Katie Hopkins is known for voicing offensive opinionsTwitter/Katie Hopkins

Admittedly, the Cambridge Union has pulled out some big guns this term. Come June, I’ll almost certainly be blowing the dust off my card to catch Bernie Sanders in the chamber, the best speaker they’ve managed to secure since I was conned into membership back in 2014.

Yet the speaker’s line-up is, not for the first time, lacking a healthy gender balance. While 13 male speakers will be gracing the chamber this term (and that’s counting the Kooks and Sigma as one each), there will be just four women attending as speakers.

This is not entirely the fault of the Union committee, of course. Invitations are sent out to a number of different people with no guarantee of who will respond, and, as Flora de Falbe pointed out last term, men are often the ones who dominate the high-powered positions that warrant an invite.

No, what is far more insulting to me is that, of the four women chosen to speak this term, a whole quarter is made up by Katie ‘are-you-offended-yet’ Hopkins. The choice is not only obviously distasteful, but falls back on a boring and tired trend of controversy for the sake of being controversial – inviting speakers who don’t actually have anything interesting to contribute just to provoke a reaction.

“They are journalists who use their given platforms irresponsibly to stir up division and anger”

I don’t wish to rehearse any arguments along the lines of free speech here; they have been made so many times in articles of varying quality that the very word ‘no-platforming’ makes me squirm. I just find it hard to believe that, of the millions of genuinely interesting, exciting, and inspirational people in the world, Katie Hopkins, and on top of that, fellow Mail columnist Piers Morgan, are the very cream of the crop.

What do these people have to say, offer, or impart to us beyond the drivel they fill the Mail with every few weeks? Defenders of the choice will dismiss me for objecting simply on the grounds of ideology, and I do in part. But I object also to the brash aggressiveness of these people’s approaches, which efface nuance in the same way they so often attribute to the left.

Indeed, it has become an irony of right-wing discourse that the rallying cry of ‘free speech!’ has often drowned out attempts at valid counter-argument or discussion. I recall a King’s Politics event last year on ‘Lad Culture’, during which I queried a right-wing journalist on her assertion that all-male drinking societies did not promote such a culture. Without having once mentioned the prospect, she simply snapped back, “you can’t just ban everything you don’t like,” and moved on, with no further discussion of the issues I had raised.

Morgan and Hopkins are the same kind of people. They will aggressively point fingers at those who object to their views, branding them snivelling, squealing, liberal ‘snowflakes’, all while painting themselves as the rational ones – the last bastions of free speech and healthy debate. But this image is a façade; they remain journalists who use their given platforms irresponsibly to stir up division and anger, with no qualms about referring to other human beings as ‘cockroaches’ and who may or may not have been involved in illegally hacking people’s voicemail.

We have heard so many times over the past few months that the UK, and indeed, the US, are countries deeply divided, with many existing in entrenched ideological echo chambers. It is useful, once in a while, to step out of the bubble and expose ourselves to views contrary, or counter to our own.

But it is lazy, predictable, and irresponsible to opt for the finger-jabbing, in-your-face brand of hostility that Morgan and Hopkins offer. It seems blatantly obvious that the Union have not invited the two for an interesting, insightful, or educative talk, but for a knee-jerk reaction, which will divide people once more into aggressively opposed camps. It may help boost publicity, and even numbers, but it is disingenuous to pretend that the choice has anything to do with the ‘open debate’ and ‘free exchange of ideas’ that the Union claims to so pride itself upon

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