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Brit Media Crow Over Triumphs -- But Tensions Beneath?

09/12/2012 01:57 pm ET | Updated Nov 12, 2012

Dateline: Lancaster, England - The whole world's eyes, as they say, have been on Britain. And Britain's own scrutiny of itself has also been intense - encouraged by an orgy of self-absorption by the British media.

The conclusion it has reached has proven somewhat unexpected, at least for this supposedly reserved and modest populace. Commenting on this week's effervescent end to the London Olympics and Paralympics, The Guardian, the nation's leading soft-left paper that I once wrote for when I lived here, said "Britain was forced to look in the mirror - and saw something it rather liked".

It's long been a truism - drawing in part on US Secretary of State Dean Acheson's infamous quip: "Great Britain has lost an Empire and has not yet found a role" - that the country has suffered from a desperate lack of self-confidence ever since World War II, and probably before that too.

Maybe, just maybe, that gnawing self-doubt has been substantially redressed by our recent lengthy season in the sun (- in the rain too, of course; this hasn't stopped being Britain after all, even with global climate change).

There can never be, I don't suppose, an ideal time for journalists - whether locally-based or visiting - to take a nation's pulse or assess its mental state. There are always going to be special circumstances. And of course 2012 has been replete with the special.

The 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne and all its accompanying jamboree (especially effective for reminding us about English rain) was turned in the end into an oddly exhilarating springboard into the sporting extravaganzas - and then it didn't stop there.

It wasn't limited to sports, either. In music, the end of that indulgent but always welcome celebration of harmony (and sheer volume, even cacophony sometimes) the annual "Promenade Concerts" at London's Royal Albert Hall, was marked by a possibly more boisterous than ever "Last Night of the Proms". The concert series' sponsor, the BBC, now has 75 of these spectacular annual seasons behind it - and they have come to fully qualify today as the biggest classical music festival in the world.

But it was a Brit success across the Atlantic, back in sports again, that inevitably put the perfect cherry atop the puffed-up national consciousness. Andy Murray - to the astonishment even of many of his die-hard fans - scored big (no, huge) at the US Open ... becoming the first British man to win a Grand Slam trophy since before World War II.

And yes, I know that the ex-Bondian promoter of Scottish Nationalism, Sean Connery, insisted grumpily from courtside that Murray is Scottish, and that the press is wrong to call him British. That's Sean ... and that's the Scottish National Party, to which he donates mightily. I'm proud of my fellow-Scot, and I'm also proud to shareour sense of triumph with my fellow-citizens of the still United Kingdom.

I write from northwest England, and I'm headed toward my original territory of the Scottish borderland, so I'll soon be better able to make a realistic appraisal of such tensions - and how they might cut against this undoubted resurgence of confident Britishness that London's media outlets have been full of.

Already, though, one snapshot image has grabbed my attention as I travel north. Across the street from the house where I spent my early teens, in a once-grimy industrial sector of Manchester, someone is now flying an English flag - the St George's Cross that is all-too-often here an emblem for the violent political right.

It would be poignantly ironic if such a blossoming of British pride as we see now could end up being sullied by the fractiousness of small-minded nationalisms.

Read more of David Tereshchuk's media industry insights at his weekly column, The Media Beat, with accompanying video and audio. Listen also to The Media Beat podcasts on demand from Connecticut's NPR station WHDD, and at iTunes.