Our prime purpose in this life is to help others and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them – Dalai Lama
The recent comments made by Katie Hopkins in the Sun newspaper that “African migrants are like cockroaches” exemplified a growing cancer in our society. The media tell us every day what is important by the stories they choose and where they place them. Too often there are headlines that do a disservice to our civil society by denigrating immigrants. Today Britain cultivates a hostile environment for immigrants and other marginalised groups; whilst fostering a distinct lack of compassion.
I learnt compassion at home. As children we had to distribute home baked goods to our neighbours. We always had room for unexpected visitors to dine with us and my mother offered battered women and their children a sanctuary. I have always mixed with people from other nationalities finding we had more in common than we had different. We shared values such as family, mothers who were matchmakers and the importance of respecting the senior members of our community.
Empathy and compassion are scientifically accepted as part of our human DNA. It is compassion that creates the web of humanity. People lacking compassion are sociopaths. That is not a compliment. Some people choose to turn their compassion off. Perhaps that is what Katie Hopkins did. Ego and compassion are incompatible and she is always courting media attention. She married her second husband, with whom she had been having an affair, during an episode of the reality show Four Weddings. As a mother of three she chose to be disparaging about children with names like Chardonnay and Tyler. Her total lack of compassion has understandably led to a petition to remove Katie Hopkins to have her column removed from the Sun.
The Sun, Britain’s best selling newspaper, should owe a duty of care to its readers and society at large. As should all the media. The definition of such a duty already exists legally.1
In publishing a column that referred to human beings as cockroaches and implicitly inviting violence e.g that “gunships” should be used to keep them off shore, is irresponsible journalism and mirrors the propaganda of Nazi Germany. It harms all those immigrants already here and those fleeing violence and torture. Presenting these unbalanced views distorts reality. It dehumanises. Immigrants make a net contribution of £25 billion to the British Treasury.
The ‘scourging evil immigrant’ is the single story that is responsible for the rise in UKIP. The voice of the far right as espoused by the BNP has entered mainstream politics unchallenged by the media. Hansard in a survey looking at politics and the media reported that people who read tabloid newspapers are twice as likely to agree with a negative view of politics than people who did not read newspapers at all.
The media shirks its moral and social responsibilities with stories that play to emotion and not the intellect. There is more and more hyperbole from commentators like Katie Hopkins, politicians and pundits. We profoundly value freedom of speech. Even when the message is written in the language of propaganda that lead to Nazi Germany and the holocaust. That makes it more important that there should be a duty of care by the purveyors of news.
1. The duty is to take care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to cause harm to another, either physically, mentally or economically.