By Barry Lord
It’s fair to say that last week was monumental, not to mention deeply distressing for anyone with an ounce of decency or rationality.
So it seems faintly ludicrous that an appearance by a loudmouth, right wing contrarian on an Irish chat show should create the kind of headlines it has, but such is the advent of life in 2016 and social media in particular.
When news broke that Katie Hopkins would take her place on Ryan Tubridy’s couch on last Friday’s edition of the Late Late Show, both Twitter and the national broadcaster’s complaints department went into meltdown, with no less than 1300 complaints made BEFORE the former Apprentice star and self-styled “biggest bitch in Britain” had stepped foot on the stage.
They bristled at the idea of the show’s producers giving a platform to a woman who espouses the kind of noxious views on politics, immigration and sundry nationalities – many of the same views shared by the next incumbent of the Oval Office – that have added to her infamy in Britain.
Needless to say, the “interview” – if you could call it that – certainly lived down to expectations.
Throughout the whole depressing segment, Hopkins was the happiest woman in the studio. She orchestrated the ensuing hostility with all the glee of a child stirring a pot of melted chocolate.
So bad was her behaviour that at one point during the show, I phoned my mother to ask her was I that unbearable as a six-year-old?
She certainly played to her strengths. She was dismissive of ‘lefty’ sentiment, scoffed at criticism of her hero Donald Trump and his questionable attitude to women and took several condescending swipes at the live audience – with the exception of the three or four cheerleaders in the crowd who hung on her every invective.
Host Tubridy was brimming with righteous indignation, but he largely resisted the bait, while the Irish Independent’s Colette Browne, who had the dubious pleasure of sharing the couch with the odious Hopkins, was a picture of meditative ease, gamefully putting her counterpoints across despite often being rudely shouted down.
While he may have floundered at times during proceedings, the presenter did manage a key, pertinent question to the audience.
Asking simply, is this the way political discourse is going?
It was a moment of rare contemplation in a pie-throwing parody of a serious interview. For many people are not, as Ms Hopkins is clearly content to be, an unthinking peddler of right-wing extremist drivel.
Not everyone looks at the world now and shares her transparent delight at these latest developments.
They look at what’s going on in Syria and they despair at the helplessness, the lack of leadership or workable solutions.
Here we worry about the implications of a Trump presidency in our own land. We listen with unease to his pledges to bring American businesses back to the U.S. and we dread the possible consequences for those Irish employed by American companies here.
And after the election last Tuesday, there is, despite much jubilation, plenty of fear for what the future holds for jobs and the future prosperity of America.
Similarly in post-Brexit Britain, they grow increasingly suspicious of Europe’s slide towards a hard right ideology and what that could mean for the safety of many of its citizens.
It’s a world that needs rational, sensible discourse from rational people, not the playschool politics of Ms. Hopkins and her ilk.