The Backlash Against the Backlash Against J. K. Rowling’s Bombshell Tweet

A friend in the UK sent me fotos of this Sunday Mail article this morning: ‘Good Riddance, 2019! Year of the Politically Correct WOKE Police.’  Rowling’s December #IStandWithMaya Tweet Heard Round the World rates both a mention in Douglas Murray’s catalog of leftist excess in 2019 and a picture. If you’ve never heard of Douglas Murray, you should know that he is gay, atheist, and a social critic from the political right, which is to say, not your cartoon C. S. Lewis Tory. The article in the Mail was to promote a UK tour he is making with a comedian friend, Andrew Doyle, a tour called ‘Resisting Wokeness.’ I don’t doubt he’ll also be autographing copies of his latest book, The Madness of Crowds: On Gender, Race, and Identity.

Why should you, a Serious Reader of J. K. Rowling, care about Murray’s article, his tour, or his book? Because it represents the second and probably the more important tsunami ripple in the reactions to the Twitter rock (grenade?) Rowling threw into the global social media pond on 19 December.

The backlash was immediate from those who live to be offended (and to Thought Police everywhere). Rowling was defenestrated by the Cultural Marxist politburo members in Harry Potter fandom on the Trans Barricades. Anyone who dared to like her tweet was similarly doxxed until the offender made atonement sacrifices to Dash and repented publicly in sack-cloth and ashes. Poor Mark Hamill, finally cool again after decades, may have had his Comic Con ‘Eternally Super Special Guest’ pass revoked.

The backlash to that backlash, however, from more sober talking heads and pundits on the political left and right points to Rowling’s aim, I think, in blowing up her former diva status to Harry Potter fandom. Creating something of a public safe space by her willingness to stand up to Trans-supporters’ over-reach and government’s capitulation to same in the UK, others who already taken this position are raising their voices and some who might never have checked in with #IStandWithMaya are willing to say #IStandWithJKRowling.

Cathy Young, a feminist and progressive writer, checked in with the thoughtful and challenging survey of the many issues wrapped up in Rowling’s tweet and the first wave of responses to it in her ‘Harry Potter and the Transgender Revolution.’ For relatively naive readers of this blog and savvy News Avoiders, who like me have no skin in this game and have been largely unaware of this subject and the partisans at war over it, Young’s guide is sober and comprehensive, which is to say, invaluable. It also, in not accepting the Trans and Trans supporters positions as straight from the top of Mt Sinai, blunts the tip of their rhetorical spear and creates cover for disagreement with it.

And on the political right? Piers Morgan, with whom Rowling has crossed tweet-swords more than once in the past, wrote on his twitter platform “Can’t believe I’m saying this, but #IStandWithJKRowling.” Only a tweet in support of Rowling from President Trump would have been more surprising a month ago. From the talking heads in the conservative blogosphere, in addition to Douglas Murray (in the Sunday Mail!), we have articles of praise and surprise from James Kirkup at The Spectator , Rod Dreher at American Conservative, and  Madelyn Kearns at National Review .

Dreher’s ‘J. K. Rowling and Havel’s Green Grocer‘ typifies the embrace of Rowling’s stand by Rowling’s new and strange bed-fellows on the civil liberties issue involved; many in the left and right pundit classes seem to have found and cleared a patch of common ground in defending the right to say what you choose without fear of job termination, social media crucifixion, and reputation destruction. Which meeting space, however narrow and conditional, speaks to the breadth and depth of the backlash against the LGBTQ+ Thought Police in the US and UK.

I have speculated here that Rowling chose to speak out on this issue because she wanted to free herself from her totem status in Harry Potter fandom in an act of solve and coagula alchemical dissolution and recreation.

I suspect that is still the case but wonder now if she wasn’t also attempting, courageously and self-sacrificially, to throw herself against the most pernicious and prevalent prejudice of our times, the madness of the Woke Thought Police, in a way that would expose and disempower them. It seems this personal act of self re-definition in the public sphere may have much larger consequences, a point that Dreher makes via Havel.

The first and second tidal wave backlashes consequent to her tweet suggests both that she was uniquely situated to make this strike, revered as she has been among progressives and the Woke-sters, and that she struck effectively. Who else could have inspired this great an backlash from the wild-eyed Left and a defense from the sober Left and the Right, both sober and wild-eyed?

Exactly no one. Being the author of this historical age’s Shared Text singles one out.

Thinking as I do from twenty years of careful observation and study that Rowling’s most characteristic intellectual trait is careful planning and her defining moral virtue is courage, my bet is that she realized her unique status and planned this strike to land with maximum impact consequent to the nearly simultaneous RFK Ripple of Hope Award banquet and the Forstater court decision. 

The year of silence before set the stage brilliantly for the Tweet Heard Round the World; her silence since allows the actors she set in motion to act as she expected they must and will continue to do. The Orwellian catastrophe of our times, Identity Politics if one must give it a name, that was in motion to carry away everything fixed in Western culture has been averted at least momentarily by Rowling’s one well-aimed round, the shot that triggered a counter-avalanche.

Maybe, though, it was just this week’s trending story, one that will be lost in the latest weather crisis or school shooting in the New Year. The kerfuffle will still be, will always be of interest and importance to Serious Readers of J. K. Rowling because it will prove to be, I have to think, her Ezra Pound Moment, the instant she was indelibly tagged with a political tattoo that will over-shadow her work forever in the minds of non-readers, media mavens, and fan-ideologues. Only the near news black-out for most families during the holidays might shield her…

Your comments and corrections are coveted, as always.



  1. Kelly Kerr says

    I think her tweet was a well-planned opening salvo. She obviously knows the weight her words carry even on such a platform as Twitter, and I think desperately desires to embody in some sense the best qualities of her fictional characters. I’m curious to see what her next move is.

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