Prince Harry Says “Megxit Was and Is a Misogynistic Term”
During a Wired panel about combating internet misinformation, Harry explained how the phrase originated from online commenters before it became part of the mainstream media.
After Nearly two years, Prince Harry is speaking out against the way he and wife Meghan are covered in the media. This Thursday afternoon, Prince Harry was a guest on a panel at Wired’s Re:Wired Conference where he discussed the impact that trolls and disinformation have had on society—and on his own life.
According to Prince Harry, the phrase “Megxit” is an example of the way online anger towards the couple influenced the way that the press as a whole discussed them. “Maybe people know this and maybe they don’t, but the term Megxit was or is a misogynistic term, and it was created by a troll, amplified by royal correspondents, and it grew and grew and grew into mainstream media. But it began with a troll,” he said.
In conversation with Wired’s editor at large, Steven Levy, Harry discussed a recent Bot Sentinel study, first reported by BuzzFeed, that traced the way hate speech about the Sussexes traveled around the internet. “More than 70 percent of the hate speech about my wife was driven by fewer than 50 accounts, and perhaps the most disturbing part of this was the number of British journalists who were interacting with them and amplifying the lies. But they regurgitate these lies as truth.”
The term “Megxit” emerged long before the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s January 2020 decision to leave their roles, and it emerged around the time of the 2018 royal wedding, and it was used online by accounts that “trafficked in racist and/or sexist abuse.”
Harry’s presence on the panel was due to his role on the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder, and he gave a little chuckle when Levy mentioned that the project sounded like a Don DeLillo invention. For the first time, Harry shared some of what he has learned through his work on the committee. “We’ve been led to believe it is too big to fix, or too big to solve, but what I’ve learned over the last six months on the Aspen commission is that this simply isn’t true,” he said. “Just like a virus, there are superspreaders to monitor and contain, and even the word superspreader was just added to the dictionary last week, and for good reason. We know that a small number of accounts are allowed to create a huge amount of chaos online and destruction without any consequences at all.” He reiterated his promise that he and Meghan would not create any social media accounts “until things change.”
He said that our decisions about online speech will reverberate for future generations. “The internet has been defined by hate, division and lies, and that can’t be right,” he said. “For anyone who has children, we’re allowing the future to be defined by the here and now, and that’s profit and that’s greed.”
Harry also aimed his critique at the traditional media—and mentioned Logan Roy, the patriarch of HBO’s Succession, when he explained the role that the news media has in spreading clickbait. “This problem did not originate on social media, and you don’t have to be online to be affected by it. I learned from an early age that the incentives of publishing are not aligned with the incentives of truth.” he said. “I know the story all too well. I lost my mother to this self-manufactured rabidness, and I don’t want to lose the mother of my children to the same thing.”
He closed with a request for employees of news organizations. “Collectively as human beings we have the ability to make change in our media system,” he said. “People, now more than ever, want and need truth, they want and need trust, and they want and need transparency.”