At the last meeting of the Bilderberg Group, the Media Conspiracy assembled in a special breakout session to brainstorm the next year's top stories. At first it was a convivial affair: A rough outline of the presidential horserace was mapped out with little dissension, and the gay marriage issue was settled over lunch. But after the cabal had spent a full three hours on the Brad-Jen breakup, some of the highbrows in attendance got to grumbling. One cocky fellow—maybe it was Tom Friedman, maybe Bill Safire—complained that the topic was "irrelevant."
"Irrelevant?" harrumphed Rupert Murdoch, the man most responsible for the Pitt-Aniston story arc. "I'll show you irrelevant. I'll bet I can come up with a story so superficial, it'll make Brad and Jen look like Iraq."
"I'll take that wager!" shouted Dan Rather.
It was a sucker bet, of course. All Murdoch had to do was dream up some controversy involving the British royal family, an inbred institution whose relevance rivals that of the Socialist Workers Party. Even Brad and Jen have to make movies once in a while. The Windsors' sole purpose is to generate tabloid stories; they're basically a public subsidy to the press.
But Murdoch is a man who takes pride in his work. No Page 3 girl is photographed without his personal inspection, no Weekly Standard published until he's proofread the galleys, no Fox-bashing rant blogged at Daily Kos before he vets it. (Murdoch owns Daily Kos. "It's sort of a hobby," he says.) And this time the mogul outdid himself. In all the annals of the Media Conspiracy, few hubbubs are so simultaneously tumultuous and trivial as the Case of Prince Harry's Swastika.
Prince Harry is the son of Prince Charles (most famous for likening himself to a tampon) and the late Princess Di (most famous for dying). Last week he went to a private costume party dressed as a Nazi.
Although endorsing National Socialism has long been part of the Royal Family's tradition of noblesse oblige, historians have recently determined that the Nazis were in fact bad. Therefore, only a bad person would want to dress up as one. The same goes for vampires, by the way. Next Halloween, if you see someone dressed as a vampire, tell him that you have a relative who bled to death and you're extremely offended by his outfit. If he objects that he isn't a real vampire and that it's generally considered permissable to dress up as something unpleasant at a costume party, point out that Prince Harry isn't a real Nazi either, that he was at a costume party too, and that he still had to apologize for his choice of duds.
If the vampire gives in and says he's sorry, tell him the apology isn't enough and that you want him to donate to a blood bank.
According to the Sunday Mirror, 71 percent of the British public disapproves of Harry's swastika armband, though 83 percent still think he's fit to be king. This marks a shift since the days of Edward VIII, who had to abdicate before he could marry a real Nazi. (Sir Oswald Mosley, on the other hand, got to keep his knighthood, while the American-born Anglo-Irish superpatriot William Joyce was clearly just social-climbing when he took the title "Lord Haw Haw.")
This disapproval was reflected throughout the Commonwealth. In Australia, the primary industries minister for northern Queensland has even revoked his allegiance to the queen of England, because the only thing more important than your fealty to a foreign figurehead is whether her grandson wears an offensive costume at a costume party.
"That's a nice touch," admitted Rather.
"I'm not done yet," said Murdoch.
The House of Commons intends to have a formal inquiry into the prince's staff, with one MP suggesting that Harry's advisors might be "politically suspect." And on the continent, Germany has asked the European Union to ban Nazi insignia altogether, a proposal which—I quote The Independent's report— has "won key support from Luxembourg."
"Luxembourg?" sighed Rather. "You had me at northern Queensland." Murdoch smiled a thin, evil smile.
It was a gentleman's bet, of course, with no money involved. The loser simply had to make an ass of himself sometime over the coming year, in a time and manner to be determined by the winner. The rest is history.