The Brutal Honesty Of Katie Hopkins

Louisa Leontiades Beastly & Beautiful, Cultural & Political

Katie is known for being brutally honest.  She does what she wants, when she wants. And she says what she wants, when she wants (That’s what twitter does for us). It’s her choice and trademark.

The problem is that Katie is not honest, because brutal honesty by definition is not honesty.

Over the years I’ve met many people who tout brutal honesty under the ‘best policy’ banner. It’s their get out clause. They call it sugar coating, to be kind with honesty. As in the blue pill instead of the red pill. Avoiding the painful truth of reality. And now I’m an advocate of compassionate honesty, I have the answer; there is never such a thing as too honest, as long as that IS what you are really being.

Are you?

Because too often brutal honesty is used as a form of denial. It is lying by omission. It shields you from asking the hard questions about yourself, your life and your society. Honesty is not the freedom to provide social commentary on all aspects of life to the exclusion of yourself. Honesty is also questioning why you feel the need to make those comments, why you are triggered by the object of your scorn and acknowledging – honestly – that you cannot know or live the circumstances of the people you are criticizing. It’s about honesty at all levels. Because real honesty cannot exist on one dimension. And to ask the hard questions, you need compassion (a whole lot of it) because the truth often does hurt.

Most of those things that trigger us develop from a survival mechanism laid down at childhood. Katie comes from a home where her parents refused to acknowledge her epilepsy (because being ill is a sign of weakness). She comes from a class-oriented society where people perceive status by name (and Katherine scores particularly high in the ‘class’ rankings). In Katie’s upbringing, failure was not an option. Because failure meant rejection – and it appears if there is anything Katie is terrified of, it’s that (she even left a reality TV show to prevent it happening to her).

But Katie is in fact quite simply the product of upper middle class England. A terrifyingly extreme example – but an example nonetheless. But the reason she’s so popular is because she DOES say what many people secretly think. Things that usually, we like to deny we think. We are appalled by what she says, but also addicted, because it reflects our own internalized prejudices. It rings true with us. And that’s not about blame; it’s about recognizing the privilege that is ingrained in our capitalist, bigoted, judgmental thinking.

Asked about popular baby names on ITV’s This Morning show on Wednesday, Miss Hopkins began to criticise ‘lower class’ children with names like Chantelle, Charmaine, Chardonnay and Tyler.

‘I think you can tell a great deal from a name,’ said mother-of-three Miss Hopkins, 38. ‘For me, there’s certain names that I hear and I think “urgh”.  ‘For me, a name is a shortcut of finding out what class a child comes from and makes me ask: “Do I want my children to play with them?”’ Mail Online

Middle class Britain is all about the climb. The car, the schools, the money. Of course you can’t climb out of the middle class – the rules say so –  but if you climb far enough you might be eligible to marry into the upper class (which is where the stigma and the shame of being middle class can be left behind in about 5 generations or so).

In middle class Britain a social death is almost worse than death itself and a look at our literature, widely acknowledged to be a reflection of society and our values, shows it very clearly. Pride and Prejudice, Vanity fair and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. And now more recently in the immensely popular Downton Abbey.

Times change, but not so fast. So how does one avoid social death? By being perceived as superior. And how can you be superior? Well by making others inferior of course. Katie’s behaviour is a survival tactic; she’s terrified and beneath the bluster, vulnerable. She attacks as her best line of defense.

It is kindness that prompts an examination of underlying issues in a person who brings conflict, confusion and pain rather than focusing on ‘their objectionable behaviour’, our own desires and their fulfillment. Kindness means casting away guilt and shame which prevent us from talking about our faults and admitting that we are also imperfect. An admission that our reactions feed off our own wounds.

“Kindness opens us up to other aspects of the person – particularly the ones that are impressive – when our attention is in danger of being fixed on ‘negative aspects’. It allows us to see that what we are finding difficult may well be inextricably connected to things that we find valuable about this person.”

Meg Barker, Rewriting the Rules.

Kind – or compassionate – honesty is about overturning centuries of integrated and oppressive values in the face of tremendous opposition. It’s a fundamental analysis of what makes us tick and an acknowledgement of the uncomfortable truths. Kind Honesty’ isn’t about being admired for being ‘right’, ‘funny’ or ‘popular’. Kind honesty is about growth of your character as opposed to brutal honesty which props up your ego and supports your superiority. Worse still, it keeps you in a trap and hinders growth.

So what about Katie? She’s the part of Britain we love to hate most. She’s the part of us we squash. Shocking but true.

Our loathing of her shows us this. She represents the results of our classist system. Katie brings so many issues we need to examine out of the closet. Discrimination around names and body shape, class warfare and one-upmanship. The collision of our attitudes with the over-sharing phenomenon of social media has brought about an amazing opportunity to bring these issues out of the closet and talk about them. To re-examine what ‘classiness’ really means.

And whilst Katie might not be the icon she imagines herself to be, she is certainly a huge catalyst for change… if we choose to see it.