“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling is at risk of being cancelled. What’s mind-numbing about her turn on the chopping block is that Rowling stands accused not of saying anything wrong, but of simply following people who do. The standard for cancel-worthy wrongthink is sinking even lower.
Rowling’s Twitter account, which is reliably leftist, recently followed three “trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” known pejoratively as TERFs. This fueled the perception among a small group of online leftists that Rowling is not 100 percent on board with transgenderism, a suspicion that mounted after she liked a tweet about “men in dresses” last year. (Rowling said it was an accident, although she drew similar complaints for another like months later.) The author’s recent follows sent some users scraping through the entire list of people she follows on Twitter, coming away with more examples of allegedly anti-trans thinkers.
The Mary Sue, a feminist blog, wasted 500 hilarious words on Rowling’s “mini-spree.” The article reads like parody, at one point asserting, “For a lot of people, this will raise the question of what this means for their fandom,” as though legions of Harry Potter lovers will be upset about Rowling following a few dissident leftists on Twitter.
“If we buy the new books, see the new movies, play the new games, or buy the new merch, we’re not just giving money to a TERF (although we are doing that too),” the author writes. “We’re giving money to someone with a gigantic platform who is serving to normalize transphobia for her audience, many of whom are young people.”
Like many radical quibbles, this is a social media controversy, almost certainly isolated to a small group of loud people online. I don’t want blow it out of proportion. I do, however, think it’s worth paying attention to for one reason: We’ve seen these small mobs get results, intimidating public figures and brands into caving when the threat of a significant PR blowback just isn’t that real.
This time around, I think Rowling will be fine. She’s very powerful, and her few detractors are way out in left field. But as an indication of where some people would take the standards for public discourse if empowered, it’s worth noting.