You can say what you like about celeb billionaire Elon Musk, but one thing no one can deny: he knows how to ruin a social media platform. As if rebranding Twitter to X wasn’t daft enough, the eccentric entrepreneur has decided to reinstate the accounts of professional trolls Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson. A declining social media platform and a couple of failed far-right media types – sounds like a triumphant combo to me.
It must be a red-letter day indeed for Hopkins and Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. They’ve seemingly struggled in the media wilderness ever since they got binned by Twitter and Laurence Fox decided to steal their thunder as the most asinine right-wing influencer on social media. Well, it looks like Lozza needs to watch his back because Tommy and his mate, the self-proclaimed “Jesus of the Outspoken”, are back to resume their rightful places at the head of the magisterium of misinformation.
On days like this, I wish that cancel culture was more than an inflated conceit constructed by far-right types. On days like this, I think some people should just stay cancelled.
What do Hopkins and Robinson contribute other than peddling misinformation framed as “truth”? The two of them have carved out careers from stirring controversy. Hopkins emerged from the 2007 series of The Apprentice as a self-styled embattled warrior for freedom of speech, making live TV appearances on outlets like This Morning to criticise “common” kids’ names, or fat-shame poor people.
But for me, her more recent incarnation has been even more insidious: Hopkins now sells herself as a far-right rent-a-gob, known for making inflammatory statements on X/Twitter (as was). She even got involved in a feud with footballer Marcus Rashford over his lobbying for the extension of the free school meal scheme until she was permanently banned in 2020 for breaching the site’s rules on “abuse and hateful conduct”.
Robinson, however – former leader of the English Defence League and convicted criminal – has also had the journey to notoriety. He’s been affiliated with several far-right organisations from the neo-fascist British National Party to the Canadian far-right political website Rebel News.
Along the way, Robinson has fallen foul of the law and has served several terms of imprisonment: for assault, fraud, and contempt of court. In 2021, he received a five-year stalking order for harassing Independent journalist Lizzie Dearden and her partner. He (thankfully) had his Twitter account deactivated in 2018 for breaching the site’s “hateful conduct” policy.
You’ve got to hand it to them, though: both Hopkins and Robinson have demonstrated astonishing resilience and resourcefulness. Not only have they created their own – at times, no doubt lucrative – schtick hawking racism and inaccuracies veiled in self-righteous language and illusory persecution, they’ve also bounced back from their (many) failures.
Let’s take Hopkins, for example, who was famously sued by bootstrap cook Jack Monroe for wrongly accusing the anti-poverty campaigner of vandalising a war memorial. Hopkins’s refusal to apologise to Monroe cost her dearly: she had to sell her family home (worth just shy of £1m) to pay the legal costs.
Further false claims cost her employers: in 2016, the Daily Mail settled a libel case brought by the Mahmood family over two of Hopkins’s articles online where she falsely claimed that members of the family were extremists. Hopkins apologised and the articles were removed from the website.
But Hopkins has form for false claims. There was also the apology and “substantial damages” paid to Jackie Teale for incorrectly stating that the British teacher had taken her class to a Donald Trump protest – and the apology she issued after being sued by Finsbury Park Mosque for wrongly linking it to an attack on the police. The evidence for believing her as a “conduit for truth” isn’t entirely compelling.
The thing about the pair, who appear to be united – Hopkins wrote on X this morning: “Thank you @elonmusk. And thank you to all the Twitter family who have brought Tommy & I back to @X. Know this. You are not alone. We are many. And we are stronger together. The fight back for your freedom is on” – is that they’re charlatans.
They’re not the serious political voices or activists they make themselves out to be – they’re capitalising on agitation. To me, they seem to intentionally set out to divide on lines of race, sex and ideology. When we disagree, they then pull out the last resort of a chancer: the obligatory persecution narrative. That’s not freedom of speech, it’s plain old self-promotion.
If you ask me, Hopkins and Robinson aren’t some courageous duo, pluckily fighting for freedom and speaking the words that no one else dares speak aloud – and public discourse around race and Islamophobia won’t be enriched by the reinstatement of their social media accounts. They’re just grifters.
The real problem is that there will be other Hopkinses and Robinsons – just look at the roster on GB News. The best way to get rid of them? Don’t follow them in the first place.