EDITORIAL: Prince Andrew and the press: Guilt by accusation
A pensive Prince Andrew
In law, Prince Andrew is innocent until proven guilty. In the press, however, he is guilty of his alleged crime despite a lack of criminal conviction, which begs the question what is the point of the legal process if an accusation is all that is needed to destroy a person's reputation and ruin their life and livelihood?
Clearly feeling frustrated at not being listened to in the post-MeToo din, he made the decision to do an exclusive interview on Newsnight in order to try to somehow change the narrative about him.
The problem wasn't so much in what he said, as in how he came across. For many, he seemed haughty and defensive. Well, in the former, he has been younger brother in the world's most famous family all his life, and, in the latter, he's been accused of underage rape. Yet, body language specialists and lie detector detectives have testified that he was telling the truth (his truth?)
'Prince Andrew' regularly trends on Twitter, and the news is never good - at least for him - when you click to investigate. Mind you, it never has been for 'Randy Andy', in the tabloids since a young affair with the model Koo Stark back in the relatively naïve 20th century.
Andrew might well be the victim of one of the most expensive stings in history, with his family paying a rumoured £12 million to a far-from-trustworthy complainant/victim (delete to preference). If that is the case, then the universal panning Andrew is receiving is 'victim-blaming' at its most toxic. Imagine how you would feel if someone you can't remember meeting accused you of raping them when they were underage, nothing had been proven but you'd been advised to pay her a massive sum that you didn't have to go away?
British Republicans are out in force too, using the multilateral (supposed) unpopularity to campaign for the end of the 'Femily', conflating their outrage at primogeniture with the expedient sympathies for #MeToo still available in pockets of the post-Depp-Heard fallout. One of the Royal Family's greatest gifts is its reflection of the messiness of many a British/western family, and all the different characteristics within: you may not approve of the entitlement, but at least it's our entitlement of which to disapprove.
As with most other modern sex scandals, the word 'paedophile' gets dropped at every opportunity, the majority's disgust at which making it the ideal catch-all insult (an observation cleverly utilised by Laurence Fox recently, by just flinging it at anyone who disagreed with him). What Andrew's friend/intellectual mentor Jeffrey Epstein was actually guilty of was ephebophilia, or the attraction to pubescent/adolescent individuals (15-19 years of age).
This is a practice that is still condoned in certain traditional societies, but in the West the age limit for calling someone a paedophile is being pushed up and up. Not so long ago in that terrible century prior to this, few would have batted much of an eyelid at a wealthy middle-aged man being rumoured to have had a tryst with a visiting 17 year-old. However the #MeToo movement, combined with ever-increasing Radical Feminism taking hold at the top of major institutions, finds us in the maw of a new puritan age, with the perpetually outraged voices coming across as nothing less than a sea of critical theory-informed, somewhat more atheistic Mary Whitehouses.
The sad lesson of the whole affair is how bad an idea it is to do a mainstream media interview to attempt to put one's side, as even if he had been found to be lying through his teeth by those experts, the narrative was clearly already fixed in the minds of the gatekeepers.
Prince Andrew is the Royal Wrong'n, and nothing he can do this side of a full confession of mendacity by Giuffre will work. He probably still thought we were in the days of David Frost and Nixon, in the desperate hope that his truth might out; so if there is one thing we can be sure of with Andrew, it's that he is desperately out of touch – and that seems to be a bigger crime than anything else these days.