(Comments in blue. -- A.L.)
THE MASS GRIEF OVER THE DEATH OF PRINCESS
DIANA PROVED THAT CONSERVATIVISM IS ALIVE IN THE
STREETS -- AND DEAD IN THE CORRIDORS OF POWER.
BY LLEWELLYN H. ROCKWELL JR.
Conservatives tend to bemoan every mass event as a sure sign of cultural collapse. This is
the posture they adopted in the days following the death of Princess Diana. They were the
debunkers of an alleged media hysteria, but their instincts were wrong, even perverse. It's
a sure sign of the bankruptcy of conservative thought, and why it stands a zero chance of
future success in public life.
As opposed to libertarianism with its individualist myopia and
refusal to acknowledge that group identity is a real and powerful and legitimate force.
The entire Western world was in mourning for the untimely and deeply tragic tawdry and
ridiculous death of a beautiful drunken playgirl and sanctimonious
camera-shutter liberal aristocrat, a princess of an ancient Christian monarchy who
lived out a fascinating morality play involving universal themes.
Man, this glue sniffs good... As the mourning grew and the
global outpouring reached a fevered pitch, people ignored the pronouncements of politicians
and their desperate attempt to change the subject or capitalize on it.
Suddenly, after Diana died, no one cared that Congress was in session, that Helms didn't
like Weld and vice versa, that there were new developments in Mideast politics or that
Alexander Lebed claimed that 100 suitcase-sized atom bombs were missing in Russia. Diana
was all that mattered. People whose specialty is commenting on politics apparently couldn't
Rather than celebrate this magnificent defiance of political correctness by
weeping tears for its high champion? -- under which our lives are supposed to be
consumed by political goings-on and not by something as serious and real as mourning --
conservatives swung into action. Don Feder decried the public's obsession with "a vacuous
symbol for a vacuous age." Stephen Chapman denounced the "homage to an anachronism."
Charles Krauthammer bemoaned the fact that people who had never "exchanged a word with
Diana, or even a glance," felt "inexpressible grief," a phenomenon he found "puzzling."
Emmett Tyrrell called the global grief a product of "the fantasy world of media hype" that
"encourages such frenzy." George Will argued, in classic Veblenian fashion, that she was
merely a "celebrity" -- the catch-all word to explain the public reaction -- known only
for "her well-knownness."
The National Review, with unsurpassed venom, linked the sadness over her death with
an "increase in cults, sects, New Age superstitions," a garter snake
has more venom than that and warned that it might presage "an age of necromancers
and seers, gurus and priestesses, charlatans and astrologers, star-worship and
celebrity-stalking," when instead we should be concentrating on Bill Buckley's latest
pronouncement. Ooh, you catty fellow...
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been the headquarters of the anti-Diana
movement, decrying the "hyper-individualized" culture the Diana phenomenon represents. Why,
it could "damage the institutional credibility of our courts," our "politics" and even
"our sources of information, such as the media." Writing on that page only three days
after her death, Matthew Scully pooh-poohed "the long roll of faraway fawners who succumbed
to the Diana lure." Instead, he called for us to "interrupt our worship" to grieve over
"one of the truly great people of the century," 92-year-old psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl,
who died two days after Diana. Indeed, Scully went on, Frankl's theories enabled us to
understand the public grief for Diana as a hunger "for excitement," in which "the greatest
possible sensation is death."
Where does Scully get this stuff? There is no evidence that anybody found the death of
Diana "exciting" or was in any sense titillated by it. Tragic is the right word, a word
invoked a million times after Diana's death to describe the destruction of a princess.
A workaday drunken fatality is not tragic because it befalls a party
Never in my life has an event shaken people to such soul-searching seriousness. Then you're
hanging around the wrong people -- exactly the shallow mass men who leave flowers on the
pavement or crosses at roadside death sites or teddy bears in the chain fence by the bomb
More than a million were present for her funeral, and not an atheist, at least at that
moment, among them. Check. Logic. Check. One-two,
one-two... For an hour-long procession, they stood in perfect silence, so that
only the clip-clop of horses' hoofs could be heard in the streets of London. The silence
was broken as a million people said the Lord's Prayer together with the Archbishop of
Canterbury. And conservatives were upset by this?
