Dealing with trolling by Hopkins

Katie Hopkins is a bit like Cameron Slater – she seeks attention with controversial posts, seeks support from fringe radicals online, and she is being gradually rejected as too toxic by media who have given her views an airing in the past.

She tried to stir things up after the Christchurch mosque attacks, and again after the Sri Lankan bombings. Some New Zealand media chose to feed her trolling, which was disappointing but not surprising – media often stoop low to try to generate publicity for themselves.

This has been covered by RNZ’s mediawatch: Don’t feed the troll

After condemning social media platforms for hosting and spreading extremists’ content, many media here also took the online bait from a noted British troll who’s too toxic even for Fox News and the tabloids in the UK.

Last Tuesday the government’s plans to urge global social media companies to tighten up on extremist content filled the front page of the New Zealand Herald.

“PM Jacinda Ardern is pushing for global response that would make Twitter, Facebook and YouTube more responsible for the content they host,” said the Herald under the banner heading Social Media Crackdown.

“The will of governments to work together to tackle the potentially harmful impacts of social media would have only grown stronger in the wake of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka,” said the Herald the same day on page 5

But there was a very different Herald story on page 5 of the Herald’s regional stablemates the same day – including Hawke’s Bay Today, The Northern Advocate and Bay Of Plenty Times. 

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is ignoring a sarcastic swipe by a British columnist over the attacks in Sri Lanka which have left more than 200 dead,“ it began.

These papers weren’t the only media here reacting here to a single social media blurt from British far right provocateur Katie Hopkins.

He told both programmes she was a “publicity seeking idiot” whose name he didn’t want to repeat on TV.

Our media could easily have ignored her crass blurt on Twitter – along with millions of other non-newsworthy tweets.

But TVNZ’s One News Now site and MediaWorks TV and radio and Newshub site turned it into a talking point.

Not just ‘a talking point’, they made news items about it.

Stuff and RNZ were the only major media outlets here that did not turn Katie Hopkins trite tweets into talking points or and news stories.

The NZME papers, TVNZ and Newshub also called Katie Hopkins “an outspoken columnist.”

But she isn’t.

She is a right-wing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant provocateur who has been too toxic for mainstream media some time.

She used to used to write for The Sun and then the Daily Mail in the UK and host a show on London talk station LBC. Newstalk ZB used to have her on from time to time on British politics.

But she was dumped by the Daily Mail and fired by LBC in 2017 after calling for a “final solution” after the Manchester bombing in May 2017 – and then calling on Western men to “rise up.”

Even Fox news in the US doesn;t use her as a commentator anymore.

Another reason media should keep their distance is her fondness for fake news.

Hopkins has recently been spreading false claims Notre Dame cathedral was destroyed by arson.

Hopkins would be delighted with the exposure she’s had here this past week without getting up from her keyboard in the UK.

‘Don’t feed the troll’ is a much-repeated maxim these days. If ignored, many of them really would go away.

But in the online age, savvy trolls like Katie Hopkins also feed the mainstream media’s appetite for controversy.

I think that at times it is worth challenging crap and hate merchants like Hopkins, but the Herald and Newshub didn’t do that, they used her media bait to bait for clicks. It doesn’t do their credibility any good.

Maybe the Herald should hide that sort of in depth muck behind their premium subscription so most people don’t have to see it.

Katie Hopkins (and others) ridiculous attacks on Ardern

There were ridiculous criticisms of and attacks on Jacinda Ardern after the Christchurch mosque attacks, for what she said and what she wore in sympathy, support and solidarity with New Zealand Muslims. She (and the media) were attacked for not giving equal condemnation to an earlier attack inn a long running civil war situation in Nigeria.

This has risen to new levels of absurdity after the suicide bomb attack on hotels and Christian churches in Sri Lanka in the weekend.

One of those leading the over-reaction alt right brigade attacks is Katie Hopkins, from the UK.

There are a number of ridiculous things about that stupidity, particularly considering an unprecedented attack in your own country is quite different for a Prime Minister than an attack somewhere else in the world where there is a history of terrorism.

Ardern did quickly send condolences to Sri Lanka – Prime Minister sends condolences to Sri Lanka:

“New Zealand condemns all acts of terrorism, and our resolve has only been strengthened by the attack on our soil on the 15th of March. To see an attack in Sri Lanka while people were in churches and at hotels is devastating.

“New Zealand rejects all forms of extremism and stands for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely. Collectively we must find the will and the answers to end such violence.’’

