Being a supporter of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is an interest that requires dedication, research skills that would make an intelligence agency weep with envy, and the ability to read between the lines. Of course, the true miracle is finding factual articles particularly about Duchess Meghan because the UK media seems mostly to be of one mind in their reporting on her. They report lies as fact and apply double standards liberally by vilifying her for the very things other royals are praised.
Today, Social Media is an important complement to traditional news delivery channels, and it’s in Social Media that you will be able to hear the reporters in their own words.
There is a dedicated roster of reporters who cover the royals. It is not a very diverse group and they share a sameness in their reporting that can make it seem redundant to read pieces from more than one of them.
To the uninitiated, Chris Ship was one of the oases in the bleak landscape that is Royal Reporting. His articles on Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s engagements provided information about the organization, the aim of the initiative, and relevant information related to the visit. The grateful flocked to his tweets and engagement levels were high. Not for Chris Ship the outright lies or covert racism of far too many who cover the royal beat. While transgressors felt the wrath of the outraged at the ‘obvious harassment’, Chris was lauded for his output BUT therein lies the problem, because when it came to advancing the agenda-filled negative narrative that permeated nearly every word written about the Duchess of Sussex, no one had a greater chance for success than Chris Ship.
While the other reporters were muted or blocked, Ship was hailed as the exception, with the worse said about him being his stubborn refusal to take a side. However, his “neutrality” was a front. He was far too subtle to outright join in the condemnation of the Duchess Meghan for daring to thrive, but he was an excellent guide, steering you in the direction of those who would not hesitate to condemn her.
Cast your mind back to when George Clooney voiced his displeasure at the media’s vilification and pursuit of the Duchess. Chris Ship was lukewarm in acknowledging she was being vilified, stating:
“…the reporting in some publication has been wrong.”
It is not clear what Ship meant by “wrong”; was that a moral failing, or a factual error? His moral crisis emerged in his understanding of the word “pursue”. His understanding seemed not to extend beyond the literal meaning and this was done with grudging acknowledgement. If the Duchess was being pursued in New York it was “benign” he said. Even going by his literal understanding of the word, can a pursuit, whether on foot or in a vehicle, ever be said to be benign when the target is seven months pregnant?
To retain his cloak of neutrality and avoid any direct problematic declarations, Ship decided to direct his followers’ attention to the article of another reporter. If you were hoping for a reporter to expand on the lexicology of the word pursuit you would be disappointed. You would also be disappointed if you were looking for someone willing to lend credence to Clooney’s declaration. You were instead saddled with the myopic opinion of oxymoronically monikered Valentine Low:
George Clooney’s claims on Meghan Markle and Diana are utter fantasy – Valentine Low
February 12 2019, 12:00pm, The Times
There is no subtle way of saying this: the suggestion that the Duchess of Sussex is being chased everywhere she goes, that she is being “pursued and validified,” is utter fantasy.
There are no crowds of paparazzi waiting for her every time she leaves Kensington Palace. No one is spying on her in the gym. No one is listening in on her phone calls. Her private life is not being exposed in the tabloids on a weekly basis.”
Mr. Low was not subtle in dismissing the idea. What Low didn’t say is there are laws in the UK that prevent a physical pursuit, and phone hacking is illegal, but the tabloids are not curtailed in the pursuit of every bit of information about the Duchess. Anyone in Duchess Meghan’s life who is willing to speak with the tabloids has been paid to tell all they know, and that information is immediately splashed on the front cover of the tabloid, daily and sometimes hourly.
It is telling that Low was the only story Ship linked to and one can logically surmise that he did so because it gave voice to Ship’s own negative bias, belying his claim of neutrality. After all, a true fence sitter is able to view both sides and Ship offered no opposing viewpoint to Low’s decisive declaration.
George Clooney’s response put us all on notice that Chris Ship was not as he appeared, and this was confirmed following the frenzied coverage surrounding the news that the Sussexes had taken a private jet to their holiday destination.
