As the press continue to go ga-ga over prince Harry in Afghanistan, it's obvious that for the most part the government has achieved a huge propaganda victory with the help of a compliant media. Editors here are said to have unanimously agreed to a 'news blackout' (conspiracy of silence) over Harry's deployment on the grounds that publicising it would put his life and other lives 'at risk'.
But, as I pointed out the other day, the idea that people in a war can be kept entirely safe is a bit strange. Of course, to make Harry a hero we have to believe he was in some kind of danger. According to the Sunday Times, publicist Max Clifford thinks it was all just a PR stunt. Others praise Harry's bravery.
But if Harry was at risk in Afghanistan anyway, how can the media justify concealing his deployment? Perhaps he would have been more at risk had we been told the truth, but can a conspiracy of silence like this be justified on the grounds of relative risk. It looks more like the media engaged in the usual faustian pact of co-operation for access, access that means propaganda for the government. John Williams, the BBC's world news editor, admits as much here.
I think the media would have been more honest if they had said, 'OK we won't reveal his deployment but we won't join in the propaganda either.' But of course there would be no possibility of the media not breaking ranks on that.