Katie Hopkins: What is Still to Debate?

Date: 24 April 2015

Country: UK

migrants_medLast Friday, The Sun newspaper published a controversial opinion piece by Katie Hopkins – a once reality-show participant who found her way as a pundit on celebrity issues and debates on immigration on some of the national TV and newspapers in the UK.

After the umpteenth tragic shipwreck of migrants in the Mediterranean, Hopkins, who is one of The Sun‘s columnists, wrote not only an anti-migrant piece completely lacking empathy, but she also spread racism, hatred, and even suggested to employ violent solutions against immigrants.Kate Hopkins is well-known in Britain for her strong take on a number of issues, and her intention – as usual – was certainly to provoke and be controversial; but this time her article cost her a bit more than usual.

Together with the editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore, she has been reported to the Metropolitan police by The Society of Black Lawyers, which filed a complaint accusing them of incitement to racial hatred. Almost 300,000 people signed a petition, still ongoing, on change.org asking The Sun to remove Katie Hopkins as a columnist. Ipso, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, received more than 100 complaints about the article, a number that Ipso itself described as “unusual”.

Ironically, Katie Hopkins’ loathsome article also had the effect of boosting the donation for search, rescue and medical aid for Mediterranean migrants  At the moment of writing, £40K have been raised for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), which is 76 times more the target set.

Her slurs also caused a storm on twitter. Owen Jones, Guardian columnist, commented: “I know we’re supposed to ignore Katie Hopkins. But The Sun have published what reads like a neo-Nazi rant” and “Yes, we’re responding how she wants us to. But we can’t live in a country where a newspaper printing a Nazi-like rant is met with silence”

The reaction of Russell Brand followed, asking people to be “be really loving” towards Hopkins. “To write about immigrants so hatefully you cannot love yourself. Come back to humanity, you must be shattered,” he addressed Hopkins in a tweet.

Going beyond the 140 characters, many papers expressed their disgust at Hopkins’ despicable slander.

Is Hopkins just playing the devil or does she have an antisocial personality disorder? “With more urgent questions and so many people dead, this distinction shouldn’t detain us,” says Zoe Williams” on the Guardian. “The fault is with those who broadcast her: this is serious stuff.”

Many others, still condemning her words, preferred not to lose the focus on the human tragedy of the hundreds deaths and claimed that, after all, what politicians did (or did not do) is much worse than an insult. “What she has said is merely a frank statement of the politics our government has been enacting at our borders in our name for years now,” wrote Sarah Ditum on the New Statesman.

Further right, on the same line, was The Spectator: “calling Hopkins a ‘Nazi’ and putting her in jail is just the liberal left once again trying to feel good about itself, and stamping its little feet and — as usual — trying to restrict freedom of speech. Would jailing Katie Hopkins save the lives of Europe-bound migrants? I have my doubts.”

To the old question “should we allow hate speech for the sake of freedom of speech?” many more add:  should we really close an eye just because she did not kill anyone? As if the existence (and the unrealised possibility) of a more harmful behaviour justifies and softens the gravity of a less mischievous conduct.

Also, should the range of the medium be considered as an aggravating factor when inciting hate? Last month, a 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of racially abusing Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck on twitter. Is a racist statement by a columnist more legitimate? Or shouldn’t we, instead, be even more vigilant when hateful opinions are read by two million people every day?

Though horrendous, Katie Hopkins’ xenophobic opinion is not the real problem. The problem is in those media who give her space to spread hate.