Did you hear that Queen Elizabeth II died? It’s not that hard to believe, considering she’s 95 years old and just tested positive for Covid. That’s why, when it was reported on February 22 by Hollywood Unlocked, no one questioned it. However, reports from February 23 show the queen is alive and conducting official business. Queen Elizabeth’s mistaken death is a perfect example of fake news.
Fake news is purposefully crafted, sensational, emotionally charged, misleading, or totally fabricated information that mimics the form of mainstream news. As the queen is one of the most powerful and well-known world leaders, breaking what could have been the most newsworthy story of the decade caused a tidal wave. Why wouldn’t a tabloid such as Hollywood Unlocked want in on the biggest story of 2022?
However, multiple red flags came up with Hollywood Unlocked‘s article about the queen’s death. The tabloid claimed the queen has been slated to attend the wedding of British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, when she only attends the weddings of family members. The tabloid also neglected to name specifically where the information came from, simply referring to them as “sources close to the Royal Palace.” It was also very suspicious that Hollywood Unlocked was the only source of information reporting Queen Elizabeth’s death, especially with the public knowledge of Operation London Bridge.
For decades, the British government has kept and rehearsed intricately detailed plans for the time following the end of the monarch’s reign, called Operation London Bridge. According to this plan, a cascade of news reports, official announcements, and gestures from Buckingham Palace will make the news available around the world in a matter of minutes or hours. The queen’s private secretary, Sir Edward Young, will be the first person to hear of the queen’s passing from the royal physician. The next person to know will be the prime minister, who will be woken if not awake and told that “London Bridge is down” over a secure line. Calls will then take place informing other ministers and senior officials. While the BBC once had the exclusive right to break the news of a royal death, the plan now stipulates that “the announcement will go out as a newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously. Around the same time, within 10 minutes of an email notification to civil servants, flags across Whitehall, the center of government in London, will be lowered to half-mast. Finally, the BBC will interrupt all channels to announce the news and will follow this with days’ worth of preplanned reports. Other news outlets will do the same.
When Prince Phillip died in April of 2021, Buckingham Palace released an official announcement that read: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.” The tone and content for the queen’s husband were a far cry from Hollywood Unlocked‘s suggestion the queen had been “found dead,” language more appropriate to a police press release.
Buckingham Palace has since confirmed the queen took part in her weekly phone call with the Prime Minister on February 23, definitively crushing the fake news. However, even without the announcement, it was obvious the post from the gossip site was just that: gossip. Even though Hollywood Unlocked claims to not have intentionally caused any grief or pain to the royal family or the public at large, it needs to be understood that fake news causes just that.
Until next week,