Katie Hopkins takes issues people hold dear and belches all over them. Ramadan, motherhood, social equality; she’s ridden roughshod over them all. Even in her milder moments, she seeks out society’s sensitive points and scratches the nerve endings raw. Her latest online offering follows the inquest into Peaches Geldof’s death. With characteristic crassness she tweeted: “Peaches' fatal syringe was in a box by the bed - along with some sweets. She was taking care of her baby son after all.”
Her comments provoked a slew of outrage across social media, especially as Hopkins dedicated her entire Sun column in April to explaining how she wasn't going to comment on Peaches' passing, because the mother-of-two “wouldn’t have wanted her to”. The Independent covered her hypocrisy, and the outpouring of support for Peaches.
The difference between Hopkins’ earlier column and her later tweets is revealing. It shows that she too has recognised what some of us have suspected for a while: that her notability is fanned by social media outrage alone, and wilts in the tangles of nuance. Unless Twitter froths with anger and engages with her tirades, much of the media is loathe to give her the air of publicity. When people react, it gives Hopkins legitimacy. Even the people who profess to hate her know they are encouraging further media coverage. So why do we continue to feed the troll?
The simple answer is we just can’t help it. Social media is reaction dressed up as opinion, and Hopkins kicks our emotional funny bone. We can't help but lash out in return. According to one theory, people mainly share things that provoke “aroused” emotions, like anger, awe, joy, and surprise. Articles and arguments that are reasonable and nuanced may make people think, but it won’t make them share. Internal reflection isn't allied to the kind of short-form public statements that social media demands.
Katie Hopkins' most offensive moments
Katie Hopkins' most offensive moments
1/16 Katie Hopkins on 'plus size'
'To call yourself 'plus-size' is just a euphemism for being fat. Life is much easier when you're thinner. Big is not beautiful, of course a job comes down to how you look.'
2/16 Katie Hopkins on naming children
‘I think you can tell a great deal from a name. For me, there are certain names that I hear and I think ‘Urgh’. For me, a name is a shortcut of finding out what class that child comes from and makes me ask, ‘Do I want my children to play with them?’ There’s a whole set of things that go with children like that and that’s why I don’t like those sorts of children. ‘Hi, this is my daughter Charmaine’. I hear: ‘Hi, I am thick and ignorant.’’
3/16 Katie Hopkins on gender equality
'Women don't want equal treatment, they couldn't handle it if they got it. It's a tough world out there. What a lot of women are actually looking for is special treatment. What women need to realise is that they have to toughen up.'
4/16 Katie Hopkins on immigration
'I've always said if you go into a school playground and shout Mohammad, you'll probably get 100 children running towards you!"
5/16 Katie Hopkins to Benefits Street's White Dee
'Do you not feel like the patron saint of druggies and dropouts?'
6/16 Katie Hopkins on tattoos
'Are tattoos just a badge for the stupid? For me, and for lots of people like me, when you see tatoos you think of someone who is just looking for attention, who hasn't managed to find a way in their life through conventional means and who is just shouting 'I want attention! I want to be looked at!'
7/16 Katie Hopkins on addiction
‘I don’t believe what Russell Brand says about addiction. I just don’t buy it. Gazza likes drinking, let him crack on. He is enjoying himself.’
8/16 Katie Hopkins on The X Factor
'The X Factor 2013 has ended in a painful showdown between a fat mum in a jumpsuit (Sam Bailey) and a small boy in whatever his mum laid out for him on his bed (Nicholas McDonald)'
9/16 Katie Hopkins on the Egyptian uprising
'The difference between most mothers and me is that I didn’t sit around drinking coffee at baby group for 12 months after the birth of my baby. No, in three weeks I was back in my suit, back at my desk earning profit for my business and I don’t see why other women shouldn’t do the same.'
10/16 Katie Hopkins on maternity leave
'Egyptian uprising continues to look like Bonfire Night. Protest fireworks. Right up there with angry cup cakes.'
11/16 Katie Hopkins on 'gingerism'
'Ginger babies. Like a baby. Just so much harder to love. A ginger person with tattoos called Jayden? The triumvirate of horror!'
12/16 Katie Hopkins on affairs
'I lied to get someone else's husband because I wanted him. I give myself 8 out of 10 for ruthlessness for that one.'
13/16 Katie Hopkins on the elderly
‘Personally I hate mobility scooters. I find their owners intolerable. Ran past a mobility scooter going up hill. Made me giggle. I need to grow up and stop being an arse.’
14/16 Katie Hopkins after the Glasgow helicopter crash
'Life expectancy in Scotland is 59.5. Goodness me. That lot will do anything to avoid working until retirement.'
15/16 Katie Hopkins on Ramadan
'Channel 4 broadcasts Islamic calls to prayer for Ramadan. A 30 day reminder that minority rules in the UK. Any more PC, it'd be a bloody laptop.'
16/16 Katie Hopkins on self-harming
'I am advised by the Twitterati to 'cut myself'. I grazed myself on my house gate yesterday. Will that suffice?'
The other reason people share is to air their opposition publicly. They are seeking validation from their followers whilst trying to position themselves in as favourable a light as possible. Damning Katie Hopkins is too great an opportunity to miss for some people who feel it important to engage in online ethical posturing. For example, Hopkins tweeted on Ramadan: “Ramadan typically brings a spike in violence in Middle East. I get grumpy when I don’t eat but I don’t blow things up. Religion of peace?” The users who responded that she was being Islamophobic and offensive were right, and perfectly entitled to say so, but there’s no doubt that some were motivated to make such a statement purely in order to be endowed with a shining liberal halo.
People have long been in the public eye purely for being outrageous. Liz Hurley and her safety pin dress. One of the stars of The Only Way is Essex in an asymmetrical man-thong. What is slightly different about Hopkins is that post-Apprentice, her notoriety depends solely on how much she is talked about on Twitter.
Tweet, rile and repeat. It’s Hopkins’ career plan. But I’m wondering if even Queen Contrarian herself is starting to get sick of the predictability of it all. Interspersed with these carefully constructed nuggets of outrage, there are some genuinely amusing jokes and self-depreciating observations. They reveal a woman who is intelligent and self-aware. Sometimes I think Twitter has it wrong. It’s not her who is bitter and stupid, it’s us.