Rowling holds the line



J K Rowling is not backing down, and nor is her agent. Following a spate of resignations from authors unhappy with The Blair Partnership’s stance, the Harry Potter creator’s agency issued an unequivocal statement. “We believe in freedom of speech for all; these clients have decided to leave because we did not meet their demands to be re-educated to their point of view.” Whilst the authors who quit, Fox Fisher, Drew Davies and Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, are not exactly household names, this is still a seminal moment. For the first time in a long time, a brace of cultural organisations – Rowling’s publisher, Hatchette UK, and now her representation – have refused to cave into the identitarian mob. Freedom of thought and conscience, key tenets of an enlightened society, have won the day. 

Cynics will suggest that what we have seen is nothing more than a simple financial calculation. J K Rowling is a household name, as much an international brand as an author, with all the power and cold, hard profitability that goes with it. But cancel culture is not logical, and the brands and organisations who indulge in it are forced into a kind of quasi-religious thinking which is immune to anything as simple and worldly as money and the market. Unknown writers have successfully no-platformed far more experienced colleagues before. In this anti-intellectual, superwoke hellculture, ‘virtue’ is the new gold.

Of course, it’s absurd, and thank goodness Rowling’s people have realised it’s absurd. Rowling’s politics are irrelevant to her work as a writer, though she has always struck me as a fairly stodgy Brownite centre-leftist – the type of person whose natural sympathies would, at least until recently, fit quite comfortably into the higher echelons of the cultural firmament. Did she help create this snarling Woke Beast? Perhaps. But, now the monster has freed itself, and is rampaging through publishers, production companies, and the BBC, we need all the help we can get trying to contain it. Rowling is one of only a small handful of mainstream figures to have any success at all muzzling the jackals. That in itself is reason for thanks. 

We are living through a strange cultural spasm. Liberalism – true liberalism; the old English liberalism which virtually all of us, left or right, broadly subscribe to – has found itself increasingly dominated by a ‘ban this’, ‘burn that’, ‘cancel them’ elite. This new fascism, which has hijacked the language of equity, diversity and inclusion, has been gathering momentum, ever since the election of Jeremy Corbyn to leader of the Labour Party (though, I suspect, has been fomenting in Critical Theory departments for longer), and, despite its complete rejection at the ballot box, is now exerting itself from a position of cultural hegemony.

It must be taken on, and J K Rowling’s resistance offers an important precedent as the culture war gets even hotter. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you think of Harry Potter. It doesn’t matter what you think of J K Rowling. What matters is that, this time, the identitarian mob has not been allowed to win. 

Tim Dawson is a writer and journalist and the Editor of Free Market Conservatives. Follow him on twitter: @tim_r_dawson