She expressed similar sympathy and condemnation in person, this was widely reported by New Zealand media.

NZ Herald reported on Hopkins’ attack: Outspoken British columnist Katie Hopkins tries to roast Jacinda Ardern over Sri Lanka attacks

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is ignoring a swipe by a British columnist over yesterday’s attacks in Sri Lanka which have left hundreds dead.

Katie Hopkins, a columnist and former contestant in the 2007 The Apprentice TV show, has hit out at Ardern, saying she now expects her to be “dressed as the pope, ringing church bells across #NZ and praying in Latin in Parliament by noon”.

But many Kiwis have come to her defence with one replying, “whatever the Prime Minister does will be immeasurably more welcome and useful than anything you have ever said,” while another tweeted “if this dreadful event had happened in NZ … then our PM would be leading the nation through its grieving and empathising with the victims’ families.”

Hopkins sprayed her bile around the UK too.

Is Hopkins trying to dictate what Prime Ministers should say in reaction to international atrocities? I doubt that’s her intention, it looks more like she is trying to drive up intolerance and hate of Muslims, by playing a ‘poor me’ Christian card.

Hopkins hasn’t been alone in this sort of stupidity. from comments on a Kiwiblog post Christians slaughtered in Sri Lanka yesterday:

sooty:

Cindy will be covering her ears and singing,
LA, LA, LA LAA!

Engelbert Humperdink:

So, Cindy’s gonna wear a big cross to show solidarity, and post armed guards on the churches in NZ? Yeah, right.

All the world’s majority Muslim country leaders gonna speak out against this attack on Christians? Yeah, right.

Will there be indifference shown to the deceased and injured – even though they are people of color – by leftists because, after all, it’s ‘just something some people did’ and ‘it’s part and parcel of living in a big city’? Yes, there will be, as per Ilhan Omar and Sadiq Khan.

Ultima:

Obviously Christianity is the cause of of this terrorist act, Cindy should urge the Sri Lankan govt to ban Christianity and semi-Christianity.

Commenters at Kiwiblog and Whale Oil childishly call Ardern Cindy because (I think) she said she didn’t like being called that.

Luke Piewalker:

Of course we will see a tearful handwringing Ardern holding a cross … nah didn’t think so

vand:

Will this be said?
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister told Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the best help she could provide in the wake of the Sri lanka attacks would be sympathy and love for Christian communities.

burt:

Christian prayers on national radio it will be then with the platitudes of ‘They are us’.

I posted Ardern’s statement to show that she had condemned the attacks, and that was downticked by 22 people (as of now).

Rachael Memberry responded:

i don’t agree, we have had CHCH shoved in our face for the last month, since Jacinda has so much political capital, especially now that she hasn’t expended any for the CGT she, as the leader that we are told that she is, should be contacting members of the Muslim community to decry terrorist attacks, not just when they are the victims of them but when they are the perpetrators also.

The Muslim community in New Zealand are not the perpetrators.

Engelbert Humperdink:

As a globalist shouldn’t she be expecting the practice of what she preaches locally to take place everywhere? Shouldn’t she now be calling for the suppression of a group of brown supremacists, and the banning of their manifesto, their Koran? if you think that’s absurd, I agree with you it’s a reach, but is not absurd. Absurd is what she did; absurd is where she set the bar. Of course all of her apologists don’t expected to be judged by the standards she set. That’s why she has to keep getting tongue-bathed by the New Zealand media (one example: recent social media resurrections, which I suppose is fitting for Easter time) to kKeep her popularity high enough / stay in office.

burt:

Are there different degrees of concern with regard to mass murder?

Obviously there are differences depending on what occurred and where it occurred. I’m fairly sure that burt and and others at Kiwiblog don’t show equal concern for all attacks around the world – they tend to ignore other attacks on Muslims.

It was worse at Whale Oil, with Hopkins tweet put up as a post (by the gutlessly anonymous ‘Whaleoil staff’) – Tweet of the day. This fed some predictable responses.

ibdkiwi:

But wait…hold the presses, this is breaking news: someone just told me the Prime Minister is donating $300M to Sri-Lanka to buy-back all the bombs, well; not all of them, just the assault-bombs, ‘so this sort of thing can never happen again’. Can anyone confirm if this story is true?

Smoke & Mirrors:

Has she mentioned ‘Christians’ yet?

BlokeinAuckland:

Nope. Or that it was muslims as perpetrators.

