So I’ve never heard of Katie Hopkins, apparently she’s well known in the UK for being part of their apprentice reality show. However, I’m writing this book right now and in one of the chapters I talk about cheating and our ability to rationalize bad behavior. So I have a Google alert on the word “cheating” so I can watch what’s in the news. This article and the above clip came up yesterday.
During her stint on the celebrity apprentice show, Hopkins was asked if she had ever lied or cheated to get what she wanted. She answered, “Yes, to get somebody else’s husband because I wanted him.” When challenged she said, “I don’t apologize for stealing my husband Mark from his wife. Our affair was exhilarating, our time together has been a hoot and we’re happy.” She is on the record recommending an affair to other people, saying that cheating can be fun and we are all cheaters at heart.
The main video clip is of Hopkins talking about how she judges other children by their names. She actually won’t let her kids be friends with kids whose names suggest they are of a lower class. “I don’t like footballer’s names, I don’t like names after seasons of the year, I don’t like geographical location names… Brooklyn, or London…” She was interrupted by one of the hosts who reminded her that her child’s name is India. Interesting double standard.
Thankfully Katie Hopkins is not a teacher, pastor, therapist, or even a celebrity with her own show or platform. She’s not truly a thought leader, although I’m sure some segment of British society probably sees her as a champion and rebel. However, she is on television a great deal. Just a cursory search turned up dozens of interviews, all with Hopkins’ patent anti-wisdom.
I bring this up because it hits upon two things that I’ve been pondering lately:
First, you are responsible for what you put out into the world. I used to say this to young bands when I was producing their records and they’d bring this violent, dark, depressing, and sometimes gory stuff to me. I can’t think of a single time the artists changed their lyrics per my advice. Nevertheless I believe it’s true. You are responsible for what you put out into the world. What you say, what you do, what you write, where you work, what you produce… it all will have an impact, and you are on the hook for it.
My guess is that most of what Hopkins is saying is for effect. She’s being incendiary in order to get more viewers and web traffic, so that producers will keep booking her for daytime shows. Heck, I’m implicated by virtue of linking to the interview and writing about it. But I can’t help wondering if twenty years from now, when she starts to look back at what she’s been telling people, she’ll face a lot of regret. This principle is even more important for executives and producers of radio and television. Don’t book people who do and say horrible things just for the ratings. You are responsible for what you put out into the world.
Second, our ability to rationalize bad behavior is an evil super-power. Think of every comic book villain. At the heart of their story is the ability to rationalize killing and hurting others. Part of what Hopkins is doing that is scary, is she offers other people a playbook for how to rationalize hurting other people, and living a life that generates human suffering and contributes to the misery of others.
Hopkins is certainly not alone in her ability to rationalize bad behavior, we all have this ability. But our ability to rationalize is not something to be nurtured, it’s something we should fight against with all the virtue we can muster. When I listen to her speak, I’m aware that although I think it’s truly dangerous to become famous by being horrible and cruel to other people, the thing that really bothers me is that she is actively encouraging other people to rationalize bad behavior.
Rationalization is the basis of so much suffering. As human beings we really do have the power to rationalize all kinds of terrible things from extramarital affairs, to white collar crime, to abusive behavior. This is not something of which to be proud.
The ability to rationalize our bad behavior is one of the most powerful and dangerous abilities we have developed as human beings. One of the ways to counter it is to always remind ourselves that we are responsible for what we put out into the world. The other way is to never give the microphone to people who help us rationalize bad behavior. So I apologize for pointing you toward Katie Hopkins, and I won’t do it again.