Professional motormouth Katie Hopkins has acquired some new fans of late: two of those who inhabit the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs have declared their support for her particular brand of freestyle offence giving. First to join the fan club was James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, who, like Ms Hopkins, is an aficionado of dishing out abuse while not dwelling on the consequences.
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And now Del Boy has been joined by the loathsome Toby Young, with a post of remarkable idiocy titled “The visceral hatred of Katie Hopkins shows why we need a First Amendment”. The memory of John Stuart Mill is duly invoked as Tobes attempts to stand up his argument: the rotten and liberal lefty mob is curtailing Ms Hopkins’ right to cause offence.
But with friends like these ...
Quite apart from the inconvenient thought that Tobes has already joined in the chorus of disapproval at the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson, which included enshrining the freedom of the press in the equivalent of a UK First Amendment, he’s talking out of the back of his neck. Nobody is stopping Katie from saying what she likes, and when she cares to say it.
... who needs enemies?
But Tobes is clearly concerned: of the petition to take her off the ITV This Morning sofa, he tells “Not legal censorship, and not censorship that could be prevented by a First Amendment, but censorship nonetheless”. So his First Amendment would be useless – he has confirmed it himself. And this is not censorship: merely, it is down to a commercial decision by ITV.
Commercial broadcasters have to take into account the security of their external revenue, which mainly means advertising. Having their products sponsoring This Morning, or featuring in ad breaks, while Ms Hopkins is mocking Scottish life expectancy or sick children, is unlikely to be good for business. This, too, is a freedom they enjoy. A business freedom that Tobes would normally endorse.
“I have no great love for [Ms] Hopkins. She has a pompous, self-regarding quality that makes her difficult to like. But the fact that she is so widely loathed and is such a poor witness in her own defence is all the more reason to protect her right to free speech” Tobes blusters. But nobody is curtailing her right to free speech, so Young’s clumsy invocation of Voltaire is irrelevant.
Katie Hopkins is free to shoot her mouth off. This she does, in her own inimitable style. Tobes is free to blather on about a First Amendment he didn’t want when it was associated with Leveson. Anyone from any point on the political spectrum is free to weigh the arguments and reach their conclusion, independent of anyone else. And I am free to tell Toby Young that he’s full of crap.
That is a freedom for which we don’t need a change in the law, thanks Tobes.