If Only:

Excellent comment but Katie forgets its still an Easter Holiday in NZ and our PM never works during the holidays – she is a member of a union after all. Perhaps we shall see her play dress up and ring bells tomorrow.

Nutta:

To be fair, JA put out comment condemning the terrorist act yesterday, not long after the event. No, I’m not even remotely a cheerleader.

Dave:

Not really, more likely her office put out a Press Release yesterday

I saw Ardern personally condemning the attacks on TV news. A lot of this is petty uninformed dissing. And it went on.

At least ‘SB’ put her pseudonym initials to another post feeding a string of more nonsense – Facebook comment of the day. The most recent comment:

Surprisingly, Jacinda hasn’t offered to pay for all the funeral expenses!

Sadly this is the stupid level of much of the discussion on terrorist atrocities, deliberately stoked by Katie Hopkins.

Katie Hopkins fired

I don’t know if this was mentioned here last week but I missed it.

Newshub:  UK broadcaster Katie Hopkins fired after Manchester bombing tweet

A controversial UK broadcaster once dubbed “Britain’s most hated woman” has been fired from her radio show after tweeting “we need a final solution” in response to the Manchester bombings.

“LBC and Katie Hopkins have agreed that Katie will leave LBC effective immediately,” a spokesperson for the radio show said.

Following Ms Hopkins’ tweet, complaints were made to the Metropolitan police, and many people reported the tweet on the social media platform as “abusive or harmful”.

“22 dead – number rising. Schofield. Don’t you even dare. Do not be a part of the problem. We need a final solution Machester [sic],” the tweet read.

The tweet was later deleted.

Hopkins has often pushed boundaries of decency. Inevitably people who try more and more controversial ways of attracting attention overstep and crash.

There’s also been criticism in New Zealand about Ms Hopkins appearance on the radio station Newstalk ZB.

Valid criticism.

SB at Whale Oil seems to try to be a Hopkins-lite here in New Zealand, and criticised the sacking in  “Who cares about words in the street when people are dying? “

I read sickening article after sickening article where the anger and venom of the writer is directed towards those who are angry about Islamic terrorism and the slaughter of children. We are expected to believe that the real tragedy and the real horror of the situation is that conservative speakers are saying offensive things about the people who butcher our children. Katie Hopkins is the latest conservative speaker to be punished for her words by being fired from her radio job. Her sin was tweeting an offensive tweet after the Manchester bombing.

Perhaps ‘conservative writers’ shouldn’t be so provocative, divisive and nasty.

Islamic terrorism is terrible and needs to be confronted and criticised, but keyboard terrorism, over the top reactions aimed at division and persecution of many innocent people.

Our society punishes people for expressing their anger and grief while downplaying actual violence and slaughter. Katie has lost her job for mentioning genocide but those who have raped, tortured and slaughtered in the name of Muhammad are welcomed back into our countries and given welfare, homes and hugs.

That is just inaccurate and ridiculous in many ways.

There are ample ways of condemning terrorism and condemning Islamic extremists and even common Muslim practices in some countries, without trying to drive up hate, persecution and any sort of ‘final solution’.

There are insidious similarities between Muslim Imans preaching intolerance and hate and violence against many innocent people and media shock jocks and bloggers preaching intolerance and hate and violent acts against many innocent people.

I get accused of being a ‘hugger’ and enabler for saying things like this by those with one sided views but I condemn the crap from both sides, especially their blaming of the vast majority of people who are innocent.

Getting emotional and angry about terrorism is understandable, but trying to capitalise on emotions and anger to divide and escalate, or simply as attention seeking, is something Western society should be much better than.

Just playing a character?

Branko Marcetic at The Spinoff has a low opinion of Katie Hopkins generally and isn’t very complimentary about Newstalk ZB giving her airtime here in New Zealand.

Warning: Newstalk ZB’s new favourite guest is a really terrible person

A range of viewpoints is a good thing. But giving a platform to noxious, hateful, racially inflammatory propaganda is quite another. So why is Newstalk ZB so keen on Katie Hopkins, asks Branko Marcetic.

He paints an ugly picture with words.

…she’s fashioned an image for herself as something akin to the Ann Coulter of Britain, a deliberately outrageous provocateur who aims to offend whoever she can, particularly the sensibilities of those who consider themselves liberals or anything further left. As Coulter and various shock jocks before Hopkins have found, drumming up outrage can be good business, particularly in an age when our keyboard trigger fingers are more sensitive than ever.

