Chris Hedges: Monarchs Belong in the Dustbin of History

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Chris Hedges

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The royal clan in their regalia. Billionaire landlords to the tune of billions of acres.


The fawning adulation of Queen Elizabeth in the United States, which fought a revolution to get rid of the monarchy, and in Great Britain, is in direct proportion to the fear gripping a discredited, incompetent and corrupt global ruling elite.

The global oligarchs are not sure the next generation of royal sock puppets – mediocrities that include a pedophile prince and his brother, a cranky and eccentric king who accepted suitcases and bags stuffed with $3.2 million in cash from the former prime minister of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and who has millions stashed in offshore accounts – are up to the job. Let’s hope they are right.

“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories,” Patrick Freyne wrote last year in The Irish Times. “More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.”

Monarchy obscures the crimes of empire and wraps them in nostalgia. It exalts white supremacy and racial hierarchy. It justifies class rule. It buttresses an economic and social system that callously discards and often consigns to death those considered the lesser breeds, most of whom are people of color. The queen’s husband Prince Phillip, who died in 2021, was notorious for making racist and sexist remarks, politely explained away in the British press as “gaffes.” He described Beijing, for example, as “ghastly” during a 1986 visit and told British students: “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed.

The cries of the millions of victims of empire; the thousands killedtortured, raped and imprisoned during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya; the 13 Irish civilians gunned down in “Bloody Sunday;” the more than 4,100 First Nations children who died or went missing in Canada’s residential schools, government-sponsored institutions established to “assimilate” indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture, and the hundreds of thousands killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan are drowned out by cheers for royal processions and the sacral aura an obsequious press weaves around the aristocracy. The coverage of the queen’s death is so mind-numbingly vapid — the BBC sent out a news alert on Saturday when Prince Harry and Prince William, accompanied by their wives, surveyed the floral tributes to their grandmother displayed outside Windsor Castle — that the press might as well turn over the coverage to the mythmakers and publicists employed by the royal family.

The royals are oligarchs. They are guardians of their class. The world’s largest landowners include King Mohammed VI of Morocco with 176 million acres, the Holy Roman Catholic Church with 177 million acres, the heirs of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with 531 million acres and now, King Charles III with 6.6 billion acres of land. British monarchs are worth almost $28 billion. The British public will provide a $33 million subsidy to the Royal Family over the next two years, although the average household in the U.K. saw its income fall for the longest period since records began in 1955 and 227,000 households experience homelessness in Britain.

Royals, to the ruling class, are worth the expense. They are effective tools of subjugation. British postal and rail workers canceled planned strikes over pay and working conditions after the queen’s death. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) postponed its congress. Labour Party members poured out heartfelt tributes. Even Extinction Rebellion, which should know better, indefinitely canceled its planned “Festival of Resistance.” The BBC’s Clive Myrie dismissed Britain’s energy crisis — caused by the war in Ukraine — that has thrown millions of people into severe financial distress as “insignificant” compared with concerns over the queen’s health. The climate emergency, pandemic, the deadly folly of the U.S. and NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, soaring inflation, the rise of neo-fascist movements and deepening social inequality will be ignored as the press spews florid encomiums to class rule. There will be 10 days of official mourning.

In 1953, Her Majesty’s Government sent three warships, along with 700 troops, to its colony British Guiana, suspended the constitution and overthrew the democratically elected government of Cheddi Jagan. Her Majesty’s Government helped to build and long supported the apartheid government in South Africa. Her Majesty’s Government savagely crushed the Mau Mau independence movement in Kenya from 1952 to 1960, herding 1.5 million Kenyans into concentration camps where many were tortured. British soldiers castrated suspected rebels and sympathizers, often with pliers, and raped girls and women. Her Majesty’s Government inherited staggering wealth from the $ 45 trillion Great Britain looted from India, wealth accumulated by violently crushing a series of uprisings, including the First War of Independence in 1857. Her Majesty’s Government carried out a dirty war to break the Greek Cypriot War of Independence from 1955 to 1959 and later in Yemen from 1962 to 1969. Torture, extrajudicial assassinations, public hangings and mass executions by the British were routine. Following a protracted lawsuit, the British government agreed to pay nearly £20 million in damages to over 5,000 victims of British abuse during the war in Kenya, and in 2019 another payout was made to survivors of torture from the conflict in Cyprus. The British state attempts to obstruct lawsuits stemming from its colonial history. Its settlements are a tiny fraction of the compensation paid to British slave owners in 1835, once it — at least formally — abolished slavery.

During her 70-year reign, the queen never offered an apology or called for reparations.

