Was the rumour of the Queen’s demise a clever ruse by Tories?
As many of us are aware, in the past few days a rumour emerged on Twitter that the Queen had died. Although the rumour itself was corrected quickly, turning out to be untrue, the reaction of the media and the public, and the political implications of this, tell a very interesting story. Some regard the rumour as a harmless joke, or an unfortunate misunderstanding. There are others, however, who have expressed the belief that the rumour was sparked by the Tories, in the hope of increasing national pride and right wing support in the run-up to the general election on 12 December.
The drama began on Sunday 1 December, when a screenshot of a conversation that suggested that the Queen was dead, appeared on Twitter. The screenshot appeared to come from a WhatsApp group named “Old times”, with a display image of an erect penis, in which a chat member named “Gibbo” announced the possibility of the death of the Queen. Gibbo forwarded a message, apparently from a “guards reg WhatsApp group”, which described how the Queen had “passed away this morning” citing a “heart attack” as the cause of death.
The tweet in which the screenshot appeared soon gathered traction, reaching hundreds of retweets in just a few hours. Before long, however, a statement was issued by the Editor-in-Chief at Royal Central, dispelling the rumours and confirming that the Queen was in fact “alive and well”. Despite this, an outpouring of royalist sentiment was evident across social media, as well as in the mainstream media in newspapers and magazines.
By the next morning, #GodSaveTheQueen was trending on Twitter, and in the subsequent days several newspapers had printed articles with an obviously royalist bias. The Express published an article on 2 December titled “Queen death hoax: Sick trolls panic royal fans with ‘evil’ fake claim about the Queen”. The article describes the tweet as a “sickening prank”; the rumours are also described as “sickening” (very creative), and as well as this, a “royal fan” is referenced as saying “making jokes about the Queen’s death is evil”.
So where do the Tories come into this? Although it may be possible, I think most of us will agree that it is fairly unlikely that this entire episode was orchestrated by the Tory government in order to garner support. What is certain, however, is that the Tory establishment and the right wing media who support it, are using this situation to their full advantage. The manipulation of public feeling and emotion in the wake of this scandal is evident.
The monarchy is presented both positively and emotionally by the media. In times of turmoil and uncertainty, emotion becomes a primary factor in public decision-making within the political system. When people feel vulnerable and helpless, as an increasing amount of people do in the current UK political climate, they turn to such figures of stability in the search for security. The reaction of turning to and wanting to defend stability in such a circumstance is a natural one. There is certainly an argument to be made that the right wing media is exploiting this very natural and human reaction to fear, in order to harvest more votes for the established government. By nurturing an environment in which stable figures and values seem threatened, certain facets of the media craft an image of the Tory government that makes it look more desirable than it would perhaps otherwise.
The story is told in a particular way, reminding the reader of the possibility of the loss of a stable figure in the Queen, then gifting them with the relief that she is still present. By temporarily destabilising the emotional state of the already vulnerable reader, the right wing establishment is able to manipulate the political mindset. The conservative values of the Tories become more desirable as the destabilised reader, consciously or subconsciously, searches for security and stability within their decision-making. Of course, a vote for the nine-year established Tory government and its value system seems like a safer choice under these circumstances.
So, whilst Gibbo and his friends are unlikely to be agents of the Tory government, their escapades (most likely unintentionally) have boosted a sense of national pride, as well as a sense of being threatened with the loss of stability. This has been used by entities within the media with a rightwing leaning, and so the conservative values of the Tory party have been both presented, and seen, in a more attractive light in the run-up to the general election. In a culture where almost nothing is off limits when it comes to political gain, this is to be expected. It is no coincidence that the incident was blown up so much by the mass media. Whatever the result turns out to be on Friday, it is certain that all is to play for, and as usual the right wing media is leaving no stone unturned in its mission to keep the Tory government on the throne.