And think of this: In the week between her death and her funeral, no jokes circulated
about Diana's death -- on the Internet, in private conversation or anywhere else. These
are times when everything is subject to cruel wit. Nothing is sacred, a fact conservatives
have long bemoaned. But, suddenly, this event was, and remains so. Where's the vice in
this? Actually, Lew, most intelligent people don't give a damn
about Diana, and they hardly shook their head before moving on to interesting news.
Where have these conservative writers gone wrong? They looked upon the most conservative
and even reactionary public event in recent memory -- and quite possibly of our century --
and pronounced it a fraud. They have become so politicized and absorbed by government and
official opinion that they're incapable of recognizing, much less appreciating, what a
magnificent repudiation of secular leftism the Diana phenomenon represents.
The core moral doctrine of our time is moral egalitarianism: All people are equally
valuable, so we should have no more attachment to some than others. Princesses are not to
be valued more than paupers. We are supposed to be as stricken by massacres in Africa as
by deaths in our own family. We are supposed to care just as intensely about the plight of
women in Afghanistan as about our children's progress in school. Volcanoes in Montserrat
are just as important as floods in the Midwest.
Above all, we are not to regard members of the natural elite -- royalty, nobles, great
scholars, successful entrepreneurs -- as somehow more valuable than any bum on the street.
One commentator on NPR was particular annoyed, for example, that the grief shown
toward Diana's death far surpassed the sadness at the Oklahoma bombing. What an outrage
that people felt worse about the death of a princess than of a Social Security worker.
Sure, Diana's children are left without a mother; so are many children in the inner city
who fall through the social safety net thanks to federal budget cuts. Why should Diana
matter any more than they do?
Well, because we cannot value all people equally. We certainly can't value civil servants
or gun-wielding regulators just because they work for the government. The remnants of the
monarchical cast of mind -- the love of the natural elite -- cause us to have a greater
reverence for princesses, especially when they wield no power. As in 1935, when the
citizens of Brussels wept openly in the streets upon the news that their queen died in an
accident, millions the world over did so, and continue to do so, over the death of the
princess whom Taki of the London Sunday Times called the most beautiful woman in the world.
How pleasing to know that the constant drum of egalitarian ideology hasn't changed this
The admiration of the dunces for Diana's not a whit different from
the admiration for whatever steroid freak's king of the WWF at the moment. Admiration for
Diana may betray instinctive respect for our betters, but apart from her looks, this
impulse was misdirected to Diana. Notoriously weak in character -- have you actually read
anything about her, Rockwell? -- she was a prime exemplar of conspicuous compassion,
calling the press before she made her surprise appearances in some cases. The admiration
for Diana was more tied up with the woman's instinctive desire for the showcase white
wedding. Charles and Diana's wedding was what really drew the women, not Diana herself.
Each imagined herself in Diana's place. Respect for beauty is instinctual in humans, and
in many ways the beautiful are beyond the law. But the average Diana admirer lacked the
discrimination to perceive the shallowness of the princess; no, she simply imagined her
ideal self attending the same parties and, properly coiffed, catering the same chic
causes. The way women -- and men didn't admire Diana except for her looks -- feel about
Clinton -- He really cares -- is the way they felt about Diana, with the added cherry that
she was good looking. Although not as beautiful as some such as the usually level-headed
Camille Paglia have claimed. Diana fit the bill. She filled out the princess archetype --
she appeared better than the rest of us, and that and her position instinctively excited
our urge to worship. It is the duty of conservatives and libertarians to point out the
difference between true elites and false, and Rockwell fails here. The conservatives he
criticizes are in this instance correct.
