Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers

1. Britain's dirty secret: class still matters (Sunday Times)

Jenni Russell argues that neither of the two main parties is being honest about what is needed to improve class mobility. Labour fails to look closely enough at behaviour and character, while the Tories refuse to confront the realities of structural privilege.

2. Why Ulster should celebrate its sex and money scandal (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley says that the Iris Robinson scandal demonstrates that the politics of Northern Ireland, abnormal for so long, are becoming a little bit more like everywhere else's. Sex and money scandals are the stuff of ordinary politics the world over.

3. How many years out in the cold? (Independent on Sunday)

John Rentoul says there are hopeful signs that Labour will not fall into open warfare if defeated at the next election. Jon Cruddas, a thoughtful and unifying figure, is said to be open to running as David Miliband's deputy.

4. There's no shame in hiring a pariah (Observer)

By hiring Sir Fred Goodwin as a senior adviser, the international architecture firm RMJM has recognised the talent beneath the tarnish, says Heather McGregor.

5. The world expects the US to do its duty (Independent on Sunday)

Barack Obama has responded well to the Haitian crisis but he must now ensure that more aid gets through, says James Moore.

6. Forget it -- Blair will never be branded a war criminal (Observer)

Nick Cohen argues that opponents of the Iraq war are still unable to substantiate their claim that the 2003 invasion was "illegal". The Ba'athist regime was not entitled to treat the country as its private prison.

7. Gordon Brown's election strategy is doomed, but you have to admire the cheek of it (Sunday Telegraph)

Matthew d'Ancona predicts that Brown's attempt to present himself as the champion of the middle classes will backfire.

8. Be afraid, China, the Google dragon stirs (Sunday Times)

Dominic Lawson says that when civilisations clash, there is generally only one winner. Despite its genius for repression, the Chinese Communist Party will be beaten by Google.

9. Our troops need aid too (News of the World)

Fraser Nelson argues that, with Britain at war, David Cameron should give priority to the defence budget over international development.

10. Say what you like, as long as it meets with the mob's approval (Observer)

Catherine Bennett says that, following the rise of the Twitter mob, the privilege of free expression carries with it a grave responsibility: not to say anything that people might not like.

 

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter

Getty
Show Hide image

The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

0800 7318496