What is Prince Harry’s motive for his revelations?

Et was the week of revelations: Prince Harry gives spicy insights into palace life, Benedikt’s private secretary Georg Gänswein spreads the innards of the Vatican, and ex-professional ex-wife (and ex-professional wife) Claudia Effenberg gives hope for a settlement with Thomas Strunz at the start of the “jungle camp”. Reason enough to sketch a little phenomenology of disclosure.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen based in Hanover.

What does the predicate unveiling deserve? The W-questions are crucial: Who reveals? Who will be revealed? What is revealed? After that, the market value is determined. With mysterious institutions like that Vatican or the British royal family, it is naturally high. With someone like Kader Loth, who has hardly any material left for revelations (“I could have saved myself one or the other lover afterwards”), it is lower.

The word treason used in relation to Harry does not correctly describe the revelation, but neither does truth or transparency. The habitat of disclosure is the moral gray area. In the course of time, a separate jargon of disclosure has developed: “settlement”, “unpack”, “confess”. It is no coincidence that some of these terms are applicable to the mental as well as the physical. This becomes just as clear with “bare” or “expose” as with “let your pants down”, and with the term “soul striptease” anyway. So it’s only logical that reality formats like to coordinate with “Playboy”: One of the participants usually shows “everything” in the magazine. The exciting question for TV viewers is then whether she will “do it” again in the camp.

He’s almost naked already

In general, the unveiling follows a narrative structure, a logic of escalation: first the coat, then the top, then the panties. You can see that with Harry and Meghan: suggesting that there was a racist comment in the royal house without saying whose mouth it came from was the perfect cliffhanger. Harry is repeating this strategy by revealing his defloration in a lawn behind a pub, as the playmate’s description as an “elderly woman who liked horses, very much so” has left room for weeks of speculation. There are already first denials. What is to come now? The prince is already almost naked.

The stuff that disclosures are made of is subject to constant change. Outings from football players, for example, still have the quality of a revelation, but that should no longer be the case in 20 years. 50 years ago, a headline in the “Bild” newspaper would have read: Bohlen’s confession: “I don’t pray.” A few days ago it read: “Bohlen’s confession: I pray every day.”

Spreading out the innards of the Vatican: Benedict's private secretary Georg Gänswein (right), here with the Pope Emeritus in 2019

Spreading out the innards of the Vatican: Benedict’s private secretary Georg Gänswein (right), here with the Pope Emeritus in 2019

Image: dpa

The word confession evokes the place formerly reserved for revelations: the confessional where one holds intimate communion with a priest, itself a reflection of communion with God to whom one reveals one’s tormented conscience. The replacement of this “coram Deo” by the “coram publico” is a form of secularization, which is often carried to a sin-proud extreme with phrases like “I have no regrets”. The media society provides a wealth of places for such confessions, whereby the topography of disclosure is closely intertwined with its economy. Anyone who is personally willing to make intimate confessions, but in which there is no pronounced social interest, pulls into shows like the “Jungle Camp” for a manageable, often almost five-figure fee (which is then of course also revealed).

The main thing is that they pull others into the abyss

A fallen world star like Boris Becker can achieve a significantly higher return with less effort and less insight. Shortly before Christmas, the former tennis player sat down for an interview with Sat.1 to chat about his time in prison. The broadcaster is said to have paid around 500,000 euros for it. On top of that, he got a moderator who promised “relentless” questions in advance, but then unfortunately failed to ask them. If the broadcaster had insisted on Michel Friedman as moderator, Becker could probably have asked for even more money. Fees and understanding shown can be imagined as communicating tubes: clemency costs money.

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