Moreover, the Diana phenomenon was not merely a product of a media frenzy. Indeed, for days
after the crash, the papers and radios kept trying to change the subject. Talk radio hosts
like Rush Limbaugh, who are usually sensitive to their listeners, tried to get people to
gab about Congress, about Al Gore, about Clinton, stuff they know something about. But
callers had only one thing on their mind. And so it was for newspapers. They were pressured
by the demands of their readers to run page after page, section after section, on Diana.
Really. For an economics-first libertarian, this is remarkably
naive. The papers never stopped covering Diana; the idea they had to be encouraged to
print special supplements is ridiculous.
Historical egalitarianism was also smashed by the Diana phenomenon. Historians tell us that
there are no heroes anymore; maybe there never were. Certainly we shouldn't celebrate great
capitalists and entrepreneurs; we need to focus on lowly workers or even welfare spongers
as the "real" stuff of history. The history of monarchs and framers and other "great men"
is irrelevant. Real history consists in reading the writings of third-world feminists and
jailed Native American poets.
In what sense was Diana a great hero or great capitalist or
Despite all this indoctrination, Diana's death swept all this anti-historical egalitarianism
aside in an instant. In America, 75 books were already in print on Diana
but the papers had to be "pressured" to cover her -- a number that will hugely
increase over the coming months -- and they were sold out of bookstores within 24 hours of
her death. Far from being the end of the English monarchy because
historically they are often revived by drunken cheating neurotic sanctimonious princesses
with eating problems, the Diana phenomenon could mean its revival, and the revival
of interest in the idea of monarchy the world over. Woodrow Wilson thought he had abolished
the monarchical impulse in the First World War. Yet it's back with a vengeance.
It hardly matters that Diana herself spent the last few years needling the British royal
family (which was, after all, the whole point of her affair with the immigrant Dodi Fayed
more proof she was a miscegenating liberal nitwit unworthy of her
husband or position or public respect). The reason for her fame was not that she was
a "regular person," as so many people claim. There are plenty of regular people out there
to love. The necessary condition was that Diana, who came from noble stock, was adopted by
marriage into the royal family. Oh, b.s. Her elevation by marriage
and the work of the press -- more than innate qualities -- drove her fame with the
commoners. And like monarchs of old, who really did aspire to be beloved by regular
people, she exhibited behaviors and emotions people could identify with.
She proved she was royal by acting common. In my world that makes sense. All of
history's truly great monarchs were both royal and populist in their outlook.
And war is peace, and freedom slavery.
Diana might have intended to harm the royal family, but she understood a truth about
successful monarchies that the house of Windsor is only now beginning to understand.
Royalty is supposed to embody the soul of the nation, excluding no class from its
affections -- not for reasons of equality but on the belief that every soul is in God's
care. Charles approaches this ideal more closely than Diana did.
The fact that the public and media find it easier to love an attractive woman than a
goofy-looking man is understandable, but the right wing intellectuals are supposed to keep
cool and separate the wheat from the chaff. Rockwell fails to do this. Erik von
Kuenelt-Leddihn notes that before the Reformation, Catholic monarchs all over Europe were
obliged to wash the feet of commoners on Maundy Thursday. Afterward the king or emperor
would invite beggars and old men from the paupers' asylum to the palace for dinner, served
by the queen and her ladies-in-waiting. After the Reformation, however, the English
monarchy refused to subject itself to such humbling practices, and instead handed out
pennies to the poor.
Conservatives object that Diana lived a life of sin. That's obvious enough from the
unseemly circumstances of her death. But that's not a secret. More obvious is that the
wages for her sin were paid in the most horrible manner, reminding us of our own mortality
from ashes to ashes. Diana made bad choices and paid the ultimate price.
