I’m not angry at ‘Late Late Show’ over Katie Hopkins – I’m embarrassed
Making people roar at each other for entertainment value on serious issues is so over
This Friday on the Late Late Show, they should shoot a dog in the face. To promote this slot, they should tweet about it, saying “the bitch is back!” or maybe “the puppy gets it!” Now I’m not saying it’s right to shoot a dog in the face on live television; I’m not saying it’s what the viewers want to see, but let’s face it guys, it’ll get people talking. It’s controversial. It will start a conversation. It will provoke discussion. And I’m pretty sure that if Ryan Tubridy shoots a dog in the face on the Late Late Show, it will get damn high ratings.
It will naturally generate hundreds of complaints to RTÉ, maybe even thousands; but on the plus side, that means that in the run-up to the dog-shooting everyone will be talking about the programme. It’ll be in every newspaper, on the radio, all over Twitter, and people will have to take sides. Where do you stand on the dog being shot in the face? Have you written an open letter on Facebook yet? Then, after the dog is shot in the face in the studio on Friday night, the weekend papers can continue the story: Was Ryan Tubridy Right To Shoot a Dog in the Face Last Night?
If RTÉ pulled the item in response to complaints, would that not be shutting down debate around the issues surrounding shooting dogs in their faces? Aren’t people entitled to air their views on dog-face-shooting? Anyway guys, relax, it’s just a chat show.
Last week, the world changed and turned towards a dark, dark place. To discuss this landmark event in all of our lifetimes, the Late Late Show booked racist Katie Hopkins. This was their offering the week Donald Trump gets elected. Wow. What Hopkins ended up saying, or how Tubridy handled the interview, is ultimately irrelevant. Hopkins shouldn’t have been booked, not because she’s a xenophobe who spouts bigoted hateful dirge and basks in negative reaction, but because she is tedious, boring, irrelevant, lowbrow, Daily Mail backwash.
Tubridy gave a weak response to the criticism, “It’s been a very controversial week on the globe, with a very controversial result in America, and we’re going to reflect that with a very controversial guest.” To unearth the hidden truth in this statement, please replace “controversial” with “bigoted”. Hopkins “does the job”, Tubridy said (oh god), “she comes on and expresses an opinion that is contrary and difficult, but it starts a conversation.”
Before your brain seeps out your ears, rest assured that Tubridy probably doesn’t believe what he’s saying here, but the fact that he couldn’t come up with a better excuse for the motivations of the Late Late Show team is pathetic. Citing “controversy” as a motivating factor for booking someone is not a legitimate excuse. Otherwise, they might as well just shoot the dog in the face.
RTÉ was never going to pull Hopkins as a guest as the complaints rolled in. That’s not what they do. RTÉ is all about generating controversy and getting people talking. Funnily enough, RTÉ seems to be pretty selective about what type of views should be given free rein and what kind of controversy is “good” (right wing) and what kind of controversy is “bad”. This is an organisation after all, that informed anyone who worked there not to share their opinions of the marriage referendum on their private social media channels. Some free speech (Catholic Church) is more equal than others (the gays, abortion).
RTÉ talks a lot about high standards in broadcasting, but the reality is its output frequently dips cringingly towards the mediocrity the Late Late Show displayed last Friday. I know a lot of people were angry about the Hopkins booking because of her points of view, and how people rightly believe that hate speech shouldn’t be given a platform, and that’s all valid.
But a greater problem for the Late Late Show is that they thought about booking Hopkins and then followed through, instead of dumping that proposal for the stupid, first draft idea that it was. In booking Hopkins, the Late Late Show placed itself on par with the worst of the barrel-scraping nighttime radio phone-in shows, where eejits scream obscenities at each other, the inane gladiators of idiocracy. Positioning discussion and debate solely as conflict, and making people roar at each other for entertainment value on serious issues, is so over. It’s done. Nobody is interested anymore. You can take your ratings, or high five after the programme, but there’s a generation of viewers who have already left the building while RTÉ is still shoving “items” into formats that haven’t changed since the 70s. Hopkins isn’t interested in “debate”, she’s interested in herself, carving out a market in the right-wing media for personal financial gain.
Imagine what the Late Late Show could have done the week of the American presidential election, an event of huge interest to its audience. And then look at what it did. Is this the kind of stuff new RTÉ director general Dee Forbes wants to preside over? Shows that run from intelligent discussion in favour of offensive click-bait drivel? Shows that confuse entertaining their viewers with insulting and annoying them?
I understand that people are legitimately angry about racism, bigotry, and misogyny being given a platform by RTÉ at a time when so many people of colour, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT people and women are being terrorised in America. But when it comes to the Hopkins booking, I’m not angry at the Late Late Show – I’m embarrassed for them.