Katie Hopkins losing her job is nothing to celebrate (unedited version)
Unless you have been on a series of long-haul flights recently, or don’t use social media, you will have heard by now that erstwhile darling of the alleged unheard underdog, purveyer of perversions of truth and justice, and dogwhistle dogmatic, Katie Hopkins, has been unceremoniously given the heave-ho from that bastion of truth and fairness, the Daily Mail. Following a series of carefully manufactured outrage-generating (and ostensibly damaging) ‘articles’, it seems Hopkins has been deemed too much for even a publication whose print sibling has been accused of hounding a transgender teacher to her death, has metaphorically dug up Ed Milibands dead father, and dedicated a whole page of fury to same-sex traffic lights in Oxford Circus (after they had been up for several months, I might add, but months behind is pretty good going for a newspaper still mentally circulating in the 1930s). ‘What would Nelson say?’ the headline exclaimed, clutching its black and white pearls. ‘Kiss me Hardy, I presume’, I mumbled as I turned the page.
For the past three days, since the news broke, my timeline, text messages and email inbox have been flooded with messages of congratulations, celebration, and asking me how I feel about it. I steadfastly ignored every one, unwilling to add my voice to the public mix of jubilation. I started to type a ‘hoorah’, but deleted it; it felt hollow, and I didn’t mean it. Having famously taken her to court for libel in a costly and emotionally exhausting 18 month landmark trial, our names and fates are inextricably linked, a tapestry of turmoil and warring words, eternally pinned down below the surface of the internet, a hideously decaying pair of copulating butterflies joined together on a rotten corkboard in a moment in time.
The truth is, I knew that she was going to lose that job from the moment the court verdict was announced. And her slot at LBC. I’ve been around the block long enough now to know how this media bollocks works, and losing her second big libel trial – that we know about – in a matter of months was an embarrassment to her employer. The sackings would be staggered, I predicted, so as not to lose face and to hold off the baying mob of ‘free speech campaigners’, but they were coming. Rumbling away on the horizon, and all we had to do was watch and wait. The ‘final solution’ tweet came, and the LBC shot was fired. And now, the Mail.
When she lost her job at LBC, I joked about sending her a wreath of flowers, twisted to spell the words ‘Fuckety Bye’. People laughed. I laughed. I was raw, and hurting from months of abuse from her followers (including, as evidenced in court, threats for ‘one clean shot to the back of her head’, ‘I’m going to put you in a wheelchair’.) But looking back, it was callous, cruel, and unkind. A race to the bottom for commentary helps none of us. Competing to make jokes at someone elses expense does not contribute to filling the kindness vacuum that her own words leave behind.
I am aware that I sound like a bleeding-heart, liberal lefty here, and with a byline in the Guardian, I suppose I am guilty as charged. But her sacking is nothing to celebrate. She will not lose fans, nor followers, by being driven underground. She will be welcomed with open arms by even more extreme platforms, with just as many devoted fans, but fewer editors, fewer checks, fewer balances. The Mail may be one of the widest read print publications in the UK, but sneer at Breitbart at your peril; it was one of the major cogs in the machine that has walked the new breed of fascism into the White House. To underestimate the impact of such divisive and violent rhetoric, is to sit here in a few years time as World War Three rages around us, wondering why we didn’t see it coming. Creeping radicalisation on all sides leads us all up the same mountain, eventually, and then bombs the shit out of it. By stripping her of her accountability – whatever little there seems to be at the Mail as it stands – she is not disempowered. Her brand, that of the renegade outsider ‘just saying what you’re all thinking’, is strengthened in its martyrdom. ‘Too controversial for the Mail’ would sit squarely with her ‘I fired Lord Sugar’ in her twitter bio, for example.
My position is not one of particular compassion (although, think of the children, etc), but a warning shot fired across the bows of Bollinger and complacency tonight. This new breed of ‘fake news’ and ‘clickbait’ and ‘hate-follows’ is a hydra; and cutting off its heads only allows more to grow in its place. The Mail will replace Hopkins, and it won’t be with me or any other lefty wanker. It will be some hot new darling of the outrage brigade, another Clarkson, another Littlejohn, another Trump, another white-right-wing (white-wing?) furymongerer to drive us to click click click click share share share share as their profits from their advertisers rolls in in the background. Meanwhile, the Tommy Robinsons and the Milo Yiannopolous’ set up their own channels, answerable to nobody, unchecked, galvanising their followers to demonstrations and riots and god knows what else. Empowering teenage boys in their bedrooms to send graphic gore porn to women they doxx on the internet. I know. I’ve received it.
I think it is right and proper that a hatemongering anti-Islam anti-women anti-feminism anti-puppies (probably) commentator should not be given regular airtime in the national press, but getting fired to be replaced with another one, while the original runs amok underground, is not a victory.
