Putin Decries Rowling’s Cancellation; Rowling Cancels Putin’s Endorsement

Read more about this exchange here, here, and here. Hat tip to Chris Calderon.

My three thoughts? Join me after the jump for those.

(1) Rowling’s characters, especially the Dark Lord, have been a staple of the American political landscape for years (e.g. ‘Republicans for Voldemort’ bumper stickers, ‘Granger-Potter 2020’ buttons). The CCP even invoked He Who Shall Not Be Named in a dispute with the UK about the Hong Kong agreement. I think this exchange, though, is the first in which The Presence, her political views, and their fall-out have been cited on the international stage.

(2) Rowling is quite comfortable chastising politicians in Scotland, the UK, and the United States. She allowed President Trump to live rent free in her head and on her twitter feed for the length of his time in the White House. This back and forth with Putin, consequently, is nothing new to her, if she’s a little out of practice (she has been warming up, though, with the local apparatchiks she’s been roasting since International Women’s Day).

The stakes here, of course, are much higher and Putin’s citation of her situation in his list of arguments about Western barbarism in comparison with Russian culture has clearly wrong-footed her. How do you respond when the man currently considered this week’s ‘New Hitler’ correctly describes the injustice and madness of your persecution?

Rowling elected to say, “With friends like you, who needs enemies? #IStandWithUkraine.” That works, on one level, by distancing herself from Putin, but she’s still in the awkward position of her principled stance against transgender overreach becoming a token or football in the larger culture war over the use of which she has no control. That can’t be fun — and she has been through exactly that when Harry Potter became a touchstone of faith or apostacy during the Potter Panic of 2000-2007.  It’s just like old times…

(3) Rowling’s situation in this is akin in several ways to her opposite number on the transgender issue, Lia Thomas, born William Thomas, who elected to assume the identity of a woman after his freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania and who began ‘transitioning’ as a junior via hormone replacement chemistry. Thomas has elected to compete as a woman swimmer in intercollegiate sports and recently won an NCAA championship event.

This ‘victory,’ though, has created a political backlash against transgender women competing in women’s sports which includes legislation that restricts women’s sports to biological women. Thomas is now being used as a talking point against transgenderism as the US mid term elections approach. Thomas’ choice to compete — and displace and as often as not crush — women competitors in the pool has had the unintended consequence of potentially setting back transgender rights profoundly; Lia’s successes illustrate so visibly for critics the injustice to women being perpetrated in the name of political correctness and virtue signaling that the swimmer has become a cause célèbre.

Though Rowling and Thomas define opposite ends of the transgender issue spectrum, each is experiencing the unpleasant transition from person to political talking point, the status of becoming a ‘for instance’ or ‘illustration’ of an injustice or danger much greater than the individual man or woman possibly could embody. For The Presence, as noted, this is nothing new; two of the seven crises in her life have involved this public conflation of herself with a political-cultural conflict (I believe she chose the second one knowing what it would mean to her personally and professionally, solve et coagula, but that perhaps is beside the point).

What is new here is her being applauded by the Big Bad Bear of Vladimir Putin. Rowling’s critics have to be loving that, “two peas in a transphobe pod,” et cetera. Given the hysteria and unbridled propaganda surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a proxy war if there ever was one, albeit with only one of the super-power puppeteers being visible, this is a lose-lose situation for Rowling. The only up side I can see is that GOP candidates are less likely to use her cancellation as a political football and applause point in campaign rallies this summer, if only because Putin has already ‘gone there’ — and nobody will want to seem to be reading from his script. Lia Thomas will have to play that role.

The downside will be much more present, alas, as the coming year includes the release of The Secrets of Dumbledore and the publication of Ink Black Heart, both of which exciting events will be tainted by protesters defaming the author and invoking Vladimir Putin’s support of her as points against her.

Oh, well. I’m confident that Rowling still believes her principled stand against transgender over-reach was worth the costs, to include being associated with the KBG colonel, chief kleptocrat of the Russian Federation, and sock-puppet of choice for the CCP. I certainly believe that, too, but that’s easy from the relatively safe-space of Oklahoma City.


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