The royals are oligarchs. They are guardians of their class. The world’s largest landowners include King Mohammed VI of Morocco with 176 million acres, the Holy Roman Catholic Church with 177 million acres, the heirs of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with 531 million acres and now, King Charles III with 6.6 billion acres of land. British monarchs are worth almost $28 billion.

The point of social hierarchy and aristocracy is to sustain a class system that makes the rest of us feel inferior. Those at the top of the social hierarchy hand out tokens for loyal service, including the Order of the British Empire (OBE). The monarchy is the bedrock of hereditary rule and inherited wealth. This caste system filters down from the Nazi-loving House of Windsor to the organs of state security and the military. It regiments society and keeps people, especially the poor and the working class, in their “proper” place.

The British ruling class clings to the mystique of royalty and fading cultural icons as James Bond, the Beatles and the BBC, along with television shows such as “Downton Abbey” — where in the 2019 film version the aristocrats and servants are convulsed in fevered anticipation when King George V and Queen Mary schedule a visit — to project a global presence. Winston Churchill’s bust remains on loan to the White House. These myth machines sustain Great Britain’s “special” relationship with the United States. Watch the satirical film “In the Loop” to get a sense of what this “special” relationship looks like on the inside.

It was not until the 1960s that “coloured immigrants or foreigners” were permitted to work in clerical roles in the royal household, although they had been hired as domestic servants. The royal household and its heads are legally exempt from laws that prevent race and sex discrimination, what Jonathan Cook calls “an apartheid system benefitting the Royal Family alone.” Meghan Markle, who is of mixed race and who contemplated suicide during her time as a working royal, said that an unnamed royal expressed concern about the skin color of her unborn son.

I got a taste of this suffocating snobbery in 2014 when I participated in an Oxford Union debate asking whether Edward Snowden was a hero or a traitor. I went a day early to be prepped for the debate by Julian Assange, then seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy and currently in His Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh. At a lugubrious black-tie dinner preceding the event, I sat next to a former MP who asked me two questions I had never been asked before in succession. “When did your family come to America?” he said, followed by “What schools did you attend?” My ancestors, on both sides of my family, arrived from England in the 1630s. My graduate degree is from Harvard. If I had failed to meet his litmus test, he would have acted as if I did not exist.

Those who took part in the debate – my side arguing that Snowden was a hero narrowly won – signed a leather-bound guest book. Taking the pen, I scrawled in large letters that filled an entire page: “Never Forget that your greatest political philosopher, Thomas Paine, never went to Oxford or Cambridge.”

Paine, the author of the most widely read political essays of the 18th century, Rights of ManThe Age of Reason and Common Sense, blasted the monarchy as a con. “A French bastard landing with an armed banditti and establishing himself as King of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original…The plain truth is that the antiquity of the English monarchy will not bear looking into,” he wrote of William the Conqueror. He ridiculed hereditary rule. “Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.” He went on: “One of the strangest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings is that nature disproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving  mankind an ass for a lion.” He called the monarch “the royal brute of England.”

When the British ruling class tried to arrest Paine, he fled to France where he was one of two foreigners elected to serve as a delegate in the National Convention set up after the French Revolution. He denounced the calls to execute Louis XVI. “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression,” Paine said. “For if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Unchecked legislatures, he warned, could be as despotic as unchecked monarchs. When he returned to America from France, he condemned slavery and the wealth and privilege accumulated by the new ruling class, including George Washington, who had become the richest man in the country. Even though Paine had done more than any single figure to rouse the country to overthrow the British monarchy, he was turned into a pariah, especially by the press, and forgotten. He had served his usefulness. Six mourners attended his funeral, two of whom were Black.

You can watch my talk with Cornel West and Richard Wolff on Thomas Paine here.

There is a pathetic yearning among many in the U.S. and Britain to be linked in some tangential way to royalty. White British friends often have stories about ancestors that tie them to some obscure aristocrat. Donald Trump, who fashioned his own heraldic coat of arms, was obsessed with obtaining a state visit with the queen. This desire to be part of the club, or validated by the club, is a potent force the ruling class has no intention of giving up, even if hapless King Charles III, who along with his family treated his first wife Diana with contempt, makes a mess of it.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the show The Chris Hedges Report.

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Note: Many activists know by now that Vice News is widely suspected of being a CIA-infiltrated asset (like practicaly all of the influential media platforms operating throughout the "West", from the New York Times and the rest of the US media, to most of the German press, and similar outfits in the rest of Europe, Asia, etc.), so we were mighty surprised to bump into this dispatch, done, perhaps to burnish and restore their journalistic creds among the younger folks they cultivate. Still, while the CIA is probably behind Vice News, this report rings genuine. Use it for what it's worth. But don't let your guard down.

‘I Was Arrested for Criticising the British Monarchy’

Symon Hill speaks to VICE World News about being handcuffed, dragged away, and put in a police van for asking who had elected King Charles III.

