Recently I watched an interview between Katie Hopkins, controversial columnist and journalist from the UK talk about her book ‘Rude’, with interviewers Paul Ross and Carole Malone of Talk Radio. In the interview, Hopkins was asked very little about her book, other than to comment that it was, in fact, ‘rude’, as far as Ross was concerned. Then, as usual, the two began the dogmatic drudgery of common media interview technique, to zone in on this point, asking why Hopkins is so rude all the time, all the while giving her less than no time to respond before cutting into her reply. ‘Read the book!’, she says, and she’s right, it exists to address the ‘why’ of that question so commonly raised in debates. And Hopkins makes as much of the milliseconds she gets to reply to make this point. A testament to her ability to cut through the bullshit and make herself heard. If you aren’t given the platform you thought, find the shortest way to make your point, a skill that Hopkins has mastered completely.
If the manner of the interview technique wasn’t enough to wind you up (even Hopkins was showing signs of irritation with Ross), the pair, primarily Malone, sidled into talking about Hopkins’ frank discussion about her past experiences with seizures and brain surgery. This was handled with all the delicacy of a lobotomy and none of the delicacy of the modern brain surgeon, something TalkRadio, the BBC and other left-leaning media outlets could do with ruminating on, not that someone as resilient and rambunctious as Hopkins was affected mind you. With an alarmingly quick preamble through Hopkins’ experiences, Malone launches into a question which is interesting and deserves a deeper discussion: ‘do you think that tumour, in some way contributed to your outspokenness?’, she asks Hopkins, which Ross interjects to clarify, assuming she means as a result of the struggle which Hopkins faced every day to go to work while suffering seizures. Malone replies ‘not even that’, wondering instead if the tumour ‘physically’ had ‘some kind of impact’ on Hopkins’ brain. Essentially, Malone is suggesting that Katie Hopkins is loud, brave, honest and empowered because a tumour ate away at the parts of her brain which should make her meek, gentle, kind and passive. She effectively asks the question ‘does brain damage maketh-the woman?’.
And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen news of the pathology of the right-wing. Several articles and videos have been calling for Donald Trump to step down over beliefs that his mental health is unsound. On the website ‘Real Clear Politics’ (already a worrying overemphasis of transparency by title), an article with a video of an interview with Psychiatrist Dr John Gartner suggests that Trump exhibits ‘malignant narcissism’, consisting of ‘narcissism’, ‘paranoia’, playing the ‘victim’ and ‘demonization of the opposition’.
One might think to themselves that nearly any successful politician (or indeed successful anybody) falls under these personality traits. Narcissism drives success, especially in the public eye. Being able to make use of the oppositions faults and find ways to deflect blame are tantamount to good business acumen. A healthy dose of paranoia keeps someone on their toes against threats to one’s position, such as a political coup from inside your own party, or character assassinations from without. It’s a spectrum, and when you’re just a little narcissistic, it’s not always a bad thing. Vital nuance that Gartner fails to factor into the discussion.
The left has, for a long time now, taken a protectionist stance on mental health. If you’re unwell, mentally, you should have treatment, with respect and dignity, and with the belief that you should have a happy, functional life. And yet, if you’re on the right and suspected of mental illness, how are you treated? As if a scourge to erase. Protectionist only so far as it suits personal political interests it seems. Over and above all of this, Gartner expresses a lack of professionalism as he equates those with pathological narcissism (a real psychiatric disorder) to ‘the essence of evil’. Should we be listening to the advice of Psychiatrists who are prepared to ascribe moral values to the people they treat?
So let’s think about this as a whole. If brain trauma can make us better speakers, less inhibited and more honest, and the vast majority of people gravitate towards people who speak frankly and with gravitas, then what does that say about ‘normal’ people? If the people who have normal brain function agree with Hopkins, but would never admit it themselves, what does this say about the normal human brain? Is a ‘healthy’ brain a lying brain? Now, before we explore that point, let me put a few things straight. First, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘normal’ brain. Second, I am not for one minute suggesting that people with brain damage are ‘superior beings’ with a paranormal propensity for parcelling truth. This is an exploration of what Malone’s statement says about her views and also what a view like that might mean for our society. What does it mean for people with brazen views? What does it mean for people who disagree with Hopkins’ methods? And above all, why is a core virtue such as truth now on the verge of being (in the eyes of some) a pathological, even medical disease?
Let’s play devil’s advocate here, humouring Malone’s position for a toasty minute. So what are the implications for Hopkins’ successes being down to nothing more than the excision of a part of her brain? Well, for one, it erases a life of experience which really adds up to show us plainly why Hopkins does what she does. Living with seizures, finding out that a tumour is eating away at your brain. Being told that you have a life expectancy of two years if you don’t have risky brain surgery. Having to wake up every day in pain, knowing, inevitably, that the force of your bodies spasms will almost certainly dislocate your shoulders each night. These are the experiences that make a person strong through pain, and direct, because life really might be over sooner rather than later. And who knows about this? Virtually nobody unless they read her book (who reads books these days anyway?) because she doesn’t talk about it. The left is obsessed with providing a platform for victims and here an individual, having lived a harder life than most, has never overtly spoken about personal hardship in the public sphere. When you know it, everything makes sense. This is someone who values the truth because life is too short to lie, a bitter pill in itself, but one we all need to hear.
Real, human experience aside, where’s the consistency in an argument like this? Here we’re implying that somehow, having a mental illness or brain damage makes you less trustworthy, less able to convey an opinion of clout than someone who doesn’t have these things. But again, we see from the left, a malaise of mashed principles. Is it not ableist to suggest people with mental illness or brain damage cannot be taken seriously? The kind of implicated thinking behind Malone’s question seems to smack of hypocrisy. Furthermore, if we discredit a person’s opinion, their voice, based on the fact that they have a neurological disorder or mental illness (or both), what do we leave them with? It’s anti-feminist, racist, classist, ableist and sexist because it takes away the right of a person’s voice by discrediting it on the basis of something they cannot change. It is a perfect contradiction in terms and the left wing make it unabashedly.
And why is it that we now live in a culture that is on the verge of using appeals to insanity or brain damage in order to discredit people who are honest about what they believe? Is telling the truth a disorder? Is the lie natural and normal in human interaction? Perhaps it is, for now. But should it be? There is a sense that people like to hear the truth, even if they’re not prepared to say it themselves, and perhaps its time for as many of us as possible to bridge the gap between what we think and what we say. As for me, if it means that telling the truth is about the same as having a brain tumour, or brain trauma, then take me to the hospital. I’ll be honest Doc, all the way to the operating room.
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