The wave of shock and reaction which followed Friday night’s helicopter crash in Glasgow at the Clutha Vaults bar felt near instantaneous, with social media springing into action
In many ways it was a wonderful thing, immediately finding good wishes from those shocked at the news, and hearing first-hand the amazing reactions of those at the scene, people who did the city and Scotland proud.
At the same time the commercial cogs spun into action, journalists linking to their own sites with the promise of the latest updates, a frenzy of activity then following at each major outlet tried to snap unexpectedly into gear in a manner fit for the modern media age.
They were well intentioned, no doubt. As ever the path from there on would be predictable. The live streaming of news events would be followed by more in-depth reporting. Features writers will be primed to further examine the details, and after that sympathetic opinion writers – mostly likely the majority of their peers – either opine about the magnificent reactions of those at the scene or the lessons that may be learned. With tragedy comes opportunity, and nowadays there is no time for reflection or mourning.
Just as predictable will be the long-tail navel-gazing, more coverage spun under the watch of media bosses hopeful the efforts will translate into better figures for their beleaguered organisations. (It can be pretty much taken as read that any media company is on the fight-back from something or other nowadays.)
As well as that, we have people such as Katie Hopkins, who may have disappeared from the nation’s collective consciousness after appearing on The Apprentice, had she not found a very specialist niche. For she is the type of person who can proudly step onto a pedestal and say the sorts of things that turn people maroon-faced with outrage. Thankfully this indignant mob will alert others to the apparently terrible things she has said, then those who have employed her enjoy a beautiful spurt of ad revenue from those too infuriated to stop themselves from clicking onto the source.
On the day following the crash, with eight confirmed dead and while rescuers were still working to recover remains, Katie tweeted:
“Life expectancy in Scotland based 07/ 08 birth is 59.5. Goodness me. That lot will do anything to avoid working until retirement.”
Zing! (Hey, I guess you could argue that those who perished in the pub might not be Scottish, since we don’t even know their names or nationalities yet, but let’s not have that get in the way of Katie bringing the lols!)
Trying to later tweet about The X Factor, Katie deigned to pay some attention to an outraged reaction to her belly-tickler by observing that at that moment it was “like trying to shout over a crowd of angry jocks”. (Rather than trying to shout, maybe she should have stayed quiet for a few minutes, learned about the aftermath of the incident and the reaction of those close to it, then thought again about how to act in a public sphere.)
Well, this piece has been written very soon afterwards by one very angry “jock”, but will those who moved so swiftly to condemn those celebrating the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – whose own actions had rightly or wrongly brought about a hatred amongst many in the country – be as tireless in denouncing a media commentator making light of the death of a sizeable number of innocents whose death will have in turn devastated countless others? I guess we’ll see.
Hopefully we would see Katie’s paymasters reluctant to bankroll her (t)witterings in the future.
ITV didn’t react immediately to that tweet of Hopkins, though thankfully their Twitter page did move to correct her X Factor-related statement about “One of Rough Copy is wearing a rocket pack”, helpfully noting that “I believe it’s officially being called a jetpack”. Good to know somebody’s paying attention.
While it’s tempting to lay the blame for Katie Hopkins squarely at her own feet, as seems pretty logical, you also have to bear in mind that over the past year or two she has been tacitly encouraged by outlets paying for her services to say things that are more and more outrageous. She’s certainly not been the first, and most of us who read British newspapers often will have a checklist of those whose unhinged opinions are bread and butter for functioning as website link bait.
In the event of somebody such as Katie Hopkins saying something utterly indefensible, it ought to be noted that those organisations funding her career as a defender of outrageous opinion has the option to simply stop. No explanation would even be needed. They could all just stop, if they could take their eye off profit margins and think about their own ethical standpoint.
For instance, every time that Katie went on This Morning and said fat people ought to suffer in terms of employability, or that tattooed celebs are bad role models, or that it is right to judge young children for having common names, then – instead of Holly Willoughby or Phillip Schofield biting their lips in panto-style “I can’t believe she just said that!” fashion – those that booked her could have made sure she didn’t reappear on the show.
They wouldn’t even need to sack her, since she’s not an employee. Just keep somebody whose opinions are widely regarded as utterly vile off our screens. A utilitarian act, rather than making the world that little bit worse, again.
As it was, the headlines that she created were good enough for them, as they didn’t have to bear responsibility for her opinion. By turning the other cheek, by paying Katie to say more and more obnoxious things for a quick buck, they are also partly to blame for her thinking it is acceptable to make some capital out of a devastating incident that has shaken a good city to its core, and claimed the lives of people who ought to be here at this very moment, with their loved ones.
Just as the continued media presence of Kelvin MacKenzie is a blight on the entire industry, following his handling of the Hillsborough tragedy, then so should that of Katie Hopkins be whenever she is paid to “say the unsayable”, or whatever else it is that she believes she is actually doing. Any time somebody of her ilk springs up in future, it shouldn’t be okay for organisations to feature them for the purpose of added revenue, only to pretend that it isn’t their fault when the person they have been financially supporting implodes in the public sphere. They ought to be ashamed, and – as a viewing nation lapping up her outrageous views – we ought to be ashamed of both them and her.