Why we should treat Katie Hopkins like every other internet troll

Vincent Ralph has his say on the strange situation that has seen most internet trolls vilified but one given a platform to vent.

For all the benefits of social media one of its most unsavoury side-effects is the emergence of trolling.

Where before, insulting strangers was primarily reserved for playground bullies and those worryingly inclined to shout in the street, now sane-minded adults can hide behind computer screens and insult to their heart’s content.

Such was this phenomenon that it developed its own term, those who indulged in it named after the often grotesque mythical beings that hid from view and did not get on with humans.

But despite the presence of trolling, at least it was acknowledged as a bad thing; at least it was frowned upon.

This brings me to Katie Hopkins – a troll in journalist’s clothing who time and again generates headlines through statements that some think are strategically designed to incite anger and frustration.

If a stranger verbally attacked someone in the street for being fat, no one would give that person a platform upon which to spread their message. But if Hopkins does it, media outlets plaster her across their pages, giving her yet more exposure.

Similarly, television programmes book her and then watch as she says something controversial, like pulling a string on the back of a toy that only spouts vitriol.

I did not blame Hopkins so much as the outlets that thought what she had to say was somehow more valid than anyone else’s opinion. She has mastered a template and it works, to such an extent that every word against her (including these) only brings her to more people's attention.

But if this is the route we are going down, why not book any old internet troll? Why not rotate between all those anonymous key-tappers, giving each of them their time on air or in print to say what they think of fat people, dyslexic people; people with names they don’t agree with or with beliefs different to their own.

What a strange world we live in when a journalist with the power to make a difference, to say something insightful to the masses, merely goes for the easy option, reverting to playground snipes for a quick headline and a few extra Twitter followers.

And that world is even stranger when something we have been taught to bemoan – the belittling of those different to us, the name-calling most of us grow out of before we reach our teens – is celebrated in the gossip columns and on daytime talk shows.

But now Hopkins has gone further than many of us would ever have believed possible, in a piece about migrants entering Britain from Calais with phrases I have absolutely no intention of reprinting here.

The problem with those who make a living from stirring things up, from making controversial statements and watching the responses and hits flood in as a result, is that they have to become increasingly offensive or fade into obscurity.

Hopkins seemingly has no intention of doing the latter, and so we have articles that convey thoughts that are downright disgusting, devoid not only of compassion and intellect but also of the tongue-in-cheek nature of her earlier offerings.

The time has come to stop giving celebrity trolls a place on our screens and in our papers, even if it is to mock them or shine a light on their actions. Instead ignore them, turn them off, block them from the public eye like we can block an unwanted follower or ‘friend’.