Diana is dead - the media need to get over her

Newsweek's latest cover featuring a resurrected Diana is grubby, undignified and demeaning attempt t

It's hard to know where to begin with Newsweek's spectacularly tasteless "Diana at 50" cover, which has the People's Princess artificially aged and somewhat messily photoshopped next to a picture of Kate Middleton. Is it genius? Is it satire? Is it just a right old horlicks?

"If she were here now," is the wistful coverline plugging a feature by Tina Brown. If she were now, what would she think? Presumably, she wouldn't be thinking: "What the fuck have they done, mucking around with an old picture of me like that?" because they wouldn't have to. If she were here now, I like to think Diana would be hiding away in a bunker somewhere from the cavalcade of manky old tat being written about "DIANA AT 50", thinking: "Oh please, make it stop, make it stop. Why can't they pick on someone else for once?"

Newsweek cover

Actually, that's not fair. My hope is that if Diana were still alive, she wouldn't be as hounded nowadays as she was when she was alive. Even for those of us who don't like royalty, privilege and all it stands for, I think there was something human and kindly about her, the way in which she decontaminated subjects like AIDS or used her enormous fame to bring public notice to issues such as landmines; there was something decent and dignified about the Pestered Princess. Something much more dignified and decent than the kind of people still feasting on her legacy all these years later.

Well, you be the judge. The article is here, and there's even a page on what Diana's Facebook would be like (friends with Jo Rowling and Rafa Nadal! Messages on her wall from Sarah Ferguson and Deepak Chopra!) if she hadn't been killed in 1997.

Oh, what would she have made of Twitter and Facebook? What would she have made of blogging, one wonders? Well, we shall never know. She's dead. Why speculate? She's dead. No amount of dancing on her grave will bring her back to life or let us know the things we never found out, those tiny corners of a very public life that somehow remained private. Now it's 50... next it will be 60... and so on, and so on, until the very last essence is wrung dry.

Just as with Vanity Fair's rather unpleasant 'Imagine if John Lennon were still alive' supposed tribute article of last year, this kind of thing is a bit grubby, a bit undignified, a bit demeaning for the author as much as for the poor victim. The photo appears to be of Kate Middleton at the wedding of Sam Waley-Cohen, with the Diana-alike crudely splodged next to her. Subtle, it ain't. But then I suppose that's the whole point: create a bit of a stir, get more attention for what you're doing. It's all part of the show.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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