Why They Hate the Queen
The Same Reason They Hate Britishness
The death of Queen Elizabeth has provided an opportunity for sections of the American media to demonstrate their animosity towards the legacy she represents, and to show contempt for Britain’s historic traditions.
Led by The New York Times (NYT), numerous American media outlets could not resist the temptation of portraying the Queen as the personification of a cruel and bloody empire that once oppressed large chunks of the world.
The NYT's response to the Queen's death was to adopt a pompous, sanctimonious tone and lecture the world about Britain’s supposedly shameful past. In an essay titled ‘Mourn the queen, not her empire’, Harvard academic Maya Jasanoff reminded her readers not to be misled by Elizabeth’s public persona. In her view, she was complicit in the ‘bloody history’ of imperial decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s. According to Jasanoff, the Queen's public reputation and moral authority obscured the truth and allowed Britain to retain its ‘outdated fantasies’ about their benevolent imperial past.
For some voices published by The New York Times, their hatred of the Queen is visceral and very personal. In an article titled, 'I Won't Cry Over the Death of a Violent Oppressor', Carnegie Mellon linguistics professor Uju Anya denounced Queen Elizabeth as the ‘representative of the cult of white womanhood’ and observed that she had a ‘hand in the bloodshed of her Crown’.
As far as Anya was concerned, the Queen deserved to die in pain. She tweeted, ‘'I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.'! Sadly, what distinguished her vile comment from her more diplomatic like-minded commentators was that she explicitly stated what they thought.
Echoing Uju Anya’s sentiment
Animosity towards Britain and the Royal Family often assumed a mean-spirited and spiteful form. Numerous articles criticised Britain for spending millions on the Queen’s funeral. Others took a pot shot at King Charles and criticised his clumsy behaviour. The NYT could not pass up an opportunity to draw attention to Charles's fabulous wealth. It reported that ‘he ascends to the throne as the country buckles under a cost-of-living crisis that is expected to see poverty get even worse’. It concluded that a ‘more divisive figure than his mother, King Charles is likely to give fresh energy to those questioning the relevance of a royal family at a time of public hardship’.
It is worth noting that Britain's negative and even hostile representation in the liberal American media has been in play for some time. The death of Elizabeth has merely given renewed impetus to the communication of anti-British propaganda.
‘Britain is undergoing a full-blown identity crisis’, gloated a New York Times reporter in 2017, before adding that it is a “hollowed-out country,” “ill at ease with itself,” “deeply provincial,” and engaged in a “controlled suicide”. This reporter’s observation about Britain’s ‘controlled suicide’ was communicated in a snidey tone that suggested that it is about time this nasty nation has its comeuppance.
If these dystopic reports of Britain’s moral collapse were to be believed, then it would be difficult to avoid the conclusion that a failed state manages life in the United Kingdom. This nation is supposedly inhabited by an out-of-touch snobbish elite and millions of incorrigible xenophobes who cannot let go of their nation’s racist and imperialist past.
The assertion that Britain cannot let go of its past and suffers from a bout of imperial nostalgia is constantly echoed by American critics of the Queen. They present a disneyfied view of a nation pretending that they are living in the Victorian era. It is a central theme of contemporary anti-British propaganda. Given the role of this theme in the ‘I hate Britishness’ narrative, it is worth exploring the validity of this statement.
The fantasy of Britain’s nostalgia
Anyone familiar with life in British communities will affirm that nostalgia for the imperial past is conspicuously absent in everyday life. It is a fantasy dreamt up by critics of British culture and identity.
The term nostalgia is used in a confusing manner. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, nostalgia refers to an ‘acute longing for familiar surroundings’. It is a form of ‘sentimental imagining’ or ‘evocation of a period of the past’. For critics of Britishness, nostalgia does not simply refer to ‘sentimental imagining’ but to any form of historical memory that ascribes positive qualities to aspects of the past. From their standpoint, such sentiments are not allowed. Indeed, these critics regard the refusal to denounce Britain’s past as a cultural crime.
The denunciation of nostalgia is motivated by the goal of contaminating the past and estranging people from their historical legacy. Critics of nostalgia often seek to draw a moral contrast between themselves and their traditionalist-minded populist foes. They contrast their nightmarish framing of Britain’s past to the nostalgia of simple-minded plebian xenophobes. Their hatred for the people and for any manifestation of populism is frequently expressed through their condemnation of the traditions of the past.
One of the criticisms that anti-populists hurl at their opponents is that ‘populist ideology relies heavily on nostalgia’. According to the anti-populist imagination, people drawn toward populism are so uncritical of the past that they perceive it as a golden age of community harmony. This cultural script claims that ‘misguided faith in ideas that defined people’s attachment to history and tradition’ leads populists to possess a distorted sense of contemporary reality. The premise of the anti-populist critique of nostalgia is that rather than providing a positive guide to life, the customs and traditions of the past represent negative and unacceptable conventions and practices.
The critique of nostalgia is imprisoned within the walls of presentism. It expresses the latter-day sentiment of Voltaire’s Dr Pangloss, who naively declared that ‘we live in the best possible world’. There is nothing worth saving from the past, according to the denunciation of populist nostalgia.
‘Those who look back at the 1930s or 1960s with nostalgia invariably end up voting for Trump, Putin, Brexit, or the swarm of populist nationalists besieging the European Union. People on the other side of the barricade — weak and naive as they may be — want the world to keep moving forward as it did during the post-World War II era’.
During the debate over Brexit, the narrative of nostalgia came into its own. Those who advocated leaving the European Union were swiftly cast into the role of nostalgic idiots who took the principle of national sovereignty seriously.
Hatred for the Queen, the Royal Family and Britishness by American culture warriors should be understood as a sublimated expression of their animosity towards the traditions and ideals of the past. When they attack the legacy of Britain’s history, they are also making a statement about the historical legacy of Western culture. In a roundabout way, their anti-British sentiments are not simply directed at Britain but also at their society.
Their depiction of Queen Elizabeth as the ‘representative of the cult of white womanhood’ interprets events in Britain through the prism of American critical race theory. Almost without thought, they project their obsession with racial identity on British society. Their hatred towards Britishness simply expresses their animosity towards their own society. They hate the Queen because she symbolises a way of life they wish to destroy at home and abroad.
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See for example Shlomo Ben-Ami ‘Populism, Past and Present’, Project Sydicate, 10 August 2016.