I’m supposed to be writing essays for this ol’ degree thing that I’m doing, but once again I’ve been dragged into watching Katie Hopkins, professional trollumist, spewing vitriol on YouTube. I know that I should ignore her because she’s vicious and awful on purpose. She is, as Peaches Geldof, who sadly passed away today, brilliantly called her, a “rent-a-gob”. I’m sure I’m not alone in having this perverse desire to be outraged – I suppose it is human nature to need somebody to hate. Although her ‘just being honest’ persona is clearly exaggerated and crafted to garner as much attention as possible, perhaps her infamy is indicative of our society’s thirst for some form of honesty in a world where we are constantly lied to.
Should we engage people with outrageous views in discussion, or just ignore them and hope they go away? A recent article in the Independent suggested that the media behaves irresponsibly in giving Nigel Farage so much attention, but is this borne of a fear that really, people might agree with him? Perhaps this shows disdain for the general populace: they cannot be trusted to resist charismatic, sensationalist characters who confirm their perceived prejudices. Then again, you may remember the outrage over a Return of Kings article (this is one of my masochistic hotspots – avoid like the plague if you have anything productive to do) about the merits of dating girls with an eating disorder. The Vagenda Team (@vagendamagazine) tweeted to advise people to stop linking to the article, because it gave the ‘sad wankers’ exactly what they wanted. Is the best thing to do to pay no mind to those who live under bridges; to deny them a reaction?
The only issue with doing this is that we risk stunting discussions that need to be had. People do have issues with and prejudices about immigration, fat people, women, children’s names (ok, that one might just be Katie), and we need to have open conversations about these in society. It seems as though we are stuck slightly between a rock and a hard place though – if we ignore them then it feels as though we are not defending the values we hold dear, but if we engage them then we allow their views to gain more merit than they deserve. The voices we hear in the media are often not the voices of everyday people, and by demonising ‘trolls’ we may push people into their arms, because they are actually addressing problems that are so frequently brushed under the carpet. Perhaps what we need to do is to initiate more of these discussions, to talk about things without immediately shouting people down if they don’t agree with us, even though that’s such a tempting thing to do. ‘The Big Benefits Row’ seemed like it could be good for this, but alas, KT hopped on board and it was reduced to a rabble that got absolutely nowhere. What to do? (Other than not invite Katie Hopkins on, for my sanity and grades if nothing else)