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Western Press Review: Once Upon a Time. . . There Was A Torrent Of Words

Prague, 2 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - An outpouring of commentary on the circumstances of Princess Diana's death and on the nature of her life continues in the Western press. Commentators' concerns divide naturally into three themes.

There is Diana herself. There is the culpability of the press. And there is the interrelationship among society, royalty and celebrity. Following are clips in each category from editorials, commentary and analyses.

Society And The Princess

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Privacy is a denial of a democratic entitlement

George Will writes: "Diana died, in a sense, at the intersection of a premodern institution, royalty, and the modern sensibility, which holds that privacy is a denial of a democratic entitlement."

Will says: "What proved to be fatally unforgiving was the insatiable craving of society, from top to bottom, for details of Diana's life as princess for a democratic age. It was a drama on which the curtain came down with a crash."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Gossip and smut prove that man does not want to exist alone

Klaus Podak analyses: "The death of Princess Diana has gripped people as if they had lost a close relative. At first glance the henomenon is extraordinary, but looked at more closely, not very extraordinary after all." Podak writes: :"Gossip and smut prove that man does not want to exist alone, that he wants continually to renew and confirm his sense of belonging. This kind of behavior stems from basic needs which are satisfied with up-to-date information and -- quite often -- false information."

BOSTON GLOBE: Diana has been elevated to icon status

Kevin Cullen writes: "The royal family, royal watchers say, must tread cautiously in the coming months." Cullen says: "Diana has been elevated to icon status (in Britain). Charles now faces the prospect of having been married to a legend."

THE REPUBLICAN AMERICAN: Too many of us couldn't turn away from opportunities to see her lower self.

The Waterbury (Connecticut) editorial comments: "The qualities many loved in Princess Diana -- her empathy for those less fortunate, her inner and outer beauty and grace -- have been taken forever because too many of us couldn't turn away from opportunities to see her lower self."

LE MONDE: It is difficult to escape from the making public of private life

The paper says: "Diana became a heroine, a central figure in the global media landscape, the universe of television screens, radio broadcasts, magazine covers, of which we all are consumers. To this sequined empire, to the international market of images, to this fair of secrets, true or false, this maelstrom of privatizations of public life and this making public of private life, it is difficult to escape."

JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: People loved her to her death

The Atlanta paper's editorial writes "Princess Diana, perhaps the most recognizable woman in the world, was so beautiful and compassionate that people everywhere fell in love with her. And then they loved her to death."

The Princess And The Press

THE NEW YORK POST: It seems it was too good to be true

The editorial comment says: "Soon there will come a time for a close examination of the events of Saturday night -- in particular, the apparent actions of a small number of paparazzi driven to excess by the public's fixation on celebrity. (But) now we would note only that when Lady Diana Spencer went to the altar with her Prince Charming on July 29, 1981, it all seemed to good to be true. More's the pity, it was."

THE BOSTON GLOBE: The driver's condition changed perceptions about the crash

Elizabeth Neuffer says: "Whatever the authorities ultimately decide to do, it was clear (yesterday) that the driver's condition had changed perceptions about the crash, although probably not enough to keep people from expressing anger and believing that overzealous journalists are a menace."

THE TENNESSEAN: Rules of decency were suspended

The editorial comments "The hunger for every photo of her was so intense, and the value of her likenesses was so high, that all rules of decency and propriety were suspended. She deserved far better."

THE HARTFORD COURANT: To punish all the news media for the abominations of the few is no rational answer

The paper writes: "Demands are being made to hold the paparazzi on a government leash. The anger is understandable, but to punish all the news media for the abominations of the few is no rational answer."

THE DENVER POST: Even the most stringent laws did not serve to protect Diana

The comment in this paper says: "In Britain there will be calls for new laws restraining the most obnoxious intrusions. Ironically, however, even France's privacy law, which is among the most stringent in Europe, did not serve to protect Diana."

THE WASHINGTON POST: There is talk of tough new privacy laws and other strictures on the prying press.

Writers Eugene Robinson and Christine Spolar say : "Britain's raucous tabloid newspapers were uncharacteristically quiet (yesterday), as reports that pursuing photographers might have contributed to Princess Diana's death led to talk of tough new privacy laws, curbs on electronic eavesdropping and other strictures on the prying press."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Readers are calling nonstop and complaining about the picture

Detlef Esslinger comments: "The mass-circulation Bild (yesterday) had the photo that the others did not, on the top left corner of the front page where potential customers could not miss it. The silhouettes of human bodies were visible through the back window of the dark Mercedes, while firefighters tried desperately to cut them free." Esslinger writes: "Within the newspaper, the biggest in Germany by circulation and one which enjoys its rather racy reputation, the use of the picture seemed to hit a nerve. 'You would not believe what is going on here,' said one employee, who asked not to be named. 'Readers are calling nonstop and complaining about the picture.' Yet readers have been buying plenty of Bild editions with pictures purporting to illustrate a romance between the princess and al-Fayed."

The Princess And The Fairy Tale

THE SEATTLE TIMES: The fairy tale which never came true added to her fame

The editorial says: "Diana will always be associated with innocence lost, (but) the fact that it never happened, the fairy tale never came true, that all her troubles spilled out onto the village street, only made her more sympathetic and her fame more rapacious."

THE PLAIN DEALER: She seemed like a breath of spring-like air in the musty corridors of Buckingham Palace."

The editorial writes: "In the United States and other countries where no one gave a fig about the constitutional niceties raised by Diana's determination to carve a public role for herself, she seemed like a breath of spring-like air in the musty corridors of Buckingham Palace."

THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: 'For never was a story of more woe'

The paper comments: " 'For never was a story of more woe' than that of Diana, the beautiful Englishwoman who wed an English prince in front of the whole world, bore him two sons, endured a loveless marriage and gruesomely public breakup, and, this weekend, died too young in a tragic automobile accident."