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J K Rowling – echoing Voltaire

I have never read or taken an interest in Harry Potter, I only bought one such book as a requested present for a young family member, for which I apologise. However, J K Rowling, Labour donor, renowned author and Cybernat 5-minute hate subject, has gone up in my estimation as she stood up for Donald Trump’s right to visit the UK, echoing the attitude of Voltaire.

‘I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there.’
The best-selling author said that Trump’s freedom to make ‘bigoted’ remarks, ‘protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine.’
She warned that attempts to repeal any of those freedoms, however well intentioned, means ‘we have set foot upon a road with only one destination.’

We know what that destination is. She goes on.

Rowling explained that if she was to back a travel ban of Trump, because of his offensive comments, then she would have ‘no moral grounds on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the right for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes.’
‘If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed a line to stand along tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification,’ she added.

Such a pity about the working, as my maths teachers used to say, but positive sentiments in favour of liberty and openness to debate are welcome and refreshing, albeit depressingly scarce in public debate.

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73 comments to J K Rowling – echoing Voltaire

  • PaulM

    I may not agree with what Ms Rowling says, however I will defend to the death my right not be forced to listen to it.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I’ve long thought that Rowling is a libertarian who doesn’t know it yet. (She’s officially Labour, and, I believe, a personal friend of Tony Blair’s.) If you Google “Harry Potter and the Libertarian Subtext” you will get a bunch of interesting reading material, including a 2001 post from me. The character of Dolores Umbridge is a very convincing portrayal of the soft, smiling authoritarianism that is more of a real threat than the real-life equivalents of Lord Voldemort.

  • Alisa

    I am not surprised at all, as the Harry Potter books express similar attitudes by Rowling, including a very hostile view of government.

  • Alisa

    Natalie beat me to it, so what she said.

  • Paul Marks

    Agreed.

  • Mr Ed

    By far the most ‘libertarian’ books I have read are the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, replete with digs at government and bureaucratic absurdity, starting with the Earth being demolished by Galactic Eminent Domain to make a by-pass.

    And PaulM wins the thread with the first shot!

  • Alisa

    He does? Where was anyone forced to listen to her?

  • Runcie Balspune

    H2G2 also featured a bunch of genocidal maniacs rising out of nowhere intent on destroying the rest of civilization. Don’t Panic!

  • Mr Ed

    Alisa,

    Wait for the next Labour government….

  • Cristina

    “I have never read or taken an interest in Harry Potter, […]”

    As I said, you are an intelligent man.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I’ve long thought that Rowling is a libertarian who doesn’t know it yet.

    That is a good way of putting it. My way of putting it would be that she is a good story teller, meaning that her stories are realistic, and therefore conservative/libertarian: as Robert Conquest said, everybody is conservative about what they know best. She does not let her political views affect the stories; or if she does, she achieves the opposite of what was intended.

    She’s officially Labour, and, I believe, a personal friend of Tony Blair’s.

    A personal friend of Gordon Brown’s, i believe: not that that is an improvement.

  • CaptDMO

    “‘If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you,….” then they have no further options but to see you twisting in the breeze!

  • Mr Ed

    A personal friend of Gordon Brown’s, i believe: not that that is an improvement.

    One might almost think it a matter for sympathy, but we choose our friends.

  • PeterT

    not that that is an improvement

    Not much, but I suspect it probably is. Unlike Blair he is a patriot and probably a good man, albeit one with mental issues. That does not mean that he would make a better prime minister, just that he might be a better friend.

  • Alisa

    Some comments here are exemplary of the common libertarian refusal to take ‘yes’ for an answer.

  • Alisa

    Wait for the next Labour government….

    If Rowling is also among those waiting, I suspect she’ll be the first to pronounce buyers’ remorse.

  • Stuck-record

    I work in publishing, and this is a very interesting intervention from JK Rowling.

    As has been mentioned above she is a staunch supporter of the previous Labour administration, and an advocate of large intrusive government. But, as also mentioned, the Harry Potter books come down very firmly against intrusive, overreaching government, and that large organisations are not to be trusted as they can be taken over from the inside out.

