Jack Monroe on trolls, mental breakdown and that libel victory over Katie Hopkins

PUBLISHED: 10:39 17 March 2017 | UPDATED: 21:04 17 March 2017

PA Wire/PA Images

EXCLUSIVE: A libel victory over Katie Hopkins, a suicide attempt and the hope that we might all finally learn to be a little kinder to one another online

I was never in it for the money. My rule of thumb is to never do anything for the money. When deciding which work and sponsorship jobs to accept, I ask myself – would I do this for free? If there is even a fraction of hesitation, I consign it to the bin, and sleep soundly at night knowing that my motivation is at least never skewed by the promise of gold nor thirty pieces of silver.

As with this case, I offered to settle for a swift public retraction and apology. I made a flippant jibe about a donation to charity, an attempt to provoke some kind of response from Katie, after previous messages informing her that I had never scrawled on a war memorial and did not condone it, and asking nicely if she would delete her tweet, were ignored.

It was a long game of chicken, barbed correspondence and internet commenters jibing that I would never dare go through with it. And yet only one of us crossed the road into the Royal Court Of Justice, for a gruelling and combative three day trial.

After 21 months of endless legal correspondence, Hopkins herself refused to turn up. She refused to give a witness statement. She refused to be cross examined. She refused to defend her actions. I, on the other hand, was put on trial. Five hours of torturous cross-examination by one of the country’s leading libel lawyers, who accused me – as I stood trembling, digging my nails into the wooden edges of the witness box – of enjoying myself. I almost spat my response at him, that we have a very different definition of what constitutes enjoyment. Sir.

I was taken to task over my gratuitous use of the word ‘fuck’ on my own Twitter timeline, as though having a ‘propensity to profanity’ meant that I deserved everything that I got. I mildly pointed out that even the Sunday Times prints the word ‘fucking’, nowadays. I’m surprised that, considering the defence largely consisted of telling me in various ways that I was ‘asking for it’, nobody thought to ask me what I was wearing.

I was vomited into the public eye in December 2012, in a Daily Mirror article about having just £10 for Christmas that I took reluctantly for £250 to pay for some heating, rent arrears and scant decorations, and a pair of £5 Mickey Mouse rollerskates for my son.

A one-off humiliation in the double pages of a national newspaper, stripped bare like an emotional centrefold, and it would all be over, I thought.

It was not to be. The last five years have been spent in a tumultuous single-carriage rollercoaster, speeding through the highs of glittering award ceremonies and accolades, and plunging over cliff edges into the Priory and A&E.

Through it all has been the core of detractors, the anonymous bile, the Daily Mail doorstepping, the lies about my family, the strain on my personal relationships, two broken engagements, and a stoic refusal to involve any more romantic prospects in my frankly bonkers and invasive day-to-day life.

This episode – being falsely accused of defacing a war memorial on a platform with the reach of one of the country’s largest national newspapers – came the day after I had given a cookery demonstration, laughing with a dozen school children, at Ballymaloe in Cork, Ireland. A few weeks later, I was leaving my family home following a suicide attempt and complete mental breakdown. In the eyes of the law, the definition of serious harm; sits on a knife edge.

I broke down in court during five hours of cross-examination, describing the swirling, suffocating vortex of hate and bile and awfulness that comes with a mass-troll attack on Twitter. Poised to defend against further false allegations, you can’t help but rubberneck at your own car crash, watching through your fingers as the house of cards you have lovingly built, through cookery tips and charity campaigns and generally being decent, threatens to come crashing down on the whims of spite and deceit.

Someone calling you a cunt as you prepare to read your son a bedtime story.

Another wishing I would be shot in Syria.

Another mulling over my fate should I be handed over to ISIS.

A direct wish that I should be put in a wheelchair.

And so on. And so forth. An endless torrent of hatred and what feels like very real threats of harm. Only this week did I receive messages wishing that I would burn to death, so the sender could ‘dance on my charred and twisting corpse’.