Suffice to say, listing every offensive thing Hopkins has said would take all day. A selection, however. She’s defended pre-judging children based on how “lower class” their names sound, made fun of transgender former boxing promoter Kellie Maloney’s horrific botched plastic surgery job, charged that being a mother isn’t a full-time job but a “biological status”, claimed she wouldn’t hire someone if they were overweight, charged that feminists want “special treatment” instead of equality, and she really, really doesn’t like people with red hair.

Clickbaiting and pandering to intolerant minorities is common online.

Just days before hundreds of human beings drowned in a refugee ship in the Mediterranean, Hopkins wrote a column for The Sun calling for the use of “gunships to stop migrants”, referring to them as “a plague of feral humans” and comparing them to cockroaches. She claimed there were “swathes” of Britain where non-Muslims couldn’t show their face, then couldn’t name a single one of these alleged places.

She’s called Palestinians “filthy rodents burrowing beneath Israel” while urging for more bombing of Gaza, and referred to the sight of three-year old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi drowned on the beach as a “staged photo”. She falsely accused a Muslim family of being extremists with links to Al Qaeda, a charge that resulted in a libel suit that cost The Mail Online£150,000 and an apology, which Hopkins quietly posted at 2:07 am, a cunning strategy that might have worked better in 1998 than in 2016. This wasn’t Hopkins’ last libel suit. Last month, she was ordered to pay £24,000 in damages after falsely accusing food blogger Jack Monroe of vandalising a war memorial.

Her response to charges of racism? “I don’t care. [The term] has lost all meaning.”

It sounds like the quotes and links to her from fans here are the more moderate side of her, if there’s such a thing.

So it’s fair to ask why Newstalk ZB would give her exposure here.

People who push extremes of hate and intolerance are likely to eventually dig holes that are hard to get out of, as New Zealand bully boy Slater is finding out.

And Alex Jones has got himself into a difficult situation in the US in a custody dispute.

Attorney argues Alex Jones ‘playing a character’ in child custody trial

A Texas jury will decide if Infowars’ Alex Jones on-air persona makes him unfit to have custody of his three children with ex-wife Kelly Jones.

“He’s playing a character,” attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo, according to the Austin-American Statesman. “He is a performance artist.”

Kelly Jones, who is seeking sole or joint custody of their three children, argued at a pre-trial hearing that her ex-husband’s fiery public persona is no different from his private life.

“He’s not a stable person,” she said. “He says he wants to break Alec Baldwin’s neck. He wants J-Lo to get raped.”

“I’m concerned that he is engaged in felonious behavior, threatening a member of Congress,” she said, referring to Jones’ comments about Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “He broadcasts from home. The children are there, watching him broadcast.”

In the next two weeks a jury will be asked to determine whether there is a difference between the Infowars host’s on-air personality and the real Alex Jones, and whether it makes him fit to be a parent.

Jones and Hopkins play to an audience for sure to get attention, but building up records of being nasty can backfire eventually.

Different accounts of tweeted libel

The media has been under the gun for lack of accuracy and fake news. There have always been issues with different accounts, slants and views.

Here’s and illustration of this, in a libel case in England as a result of a spat on Twitter that began with Katie Hopkins taking a swipe at the wrong person.

Beware – it’s not just potentially what is tweeted (or posted in social media), it is how it is dealt with if someone has a valid complaint.

Nelly posted…

Great to hear from *Katie Hopkins* that she intends to appeal the *ridiculous libel judgement* that went against her over some harmless little tweet for God sake ❗

…and linked to this blog post: Britain’s medieval libel laws should be kept away from Twitter that explains how it all happened.

This is the case of Jack Monroe, food blogger and the only working-class person in Britain the Guardianlikes, suing Katie Hopkins, a foghorn made flesh. The details of the case are so brain-fryingly petty that I’m embarrassed to recount them. But needs must.

In May 2015 Hopkins asked Monroe in a tweet if she had ‘scrawled on any [war] memorials recently’. Monroe has never scrawled on a war memorial. Hopkins had mixed her up with New Statesman columnist Laurie Penny, who did once say it was okay that protesters against austerity wrote ‘F**k Tory scum’ on a war memorial.

Realising her mistake, Hopkins deleted the tweet a few hours later. She followed it up with a tweet asking if someone could explain the difference between Monroe and Penny. Monroe fired off a legal letter and then, get this, Hopkins retracted her tweet. On 1 June 2015 she tweeted: ‘@MsJackMonroe I was confused about identity. I got it wrong.’

