No stranger to controversy, sometime newspaper columnist and reality TV regular Katie Hopkins this weekend found herself in stormy waters close to LGBT shores.
If you were on a romantic mini-break this weekend, let me recap for you. Last Friday saw the inaugural ‘British LGBT Awards’. Organised by media firm Square Peg, the awards were set up to, in the words of organiser (and owner of Square Peg) Sarah Garrett, ‘to shine a light on those who help promote equality. Our focus is on celebrating those shortlisted, the deserving winners and supporting our charity partners.’
All was going swimmingly well until, like Maleficent at Aurora’s christening, Hopkins swept in on a black cloud to the horror of the other VIP guests. This was, lest we forget, a few days after Hopkins, in her Sun column, described recently drowned human beings as ‘cockroaches’, peppering her feast with ‘Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care.’ I repeat, the awards were about: ‘those who help promote equality’.
Social media, as you’d expect, didn’t take too kindly to Hopkins’ presence and nor did the guests at the award ceremony. Unable to ignore the growing unrest both in the room and on Twitter, Square Peg initially claimed Hopkins had scaled a perimeter fence and slithered in through the plumbing, not unlike Tooms from The X Files. OK, they didn’t say that, but they did suggest she’d tagged along as someone’s Plus One.
Not so. Hopkins duly coughed up her invite from PRD Associates who handled PR for the event. Square Peg maintain on the official website:
‘As organisers of the British LGBT awards we would like to apologise to all for allowing Katie Hopkins to enter our awards. Once inside there were complaints so we asked her to leave but she refused stating she was there as she supported the LGBT community – we made a decision that it would cause too much fuss to have her forcibly evicted as she was already seated.
We did state that we had not invited Katie Hopkins as our PR company assured us that she had not personally been invited and came along as a plus one – it was not our intention to mislead anyone and we abhor Katie Hopkins views.’
Oh someone’s so getting fired for this. Or maybe they aren’t. Hopkins may well have overshadowed literally every recipient of an award, but at least we’re talking about the awards at all. Next year, I look forward to Vladimir Putin’s after-dinner speech.
Now. There will be people out there – Hopkins included – who think she had every right to be at that award ceremony as a self-confessed ‘ally’ of the LGBT community (that actual award was shared by Lorraine Kelly and Daniel Radcliffe). In the past, and on Celebrity Big Brother, Hopkins has spoken out on our behalf and was livid when (equally loathsome) blogger Perez Hilton accused her of homophobia. Earlier this year, G-A-Y hosted Hopkins as a judge for their annual Porn Idol competition. She isn’t without her gay fans.
But we must choose out allies carefully. Let’s make this very clear, she may well be blonde and well-heeled, but Katie Hopkins is not Regina George. She isn’t outspoken and fabulous, she’s racist and dangerous.
Supporters of Hopkins’ brand of journalism often trot out the following mantras:
‘She just says what everyone else is too scared to say.’
‘It’s political correctness gone mad.’
‘It’s freedom of speech.’
Allow me to translate what I hear:
‘She just says what she knows will sell papers and what racist bigots everyone else is too scared to often and loudly say.’
‘It’s political politeness correctness gone mad stopping me from being a racist bigot.’
‘It’s freedom of speech and I’m not familiar with laws regarding incitement of racial or ethnic hatred.’
I’m in the camp of journalists who firmly believe Hopkins is very aware of her ‘brand’ and is pounding the gas pedal as hard as she can until her fifteen minutes evaporate. Do I think she insouciantly laughs, sipping martinis while watching dying refugees on Sky News? Not for a second. If I was going to dust off my old psychology degree for a moment, I’d guess that Hopkins has confused being in-demand for being liked. Having been to a couple of media events with beautiful people and beautiful food, I imagine it’s quite addictive. So while her motives might even border on pitiful, her methods are vile.
This is where the problem lies. It’s not her persona, it’s those who agree with her persona. Hopkins, I’m sure, would love to think she has an army of sassy gay followers ready to form a Little Monsters collective called the ‘Hop-Kin’ or something. But she doesn’t; her readership is as right wing as right wing gets and the only journalistic tool she uses is divide and conquer. She gives a voice and a platform to a hate-filled minority of Britons.
Hopkins’ shtick is stereotyping, grouping and demonising. Whether it’s obese people, refugees or benefits claimants, Hopkins clumps individuals lazily and crudely together into subcultures she can mock and point at. See how she dehumanised those who died fleeing regimes in North Africa. She referred to people as cockroaches – the very same word used by the Nazis and those behind the atrocities in Rwanda.
Understand this, people within the LGBT community are stereotyped and dehumanised all the time. Maybe not by Hopkins, but certainly by the kind of people who buy into her column. Turning individuals into a faceless mass makes hatred and homophobia so much easier. THAT is what Hopkins does. Did Hopkins stop to think for a single second that some of those people fleeing Sudan could well have been doing so on the grounds that being gay there is illegal and comes with the death penalty?
If we (literally in this case) let people like Katie Hopkins eat at our table we are playing with fire. We are endorsing a dark and dangerous style of journalism – where the lines between provocateur and hate preacher blur to nothing. This isn’t a tatty leaflet being handed out by a loon outside Primark, this is The Sun, the nation’s biggest paper.
Moreover we are implicitly underwriting dehumanisation and this has serious consequences for us, for our community, for you. Open a history textbook – wherever there is scapegoating, LGBT people are never far from the eye of the storm. Right now, the likes of Hopkins in the right wing press are coming after so-called ‘migrants’, but, and I’m thinking about Russia now, one day soon, it could be us.
If Hopkins so badly wants to be our ally, can I politely suggest the best way she could do this would be to stop talking. Like now.