Donald Trump likes Katie Hopkins. This is not a world-changing surprise. Trump discovering Hopkins is like two idiots in Nickelback t-shirts meeting each other at a music festival and instantly getting along. You could say they like each other because they agree on almost everything (Trump will probably denounce fat people at his next rally) but the connection is much simpler than that: Donald and Katie are bullies.
Trump and Hopkins are overgrown playground bullies who spend their time mocking and trying to intimidate those weaker than them. Like an obnoxious 12-year-old, Trump picks on the disabled, foreigners and Muslims and then, like so many bullies before him, claims he did nothing wrong, or accuses his victims of starting it. Every primary school teacher recognises this behaviour. Hopkins likes to pick on the fat kids as a matter of preference, but she’s happy to push Muslims into the mud or kick the unsuspecting ginger kid in the shins. Yet no-one seems willing to call her out on it – not just by criticising what she says, but explaining why she does it: the thrill a bully gets from hurting the weak.
If you’ve ever stood up to a schoolyard bully because he punched someone smaller than him, you know that anyone who calls the bully out becomes a target. All the online hatred Katie Hopkins receives only strengthens her. Just like Trump, Hopkins sneers at everyone who doesn’t cheer when she shakes someone down for their dinner money. And people certainly cheer for bullies. It’s exciting to be part of the bully’s gang and it’s tempting to take the side of the big kid who exudes strength and confidence. Trump and Hopkins have confidence in buckets, but they misuse it just like playground bullies use their superior strength to harass those smaller, weaker or quieter than them. We teach children to report bullying. We should do the same.
Katie Hopkins is a bully. She has no ideology other than attacking anyone she sees as vulnerable. Don’t call her a populist or a demagogue, she’s undeserving of labels with political connotations. It’s no surprise she admires the work of Trump. He’s a bully on a global scale and he’s getting the kind of ego kick only the chance to bully a billion people at once could give him. Hopkins’ playground is significantly smaller but it still feeds her need to feel powerful at the expense of the powerless. As adults, we like to think we’ve left the nastiness of playground politics behind. Governments take measures to end workplace bullying and the Conservative party has experienced recent controversy surrounding bullying allegations. But the truth is the bullies never go away. They succeed in politics, journalism, business and every other field. Being a bully can get you a long way, it can even bring you millions of supporters, all wishing they could have the swaggering demeanour of their chosen bully. We’re often reluctant to call them bullies exactly because bullies in high places can make our lives very difficult.
Bullies like Trump and Hopkins don’t want to be called bullies. Giving them their proper name disempowers them because it helps us realise that everything they say and do is based on their compulsive need to demean others. There is no intellectual credibility in Kate Hopkins’ venomous articles because they are venomous for the sake of venom. Every column, every public statement is intended to insult someone while inflating her own ego. Hopkins’ career is an exercise in bullying, completely devoid of genuine sentiment or noble intention. She is a bully. We should treat her like one and see all of her odious ideas as the product of an attention seeking child, intentionally petulant and provocative, deserving to be ignored.