Darragh McManus: 'Shock horror, we discovered Katie Hopkins isn't Satan in a dress in Living with Lucy'
Lucy Kennedy just spent a few days in the company of Katie Hopkins – and shock, horror, discovered that the broadcaster isn’t actually Satan in a dress and a white-blonde wig. Well, obviously.
She’s a person, with a lot of strong views, some of them unpalatable to many people (including yours truly). But not Satan. Or Hitler. Or whatever other facile description of Hopkins takes your fancy.
Kennedy, and her show Living with Lucy which aired tonight on TV3, took flak from online “activist” types for including Hopkins in this year’s roster of celebs visited.
From the histrionic tone of some comment, you’d think Lucy was off glamping with Josef Mengele.
Again, though: she’s not actually Josef Mengele, is she? Hopkins is a professional loudmouth, a controversialist, a shock-jock. She’s abrasive and often obnoxious and sometimes right and sometimes wrong. She comes right out with what she thinks.
And there you go – that’s free speech.
That’s the definition of it. Everyone gets to have their say, whether or not someone else doesn’t like it. indeed that’s why I, and anyone else, can say all those negative things about Katie Hopkins.
The woman may well be right-wing. Her views on immigrants might be callous. She may often come across as a braying social-Darwinist. But that doesn’t make her a Nazi, and saying it does is childish and stupid.
There’s a spectrum in all aspects of human life, and comparing one end of it to the other is not only idiotic, it’s actually harmful to whatever progressive cause you support.
You may as well say that a slap on the face is pretty much the same thing as beating someone to death: they’re both physical assaults, right? Same thing, just different degrees.
Except, of course, they’re not the same thing, no matter how hard your ideology tries to insist they are. Normal rationality will tell you that.
All of which is a very long-winded way of saying: tonight’s episode of Living with Lucy may not have taught us a lot we didn’t already know, but there was nothing intrinsically wrong with featuring Katie Hopkins as a subject.
Kennedy moved in to Katie's spare room in Bristol and mets her friends and family in the second episode of the series.
She met Katie’s husband Mark (who she revealed her dad sends a sympathy card to each year on their anniversary) and divulged that life with Katie can be difficult due to the hostility and also the security issues for their children.
Kennedy asked Katie why is such a nice guy with her, which didn't go down well. Tackling some of Katie's most controversial tweets, Lucy said they simply make people think, 'Katie Hopkins is an absolute bitch'.
Kennedy didn’t go easy on her – she confronted Hopkins, argued with her strongly. They had a row in a restaurant near the end. And Hopkins’ response kind of proves my point about free speech: she agrees that Lucy has the right to disagree. She also doesn’t care what Lucy thinks of her.
That’s the crux of the matter. A person’s thoughts and words are their own. The validity of their existence is not contingent on anyone’s approval. That is – I realise I’m labouring the point by now – free speech.
Besides all of which: should it be decided to ban Katie Hopkins from appearing on TV, who’s next? There’s always someone to offend us.
Personally I can’t stand listening to religious proselytisers of any stripe, anyone who isn’t centre or at least near the centre politically, people making weaselly excuses for things like communism or terrorism, anti-Israel gibberish, identity politics gobbledegook, and the wackadoodle dingbats on both extremes of the abortion debate.
Who do I petition to have all these people forbidden from ever darkening my telly again?
Right at the end, Kennedy herself summed up the most sane, grown-up approach to Katie Hopkins: “If you don’t want to hear what she’s got to say on Twitter, unfollow her or don’t respond.” Amen to that.