2007 - 2022

Hitler, Hopkins and the ‘alt right lit’ phenomenon

Katie Hopkins’ book ‘Rude’ comes out today. Published by Iain Dale’s Biteback, it promises to take us through her rise from reality TV runner up to being the “go to” basher of Muslims, fat people, children, Alzheimer’s sufferers and drowned refugee toddlers. The gushing blurb assures that she will be “as honest in the book as she is in life” which is candid at best. I haven’t read it, but I imagine it will be full of her usual views and particularly heavy on Muslim women in veils and the ‘snowflakes’ who don’t think we should bully them or lock them up.

‘Rude’ is but the latest addition to the growing cannon of “alt-right lit” – an anti-Islamic, misanthropic, polemical genre, that has spewed from the laptops of Britain and America’s most familiar right wing bigots over the last couple of years.

Former EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) has been out and about just this weekend, signing copies of his reasoned and no doubt rigorously academic endeavour, entitled “Why Muslims Kill for Islam.” Having now written two books more than he has ever read Tommy is able to add “Islamic scholar” to a CV which is otherwise most notable for those fraud convictions and that time he got arrested trying to illegally enter the US on a fake passport.

Not to be outdone, UKIP’s eternal bridesmaid, Raheem Kassam, very much the “third member of Bros” in the alt-right movement, has penned “No Go Zones: How Sharia Law Is Coming to a Neighborhood (sic.) Near You” (foreword by Nigel Farage)and managed to accrue an impressive 35 reviews – on Amazon.

And so it goes on.

The eager student of hate could pop these works on their shelves next to books by peroxided bore Milo Yiannapoulis, laugh a minute journalist Melanie Phillips(Londinistan)and former Breitbart editor at large Ben Shapiro whose niftily titled “How to debate leftists and destroy them” sounds like something someone might say on twitter just before deploying the block button.

Iain Dale is a successful publisher and a canny businessman who has also knocked out books by such lovable figures as Nigel Farage, Conrad Black and the “Bad Boys of Brexit.” No doubt he knows his market well and senses a hunger for the Hopkins tome. Katie Hopkins after all has not simply built a career out of being hated. There are many, many people who admire her and genuinely believe that she is some sort of alternative voice. No doubt the book will sell well.

My question is this. Will anybody actually read it and if not – what is the point of this publishing phenomenon?

Buying a book is not the same as “reading a book.” My own shelves creak under the weight of words I haven’t got around to digesting and probably never will.

Unread Books, particularly unread political books, aren’t necessarily intended to be read. They are more a bold statement of identity. A prominently placed tome by a well-known author on a living-room shelf can be an act of intellectual validation. Academics have done this for years and it seems that the idea has now filtered down to the “alt right social media sphere.” It is one thing to make meritless xenophobic remarks on Facebook, quite another to make the same comments and then back them up by pointing at a book by Tommy Robinson and saying “it’s all in there have you read it? I have. He’s researched it and everything.”

That is one reason why the market for ‘alt-right-lit’ exists. It is confirmation bias in bound form. These ridiculous books, with their provocative titles, give weight and credibility to the authors and justification of their unrighteous bigotry to the dolts who buy them.

There’s nothing new in this of course, Adolf Hitler’s unreadable Mein Kampf sold millions – not least because – like Tommy Robinson’s latest – it was also given away free. It made him very rich indeed – around $12 million a year in today’s money – despite very few people ever making it to the end.

Hitler’s derisory book gave him ‘intellectual credibility’ and it worked while making him bundles of cash.

The same thing is going on today. The alt-right isn’t just a movement, it’s an industry and it needs content, product and packaging. The publishing arm is a key promotional tool and I suspect we will see a lot more of these “books” in the coming months.

Hopkins meanwhile will no doubt be on our airwaves and sofas this week flogging her tome. The Sunday Times carried a lengthy and unduly soft interview with her last week in which she reiterated her belief that the picture of Aylan Kurdi, the little 3 year old Syrian boy whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach was “set up” before going on to imply it was all the fault of his father anyway because he “wanted new teeth in Canada.”

There was a time – when saying things like that might rightly finish your career and diminish your circle of friends. In modern Britain, sadly, a toddler’s tragic death is now but a tool – used to sell books that nobody will read. There is a case that the best thing to do is to “ignore her” and hope she will go away, but if you ignore Japanese knot-weed it rarely decides to retreat respectfully from your home.

The opening chapter of her book is entitled “I am not a twat” – I for one – would prefer to keep an open mind on that.

This is from the excellent Pin Prick (“in the brash, bumptious, bullshit of our brave new world The Pin Prick seeks simply to serve, to entertain and to annoy. No minute by minute updates. No breaking news. No quarter given. None taken.”)

See also: “Hopkins, Trump and the Resistable Rise of Stupidism.”



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Comments (5)

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    Our modern, moving-image or social-media-riposte forms of satire are well-honed to deploy against the public (and private) behaviour of, say, politicians and other wrong-doers. Mannerisms are mocked in late-night television shows, up to full (and uncanny) impersonation like Tracey Breaks the News. Appearances in person can go horribly wrong; Twitter posts can be savaged and deleting them a humiliation.

    So perhaps producing literature is relatively safe: pre-screening protection by editors to remove more obvious gaffes; more tedious to ridicule; review and response more sedate and controllable. Mein Kampf was written from a position of weakness; after Hitler had Goebbels’ propaganda machine, a sequel was unnecessary. And of course, if someone does critique your book, you can say “ha, ha: you read it!”, which is a kind of victory after all.

    So perhaps this recourse to literature could be a form of retreat? A licking of wounds, a writing of memoirs, and ultimately a gathering of dust.

  2. Frank says:

    It appears to be increasingly common practice that if you can’t defeat your opponent’s argument you just attempt to bulldoze it with ridicule. The trouble with that is that your opponent may well have some quite valid points which, if ignored, are likely to gather support and keep coming back with increasing force. In the end those who fail to address issues are likely to end upon the losing side.

  3. Peter says:

    Is Katie Hopkins ‘alt right’? I’ve never thought of her as that, just as she says herself . . . . well see her first chapter. Is Tommy Robinson ‘alt right’? I’m asking, because I don’t know, though I don’t think he would identify as that. Some of the above criticisms in my opinion apply to other writers and their books, like Owen Jones. Widely purchased, widely unread. I read a Lawrie Penny book which was OK, but only because I broadly agreed with it and realised what I was enjoying – what is called here “confirmation bias in bound form”.

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