Katie Hopkins exposes the darker side of ‘Big Society’……….

Supporters of ‘Big Society’ talk about a connected society, one understood in terms of affection, friendship and regard for one another. The political philosopher Edmund Burkes much quoted ‘little platoon’ emphasises how such connections not only benefit individuals and families but society as a whole.

However, it would appear if you are called Tyler or Charmaine, or are an ‘unattractive’ girl, you will only be able to join certain platoons, presumably those located on an inner city wasteland, probably near a MacDonald’s!

Katie Hopkins opinion was revealed on ‘This Morning’ last week, when she suggested she would not let her children associate with other children with what she considers ‘low class’ names. Whilst on Saturday we had John Inverdale on the BBC’s radio 5 Live making derogatory comments about Wimbledon womans champion Marion Bartoli’s looks, or more to the point from his perspective, her lack of looks.

It’s a storm in a teacup, just harmless media fun! Maybe, after all it’s given Hopkins some much-needed media exposure, and Inverdale some much-needed exercise as he furiously back pedals. However, there are more serious points to be made here.

What Hopkins is advocating is we judge a child by some reference point that is nothing to do with that child, which tells you nothing about that particular child or who they are as an individual. They are a ‘stereotype’ child, who, in Hopkins world will be excluded from her household (which actually if I were a parent I would be glad of as I would not want my child to associate with anyone with such shallow opinions). Sadly, many children grow up being unfairly judged and excluded from society for irrelevancies such as their family history, religion, the colour of their skin, their sexuality, where they live, all kinds of things which the child actually has no control over, and whilst this incident might seem trivial isn’t it a sign of that not so nice side of human nature we all possess, and which given the right conditions can grow into something much more damaging to others such as prejudice and intolerance?

Having recovered from Hopkins I then read about John Inverdales comments.

I am in utter disbelief that after the Savile scandal, which exposed very clearly how an organisational culture in the BBC allowed the unacceptable to somehow become tolerated, Inverdale could make such comments. Is it common practice for sexist comments to be tolerated by the BBC? I hope not. Looks like the next scandal in the making, unless the BBC gets serious about changing their organisational culture.

Am I over reacting, maybe, but history is littered with individuals who have used stereotypes to persuade ‘big society’ that particular groups of individuals are somehow unworthy, even disgusting. They make derogatory comments about people they do not know because of some aspect of their biological make up, their parentage or lifestyle choices. This is dangerous given the current climate with a government keen on divisive policies that likes to categorise people into the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’.

From this perspective the ‘little platoons’ suddenly feel oppressive, and likely to increase existing divisions in society. You just have to hope you end up in the ‘right’ platoon I guess?

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About digalpin

I gained my social work qualification from the University of Southampton and worked for 14 years in mental health, disability and older people services. I am currently a senior lecturer in post-qualifying social work at Bournemouth University and am conducting research on government and societal attitudes and responses to the mistreatment of older people in health and social care provision for my doctorate. My views are my own.

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