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.

Current affairs going online

Mediawatch on Radio New Zealand on Sunday looked at Current affairs drifts online – will funding follow? (includes audio link of the programme)

Current affairs programmes that once aired on national networks are now reappearing online. Is this a trend that could loosen the broadcasters’ hold on the bulk of public funding?

Two weeks ago, broadcaster Willie Jackson and left-leaning blogger Martyn Bradbury launched a daily discussion show called Waatea 5th Estate. It screens on on Auckland’s local channel Face TV, which is available nationally on Sky TV. The show is streamed live on YouTube, and on the websites of Willie Jackson’s Waatea News and Martyn Bradbury’s The Daily Blog.

It’s a multimedia counterpoint to, in Bradbury’s words, “dumbed down tabloid trash served up as current affairs on other channels at 7pm”. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it does show what can be done on TV and online these days with a small budget.

On an episode last Monday about broadcasting, AUT media lecturer Dr Wayne Hope said government broadcasting funding agency New Zealand on Air “should broaden its remit to fund more programmes like this one”.

It’s not clear how Fifth Estate is funded.

NZ on Air already fund some online content:

Last year NZME – owner of the New Zealand Herald and Newstalk ZB – launched an online video channel called Watch Me.

Two video series on it were funded by NZOA to the tune of $100,000 each. One is a video version of satirical political website The Civilian, and a recent online episode tore into contemporary television news.

If public money is available to satirise TV journalism online, there seems no reason not to use it to put journalism which TV broadcasters have abandoned – such as 3D – online as well.

It will be interesting to see whether public funding of current affairs moves online.