by David Sisler
There is plenty of blame to go around in the death of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.
The most obvious targets are the paparazzis, the sharks who circle a victim, nibbling, annoying, tormenting and finally, feeding on the victim's blood. In this case, the symbolism becomes almost literal.
Le Monde reported Monday that, within 30 seconds of the crash, photographers were taking pictures of the bleeding victims. Citing a dozen unnamed witnesses, it said photographers actually pushed away rescuers and two policemen who arrived on the scene, saying they were ruining their pictures.
It is little wonder that the paparazzi are so driven. The Italian photographer who snapped "The Kiss," photos of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, sold them to the British tabloid the Sunday Mirror for more than $630,000 and was expected to make more than $1.5 million from world-wide rights.
But as French authorities continue to investigate the part which the photographers had in the deaths of Diana, Mr. Fayed, and Mr. Henri Paul, her chauffeur, no one should miss the irrefutable fact that if the so-called tabloid press did not buy the photographs, almost no one would take them.
Callously, Germany's largest circulation newspaper, Bild Zeitung, published a front-page photograph of Princess Diana's smashed Mercedes. The photograph showed rescuers reaching into the car, and one or two slumped figures, with only the back of their heads visible.
An editor at the paper, identified only as Mr. Westing said, "We paid a lot of money for [the photographs]." Asked if the newspaper planned to run more photographs of the scene, he said, "That we don't know, this could run a long time."
Steve Coz, editor of the National Enquirer, a newspaper synonymous with the worst of tabloid journalism, said in an interview with CNN his publication would not purchase any photos taken by the paparazzi involved in the crash in an effort "to send a message." When the National Enquirer leads the way to the high ground, the low ground must be desperately low.
The high ground may not be all that high. The September 9th issue of the Enquirer headlined, "Di Goes Sex Mad." Prompted by the Princess' death, Kmart Corp., Safeway and Giant Food pulled that issue from their shelves, citing respect for Diana.
"We felt it inappropriate in light of the tragedy," said Safeway's director of public affairs, Gregory TenEyck. "The nation and the world are mourning her, and we felt shoppers should not be assaulted by this headline." Does that means that if Diana had not been killed, it would have been all right to assault shoppers with that headline?
Princess Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, told reporters, "It would appear that every proprietor and every editor of any publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encouraging greedy and ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana's image, has blood on his hands today."
That leads to a third guilty party in the tragedy — insatiable public desire for all things Diana.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed Kay Lambert, a 74-year-old mourner who joined the crowds at Buckingham Palace. "She was driven to death by a photo. Those photographers will have to live with the curse of the whole country on their heads." But then with commendable honesty, Mrs. Lambert conceded that she was among the millions of readers world-wide who eagerly snap up publications that track the latest royal goings-on. "Unfortunately, I do buy these papers," she acknowledged.
Blame the photographers, blame the magazines and newspapers who bought the pictures, blame the readers who bought the publications. There is blame enough and more to spare, but the bottom line is simple: the deaths at the Pont de l'Alma are one more tragic consequence of DUI.
Henri Paul had a blood alcohol level of three to four times the legal limit. With that amount of alcohol in his blood, Mr. Paul's risk of being in a fatal, single vehicle crash increased 300 to 600 times above normal. With the vehicle hurtling through the darkness at speeds which would travel the length of two football fields every three seconds, the situation could only be described as tragedy waiting to happen.
Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, was killed by a drunk driver. Remember that the next time you have consumed too much alcohol and you get behind the wheel of your car, stupidly thinking you can control it. You probably won't cause the death of royalty, but the princess you do kill will be someone's daughter, someone's mother, someone's girlfriend. Maybe your own.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 9/6/97
Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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