We are already living in it. We are the frog in the water and it’s already been brought to the boil. Which is terrifying.||This is not what could happen; we’re in ‘hot water” and it’s frightening|
|Dr Goodall||Happening and happened. It is terrifying. Especially as you’ve just had a baby.||It’s been happening for some time now and it is scary, especially for a new parent|
|Prince Harry||[Laughs] I know.||It is|
|Dr Goodall||Well, it does make it different, doesn’t it?||It really does.|
|Prince Harry||It does make it different. I think, weirdly, because of the people that I’ve met and the places that I’ve been fortunate enough to go to, I’ve always had a connection and a love for nature. I view it differently now, without question. But I’ve always wanted to try and ensure that, even before having a child and hoping to have children…||There’s no doubt I view it differently NOW. But my love of nature has been influenced by places I’ve been and the people I’ve met, and this was long before I had a child or even thought of having children…|
|Dr Goodall||Not too many! [Laughs]||Not too many|
|Prince Harry||Two, maximum! But I’ve always thought: this place is borrowed. And, surely, being as intelligent as we all are, or as evolved as we all are supposed to be, we should be able to leave something better behind for the next generation.||TWO maximum (and continues what he was saying just before) I’ve ALWAYS thought we are smart enough to leave this “borrowed space” better than we found it|
Source: British Vogue September 2019, page 182
As can be easily gleaned from the text, his remark was an aside from their discussion of the already dire state of climate change. Dr Goodall spoke of Harry’s likely concern for the future now that his child would be living in the future. Harry agreed that having a child made the future more terrifying, but said his concern for future started with the places he’d been and people he had met, which was long before he had a child or even thought of having a child. Dr Goodall jokingly interrupted with a remark that she hoped he would not have “too may”, he responded that the plan was to have two children maximum, the then finished is earlier thought about the planet by speaking of the importance of leaving the planet better than they found it.
To interpret Prince Harry’s remark as him advocating for having no more than two children to save the planet is to put words in his mouth. It is NEITHER STATED NOR IMPLIED ANYWHERE in this interview and for the media to have made that claim and then accuse him of being high-handed is deceitful.
The tabloids made an illogical conclusion from a remark about HIS PERSONAL choice, one that they sought no clarification about, just to sensationalize what was a very thoughtful interview. Disappointingly, the mainstream media took the baton and propagated this manufactured controversy further.
Not satisfied with misinterpreting his remark about his personal choice, they gave his remark about unconscious bias a similar treatment, to the detriment of a real teachable moment. Again, the relevant portions of the interview are presented in the graphic below.
|Speaker||What they SAID||What we can INFER|
|Prince Harry||It’s the same as an unconscious bias – something which so many people don’t understand, why they feel the way that they do. Despite the fact that if you go up to someone and say, “What you’ve just said the way you’ve behaved is racist”- they’ll turn around and say, “I’m not a racist.” “I’m not saying that you’re a racist, I’m just saying that your unconscious bias is proving that, because of the way that you’ve been brought up, the environment you’ve been brought up in, suggests that you have this point of view – unconscious point of view – where naturally you will look at someone in a different way.” And that is the point at which people start to have to understand.||I think it’s similar to unconscious bias—something that many people don’t understand and how it affects the way you feel.
If you tell someone what they just said, the way they behaved is racist—they turn around and say, “I’m not racist”
I’m not saying that you’re racist, I’m just saying that your unconscious bias, formed the way you were brought up, the environment in which you were brought up suggests that you have this unconscious point of view—that makes you automatically look at someone different. It is at this point that people have to understand
|Dr Goodall||Kids are taught to hate. They are actually taught to hate||Kids are taught to hate|
Source: British Vogue September 2019, page 183
There were those who seem determined to treat it as a personal offense, equating it with being called a racist. Prince Harry’s remark was self-revelatory, not at all accusatory unless you were determined to be offended. He said a remark could be considered racist not because the speaker is racist but because of unconscious bias. That, said unconscious bias, formed by our environment, could have an effect on the way we view others. Unconscious bias was presented as a teachable moment not an automatic condemnation. Ironically the knee-jerk reaction of critics proved the exact point Prince Harry was putting across. A little less protest and a lot more reflection will be helpful. The goal is to foster understanding as a means of equipping us all to do better.
The tabloids had Prince Harry’s clearly written words and still they found a way to purposely misinterpret what was said, yet he is expected to believe that granting them the level of access they want will move them to act in good faith.
To later find out that at the time of going to press, most of the reporters did not possess/had not requested an advance copy of the magazine(see 2nd paragraph of buzzfeed article) and had likely not done a thorough audit of the interview is irresponsible to say the least. At this point it’s become an endless refrain that nonetheless bears repeating: As is customary with the royal reporters and British media to a large degree, their coverage of the Sussexes is rarely rooted in fact, but usually events are manipulated to give a slant that fits with a certain undesirable mold that they wish to cast the couple into. These two instances are further proof that, there is typically more than meets the eye in most reports/stories about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and therefore by necessity, readers must be circumspect in their appraisal and consumption of such news items.