Setting up petitions against Celebrity Culture’s worse facets won’t change it. Ignoring it will.
Sad and bewildering as the Clutha pub tragedy was, once again the part that social media played in developing the reaction to its aftermath, was, shall we say, bizarre.
One of the biggest problems with social media is due to its accessibility and ease of use, idiots can use it. Rather a lot of them in fact. Idiots come in many shapes, sizes and guises. Some use it, in conjunction with an event, to score points against another person or more likely another group of people, and there are some who selfishly see it as an opportunity to foment their agenda. These are bad cunts, and I’ll come back to them later. But my main focus is a certain Katie Hopkins.
There’s a saying that you can’t, or shouldn’t, reorganise village life to suit the village idiot. Our need to vent our concurrent shock and dismay at tragic events is facilitated by various social media forums, add in the desperate attention seekers to the mix, who’ll do and say anything, and a platform is created for them to become the focus. This process is essentially us capitulating to this maxim, too often we allow village idiots to dictate our behaviour and frame the debate.
Katie Hopkins is an attention seeker. Appropriately she started out on the BBC’s hideously contrived Schadenfreude operatic ‘The Apprentice’. Fortunately for me my exposure to her has been limited, as I only know Hopkins from her Twitter ‘legend’(?) and that of her parody account – quick tangent, but compare her actual Twitter account (before you block her, of course) to the parody account set up in her honour. Tell me, can you decipher the difference? I cannot. Hopkins is a celebrity in the loosest sense of the word, that is to say she’s someone whose sole purpose is being a celebrity, and remaining one by whatever means necessary. She has no discernible skill to offer, only a clichéd bumbling, air-headed, upper middle, female Boris Johnson gimmick that’s been cynically conjured and promoted without any shame. There are two ways Hopkins, and her celebrity reality TV incarnate, can remain relevant, most crucially to those who employ her; perpetually degrade herself, in the court jester sense, or to be provocative, or try to be. Ideally she’d be both.
In isolation her comments about Scottish life expectancy were catastrophically inaccurate, but given the climate and context of the Clutha accident’s immediate aftermath, suddenly they became very provocative, but only because we made that connection. Clearly Hopkins was trying to be funny, ironic even, in a Russ Abbott glib and ludicrous parody of Scots kind of fashion. Not by design did she manage to be provocative and ridiculous. I imagine that it simply didn’t occur to Hopkins that the timing of her comments would or could be seen as being highly insensitive. Aside from a lack of social conscience, the worst thing she can be accused of is being someone who currently inhibits a world of very little consequence. Remove the paradigm of our attention, and the purpose she serves within it – a punching bag that allows us to be as self-righteous and self-aggrandising as we wish, without recourse – and her comment becomes an insignificant speck of dog turd in sea of detritus that constitutes a large portion of Twitter’s daily content.
Indeed Hopkins gained several thousand followers as the feeding frenzy around her and her comments continued. And the only beneficiary of that? Hopkins, and those who benefit from her remaining relevant. Now more than ever relevancy, not popularity, sells. It sells to production companies, particularly those who need to sell advertising space throughout the duration of their shows. Call it ‘product placement’ for the vast swathes of watching morons, who are incapable of thinking for themselves, and as such lack the discernible taste to watch something genuinely constructive, whether it be informative or funny. Two things which, fittingly, Hopkins is clearly not.
Hopkins isn’t the only avenue where we transgress. There was of course the sadly typical sectarian abuse between Celtic and Rangers fans, which took the guise of ‘jokes’. ‘Why couldn’t the Helicopter have crashed into Parkhead/Ibrox?’ etc, etc. There are very few things about my home town that I loathe, but these muppets are front of the queue. Quite a few revolve their entire lives around their club, and assume its cultural etiquette and practices, even if they themselves have, inherently, little in common with its associated bigoted ideology. They lack intelligence and above all imagination, as most attention seekers do. This lends itself to a cringe-worthy herd like mentality, as exemplified here. This sort of thing might seem funny, but if you’re surrounded by it daily it quickly becomes tiresome. Sadly, many can’t ignore it, even moderate Celtic and Rangers fans can’t resist their loyalties and fall in line. It makes it doubly difficult to not only ignore but elide, add Twitter, and it makes it borderline impossible.
Of course no reaction on social media’s various mediums to any event would be complete without the lovely placard waving imbeciles the Westboro Baptist Church. While Louis Theroux’s documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church provided an insight into the perilously thin ideological and bureaucratic ice cults exist upon, it also afforded the message it carries what it craves most – attention. They represent the extreme end of our desire to peruse the extravagance of stupidity and wilful ignorance. They allow us to look down upon indignantly, navel-gaze almost, at these ghastly people. It makes us feel superior and glad that ‘we’re not like that’. The Westboro Baptist Church and Hopkins share different ends of this spectrum.
As a cult, The Westboro Baptist Church (I refuse to call them a church or an organised religion, and I’m an atheist) fuels itself on pure hatred as a means of immuring its membership through social ostracisation. In essence, its ability to subjugate some of its membership wouldn’t exist without its vocal detractors.
And neither would Hopkins. The attempted ostracisation of Hopkins, like our derision of the Westboro Baptist Church, through a petition to remove her from television, like our disdain of the Westboro Baptist Church, is an entirely superficial token gesture of our inability to restrain our egos. As a pseudo-celebrity we know and view Hopkins as entirely disposable. We only take her seriously when it suits us. When it comes to the crunch, many, too many, choose to gawk and retweet her V-neck fascist nonsense rather than block it. This refusal to sort through our own cultural litter has made TV a landfill of dire chat-shows, populated with grasping mediocres like Hopkins.
Yesterday the production company behind ‘This Morning’, one of Hopkins’ regular haunts, said they had “no plans for Katie Hopkins to appear on This Morning at this present time.” Those who backed and signed the petition to have her removed from TV wishfully construed this as a victory. But the language certainly wasn’t categorical. You suspect that they’ll wait for this little faux pas of hers to blow over before bringing her back, and when she does return, it’ll bring in the viewers, intrigued (I’m trying to be kind) as to what she’ll do or say next.
So when that does happen here’s a simple idea/suggestion: don’t retweet the news that she’s appearing, don’t mention it, don’t view her Twitter handle, and above all don’t watch it. The next time you see someone craving attention by being provocatively callus, take responsibility and ignore them, or better yet block them if you’re using Twitter. Without the oxygen of attention their vulgarities suffocate into irrelevance.
Think about it this way – maybe that will make room for those who actually have something interesting to say, and that they might get the attention they deserve. Or maybe we’ll get another Katie Hopkins? And another after that? If we do, we’ll know why, and we’ll only have ourselves to blame.