    The timing of her intervention is intriguing. She is intervening into a highly politicised arena. The social justice warriors will brook no disagreement on this subject. She didn’t need to intervene here. And even if she wasn’t intending to, she has picked a fight with them.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how the social justice warriors respond to this as JK Rowling is adored by her fans (many of whom are exactly the same demographic as social justice warriors). And also because JK Rowling is a notoriously aggressive tweeter in response to confrontational tweets.

    If the cry-bully crowd pick a fight with her over this I shall be buying popcorn and enjoying it.

  • Some comments here are exemplary of the common libertarian refusal to take ‘yes’ for an answer.

    Thread winner.

  • Greytop

    I expect J K R is a good socialist: she wants misery for you and yours but personally has enough money to bugger off when the going gets tough. That’s the magic in her books…

  • Mr Ed

    Perhaps it is a common failing of the dabbling socialist to be against big government when it is not run by people they trust or of whom they approve. The committed socialist just wants destruction and care naught for how it is achieved, like the Communists engaging in sabotage in Britain during WW2 up to Barbarossa.

  • Alisa

    Indeed. And “our” job is to turn a dabbling socialist into a committed one.

  • Runcie Balspune

    One of my favourite authors was Iain Banks, I would consider his science-fiction works were libertarian themed and anti-authoritarian in approach, but he was a self-confessed leftist wearing the anti-war and BDS badges.

  • Thailover

    Rowling’s comments are strangely insightful for someone who supports the labour party. But then again, people are seldom entirely consistent, as when parents tell their children to make new friends, but at the same time, don’t talk to strangers. Are the kids then to walk up to strange people and just smile weirdly at them? LOL.

  • Ragingnick

    Jk Rowling has admitted that without the existence of the welfare state she would never have been able to become an author, which strikes me as another excellent reason to scrap it, lest we are subjected to any more socialist excrement such as ‘the casual vacancy’.

  • Thailover

    I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop with Anita Sarkeesian and her blue-haired bespectacled pet running to the floor of the UN insisting that Rowling be censored because her pro-freedom comments make them uncomfortable. Such is the usual response by those offended by freedom.

    Will the feminists threaten to take away Rowling’s fem-card? Hmmmm.

  • Mr Ed

    I trust that no libertarian would suggest that the Welfare State ought to be entitled to the royalties from J K Rowling’s work, or the lion’s share thereof, having enabled her the time to start her writings?

    And I wonder if the good author might make an assignment of a chunk of her royalties to the State, on the basis that tax rates are far too low?

    Whilst I have not read any of the said works, I did have the benefit of a short review from the Sage of Kettering, who despaired that the writer told him that someone’s uncle (iirc) was boring, rather than showing that he was boring.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Rowling has admitted that without the existence of the welfare state she would never have been able to become an author

    You could also argue the same for strong property rights and a privately controlled media, but I doubt she’d admit to that.

  • Thailover

    Ragingnick wrote,
    “Jk Rowling has admitted that without the existence of the welfare state she would never have been able to become an author”

    If by author, she means someone whose works anyone cares to read…then she’s wrong. What made her an ‘author’ is that she wrote a series of books with commercial appeal within a semi-capitalistic “mixed economy” system. And each purchse of her works were wallet-votes to make her a billionaire. A system that economically made it easier to stay home and write children’s books only made her a temporary parasite on society.

  • I agree with Natalie that JKR started out as a very standard prejudiced leftist (witness, for example, her falling when young for the lie-filled Jessica Mitford’s autobiography) whose sense of reality (which allows her to write) struggles with her strong prejudices. She is also handicapped by her undoubted intelligence having a very strong bias against numeracy and games theory; Hermione may have loved Arithmancy but I do not see JKR having a natural feel for maths (witness the unworkability of Quidditch as a game).

