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Who's to blame for ongoing Diana frenzy?

By Ann Lund

31 August 2007

Published on ABC online's Opinion.

It's been a long time since I agreed with anything Germaine Greer has written or said, but I'm afraid I share some of her sentiments about the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

I wouldn't go so far as to call Diana a "devious moron" but manipulative and calculating certainly, and a "desperate woman seeking applause" absolutely.

Many people will immediately jump to her defence and say she had to be like this to protect herself from the establishment (monarchy) and what she described as the "enemy's department", that of her husband Prince Charles.

Many people will point their finger at me and say 'well you would say that, wouldn't you - you're part of the media'. Indeed, I have been accused of being responsible for her death because I am a journalist.

No matter what her personality or talents, she was a predestined candidate for extensive media coverage the moment she stepped into that royal role. The fact that she was young and beautiful added to this - but she would always be in the media's eye - after all, she was to be the future Queen.

And while she may have been naïve at first - she soon learnt to use her role in the public eye to her advantage.

In her 1995 television interview with Martin Bashir, she admitted that she had created the role that she would pursue.

"I remember when I used to sit on hospital beds and hold people's hands, people used to be sort of shocked because they said they'd never seen this before, and to me it was quite a normal thing to do. And when I saw the reassurance that an action like that gave, I did it everywhere, and will always do that."
BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, November 1995

She saw that what she did won her favour and support, and while I fully believe she was genuinely doing it to help people, she was also genuinely doing it to help herself.

It was Diana in that interview with Bashir who spoke of wanting to become a "Queen in people's hearts"; no one put those words in her mouth.

"I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts, in people's hearts, but I don't see myself being Queen of this country. I don't think many people will want me to be Queen."
BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, November 1995

Celebrity fascination has never been more apparent than at the moment. There are those who court the media (dare I mention Paris Hilton in the same article as Princess Diana). They want the coverage, the fame, the exposure. The trouble is, most of these people don't understand when you start this sort of frenzy - you cannot just turn it off again.

But Diana did understand this and played her hand perfectly.

"As I have all this media interest, let's not just sit in this country and be battered by it. Let's take them, these people, out to represent this country and the good qualities of it abroad."

"When I go abroad we've got 60 to 90 photographers, just from this country, coming with me, so let's use it in a productive way, to help this country."
BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, November 1995

Tabloid photographers in Britain report that she used to ring them, tell them where she would be and when - and then complain about being followed and harassed.

When she chose to withdraw from public for a while she did so.

"I did a lot of work, underground, without any media attention, so I never really stopped doing it."
BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, November 1995

She chose to use her celebrity when she wanted to - to score points against the royal family and win favour with the public.

BBC documents show that nearly half the population of Britain (44 per cent) felt alienated by the blanket media coverage of the Princess's death and funeral, which they thought was excessive and over-emotional, and yet over the next few days there will be the endless news stories, tributes, TV programs about her life and death, her photo will appear on the front of many magazines (it's already happening) because publishers know she still sells.

Ten years on her celebrity still has that impact. If people really believe she was so persecuted by the media, why do they continue to buy and watch it and fuel this frenzy?