Yes, that or she died in a car crash like dozens of others the same day. In
Christian civilization, to see virtue turned to vice doesn't lessen our affections for a
person because even though we know people have free will, we don't
hold them responsible for what they freely will, especially when there are
mitigating circumstances that complicate those bad choices. In the end, however, it wasn't
her sins that were celebrated but her virtues. Being photogenic
and... In the end, it wasn't fashion designers and celebrities who marched in her
funeral processions but the heads of charities she was inspired to back under the influence
of Mother Teresa.
What drove the public affection for her was her non-political character in a
hyper-politicized age. Uh, no, Lew. Remember that politically
correct yipping about mines? Dating a non-White? Above all, we were captivated by
her beauty, poise, grace, charm and demure and, yes, deeply conservative persona.
Just as many were captivated by her eating habits and freakish behavior. As for deeply
conservative persona, well, that belongs to any princess. By her actions she strayed as
far from that archetype -- clubbing, whining, cheating, posing -- as it is possible to go.
Chaff and wheat, buddy.
Even in her divorce, Diana was perceived to be the innocent victim of a loveless marriage,
and her later misdeeds were excused as a reaction to the sad fate that befell her.
Yes. Perceived. The real tragedy was Charles' because his heart led one way and his duty
another (not to deny that he was weak in his own way). This is a classic story, one
told from antiquity. Diana's life attracts us for its enduring themes, not its postmodern
quality. This is what is meant by the word "fairy tale" to describe her life. What are
fairy tales? They are poignant and dramatic stories about the working out of the natural
law -- which is why the left hates them. No, Lew. The only fairy
tale quality to Diana was her wedding. As long as she didn't talk or act, she was a
plausible princess. But when she did, the illusion fell apart. Everything you attribute
to her belongs to the position, and most of her actions were at odds with the idea.
What a contrast the fairy tale is to the feminist cultural ideology that is supposed to
govern our likes and dislikes. There wasn't a feminist bone in Diana's body
again I ignore facts, and she rejected feminism at a time when old standards of
beauty are said to be patriarchal and ethnocentric. Yes, she was a
great mother to her kids: drinking, getting divorced and partying with coloreds.
Who is allowed to say, in these days of anti-lookism, that Diana was more beautiful than
others? Almost everybody, actually. The Semitical Correctness only
kicks in when you say that Aryan beauties of Diana's type are preferable to the best the
colored races can produce. Royal graces are not supposed to matter. We are supposed
to love the grunge look, extol chutzpah and admire women who have made it on their own
terms in a man's world. We live in a time when every clothing catalog in the mail is
filled, as if by national decree, with multicultural displays. Newsweek "morphs" a female
on its cover, and then tells us to be agog at her good looks. Hollywood fills its movies
with very strange-looking types whose faces we are supposed to admire. Diana undid decades
of these attempts to reconstruct our innate aesthetic sense.
Be careful, Lew, you might run over the border and say what you actually mean: that White
women are aesthetically superior to colored women. You are right, but don't get carried
away or the Jews will kick you out of the fold. Leave that to VNN to say....
Custom, too, is supposed to be out. Demure women are supposed to be a thing of the past.
Women are not supposed to be "wronged" by adultery; they are supposed to commit it,
Cosmo-style. The women we love are supposed to be career types, with brains and
ambition, not innocent young princesses from, yes, fairy tales. The look and story of Diana
ran contrary to all these modern demands. Good lord, Lew -- acquaint
yourself with the facts.
The global wave of reactionary sentiment was capped in her funeral service, the most public
Christian ceremony in half a century. Despite the agnosticism of the Anglican church, at
least the hierarchy still knows how to put on a magnificent and traditional liturgy. This
occurs at a time when every manner of corruption has entered liturgies in all churches.
We're supposed to dance, kiss, share and swoon, everything but focus on the eternal reason
But Diana's funeral was a solemn occasion in the ancient tradition, complete with a
sampling of music from all time: Tallis, Pachelbel, Verdi, Purcell and Tavener. Nothing
less would do for a princess. Then, we must ask, why should we accept less in our Sunday
services? The movement for a restoration of solemnity in liturgy needs a revival, and this
funeral has provided it. It may even have converted some souls.
