I’ve been thinking about Katie Hopkins more than is healthy lately.
If you don’t know who she is, I’m not going to explain. You wouldn’t thank me for tarnishing your innocence, and I wouldn’t thank me for giving me another ulcer.
She’s a media presence to whom I tend to react in a strongly negative fashion, is all you really need to know. Experiencing Katie Hopkins is something I find unpleasant. It makes me angry, it makes me cringe, it gives me a visceral wrenching in my gut of revulsion and disgust.
But note that these are all statements of fact about me, not her. I’m the one doing the reacting; these feelings of negativity are instigated in my brain, regardless of her status as the causative factor. It’s not clear, a priori, that the blame for my feelings lies primarily, or at all, with her.
Because my feelings are so personal, it’s no surprise that many people don’t react to a given stimulus – such as Katie Hopkins’s ghastly opinions – in a similarly emotive fashion. I can count on a good 80% of my Twitter feed to be even more vocal in their disdain, but there are also a lot of people out there with entirely different feelings toward her.
And there are many reasons why somebody’s physiological response might be far more placid than mine. Perhaps they agree with her on some political points. Perhaps they find it easier to laugh off extremist nonsense like hers as an inconsequential source of amusement, a la Boris Johnson. Perhaps they actually know her personally, and so have some positive associations with her. Perhaps they’ve simply attained a level of dharmic serenity in their life that is currently beyond my reach.
Whatever their reason, the fact that some people manage to avoid that surge of bile at even considering the extent of their genetic material that’s shared with Katie Hopkins, is a commendable and positive thing. I can (and do, and should) passionately disagree with her views on the world and explain at length why she’s wrong about everything – but that innate reaction of nausea contributes nothing beneficial.
All of which made me realise something important: When someone else doesn’t react to Katie Hopkins with the same aversion as I do, or even seems to condone or approve of her existence, it’s all too easy and natural to mentally categorise that person as being all the same things that are wrong with the world as Hopkins herself. But as I’ve outlined, there are numerous reasons that people might not want to join in with my spluttering fury other than that they’re of one mind with her and are just as worth getting angry at as she is.
Being disgusted at Katie Hopkins should not become a litmus test in my mind for holding an acceptable set of political opinions. Someone could “fail” that test and yet still be perfectly decent folk, not at all irrevocably in her camp, and absolutely not worth relegating to the furthest, most depraved reaches of my mental taxonomy of Internet Nutters.
I actually had a practical experience of this the other day, when I had a perfectly cordial Twitter chat about public sector strikes with someone who began matters by asserting that Katie Hopkins “rarely says anything that isn’t true”. Not so long ago, I’m not sure I could’ve let that conversation go as well as it did.