So Hopkins makes a mistake, deletes and retracts it, and yet two years later she’s found guilty of defamation and ordered to pay damages and costs that some estimate will be close to £300,000. What’s going on?

It seems to hinge on Hopkins’ failure to say sorry. That was one of Monroe’s demands pre-trial. Monroe has since tweeted to those of us ‘wanging on about free speech’ that ‘“Sorry” would have been free speech. Like literally, free.’ So Hopkins has been severely financially punished for failing to demonstrate sufficient contrition? What century is this?

That someone can be made to suffer profound financial hardship for making a mistake that she later retracted should worry anyone who believes in free speech. Hopkins intimated something that was untrue, yes. People shouldn’t do that. But the fact is, sometimes they do. Especially on Twitter, that hotbed of hyperbole.

But is that how it happened? A different version from the Guardian in Jack Monroe wins Twitter libel case against Katie Hopkins:

The writer and food blogger Jack Monroe has won a libel action against the Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins and been awarded £24,000 damages, in a row over tweets suggesting Monroe approved of defacing a war memorial during an anti-austerity demonstration in Whitehall.

Monroe was not awarded full costs, but, since both legal teams were on a no-win-no-fee basis, Monroe will not have to pay. Hopkins’ side has been ordered to make an interim payment of £107,000 within 28 days. The final costs figure has yet to be assessed.

That’s not (yet at least) close to “some estimate will be close to £300,000″.

The judge, Mr Justice Warby, found that Hopkins’ tweets were defamatory and that there had been “serious harm” to Monroe’s reputation, though that harm was not “very serious” or “grave”.

The threshold for libel in the UK is “serious harm”.

The case centred on a Twitter exchange in May 2015, in which Hopkins confused two well-known anti-austerity commentators: Monroe and Laurie Penny, a columnist for the New Statesman. Penny had tweeted about a memorial to the women of the second world war in Whitehall having been vandalised with the words “Fuck Tory scum” during an anti-austerity demonstration.

Commenting on the graffiti, Penny tweeted from her account @PennyRed that she “[didn’t] have a problem” with the vandalism as a form of protest, as “the bravery of past generations does not oblige us to be cowed today”.

Hopkins attributed the opinion to Monroe and tweeted to her then account @MsJackMonroe: “Scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals?”

When Monroe, who is from an armed forces family, responded furiously and demanded £5,000 for a migrants’ charity on threat of a libel action, Hopkins deleted the original tweet but followed it up with one asking what the difference was between “irritant Penny and social anthrax Monroe”.

Shortly after Hopkins’ original message, Monroe, a contributor to the Guardian, tweeted in response: “I have NEVER ‘scrawled on a memorial’. Brother in the RAF. Dad was a Para in the Falklands. You’re a piece of shit.”

Monroe later sent a second message asking Hopkins to apologise: “Dear @KTHopkins, public apology + £5K to migrant rescue and I won’t sue. It’ll be cheaper for you and v satisfying for me.”

Hopkins deleted the first tweet but shortly afterwards tweeted: “Can someone explain to me – in 10 words or less – the difference between irritant @PennyRed and social anthrax @MsJackMonroe.”

Monroe’s lawyers argued that the second tweet carried an innuendo that Monroe approved or condoned the vandalism, which would cause lasting damage to her reputation. Monroe told the court the exchange had led to abuse from others on Twitter including death threats, and that the affair had been “an 18-month unproductive, devastating nightmare”.

Hopkins did not appear in court, but her lawyers argued that it was “a relatively trivial dispute” that was over in a few hours, and that “no lasting harm, and certainly no serious harm” had been caused to Monroe.

Monroe’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, said after the judgement that Hopkins had obstinately refused to apologise throughout, and had conducted her defence by “slinging as much mud as possible” to hide the false allegation.

“The price of not saying sorry has been very high,” Lewis said. “Hopkins has had to pay out of her own pocket a six-figure sum in damages and costs for a tweet that should have been deleted within minutes as soon as she was told it was wrong. On this occasion, the cost of renting that gob was particularly high.”

That puts quite a different slant on the story, describing more than “so Hopkins makes a mistake, deletes and retracts it”, but it’s debatable whether it justifies an expensive libel case and a sizeable award of damages.

However it’s difficult to judge without at least knowing substantial factual details of the case.