    ‘A Casual Vacancy’ is a (far less pleasant to read) mixture of the same right-wing actualities and left-wing prejudices that Natalie comments on in the Harry Potter novels. ‘A Casual Vacancy’ is remaindered all over the place; I read one of three copies that were dumped on a charity book stall I helped on, while people came up to the stall and pointed at the other two and said “That’s a horrible book”. It _is_ a horrible (i.e no fun to read) book by someone who can write, and it presents some unvarnished vignette’s of how today’s welfare state actually runs, and a less-romanticised-than-it-could-be picture of its recipients. (Part of what makes it so unpleasant to read is that noone is really likeable in the book, and this may have been a necessity of preventing the welfare recipients from standing out too much.)

    The incident by which its (somewhat mechanistic) plot converts a sad mess into a disaster is teenage Crystal’s reaction to being assaulted the criminal Obbo. She does not even think of going to the police: she clearly thinks she’ll get as much help as a girl in Rotherham; she knows the vile Obbo is active in her poor area and the local law do a rotten and indifferent job of controlling him. Instead, she decides to escape from her drug-addict mother’s house (where the attack occurred), by getting pregnant so the state will give her a house of her own,(where she hopes to install strong locks, and rescue her brother from her mother’s house too). In short, the central tragedy of the book comes from the state’s utter failure to provide basic law and order while at the same time offering a strong perverse incentive to victims to make life-damaging choices. (The mechanistic plot ensures that this in fact becomes a life-ending, not just life-constraining, choice for Crystal and brother.) Meanwhile, the clinic over whose closure the ostensible plot of the book revolves remains open before, during and after all this – it is still open at the end of the book though presumably not for long when the casual vacancy is filled by Miles (who presumably votes Tory, though I do not recall if this is ever actually mentioned).

    To ‘balance’ the book, JKR makes the (relatively) right-wing people unlikeable; one of them overeats so much that by the end of the book his undermined health may cost the NHS all that he has ever paid in taxes and maybe more. This is an example of JKR’s arithmetic limitations. The book only contains three classes of people: those like Crystal and Terri who live off state welfare, those like Barry and Colin who are paid by the state for services, and those like Miles and Howard who pay the taxes that fund the other two groups. _One_ of the last class could at the end of his life consume the full actuarial value of his taxes in NHS care but obviously they cannot as a class on average do so, or the NHS would long ago have gone bankrupt and ceased to exist. JKR’s illustration of the effect of wimpish law enforcement and perverse incentives on poor teenage girls is statistically true (of course, most do not end up dead, just trapped in poverty). Though I doubt she saw it this way, it is in fact a thoroughly anti-leftwing point. By contrast, her anti-rightwing point about the over-eating is a statistical bust. I saw this at once, just as I saw at once that Quidditch could not work as a game; I was unsurprised when I heard her say she found Quidditch match descriptions hard to write, and was also unsurprised that she herself simply noticed this, without understanding why. This mental limitation is part of what will slow the evolution Natalie expects.

  • A minor point: sone of the articles found by googling “Harry Potter and the Libertarian Subtext” are mildly handicapped by analysing the overt politics (who becomes minister for magic and how they are replaced) from a US standpoint, where elections are scheduled by the constitution and the president cannot be replaced by his party, rather than from a British perspective, where the prime minister is not so secure in office. In Harry Potter, JKR is presenting a child’s not-so-interested and not-so-understanding view of British-style poetical upheavals, not US ones.

  • poetical upheavals / political upheavals – quite a typo 🙂

    Mr Ed, feel free to correct it and delete this post should you wish, as there is nothing very poetical about our politics at the moment, though I will vainly (in both senses 🙂 ) seize the opportunity to mention my poem.

  • Alisa

    Niall, I was wondering about that book, and I think you gave me a good general idea – thanks for that.

  • Mr Ed

    Niall,

    I’d happily leave it, our politics is like Vogon Poetry at the moment.

  • James Strong

    Do any of you ever read fiction just because it can provide entertaining stories?

    When I was a student some of the worst on the hard left refused to smoke dope on the grounds that it ‘saps your revolutionary fervour’.
    I see similarities there with some of you lot and the way your liberatarianism mustn’t be weakened by non-libertarian fiction. Why do you critique fiction not on the basis of narrative quality or language quality but on the basis of the purity of its political stance?
    When a Marxist like Eagleton used to write criticism like that it was not worth a lot; it’s worth about the same when libertarians do it.