Ship’s first tweet claimed he was only joining the fray because of Sir Elton’s response:
Pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex disembarking a private jet in Nice led to the usual over the top coverage of their every movement preceding that trip.
It was also reported but never confirmed that they had flown to Ibiza the week before their trip to Nice. The tabloids started with the cost of Ibiza trip, with no proof that it had even happened. As they had done with the Duchess’s baby shower in New York, they found the most expensive accommodation and wrote of the shower as if it were factual. They also threw in their “concern” about carbon emissions from the jet the Sussexes flew in.
When Sir Elton said he had paid for the trip and paid the fee to make it “carbon neutral”, every reporter became an advocate for the environment, and coverage still went full throttle on the environmental impact. The coverage would be noble were it not so hypocritical.
Shortly before they learned of the Sussex’s trip, the tabloids glowingly spoke of the Cambridge’s vacation on an exclusive private island, accessible only by private jet.
The Duke of Cambridge also advocates for climate change and was even at a climate change summit in Davos earlier in the year, flying there by private jet. There had been no pearl clutching about his environmental impact, or his hypocrisy.
Chris Ship once again selectively highlighted the information that validated the environmental impact narrative. His subtweet of the singer Pink’s defense of the Duchess, referenced “the private jet stories”, even though Pink spoke only of the bullying to which Duchess Meghan was continuously subjected:
The “principled” journalist did not feel the need to highlight the double standards inherent in focusing only on the Sussexes when other royals were doing the same thing. In the middle of the brouhaha about the Sussex’s private jet use, Prince Andrew was taking a private jet to and from Balmoral as stories of his connection to a convicted sex offender were dominating headlines around the world.
Also, Ship felt no need to consider the possibility that the use of a private jet might be a necessity for security, but then again, he does not think the Duchess of Sussex is being pursued so I guess he does not think there could be any safety concerns.
Under the guise of “fact-finding”, Chris Ship legitimized the tabloids bogus concern by focusing only on the carbon emissions and the practice of offsetting carbon footprint. He provided us with the estimated emissions for the trip to Nice and the Sussex’s (unconfirmed) trip to Ibiza. He calculated the emissions for the trip to Ibiza when all they had was conjecture from tabloids, in an article that offered payment to anyone who could provide proof of the trip.
Of course, he would not wish you to accuse him of a negative bias against the Sussexes, so he threw in a caution to “other royals and celebrities” about the environmental impact of flying by private jet. But make no mistake his focus is the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
He even brought in an “aviation expert” (CEO of a private charter service):
Is traveling by private jet more polluting or less?
We got to be honest, when you travel by private jet, it’s usually two or three people and when you calculate the carbon footprint it’s up to twenty times more.
A fair and balanced report would have calculated the emissions for at least the royals travelling near the same time as Meghan and Harry. A fair and balanced report would have spoken about the Royal Family’s use of private jets. A fair and balanced report would have considered validated studies on carbon emission. But the aim was for the fence sitter to tilt the scale towards a specific argument.
For all the commotion about Harry and Meghan’s environmental impact, a few days later when all the tabloids had pictures of the Cambridge family and Carole Middleton, boarding a commercial flight, the narrative shifted. Where the Sussexes had been vilified for the environmental impact of using a private jet, the Cambridges were favorably compared for the frugality in taking a “£73 budget flight”.
What happened to the environment where was the praise for their lower carbon footprint; why was that not splashed all over the headlines? With the focus only on cost of the Cambridge’s flight no mention was made of the fact that the Sussexes paid £0 for their flight.
When suspicions were raised as to the timing of the photographic evidence of the Cambridges boarding a commercial flight days after the Sussexes had been vilified for their private jet use, Chris ‘Neutral’ Ship, dismissed the idea, deeming it not worthy of discussion. He did postulate, then that a private jet might allow the royals to better protect their privacy, but that was an excuse to bolster the claim the “paps” pictures of the Cambridges were accidental:
When someone pointed out the hypocrisy of the coverage, Ship’s argument then was the need to distinguish between private and official. (Do carbon emissions not exist when the flight is for official business?) And he made no mention of the Sussexes travelling commercial on their official travel to Oceania and Morocco. If the concern is about private travel, where was the concern about Prince Andrew jetting around England and then off to Spain?
