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2013-07-23

Media Frenzy over British Monarchy’s New Heir Sparks Hopes for World Where "All Babies Matter"

Guests

Laurie Penny, a writer and journalist whose work frequently occurs in The New Inquiry and The Guardian. Her recent article is "The Babies We Don’t Care About Today." She is author of Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent.

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Amidst a global media frenzy, Prince William and Kate Middleton welcomed a baby boy into the world Monday in London, England. The lead up to the royal birth generated a carnival of nonstop media coverage for several weeks. Photographers from across the globe braved a record heat wave to camp outside St. Mary’s Hospital awaiting news. International TV crews from around the world broadcasted frequent, frenzied speculations on everything from the baby’s gender to how the expectant mother could expedite her labor. We’re joined by British journalist Laurie Penny, a critic of the royal baby hoopla whose latest article, "The Babies We Don’t Care About Today," was published in the New Statesman. "We can estimate that at least 700 babies were born into poverty on the day that the 'Royal Baby' was born," Penny says. "And at the moment, the British government is taking measures to make life harder for those children, particularly the children of single parents and teenage, single mothers. I want to live in a country where all babies matter and where all families matter."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Amidst a global media frenzy, Prince William and Kate Middleton welcomed a baby boy into the world Monday in London, England. Hundreds of well-wishers flocked to the hospital, hundreds more to Buckingham Palace, hoping to get a glimpse of the royal family’s newest member. The crowd sang "Happy birthday, dear royal baby" and snapped countless photos of an ornate easel announcing the arrival of the future heir to the British throne.

The lead-up to the royal birth generated a carnival of nonstop media coverage for several weeks. Photographers from across the globe braved a record heat wave to camp outside Saint Mary’s Hospital awaiting news of the royal birth. International TV crews from around the world broadcast frequent, frenzied speculations on everything from the baby’s gender to how the expectant mother could expedite her labor. Even the venerable BBC strained for ever more ingenious ways to say nothing was happening.

SIMON McCOY: Well, plenty more to come from here, of course, none of it news, because that will come from Buckingham Palace. But that won’t stop us. We’ll see you later.

BBC REPORTER: As soon as we do have any announcement, of course, here at the palace, we will be back with you. For now, from the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, it’s back to Simon in Paddington in West London. Simon?

SIMON McCOY: Yeah, do let me know if you hear anything.

AMY GOODMAN: Britain’s Guardian newspaper ran a list of articles about the royal birth, although it did give readers an option to press a "Republican" button at the top of its homepage to filter out news about the royal baby.

Well, we’re joined now via Democracy Now! video stream by one British journalist who has openly criticized the royal baby hoopla, Laurie Penny. She recently wrote the article in the New Statesman called "The Babies We Don’t Care About Today."

Laurie Penny, welcome to Democracy Now! Who are they? And talk about what we’re seeing right now in London.

LAURIE PENNY: Well, firstly, this is—this is actually kind of embarrassing. And I want to apologize on behalf of people in the British press who aren’t taken in by all this royal baby fiasco, all this hysteria, for the blanket coverage and for the fact that no real news is coming out of Britain right now—or that’s what it seems like.

The piece I wrote was designed to give some context to the slavish coverage of the royal baby. So, every day in Britain, thousands of babies are born, a third of whom are born into poverty. So, you can estimate that at 700 babies born into poverty right now, every—on the day that the royal baby was born. And at the moment, the British government is taking measures to make life harder for those children, particularly the children of single parents, particularly the children of teenage single mothers. I find it really, really ironic that in the week that the royal baby has arrived to great celebration, the same Tory ministers who are celebrating the royal family have taken a—have taken the choice to impose greater benefit sanctions on teenage single mothers, who already live on the bread line, making it much, much harder for those young women to raise their children, making sure they live in poverty, making sure they pay for the transgression of having sex as teenagers and giving birth as teenagers by not being able to eat, by not having safe places to live. And I think that’s abhorrent. I don’t want to live in a country where that contrast is acceptable. I want to live in a country where all babies matter and where all families matter, not just the royal family.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the royal family and its wealth. Forbes magazine’s rich list published in 2010 estimated the Windsors’ net worth at $535 million. Two hundred fifty years ago, the queen’s third great-grandfather, George III, gave virtually all royal property to the government in order to get taxpayers to forever pay to maintain them. Laurie Penny?

LAURIE PENNY: Well, the financial situation of the royal family is quite interesting, actually. There’s been a lot of discussion over how much we’re prepared to spend to maintain the royal family. And I find it interesting that in a nation and in a global economic climate where people are cracking down on people who use state money—[no audio]

AMY GOODMAN: Laurie? It looks like she just froze on that little video stream there that we had, speaking to Laurie Penny, the writer and journalist whose work frequently is in The Guardian and New Inquiry and elsewhere. Her latest piece, "The Babies We Don’t Care About Today." She is author of the book, Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent.

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