By Hannah Sole | Politics | March 13, 2017 |
By Hannah Sole | Politics | March 13, 2017 |
Why do I read things that make my blood boil? I guess I think it’s best to know what your enemy is thinking. But perhaps the word ‘thinking’ is giving Katie Hopkins too much credit.
For my US friends: if you don’t know who Katie Hopkins is, she’s a former Apprentice contestant who makes a living from saying deliberately controversial and horrendous things. Basically, she’s a professional troll. She writes a column for the Mail Online, where she’s hailed as a Truth Warrior for saying the ‘unspeakable’ things that she claims everyone else is secretly thinking but hasn’t got the guts to say for fear of being lynched by the PC brigade.
On Saturday morning, in a familiar moment of ‘oh no, what has she said now?” madness, I clicked on her newest piece, with the promising and not-at-all infuriating title: “Hands up if you’re worried about being mown down, blown up or axed to death by a white, right wing nutter (unless, of course, you’re the Home Office). Thought not.”
I tweeted my short response to the article on Saturday:
But I’ve got a bit more space to let rip here.
Katie’s first issue is understanding the definition of terrorism. Awful things happen around the world every day. Some are random acts of hate; some target specific people and groups of people. Some are organized by groups; some are the actions of a ‘Lone Wolf.’ These are terrible, certainly, but they are not necessarily terrorist acts. For an act to be considered terrorism, it has to promote a socio-political cause, and be designed to inspire as much fear as possible. The clue is kind of in the name, Katie.
We might be afraid of something, but that doesn’t mean that it exists purely to inspire fear for a political reason. Take sharks, for example. Sharks are scary. They occasionally kill people. But it’s not like these are organized attacks on people, designed to frighten human interlopers out of venturing into their territory. When the Home Office says that something is “not a terrorist attack,” I think we should do the same: firstly, they have access to more information than we do, and secondly, because if it were a terrorist attack and we refused to label it as such, it has essentially failed.
It’s simply not the case that the press is covering up and downplaying attacks across the world, as part of a liberal marketing conspiracy. In a purely cynical way, terrorism can generate income for the media. They would make the most of it if they could and if it were appropriate.
Hopkins’ argument that if someone involved in an attack is Muslim, comes from a country that has seen conflict, has a ‘foreign’ name and has brown skin then they MUST be a terrorist is logically flawed and clearly offensive.
Katie and I are both white, female, British, middle class and write about our political ideas online. By her logic, we are the same. (Excuse me while I vomit.) It’s a point that’s obvious to anyone on here, I’m sure - demographic data about a person doesn’t tell you much about their character, their ideas, their personality. I’m sure she would be equally horrified to be compared to me: a luvvy liberal teacher and union rep, who drives a Hybrid and believes in being nice to people.
Hopkins should have learned this lesson last year, when the Mail Online was forced to pay 150,000 in damages to a Muslim family that Hopkins falsely accused on being connected to al-Qaeda.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg in Hopkins’ article. She moves on to accuse the Home Office of focusing too much attention on “white” terrorism rather then “Islamic” terrorism. (Because religion and skin colour are the same in Katie’s world, naturally.)
Our top terror expert in the UK, David Anderson QC, is equally keen to force this agenda in the face of statistical truths: ‘Extreme right-wing ideology can be just as murderous as its Islamist equivalent’; he said.
‘Increasingly, right-wing extremists such as Thomas Mair, the killer of Jo Cox MP, feed off the tension [caused by Islamist extremism] to plan violence of their own. I’d argue the tensions around Jo Cox’s death were not of the making of Islamic extremists, but by liberal extremists. The far left. A group which, according to the media, does not exist. And a group who do not identify as far-left, but act that way all the same. I would assert that there are powerful forces lobbying the government for the far-right to be in the spotlight at all times.
Extremes of any kind are terrible. When I was a teenager, my mum explained right wing and left wing to me as ideas that eventually joined up if you followed them far enough to their extremes - that the political spectrum really becomes a circle if you go far enough, and we saw this in the 20th Century with brutal dictatorships of both kinds. I think this is why I’ve always tended towards the centre-left of politics. This is where the liberals live.
I don’t deny that there is a far-left — just that you’d be hard pressed to call them liberal in their ideas. (Perhaps “anarchic” would be a better word than “liberal”?) And the far-left, contrary to Hopkins’ worldview, isn’t actually in power in the UK. The last Labour government ended 7 years ago — and that was centre-left, not far-left. ‘New Labour’ wasn’t far-left ideology by stealth; it was a move towards the centre and away from the extremes. Far-left groups are on the fringes, not in a position to cause the widespread mayhem that Hopkins is blaming them for.
The far-right poses a much clearer threat. Like all teachers in the UK, I have had ‘Prevent’ training. This scheme is not without its problems, but the training itself was very well done, by a nice chap from the Home Office who talked about the sorts of extremist behaviour that we could keep an eye out for. For the record, Katie, the far-left was mentioned, as were ISIS, but he rightly pointed out that in our part of the country, the far-right was most likely to be something we would see, and so that should be the main thing on our radar. The odds of seeing far-right extremism in my hometown are much higher than any other form of organised attack.
Statistically, there may be far fewer fatalities associated with this sort of extremism at the moment, but that doesn’t make it ‘fake’.
Hopkins dismisses citations of statistics that don’t fit her analysis, especially reference to this table, which she considers “following the multi-cultural script”:
Yep, that’s right. In America, you are more likely to be shot by a toddler, or killed by a lawnmower, than killed by an Islamic jihadist immigrant. But the far-right taking over the political establishment? That will affect more than 2 Americans per year.
Trump and Brexit aren’t the sole result of the far-right, as plenty of moderate conservative folk voted for these as well. But they have led to far-right ideas becoming mainstream, legitimised, and normalised. There was a spike in hate-crimes after Brexit, because people felt that their unkind and xenophobic ideas were justified, and now written into the fabric of the law. I remember watching the referendum results coming in and thinking if Remain lost, the far-right would look unstoppable, and we’d see Europe lurch to the extremes, BUT if Remain won, those Britain First and English Defence League horrors would be rioting in the streets and Britain would look like a war zone. I don’t think anyone worried about Remainers doing that. No, we do our ‘Remoaning’ with words.
But the far-right’s power to be frightening extends much further than that. It’s not just about being beaten in the streets, or threatened on public transport; a far-right government has the potential to make most of us fear for our lives on a daily basis. A random yob is one thing; an entire system that tells you that your life does not matter, your work serves no purpose and you have no value - that’s something to be afraid of. A political party that compares human beings in need to insects; looks the other way when dead children wash up on beaches; denies you medical care because of lines on a map or how much money is in your bank account; considers you mentally ill because you don’t love the ‘right’ sort of person or act the way that they think you should; treats your body as their property and their jurisdiction - that’s something that it’s perfectly normal to be afraid of.
I don’t want to be afraid of terrorists, because that would permit them to win. On the contrary, it is sensible and logical to be afraid of the far-right. The far-right are much more likely to have an impact on us, and we all have the power to fight against them. We have our words, and our votes, and as the Serenity prayer suggests, I’m going to focus on the things I can change.
In the meantime, I shall fortify myself with cups of tea and pictures of puppies, and brace for the impact of Hopkins’ next piece of work. Your move, Katie.