When Prince William married Kate Middleton two years ago, news organizations told us that just about every human being on Earth was breathless with anticipation for the glorious event. Two billion people watched, said Bloomberg News. No, said the New York Times, it was three billion! Unless you were a Mongolian horseman out patrolling the steppes or a prisoner who had his TV privileges taken away, you watched, because everybody did.
Trouble was, these claims were based on nothing. They were all "estimates," gathered by the journalistic technique known as "Well, that's what people are saying." No one could get a hard number, because many countries don't have systems for gathering ratings data, but given that only23 million watched in the U.S.–a good showing for an episode of "C.S.I.," but less than a quarter of what the Super Bowl gets–the real number was almost certainly far less than the "estimates."
We thought of that as we watched the hyperventilating news coverage of Kate Middleton's labor. "The world waits!" one news outlet after another told us, as correspondents milled about outside the hospital with absolutely nothing to say, and barely anything to speculate about, other than the baby's gender and name. But how much does the world really care?
We're not saying there's anything wrong with caring, at least if one keeps it within reasonable limits. The British royals are just one more brand of celebrity, no less worthy of attention than Kim Kardashian or Honey Boo-Boo. There's no harm in leafing through a magazine with their pictures in it as you wait in the doctor's office or stand in line at the supermarket. But do we, as a nation and as a world, really care as deeply and madly about this royal nubbin as the news media keep telling us we do? Or is it that the producers and editors themselves care (for whatever reason), and just assume the rest of us do, too?
SO THEY SAY
Well hello! I'm your roommate for the night."
—Anthony Weiner, at a campaign sleepover in Harlem
DAILY MEME: NEWS STORIES NOT ABOUT ROYAL BIRTHS
- While you've been frantically refreshing your royal baby live-blog of choice, a few other things are developing that you should maybe know about.
- The chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resuming are growing slimmer by the day.
- The U.S. Marshals Service lost over 2,000 radios and other communications devices. Some slightly troubling security implications....
- Edward Snowden is still hanging out in an airport in Moscow. Sources seem unsure whether he is delayed by the royal birth, or other issues.
- Progress in Syria is also immobile, and increasingly troubling.
- Republicans, unsurprisingly, are trying to make Obama's climate plan way less ambitious.
- Nate Silver, wonder-blogger of elections past, is moving to ESPN and returning to his sportsy roots.
- A new study shows that upward mobility in the United States is very dependent on location.
- Meanwhile, Gawker suggests we get rid of royal babies all together.
WHAT WE'RE WRITING
- Law enforcement officials are becoming a common sight at schools across the country, and the same goes for interrogations. Bryce Stucki writes about how discipline in schools has evolved in disturbing fashion.
- Around 30,000 California prisoners are protesting various abuses by going on hunger strike. Scott Lemieux writes that the state’s broken prison system reflects America’s crime-control policy as a whole.
WHAT WE'RE READING
- North Dakota has seen employment jump by nearly 21 percent since the end of the recession.
- Unpaid internships are a staple of Washington, D.C. summers. But one organization is taking pages out of organized labor's book to push for government entities to pay interns.
- Happy Birthday Dodd-Frank! Why aren't you doing what you're supposed to be doing yet?
- Jonathan Chait writes how the Congressional Republicans see compromise and governing within Washington as anathema to their ideology. Hence, they have used obstruction and the stalling of governance not only as a way to hold steady to their political philosophy but also a means of political strategy against President Obama.
- So Kate Middleton finally gave birth but you find that you just don't care. So what do you want when you want to read the news? The Guardian can help. The British-run newspaper has a button on their website that filters out all news about the Royal Spawn. If you click "Republican," you will lose all of the minute-by-minute coverage. But if you want to follow the news, simply click "Royalist."
- Why does everyone in Congress have a leadership PAC these days?
- Miles Corak examines the benefits children born in the 1 percent have when it comes to starting a career.
- Even if you see Congress as "a Boschian hellscape of partisan acrimony and special-interest greed," you have to admit they actually got things done this session, writes Molly Ball—if not on purpose.
- Is Big Law gasping out its last breaths?
POLL OF THE DAY
The Zimmerman verdict did not sit well with 86 percent of African Americans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Just over half of the white people quesioned agreed with the ruling. Opinion on the verdict also broke up along party lines, as 70 percent of Republicans agreed with the decision, compared to only 30 percent of Democrats.