I’ve said some things that I live to regret, online, like that now-infamous tweet in 2014 about David Camerons ‘misty-eyed rhetoric’ when talking about his son, Ivan, in NHS debates. I was angry about what I perceived to be a stonewalling of any other voices in that debate, but my use of a parents grief to level that anger was obscene, immature, and cruel. I immediately wrote a personal letter of apology to Samantha and David for my thoughtlessly expressed words, and spent the next few months, as contracts were cancelled and brands pulled out of deals, examining my behaviour and vowing to be better. I’m not perfect – I bandy around a good c*nt as much as anyone who has spent any time in a mess room – but I do take responsibility for my words, and try to be better.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is to beware the underground forums and networks that those of us in the lefty liberal mainstream media may not even see or be aware of. There are armies in waiting, on both sides of the pond, to be galvanised by their latest martyred Messiah. One more among their ranks is nothing to celebrate, and certainly not one with almost a million disciples as they veer towards the rankest of extremes. Yet if Hopkins had kept her job, but had developed it into a column for the compassionate wit and insight and reasoned argument that she is genuinely, truly capable of, then I’ll crack out the champagne, because that truly would be worth lifting a glass to. But for now, we have nothing to cheer about. She thrives on hate, feeds on it, retweets it to her fans. I invite you instead to merely pity her, and rise above it. But do not be complacent. This is just a battle in a war of decency, and nobody can possibly win it.
A heavily edited version of this article appeared in the Guardian on 28th November 2017.
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A pragmatic and generous response Jack and you are very right. You are indeed the bigger person.
Wise words as always Jack.
I am no fan of Ms Hopkins but being a stalwart LBC fan I forced myself to listen to her. I was pleasantly surprised, for the most part. What a shame she did not turn a corner & realise that she could use her brain for better things. I fear that she is a lost cause.
As for the Daily Fail, I despair that it is the best selling daily rag. Propaganda in its most evil form! People actually believe what they read in it, including my own beloved parents! I gave up buying or reading any so-called newspapers many years ago & feel that my mind is more balanced because of it.
No one is perfect, we are human with emotions that sometimes override the brain but people like Ms Hopkins are almost robotically ruthless with no perceivable conscience & they are the scary ones.
Long may you continue to reinforce my belief that there are still good people out there, fighting for what is right in their own way. Your inbox will always contain those who like to troll & whos souls are empty but please don’t let them shine brighter than those who read your words and breathe a sigh of relief that someone is brave enough to put their head above the parapet & challenge evil.
Keep up the good work & thank you.
When I saw she had ‘mutually’ agreed not to renew her contract, I thought maybe she’ll focus on her children and actually be happier as try as I might I can’t believe someone who said the sort of things she did could be happy. That’s it apart from hoping she would never cross your path again Jack.
Excellent article and thank you for being so open and gererous
Bloody well said Jack.
From the heading, I half expected the tone of your piece to echo Donne’s ‘If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less’, if not ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’. Not a warning of Hopkins being less accountable than ever, now.
It’s a presentiment that assumes Hopkins is being held in check by her employers from comments she will now express elsewhere. I think she says pretty much what she wants to say, though, and will continue to do so as publicly as she has before.
You’ve hit the tree, though, in that there is probably a lot of much nastier stuff going on ‘underground’. Not just on the right either, as the scary seige laid against a Lewes venue Hopkins was scheduled to give a talk at last weekend was organised without anyone apparently being held responsible. Everyone becomes more secretive when they see people like Hopkins being penalised for speaking out. And that’s when it’s time to worry.
Well said. There is nothing wrong with being a “bleeding heart Liberal Lefty”, (I read the Guardian and have the beard and sandals too.) And, as you say making martyrs out of the wrong people does not help the world become a better place. And there are plenty of people on the extreme right to worry about. In response we could all retreat into our “Liberal Lefty” camp, but that would leave the centre open for them to exploit – look at the Tory party!. However, the answer isn’t for us to forget our left wing roots either. UK politics has swung too far to the right already. But we sure need to rebuild our old certainties, about what sort of society we live in. The answer to Hopkins, is not to throw back the same abuse, it is to make a case for more tolerant values about the Christian “Love and forgiveness”, and the Muslim “hospitality to strangers, and not fighting someone you have eaten or drunk with”, or the Communist “Brotherhood” etc. We could build a new consensus out of the old certainties, that would bind us all together and leave no space for people like Hopkins.
A thoughtful piece, thank you, that lifts the debate beyond the hate thoughts which it’s so easy to lapse into… as so many thinkers have said, a peaceful world starts with a peaceful heart, and until each one of us takes this to heart, nothing will change… Compassion , kindness, is never wasted, no matter how many others don’t understand those words…
I think we also have to change our vocabulary… being ‘against’ anything is part of the mind-set of fighting against, instead of campainging For something…ie being For peace, rather than Against war…
Very wise words. Like many, we’ve all said stuff that we said in the heat of the moment that we have gone on the regret, the biggest challenge is to rise above and learn to better ourselves. Unlike yourself Hopkins is someone who’ll never opt to better herself and continue to see her ruthless triad (or campaign) as ‘free-speech’. You by far are the better person and you’re right about one thing, don’t respond in malice or revenge as it’s just not worth it and in some ways you’d be no better.