While the institutions of British media are slowly transforming into more progressive, less sensationalist entities they still continue to amplify and embolden the voices of numerous controversia outrage figures. From Katie Hopkins to Piers Morgan, countless problematic people are given the opportunity to revive their careers even after some distressing actions.
Even being caught lying to and misleading the public has not been enough to diminish their impact on our national media. They are allowed to continue their vitriolic rhetoric as it is good for ‘ratings’. Many of our media institutions are more interested in driving traffic and engagement than presenting pragmatic and helpful messages to their viewers.
Calling out these figures and demanding better from our press and media are the only way we can ensure that we get the role models we need in Britain. Our younger generations deserve better than those who spew hatred and misinformation.
Flippancy and Controversies
For figures such as Jeremy Clarkson, Sir Alan Sugar and Piers Morgan controversies fuel much of their fame and notoriety. Part of their careers rely on the constant cycle of controversies, outrage and then polarisation of their viewership. No matter how flippant or abhorrent their comments they always receive some backing from members of the British public.
This is even if the comments made are questioning Meghan Markle’s word on her suicidal thoughts, or comparing the Senegalese football team to an outdated and racist stereotype of street salesman. Whether using the excuse of it being a joke or going to the tried and tested free speech defence, these figures always avoid career ending backlash. While this is all happening producers are loving the fact that these interactions are driving massive waves of traffic to their sites and shows. In their eyes any publicity is good publicity.
What is even more concerning, however, is that similar comments also come from those who have a role within our democratic system. Lord Digby Jones recently made a flippant and ignorant comment regarding Alex Scott’s coverage of the olympics. He tweeted that he was sick of Alex Scott dropping her gs and claimed she ‘needs elocution lessons’. Essentially, this was a thinly veiled dig at the cockney accent, which dropping gs is an integral part of. Having such little regard for how this comment would come across shows how out of touch some of these figures are.
Many came out to criticise Lord Digby, with Gary Neville saying ‘He has a say in how our country operates’ and insisting he now sees ‘how revolutions occurred!’ On the other hand, there were countless defendants of Lord Digby, those who also believed that Alex Scott was indeed not speaking properly. While I shall not get into the finite details of dialects, it must be said that claiming anyones accent or method of speech is wrong is often the first step of dismissing someone’s identity and is a common form of classism.
Always Landing on their Feet
While Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan have been let go from positions before they have somehow always managed to land right back on their feet. After Clarkson reportedly attacked a producer at the BBC, he was subsequently let go from his position on Top Gear. Yet he still managed to immediately land the Grand Tour show with Amazon, showcasing how little his actions have affected his career.
In no other career could someone be able to get away with such unacceptable behaviour and still be given fantastic opportunities at other organisations. What is even more baffling is that some in the public still see Clarkson as a free speech hero. Figures such as him believe that speaking their mind, even when its contents are undeniably problematic, is always the best thing to do.
Furthermore, Piers Morgan has been given multiple chances after being let go by the Daily Mirror and CNN, following legal issues and a massive drop in ratings. The fact that the actions carried out by these two did not result in them becoming impossible to hire is beyond unbelievable.
Due to the fact they are always given second chances, they have become prominent figures in British and international television. Lorraine Kelly even suggested that Piers Morgan was her ‘hero of 2020’, resulting in an instant explicit rebuttal from James Accaster.
Being able to make a career out of saying outrageous and problematic things should have become impossible decades ago. Yet we still have a prominent proponent of British television who’s sole mission is to drive traffic through outrage. Many would argue this is a harmless trend and does little to affect the real world. They are ignoring, of course, the direction that many of these figures take in the latter stages of their career when the usual outrage cycle no longer works.
Katie Hopkins and the Dangers of Outrage Figures
For years Katie Hopkins had been the worst aspect of morning television. She would frequently appear on This Morning and spout judgemental and idiotic takes, such as the fact that she does not allow her children to play with children with ‘lower class’ names. She went on to suggest in the same segment that geographical names for children were such an example, apparently failing to remember she has a daughter named India.
However, her career would soon veer further into the far-right echo chamber she now inhabits. In 2017 she was investigated for questioning if a Pakistani Labour politician was a pedophile. In the same year she also called for a ‘final solution’ as a response to the Manchester Arena bombing, a phrase synonymous with the Holocaust.
Such vitriolic and hateful messaging quickly propelled her to become a detested figure in Britain. This trend has only continued to this day. She was recently deported from Australia following flippant and dismissive comments about lockdown measures. She has also been noted as saying lockdows were the ‘greatest hoax in human history’. This is on the back of the fact that she was banned from Twitter for ‘Hateful Conduct’ and after being detained in South Africa for spreading racial hate.
This entitlement and disgusting behaviour were all emboldened by her appearances on national television. What is most frightening of all is that Katie Hopkins will not be the last of our public figures to go down this route. While we still allow outrage media to dictate and swarm our televisions people like Katie will continue to spread their hatred and dominate air time.
It is only with a united and consistent effort that we will be able to deconstruct the trend of outrage in the media. We cannot create a truly inclusive and diverse society if people openly and unapologetically demonise those they live with, simply for not being British.