A lot has been made in the mainstream media – and interestingly, mostly online, with a particular focus on it on Twitter – of a column written by Katie Hopkins in the Sun on the 17th April about asylum seekers during the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
In the column Hopkins, who seems to be willing to say anything in increasing levels of crescendo in order to maintain a flimsy grip on mainstream publicity, has (now infamously) described African migrants as “cockroaches” and “feral humans“.
Aside from the article itself being badly constructed, ill-judged and deeply distasteful, what I find more interesting are the reactions that have been flooding in about it, as a piece of journalism.
As all journalists know, under media law, “honest comment” is preserved by the Defamation Act 2013 – to protect the opinions of columnists. Yet Hopkins has breached this twofold – her article is neither “in good faith”, nor is it necessarily “based on fact”, a la the terms of the Act.
Hopkins has been subject to the kind of seething outrage usually reserved for genocide-mongers themselves: she has been reported to the police for “inciting racial hatred”, she has been openly criticised by a representative of the UN for inciting views that apparently amount to “propaganda”.
An excessive reaction
Meanwhile on social media, the response has been practically volcanic, with apoplectic tweets and Facebook messages flowing through network feeds over the past couple of days. Love her or hate her, Katie Hopkins knows how to get people wound up and create the kind of storms not seen since everyone hated Kony – and she’s not even really a journalist.
Why has this woman not been prosecuted? http://t.co/hxpAprpoNQ
— Drayton Bird (@DraytonBird) April 24, 2015
Katie Hopkins is a cockroach. No that was unfair to cockroaches. Katie Hopkins is just a pathetic British racist. The world is full of them.
— Alexander Bard (@Bardissimo) April 22, 2015
Sad that the Sun refuse to take down vile & racist column by Katie Hopkins despite petition & police complaint. http://t.co/OSL2DHbLwp
— Gerry Hassan (@GerryHassan) April 21, 2015
But as for me – I’ve been absolutely baffled by the whole furore. Why does anyone a) listen to Katie Hopkins, and b) take any notice whatsoever what she says? It is merely a column, an expression of opinion to be endorsed or otherwise, and Hopkins has a notable track record when it comes to being needlessly antagonistic and courting controversy.
In my opinion, the Sun were not wrong in publishing it – if anyone worries that the words scribed by someone in the middle pages of a tabloid are going to incite anyone to change their minds about migrants, their fears are gravely misplaced. Do these people not know that the Sun, on a typical day, is full of this kind of faux-outraged bile?
Social media is the cuprit again
From my point of view, it is yet another example of the ability of social media – with Twitter as a prime protagonist – to get people needlessly worked up about something that would otherwise, and in the past, not demand their attention. Things like this get shared, and spread, and soon everyone is talking about them – and everyone has an opinion.
No doubt the whole thing will die down within a couple of days, and we can all sleep peacefully again. Until Katie Hopkins writes another column, that is.