It is many years since the death of Diana, princess of Wales, and it may now be possible to draw some conclusions from the amazing outpouring of grief that accompanied her death. Like most people, I felt genuine sadness at her death, but I found it difficult to empathize with the depth of grief that touched Anglophiles throughout the world. Why were people so moved, so overwhelmed by grief, anger even?
The editor of "Private Eye" in Britain actually suggested the whole thing was quite sinister. We can certainly agree that the part played by the press was sinister in the extreme. Diana's brother made a point of exposing the role of the media in her death, but also concluded with an oblique criticism of the royal family. On the days following, the press quietly ignored their own responsibility in the affair, and set about crucifying Charles and the Queen, the father and grandmother of Diana's children. The attack was so vicious that the Queen, for the first time in my memory, sought to defend the charges made against her and her family. So, there was the press, only days after hounding Diana to her death, into the same game with a new target.
Yet, the corruption of the media still doesn't explain the powerful emotions that followed her death. As a media personality, she was glamorous, lived a fairy-tale existence entwined with pop-stars, film-stars, psychics, play-boys and royals. Above all, she was a personable individual. As is typical of our electronic age, we probably knew more about her life than we do of most of our friends. People empathized with her marriage difficulties and could not bare to see the fairy-tale unravel. The women's magazines had turned Diana into a living soap-opera such that her tragic end was felt in grand style.
If there was something sinister in it all, it didn't lie with Diana herself, nor her minions. It lay with her power to captivate, for to harness such power is to rule the world. Men like Hitler, Stalin, Mao... long ago showed us the sinister side to mass emotion. They harnessed the power of secular religion, manipulated the spiritual sensibilities of the masses, touched the psyche of the people. The cult of Diana, the worship of glamour and style, unravelled in a car crash caused by speed and drugs. The goddess of eternal beauty was no more, and in her death her supplicants were again alone with their mortality.
"And he said to him 'I will give you all authority and splendor, for it has been give to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.' Jesus answered, 'It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"