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British Royals

The royal rumours on the Princess of Wales have gone too far – so why are crazed conspiracy theorists still being given oxygen?

The investigation into a possible attempted breach of the medical records of the Princess of Wales is a concerning development in a story that has led to a woman being subjected to analysis far beyond normal. In the two months since the Princess underwent major surgery, speculation about her health has gone from concern to craziness in some quarters.

Catherine has been subjected to a storm of conspiracy theories in recent weeks as she continues to follow the recovery plan set out by Kensington Palace when she was first treated.

Despite the announcement then that she would not take up public engagements again until at least after Easter, some social media users have claimed all kinds of increasingly unhinged reasons for her continued absence. Getting better just doesn’t cut it for them.

On Mother’s Day, Kensington Palace released a photo of the Princess with her three children which was pulled several hours later by photo agencies over concerns it had been digitally altered. The Princess of Wales apologised for editing the image.  

That only stoked fires already burning on the final fumes of sanity. For several days, a world which is afflicted by conflict and human suffering became obsessed with the whereabouts of a woman who had already said she would need to stay indoors for a while after having her abdomen cut open for medical reasons.

The motivation of some of those peddling conspiracy theories really raises concerns. Many have just been caught up in what’s been called the Kate rabbit hole. It’s an easy enough way to spend a couple of hours, scrolling through socials speculating on why she’s not around right now and it can bring a welcome change from interior decorating tips on Instagram. That’s all pretty par for the course.

However, others are truly sinister and rather frightening. A week after the Mother’s Day photo, The Sun published a video of William and Catherine at a farm shop close to their Windsor home. The sense of disappointment among some of the more unhinged social stalkers was palpable. Faced with real evidence that their rumour mongering might be about to come undone, they went into meltdown.

That lunacy continues now. The Information Commissioner is now looking into a claim that the private medical records of the Princess may have been subject to an attempted breach during her stay in hospital. The conspiracists went straight to their now usual poison mode. A strange response to a serious allegation. You’d think a normal human would be horrified.

And therein lies the rub. A normal human. The question has to be asked about where these wild conspiracy theories have come from and where the energy to continue them finds its source. It’s one thing to have a whizz around socials, following a hashtag that might be interesting like #kategate. It’s quite another to pour literally hours, every day, into trying to prove a wide range of unhinged theories.

All of this raises a really important question about social media in a world where really much more important things are going on, right now. For if the whole media narrative can be hijacked by the strange fantasies of a few around the health of a woman who already said she’d be taking time off, what checks and balances are in place to stop this affecting matters of life and death?

Parts of the mainstream media are also to blame. It’s too easy to take a few posts from socials, paste them into an article and call it a wave of opinion. Anyone who’s worked in the media is aware of the lengths that vested interests will go to as they try to ensure their agenda is followed. Just because the voice now comes from someone with a weird user name and a photo of a sunrise as their avatar, doesn’t mean they’re just a random.

The conspiracy crackpots have gone way too far here. And it’s raised questions about how apparently individual messages on socials are used to further the news narrative. This is a changing media landscape. Let’s hope the lesson learned here is that control needs to be taken back. Any decent journalist should be asking who their source is and what their motivation is before making them the bedrock of a story. It’s not enough to say ‘it’s just the royals, it doesn’t really matter’. It really does. And it’s time that became an important focus.

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