Sorry, Lew. Race and creed are dead with you low-bidder libertarians.
There was another effect too: It demonstrated to the world that England, indeed the West,
is rooted in Christianity, which is still the faith of the overwhelming majority. This
display, coupled with the death of Mother Teresa, could have major cultural repercussions
for years to come. Hasn't. Won't. The coincidence set back
the cause of religious relativism and rebuked the Christian haters in the media and
official culture. Uh...actually, no, Lew. You're really
For decades we've been told that it's bigoted to hold to a single faith. All faiths are
sure to blend into a universal religion centering on love of man
whereas Diana lavished her copious love only on her English subjects, never preening her
compassion surrounded by scrawny tawny third-worlders, not outmoded ideas like sin,
penance, redemption, salvation, heaven and hell. Every public religious occasion in the
U.S. has become a disgusting ooh, Lew, such strong language for
you... display of ecumenical skepticism, with a smattering of representatives from
every religion. If there's a Christian presence, there'd better darn sure be a Buddhist
and a Wicca presence as well. Who's to say one religion is right and others are wrong?
The most updated moment of Diana's funeral came with Elton John's rendition of
"Candle in the Wind." But whatever that song's shortcomings, the new words spoke of beauty,
sadness and heaven, thereby repudiating the central teaching of our time, that there is no
purpose to life other than the here and now, and certainly no heaven, as John Lennon told
us. Actually, if you listen to the words, it bespeaks mortal
evanescence, not heaven. See, the wind extinguishes the candle, it doesn't blow it up
into an eternal flame.
The glory of the Diana phenomenon is its non-political nature. But nonetheless, it does
illustrate a point that is profoundly relevant for our political future: the powerlessness
of politics when confronted with a mass outpouring of public passion. Every politician on
the planet was suddenly struck with the reality that his death would not call forth the
tiniest part of her response. Every government and every politician in the world was pushed
off the front page, in every sense, by the sheer force of public will.
The Diana phenomenon demonstrates that the sentiment of regular people -- their emotions,
priorities and loves, their attachment to traditional standards of beauty and faith and
their affection for the ancient human drama of life and tragic death
their inability to distinguish silver from tinfoil (and my unwillingness to help them)
-- is more powerful than any special interest. When regular people unite for a cause
leaving flowers on the ground, in this case the effective
canonization of a princess, no power on earth is big enough to stop them
leaving flowers on the ground.
Contrary to the posture of official conservatives, and all the others who have denounced
the sadness of real people, the Diana phenomenon is not phony or manufactured.
Actually, Lew, no one's doubting that the sadness was real. They merely and correctly note
that the subject was unworthy of those feelings because she was not what she was
portrayed -- largely a creation of the same media you chastize for lying about everything
else. Diana was crown and smile and damned little else. It is one of those rare
occasions in public life when something is so real, so genuine and right, that not even a
conspiracy of governments and the courtier press can kill it or even diminish its
significance. The real fakes are the conservatives who decry Diana's now-perpetual presence
in the life of our times. This column was written in 1997, Lew. Who
talks about Diana today?
Comment: Diana was a pretty face and that was it. Yet extravagant claims for her beauty
were as common as her behavior and actions. As for her character, it was best captured in
her favorite picture of herself. It showed her cradling a baby Black like Madonna in the
Pieta, the little darkling looking up with big, E.T. "protect me" helpless eyes while she
smiles down all synthetic benevolence. The only possible caption you could give the photo
is "Compassionate Me." And that's Di to a T. The people who admire Diana are the
ill-dressed land manatee women who can't see through her charade of class and compassion
to her character. They see a slimmer attractive them when they look at her, imagine
themselves the center of a storybook wedding, emerging from the chapel, drawn off in a
carriage by pretty horses. It is the job of the intelligent to make sure public
admiration is focused on proper objects; Rockwell fails.