Protesters hold a free speech demo opposite St Giles' Cathedral, in Edinburgh, ahead of a a prayer service for Queen Elizabeth II. The blank pieces of paper are in reference to a barrister being told he would be arrested if he wrote the words "not my king" on a piece of paper. Photo: Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images

A man who was arrested by police in England for asking who elected King Charles III says he’s worried that his arrest could have a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in the country.

Symon Hill said he was handcuffed, dragged away by officers and put in a police van after asking “Who elected him?” at an event in Oxford proclaiming King Charles as monarch.

Several other arrests connected to anti-royalist sentiment or protests following the death of Queen Elizabeth II were carried out elsewhere in the UK, including a woman who held up a “fuck imperialism, abolish monarchy” sign in Edinburgh, and a man who heckled Prince Andrew as he walked alongside the Queen’s coffin. 

Meanwhile, someone was led away by police in London after holding up a sign that said “not my king.” Paul Powlesland, a barrister, was subsequently warned by police in Parliament Square that he would be arrested if he wrote the same words on a blank piece of paper.

Hill, 45, said he had been inundated with messages and media requests since revealing details of his arrest on Sunday.

“I’m glad that people are interested and concerned about what’s happened. This isn’t really about me, this is about freedom of expression and the powers of police. This is about other people who get arrested for protesting who don’t get this attention,” he told VICE World News in a phone interview.

Hill’s actions barely amounted to a protest, he was just walking home from church when he stumbled upon an official event in Oxford proclaiming Charles as the new king – one of many similar events that took place over the UK last weekend.

“I am involved in some campaigns on some issues, I do oppose the monarchy. But I wasn’t carrying a badge, or a placard,” he said.

“The first part [of the proclamation] was about mourning the previous monarch, and I didn’t say anything, I respect people’s grief. But then it moved on to declare Charles as our only rightful lord and king. That’s when I called out, ‘who elected him?’.”

Hill said his comment caused barely a ripple at first, with no one really reacting apart from one person who told him to shut up, to which he said that the UK was having a head of state imposed on it. 

“Before I knew it, there were security guards pushing me away, police dragging me off, handcuffing me, and placing me in a van,” he said.

@nowthis Anti-royalist protesters staged a gathering outside Parliament in London on Tuesday, to speak out against the ascension of King Charles III. Among the protesters was Paul Powlesland, a lawyer who went viral the day before for claiming the police had threatened to arrest him if he displayed a sign that read, ‘Not my king.’ #uk #king #kingcharles #news ♬ original sound - nowthis

The Queen’s funeral will take place in London next Monday, and will be the largest ever state funeral in the UK. Responding to incidents in London, including the footage tweeted by barrister Powlesland, Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said that people “absolutely have a right of protest and we have been making this clear to all officers involved in the extraordinary policing operation currently in place and we will continue to do so.”

Jodie Beck, policy and campaigns officer at advocacy group Liberty, said: “Protest is not a gift from the State, it is a fundamental right. Being able to choose what, how, and when we protest is a vital part of a healthy and functioning democracy. 

“Whoever you are, whatever your cause, it is vital you are able to stand up for what you believe in without facing the risk of criminalisation. It is very worrying to see the police enforcing their broad powers in such a heavy-handed and punitive way to clamp down on free speech and expression.”

"There is really no democracy in the UK," says a protestor. Free speecha nd oliticalrights are severely restricted (just like in te USA and other "liberal imperialist democracies").

@ajplus Police have arrested several people in the UK for protesting King Charles and the monarchy. #queenelizabeth #queen #royal #royalfamily #family #kingcharles #uk #ukpolitics #london #oxford #edinburgh #police #arrest #freedomofspeech #news #buckinghampalace #democracy ♬ News22 News / Incident / Suspense(900439) - Kei

There are no specific laws against criticising the monarchy in the UK. The arrests in Scotland were made in connection with alleged breaches of the peace, while in Oxford, Hill said that police told him he was being arrested under the deeply contentious Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, a law passed this year that critics said imposed new limits on the right to protest. But in a statement provided to VICE World News and other media outlets, Thames Valley Police said Hill had been arrested – and then de-arrested – under the Public Order Act 1986.

“Whatever view anyone takes of the issues, it’s important there’s a due process. It isn’t about police arbitrarily arresting people,” Hill said. “It’s really alarming. I think we’re in a dangerous place if this is becoming normal.”

Asked whether heavy handed police actions were inadvertently amplifying anti-royalist sentiment to a larger audience, Hill added: “On the one hand almost no one would know what I said in Oxford if the police hadn’t arrested me. But I am worried about it having a chilling effect, because whether people are arrested or charged, people might become frightened and afraid to protest.”

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