The rise and fall of Hatey Katie Hopkins
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
The downfall of Katie Hopkins reveals a truth. She doesn't represent a silent majority. She only speaks for herself
Altogether now, sing along… there's only one Katie Hopkins, only one Katie Hopkins. Thankfully perhaps, that's true enough. But it proved to be one too many for Britain's leading talk radio station LBC.
Amid no outpourings of national grief, Hatey Katie's Sunday morning phone-in show was unceremoniously cancelled after her depressingly predictable, grotesquely over the top reaction to the Manchester atrocity goose-stepped into Nazi genocide territory.
As Mitch Benn wrote in The New European last week, the method in this strange woman's stage-managed madness is to think of the worst thing she could possibly say about anything… and then say it. Constantly sniping away at the boundaries of taste, sooner or later she was bound to go too far. One doesn't want to get too pompous about journalistic training (it's not rocket science), but had Hopkins had any, she might have thought better of citing Hitler's final solution. Cracking clickbait… not so great for the career.
Here's the targeted social media missile that triggered this dedicated attention-seeker's reversal of fortune: '22 dead – number rising. Schofield. Don't you even dare. Do not be a part of the problem. We need a final solution Manchester.' Note the deft inclusion of TV personality Phillip Schofield who on Planet Hopkins is the apotheosis of left-leaning London liberalism, the personification of all that she purports to loathe. She knows how to bring in the celebrity factor and get noticed.
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Officially, LBC and its rabble-rouser in chief suddenly agreed to a parting of the ways. No explanation but reportedly whoops and cheers from relieved staff in the newsroom. Could a serious broadcasting company continue to countenance employing a shameless rent-a-ranter whose response to Britain's latest terrorist horror was to regurgitate the incendiary language of mass extermination? As in, that's how to deal with Muslims… kill millions of them. The answer was no and Hopkins had to go. The only solution.
Not for the first time, Hopkins' insatiable lust for hitting headlines had landed her in hot water. Unusually, even she realised she may have crossed the line. Within minutes of outraging common decency with her tweet calling for a drastic Adolf-style reply to Islamic extremism, she pressed the delete button and toned it down. Too little, too late. As poor old Alan Sugar never got the chance to say to her when she was just another reality television wannabe: 'You're fired!'
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Back in 2006, the privately educated ex-Army officer from Devon was shrewd enough to gain the upper hand by quitting The Apprentice before Sugar could theatrically sack her. Within a turbulent year, she was front page news after being photographed having al fresco sex in a field and had lost her job as a Met Office global brand consultant (whatever that is) – but was heading for the jungle as a well-paid contestant on ITV's smash hit I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Oozing blonde ambition, she later completed a stint as a surprisingly popular housemate on Channel 5's Celebrity Big Brother. In person, she can be charming.
Sensing she was on the mysterious fast-track to fame for no reason, she went on to make a number of programmes for the TLC channel. But despite her frenzied attempts to court controversy, no one was interested. With dismal ratings, her chat show was dumped after one embarrassing series due to widespread apathy. It was called If Katie Hopkins Ruled The World. But as is becoming increasingly clear, never mind the world, she can't even rule the airwaves.
She claims she dares to articulate what we're all secretly thinking. As if beneath our socially acceptable veneer lies our inner volcanically furious, righter than UKIP, Katie Hopkins. If this was so, her TV appearances would surely attract more than a pitifully small audience of 300,000 viewers. So don't buy into all that representing the silent majority nonsense.
In post-Brexit Britain and a post-Trump world, she's the caterwauling queen of the blame-someone-else culture representing a rather noisy tiny minority of the disaffected. Which, after 13 months of monolithic shouting about metropolitan elite politicians, politically correct police forces and the Islamic enemy within, wasn't much use to mainstream LBC.
Now Hopkins has retreated to her tried and tested keep-calm-and-carry-on mode. This is the well-travelled stretch of road where she barely acknowledges the pothole she's dug herself into and acts as if her ludicrous mission to be the most rabidly right-wing bigmouth on Earth is reaching new heights of unrivalled success. Don't mention the massive mistake, pretend it never happened… and trundle on regardless.
For all her dizzying array of faults, the relentless Hopkins fizzes with the energy of an enthusiastic amateur whose approach to factual analysis is Grimm's fairy-tale rather than logical. Every breathlessly told story must have its nasty villains and they must be punished mercilessly for their sins. So keen is our avenging heroine to unmask her very own pantomime baddies that when they're not immediately conspicuous by their presence, she sniffs them out.
Food blogger Jack Monroe was bemused to find herself effectively accused on Twitter of defacing war memorials. When Hopkins realised that her invective should have been directed at New Statesman columnist Laurie Penny, who had appeared to defend such vandalism as a form of protest, she asked what the difference was between 'irritant Penny and social anthrax Monroe'? A tough one. But could it be they're entirely different people?
Her desperate 'lefties are all the same' argument was never going to play well in court and a not remotely contrite Hopkins was duly ordered to pay the triumphant Monroe £24,000 in damages. She was also left with a further bill of £107,000 in legal costs. All because she couldn't get a name right. So who was the ass in this case? Here's a clue: it wasn't the law.
An experienced writer schooled in the pitfalls of the journalistic minefield might have paused for thought before dismissing Mohammed Tariq Mahmood and his brother Mohammed Zahid as extremists with links to Al Qaeda whose trip to Disneyland was a cover for nefarious activity. Not 'straight-talking' Hopkins, who published her fantasy version with indecent haste and committed a serious libel that Mail Online will remember to the tune of £150,000. Not forgetting the grovelling apology in which it was forced to concede that the slandered siblings were planning nothing more sinister than a family holiday.
Arguably, Hopkins' real problem is not the contrived nature of her deliberately provocative views, it's her sometimes laughable lack of professionalism. Without wishing to seem too snobbish, mucking around on The Apprentice and declaring war on fat mothers and working class children with common names, isn't necessarily the best way to prepare yourself for the perils of Fleet Street. Worse still from her position, media organisations are currently questioning whether there is gold in them there right-wing hills.
Former editor turned columnist Kelvin MacKenzie was sacked by the Sun for comparing the Everton footballer Ross Barkley to a gorilla. He insists he was innocently ignorant of Barkley's Nigerian heritage. But it is no secret that executives at News Corp UK had for some time been uncomfortable with MacKenzie's uncompromising stance on the far right of virtually every issue. Ultimately, it wasn't good for business.
While she was banging her familiar drum at the Sun, Hopkins' permanently angry column – in which she called fleeing migrants 'cockroaches' – was also said to be on the endangered list. Before she was pushed, she jumped ship for the numerically superior Mail Online. But her abrupt departure underlined the corporate feeling that intemperate roaring from the right no longer sells papers.
Same story in America where Rupert Murdoch's once-unstoppable Fox News was stopped in its tracks when advertisers announced they would boycott the channel's flagship programme hosted by veteran polemicist Bill O'Reilly, who was facing sexual harassment allegations. Faced with the choice between supporting its best-known scion of the right or losing money, Fox swiftly decided it was no contest… the dollar won.
Here in l'il ol' Britain, Hopkins and her look-at-me opinions might pull in lots of hits, but does she pull in lots of profits? Is she commercial? That is the question. As her star descends, she faces an uncertain future on the outer limits of an increasingly cautious media universe. But say what you like about Hatey Katie, she won't go down without a fight.
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