The hate still pours in, daily. The defence had the audacity to question my mental capacity. Is it any wonder I am sometimes a vacant shell of a person, detached and glazed and in hiding, when daily people are violently describing the ways they wish I would die?

I just want to teach people to cook cheaply. That’s all I’m here for. And for two years I have been unable to concentrate on doing just that. I’ve become largely desensitised to it now, but I live in fear of the day that my young son stumbles across the violent rape fantasies written about his mother by faceless strangers. That day creeps ever closer, and makes me sick with fear. But where do I go from here?

I don’t know. Rebuild, recover, repair, finish my very late cookbook, and carry on, hoping that we have all learned to be a little kinder to one another online in the process.

Jack Monroe is a writer, journalist and activist; follow Jack on Twitter @mxjackmonroe

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a Friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish).
  • Become a Patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You or your company will be mentioned in the newspaper each week (should you wish) and you and a guest will be invited to join the editor at a special lunch in London this June to discuss the anniversary of Brexit.

Supporter Options

Latest articles

We will keep marching for the UK’s future in the EU

Why Saturday’s protest needs to be a display of unity for all our sakes

Just how reliant is our economy on workers born overseas?

It is not just construction, technology and retail that relies heavily on overseas workers. Brexit could impact industries across the economy.

Never has the truth about Brexit been more needed

George Osborne is not the only big newspaper appointment to make waves. Our editor-at-large Alastair Campbell explains why he’s joined The New European

Nicola Sturgeon on Scottish independence: If not now, when?

Theresa May is right that now is not the time for a referendum on Scottish independence. But if she disagrees with our timeframe, she must set out her own alternative

London attacks: how do you protect people from terrorism through urban design?

Westminster attack raises spectre of new ‘rings of steel’ to boost security in urban centres

Alastair Campbell joins The New European as editor-at-large

The New European has announced that Alastair Campbell is joining its editorial board as Editor-at-Large.

Bonnie Greer: With Brexit we have turned our back on the world – and our values

Not everyone who voted leave is a racist or a xenophobe but the campaign and its aftermath has attracted some dubious supporters

Brexit timeline: What happens next once Article 50 is triggered?

When Article 50 is triggered on March 29 there is a two-year deadline for Britain and the EU to complete the hugely complex negotiations

Downing Street tussles with Brussels over £50bn divorce bill as PM names date for Article 50

Article 50: The Government and Brussels have squared up after the PM signalled a date to trigger the formal process to quit the EU

Tory MP’s Hard Brexit warning

Tory MP issues a warning to party colleagues of the dangers of Hard Brexit, as he launches a new initiative to build bridges with Europe

Don’t send Ireland back to division

A family story of the close family bonds between Ireland and the UK, and what Brexit might mean for Ireland.

Dear Mr Gove, we appreciate how our values could be deeply irritating to you

For the avoidance of doubt, Michael, we hold you in contempt.

Indy Ref 2 is coming: the UK is no longer fit for purpose

Scottish nationalist Hardeep Singh Kohli is feeling confident about the prospect of independence for his beloved country

Jack Monroe on trolls, mental breakdown and that libel victory over Katie Hopkins

EXCLUSIVE: A libel victory over Katie Hopkins, a suicide attempt and the hope that we might all finally learn to be a little kinder to one another online

No green Brexit: why the implications look sinister for wildlife

The sinister implications of Brexit for wildlife have rather gone under the radar thus far. But it is likely that we will all see the impact soon enough

How spa culture is taking over Europe (and the 5 best places to join in)

There are few ways to relax that are more European than a trip to a spa. But there are also few things more fraught with potential embarrassment. Here, we provide a guide to the etiquette expected

Why we need a second Brexit vote: First law of politics is people can change their minds

People can, and regularly do, change their minds. The public should be given that option once the Brexit deal is done.

Higher education reforms and Brexit have become inextricably linked

The Brexit Bill is not the only one to have suffered a rough ride in the Lords in recent months.


Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter