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A letter, including the signature of JK Rowling and other notable authors, was signed yesterday objecting to so-called “cancel culture”. Published in Harper’s Magazine, the letter decries “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism”. One part of the letter reads: “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”
Another states: “As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk-taking, and even mistakes.
“We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences.
“We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters.
“But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.”
Prominent names on the letter include Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem, Malcolm Gladwell and Noam Chomsky.
The letter condemns “disproportionate punishments” meted out by institutional leaders conducting “panicked damage control”.
It comes after Ms Rowling was criticised for writing a series of social media posts and an essay that were described as “transphobic”.
The best-selling children’s author was also recently condemned for comparing transgender hormone replacement to gay conversion therapy.
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It is not the first time Ms Rowling has attracted attention for her comments on Twitter, though.
In 2018, at the peak of Labour’s struggles to get its Brexit message across, the author humiliated Jeremy Corbyn, then Labour leader, in a string of tweets.
A longtime critic of Mr Corbyn, Ms Rowling mocked his position on Brexit in 16 biblical-style tweets.
The tweets, entitled “The visitation of the Corbynites: a festive thread”, she claimed the possibility of “Saint Jeremy” bringing a jobs-first Brexit was “b******s” and described Mr Corbyn as “in third place after Pontus May”.
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Ms Rowling wrote: “And she did answer, ‘How shall the poor fare under Brexit, which thy saint hath always in his secret heart desired, yet he hath not admitted what was in his heart, lest fewer attend his next sermon on the Glastonbury B stage.’
“And they did answer, ‘Saint Jeremy will achieve a miracle, and he shall bring forth a jobs-first Brexit and all the land shall rejoice.’ And she did answer, ‘B******s.’”
Anticipating the claim that she is a critic of Mr Corbyn because he would impose higher taxes on the wealthy, Ms Rowling wrote: “’Tis not Saint Jeremy who shall tax me, nay, not even if he enters the house of No 10, for my tax rates are set by Queen Nicola [Sturgeon], in whose kingdom I do abide.”
The author also waded in the controversy surrounding antisemitism in the party under Mr Corbyn.
On this, she wrote: “Speak not of the Jews!’ cried the host. ‘Why must thou speak so oft of the Jews?’ ‘Yea, I must speak,’ said she, ‘for when Jews no longer feel safe in Labour then I too must leave.’ And one of the host did shout something about the Rothschilds and he was hastily hushed by his brethren, who did declare, ‘he is not one of ours, thou he sports a #JC4PM halo.’
“And another did speak and he said, ‘it is not antisemitic to criticise Israel,’ and she did put her face in her hands and want to weep.
“But she did then look up and see many stars shining brightly in the sky and lo, they did arrange themselves before her eyes into a ‘who would make the best Prime Minister poll’ and she did cry, ‘Will ye not raise up your eyes to the Heavens? See there the People’s mind!’.”
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