Where was the concern about the environment then?
So, in the plane fiasco we learned Ship’s brand of neutrality, means he only cares about the environment when Sir Elton said he paid for the trip. When the Cambridges take a budget commercial flight, the concern is no longer about the environment but the cost of the flight, because he does not wish it to appear that the Duke of Cambridge and his family took a commercial flight to open his brother and sister-in-law to further ridicule by the press; even though it emerged that four empty planes were flown to Aberdeen to better accommodate the Cambridges last minute requirements.
And when Andrew takes a private jet to Balmoral and Spain there is no concern for the environment because Elton didn’t lend him the plane.
We cannot end without mentioning The Sunday Times article of April 21 in which Tim Shipman dropped into our laps, the holy grail of royal reporting. Shipman, is not a royal reporter, he’s the Political Editor of The Sunday Times. And when he spoke, we all listened because there it was, in writing, an explanation for the coordinated media attack against the Duchess of Sussex.
This was in the same newspaper as the explosive article by another royal reporter, Roya Nikkah, who is seen as the mouthpiece for Kensington Palace (KP).
She essentially claimed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were being banished to Africa for a number of years by the Duke of Cambridge, because they would be in no one’s way there and the spotlight would then return to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Funnily enough, it seemed not to have occurred to Nikkah, the only woman of color in the royal rota, how racially insensitive it was to essentially declare that they were shipping the only biracial member of the royal family ‘back to Africa’.
The backlash was swift and they quickly tried to back track.
It went from years in “Africa” to a tour, and was no longer a banishment but a wish fulfillment for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s love for the Continent. In the middle of this came Shipman’s article which essentially confirmed the banishment claims in Nikkah’s original article.
So, there we had opposing viewpoints, from the same newspaper: “the Duke of Sussex Cambridge was not jealous of his more popular brother and sister-in-law” versus, “the Duke of Cambridge is so jealous of their popularity that he is banishing the Sussexes to Africa to get them out of the way.”
Surprisingly the neutral Mr. Ship did not provide us with a link to Tim Shipman’s “interesting response” or even a link to Roya Nikkah’s explosive original claim. Instead the fence sitter wrote an article which ignored Tim Shipman’s article, but joined in the chorus of the other Royal Reporters who were attempting to debunk the claim that the Duke of Cambridge wanted to banish his brother and sister-in-law. Despite the headline, his article wasn’t about Harry and Meghan’s “move” as much as it about distancing the Duke of Cambridge as the instigator of the request for the move:
For a “neutral” professional, when it comes to news of the Sussexes, Chris Ship does manage to pick a side and consistently, that side does not deviate from the biased narrative of the tabloids. A narrative that says almost everything done by the Sussexes must be viewed with suspicion or in a negative light.
It is the subtlety in conveying his message that makes Ship more effective at influencing opinions about the Sussexes. We are prepared for and ignore the reporters who unashamedly show their preference for one royal, crediting one couple and omitting the couple who did the actual work, and applauding every utterance of one couple no matter how banal.
We are familiar with and dismissive of the reporter who writes about what happened at events before the events occurred, and who knowingly bases articles off stories they know to be untrue. Not for Ship such overt bias or obvious lies, he is the truth teller; the selective truth teller that manages to pick a side while loudly proclaiming his neutrality.
For the veterans of the tabloid wars against the Sussexes, his is a familiar routine.
For the uninitiated: beware, be vigilant, and should you give in to the temptation, as we all have, to challenge him, be prepared to walk away frustrated, because for Ship, while his derriere is perched on the fence, his feet are firmly planted on the wrong side of history.