People like Katie Hopkins choose targets carefully - those judged as socially acceptable to demean

Her tweet mocking Tanni Grey-Thompson's disability says a lot about us, in that she has also been allowed to become a commentator in the mainstream media

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The Independent Online

Oh dear. It seems Katie Hopkins, the failed Apprentice contestant turned media rent-a-gob for The Sun and assured lazy TV producers, has been at it again.

This time it’s none other than Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, the Paralympic gold medalist, and disability rights campaigner, who has nettled la Hopkins. Presumably for having the temerity to stick up for her constituency.

Here’s what appeared on Ms Hopkins’ Twitter account: “Tanni Grey-Thompson. God I wish there were some carpet tacks lying about between her and the bbc studios.”

I can’t really be bothered to have a go at the media’s favourite troll here because she feeds off it, and it would simply be more grist to her mill and to the dunderheads who pay for her bile.

What I want us to think about is this: What would happen if she used a similar metaphor about a different group, say mocking their race or their sexuality?

You see, there are certain things that are viewed - quite rightly - as beyond the pale. Certain things that even Hopkins couldn’t say without getting fired and disappearing from large parts of the media.

Ignorant Hopkins may be, but she ain’t stupid. She chooses as her targets carefully focussing only on people whom it is judged socially acceptable to demean. 

Ms Hopkins has been canny enough - up until now - to stay on the side of that line where her comments are seen as thoroughly obnoxious, but acceptable to say. Certainly acceptable for the people who fall over themselves to hire her for her trolling. Or who put her up on TV.

Note, I’m not arguing for censorship here, far from it. I’d defend with my life Hopkins’ right to vent her spleen and all that. However, what does it say about us that she is allowed to become a commentator in the mainstream media.

What’s more for me, given the sort of prejudice disabled people suffer, that tweet of hers veers into the realms of hate-speech.

Baroness Thompson has, no doubt heard worse and is probably immune to it. I know I have.

All the same, think about the context in which Hopkins is speaking.

While writing this I dug out a stories Michael Wilson, the Canadian boy with muscular dystrophy who hit the headlines because he killed himself after being targeted by bullies. If that’s not close enough to home for you, how about the case of Kevin Wood, who had learning disabilities and was attacked by a man and two children who used a can of de-icer as a flamethrower ion him in the North West of England. The story was reported in a local newspaper in June. There are many similarly desperate tales out there. In 2012 the Home Office study found that there are 65,000 disability hate crimes per year in England and Wales alone.

We live in a society where, sadly, it’s seen as okay to demean disabled people simply because they are disabled. Hopkins repugnant tweet is evidence of that.

People will say lighten up, it’s just a joke, that it’s “only” Katie Hopkins and no one takes her seriously. Except some people do. They see what she does and they think it’s okay for them to do it. And joke? Try telling Michael Wilson’s parents that it’s “just a joke”. Or Kevin Wood’s friends and loved ones. 

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