For Queen and Vegas: Prince Harry and the Press

Naked in Vegas, and then taking on arms to fight for Queen (granny) and country in Afghanistan – this is the tomfoolery and entertainment that Prince Harry offers the British public.  The prince, at least a piece of him, wound up via the TMZ site showing a good dose of flesh with a then “unnamed” female.  With some make-up assistance from Clarence House, the Prince has managed to evade an unqualified judgment that he is an unmitigated arse.  No, he is instead the party animal, the naked patriot unleashed.

Reining in the fallout has not been a small matter.  Keeping company with various sorts, naked or otherwise, can lead to stigma and even police interest. One’s friends can colour accounts.  If you are royalty, this must be more inviting.

Take the antics of one of the chums (the local rags in Britain like the term “party pal”) Carrie Lynn Reichert of San Diego, Harry’s photographic co-star and strip billiards playmate. Harrison County, Mississippi have had their eye on Reichert for writing four checks totalling $21,672 starting from August 2003.  A source quoted in the New York Daily News (September 5) was smug.  “She was fixing up to go out of the country, but we had them snatch her up. She didn’t get to go on her little weekend adventure.”

Naturally, Reichert has also claimed that she was, in the words of the swill dispenser the Daily Mail, “alone with Prince Harry in his hotel room for up to 20 minutes during a party in Nevada’s Sin City last month.”  Presumably, she wasn’t writing checks during this “drunken fumble”.  Nor was she 32 years old, but a more seasoned 40.  Prince Harry, presumably, wouldn’t have known one way or the other.  Being a patriotic royal is a tall order, and he must be yearning for every fumble he can get.

As with matters royal, sections of the British press were wondering to what extent they wanted to give room for the Vegas romp.  True to form, The Sun did not ponder for too long, ignoring the calls by St. James’s Palace, via the Press Complaints Commission, to respect Harry’s ill-defended privacy.  Managing editor David Dinsmore gave the impression of wrestling with a titanic dilemma – to print or not to print.  “Freedom of the press” was, however, the winner, showing how impoverished definitions tend to get when they enter the bowels of the Murdoch press machine.

“It is not about privacy” suggested former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott.  “It is about money, money, money.  And they know that by exclusively printing the pictures, assuming they are the only (British) paper which does, they will get everybody buying the paper to see this.”  Prescott was never the brightest of the Blair bunch.  Murdoch’s rejoinder, posted via Twitter, was direct.  “Simple equation: free, open uncontrollable internet versus shackled newspapers equals no newspapers. Let’s get real.”

Mark Borkowski, an expert in the field of spin, described the Harry affair thus: “The whole Harry incident had all the ingredients of a fabulous story: it was funny and sexy and shocking and spectacular and entertaining, with a dash of Schadenfreude and celebrity.”  This is PR at its most professional and insidious, and it is now being applied to the Royals with heavy strokes. “It could have been a disaster, but Clarence House pulled it back from the brink, to the point where we all thought: ‘He’s due back in Afghanistan, he’s on the lash, give the guy a break.’”  Move over Blackpool – they should be issuing him invitations, suggested a contented Borkowski (Guardian, 30 August).  London Mayor Boris Johnson added to the theme.  “The real scandal,” he explained to the BBC, “would be if you went all the way to Las Vegas and you didn’t misbehave in some trivial way” (Telegraph, Aug 28).

To be fair to the Prince, he is making a quick fire effort to catch up with his legendary grandfather, Prince Philip, as the most indifferently awkward figure of that particular family.  Soon, he will be iron clad against scandal – Prince Harry is what he does.  Next time, he might actually show a bit more gumption and have a proper orgy.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com. Read other articles by Binoy.