In the 7th episode of “The Crown,” we see that after meeting Charles Spencer, Martin Bashir was able to convince him that Diana’s life could be in danger. He had given him proof of the fact that she was being spied upon. Martin had gone to great lengths to create a fake narrative. He told Charles that his chief security officer, Alan Waller, had received payment from two places, i.e., from News International and from a shell company based in Jersey named Penfold Consultants. He speculated that the shell company was a front for security services like the MI5. The bank statements, the story, and everything else around it that Bashir told Charles was absolutely false. There was no involvement of Alan Waller, or MI5 and Bashir did that solely because he knew that Diana’s interview would help the sinking boat of BBC stay afloat. During those times, the BBC was facing huge competition from other commercial channels. The channel had enjoyed a monopoly at one point in time, but now there were other players in the market who provided entertainment along with information. The essence of journalism was changing. Everything had become more entertainment oriented. In those days, the BBC was divided into two factions: the people who wanted to resist change and the people who knew that if they did not sail with the wind, they would be stranded in the wild sea. Martin Bashir belonged to the so-called progressive faction. He knew that Diana’s interview would create a sensation throughout the world. The common people adored her and considered her a personification of kindness and humility. The 1983 Australian tour had shown the kind of impact that she was capable of having. Martin just wanted to latch onto that impact and use it for his own purposes. He knew that the princess, after getting separated from Prince Charles, was a loose cannon. He just wanted to be sure that BBC was the one pulling the trigger and making the best use of that firepower.
Even before she met Martin Bashir, Diana had a feeling that her phone was being tapped. She constantly felt that somebody was listening to her conversations. One day her car brakes stopped functioning, and her doubt was strengthened even more. It might have been just an imagination of a troubled mind, or maybe it could have been true. But nobody could say anything with certainty. She also knew that the royal family could go to great lengths to save their public image. Martin Bashir’s fake narrative validated Diana’s theory. She had no reason not to believe that whatever Bashir was claiming was not true. Bashir was able to make the princess believe that she was a threat to the royal family. He told her that her driver, Steve Davies, was also a part of the conspiracy. He said that the establishment wanted Diana to leave the country, and they had planned an all-out attack on her in the past. Diana and Charles Spencer were left dumbfounded after hearing what Bashir had to say. Charles was concerned for the well-being of his sister, and Diana knew that she couldn’t trust anybody. Martin saw the doubt and the fear slowly overpowering them. It was then that he gave them a solution. He advised Diana to come out in the open and tell the world about how she had been oppressed and neglected over the years by the royal household.
Diana had started having doubts about the credibility of Martin Bashir. He was, no doubt, an exceptional journalist, but Charles Spencer had realized that he was not stating the facts correctly. But Bashir was somehow able to evade the topic by telling Diana that she was just being nervous. He compared Diana’s situation with the infamous gunpowder plot of 1605. He speculated that Diana had chosen November 5th as the date of the interview on purpose. The day was celebrated as Guy Fawkes Night in the entire United Kingdom. Guy Fawkes belonged to a group of Catholics who wanted to uproot the establishment by assassinating King James I. Though Diana was not trying to assassinate anybody, the implications of her actions were going to be pretty much the same. It was a war against the monarchy. It was a desperate ploy used by Martin Bashir because he thought that Diana was going to pull out at the very last minute. He made the comparison to show her that what she was doing served a greater interest. He wanted to make her feel like she was part of a revolution that was going to change the future of their great nation. But in reality, he just wanted to use a tactic called sensationalism to serve his best interests. It would be fair to say that he brainwashed Diana using deceitful methods. He had created this conspiracy theory in which she felt that her life was in danger. He had not only given a national platform to a personal agenda (something that was against the policies of the BBC), but he had done so by using dishonest methods. He took advantage of a vulnerable soul. He knew that she was desperate to tell the world her side of the story. Many news channels had approached her, but Bashir knew that she needed a trustworthy platform, to say things that were so personal to her. He understood that he could use the legacy of the British Broadcasting Corporation to his advantage. He assured her that he only had bona fide intentions and that the world needed to know how the Crown had tried to ridicule and terrorize her.
A lot of times, media houses are biased towards one point of view, and it is a widely known fact. But having a bias and resorting to unfair and deceitful means and methods are two very different things. Bashir knew from the very beginning what he was doing. He had put Diana in a situation where she spoke about things she shouldn’t have. Her opinions, too, had the strength to create and mold the public perceptions. She was a beloved figure, and people believed what she said. But she was in a very fragile state of mind when she said all those things. Journalism is often considered the first draft of history, and this piece of news did create history. Yes, the truth came out, but Bashir was not justified in playing with a person’s emotions and using them to boost his career. Bashir won the battle. He decimated the very foundations of the Royal British Family, but he set a bad precedent for generations to come. Years later, the BBC issued an apology after the Lord Dyson report established that Martin Bashir had used deceptive methods to secure the interview with Princess Diana. Almost 30 years have passed since the Princess of Wales came and talked on the Panorama-BBC platform, but it still remains one of the most controversial interviews of all time.
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