    And Ayn Rand was a lousy writer of fiction. She couldn’t control her prose well enough to make her descriptions believable, and her politics/philosophy were couched with all the subtlety of a housebrick hitting you on the head.

  • James, I read Harry Potter for fun, and ‘A Casual Vacancy’ because I had much time to kill while helping that charity. Having read them, I can report on aspects of them relevant to this thread, without in any way losing the ability to appreciate aspects irrelevant to it.

  • Mr Ed

    Do any of you ever read fiction just because it can provide entertaining stories?

    To do so might suggest that we had lives.

    I wholly agree about Rand, dreadful writing. I’m sure that I read in one of her books a rant about the altruism of putting a clock on a building, literally giving people the time of day for nothing, and I put it down and decided never to look at it again. She had the fanaticism of an early Bolshevik, but different ideals.

    Personally, I find that if I read something in which I find a major point with a false premise, or a major politicised point, I get annoyed and go no further. But most of all, I read for facts. Entertaining and true stories can be found in many a biography.

  • MikeR

    James Strong

    I love Jack London – he was a revolutionary socialist, which I certainly am not, who also happened to write a lot of wonderful books. Up from poverty to enormous wealth, just like JKR – though his early history was a lot worse than hers, and his politics were born out of much more unpleasant personal experiences/ prevailing social conditions, than JK’s.

  • Cal

    “Do any of you ever read fiction just because it can provide entertaining stories?”

    I think most libertarians read for fun. Unlike most leftists.

    “Why do you critique fiction not on the basis of narrative quality or language quality but on the basis of the purity of its political stance?”

    Er… this is a political blog. Not a book club.

  • Cristina

    “Do any of you ever read fiction just because it can provide entertaining stories?”
    I used to do it, James. That’s why I cannot abide the vast majority of fiction now.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    James Strong,

    I read lots of good fiction by politically uncongenial authors for fun. Then I have more fun doing extremely serious political critiques of stories with stuff like house-elves and goblin banks in them. Then I have yet more fun mentally re-writing them the way they should have been.

  • Fraser Orr

    I don’t know what you are all talking about. I liked her books. They are excellent yarns, and, as others have said, are very much libertarian in nature — the small individuals struggling against the state, the growing overwhelm of the state, the banality of evil. They were an excellent platform for me to discuss some of these issues with my children.

    However, irrespective of the literary merits, I think she often has good things to say.

    On another topic though, in the thread of “a stopped clock is right twice a day”, at Rutgers, President Obama of all people, attacked the new SJW tactic of gagging though threats, violence and intimidation.

    He said (regarding the Rutgers’ students bullying of Condi Rice to not give a speech at the University):

    “I don’t think it’s a secret that I disagree with many of the policies of Dr. Rice and the previous administration. But the notion that this community or this country would be better served by not hearing a former secretary of state or not hearing what she had to say — I believe that’s misguided, … I don’t think that’s how democracy works best, when we’re not even willing to listen to each other….

    If you disagree with somebody, bring them in and ask them tough questions. Hold their feet to the fire, make them defend their positions. … Don’t be scared to take somebody on. Don’t feel like you got to shut your ears off because you’re too fragile and somebody might offend your sensibilities. Go at them if they’re not making any sense.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself — well except the bit about democracy being some sort of lofty goal. I particularly liked his comment about “fragile”.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/obama-rutgers-condolezza-rice-commencement-speech-2016-5

  • Snorri Godhi

    Do any of you ever read fiction just because it can provide entertaining stories?

    My turn to answer.
    Entertaining stories and intellectual challenges (political or not) are not mutually exclusive. In fact, much of my favorite reading combines the two: detective stories, hard sci-fi, and what i call Machiavellian stories, e.g. Sagas of Icelanders, The Godfather, and Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire.

    Then again, my favorite detective stories are in the Nero Wolfe canon, and i re-read them compulsively because it’s like visiting old friends.

  • Snorri Godhi

    While on the topic of contrast between authors’ avowed politics and the message that we enlightened readers get from their books: i know the work of Stieg Larsson only from the movie remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and what’s not to like?

    SPOILERS ALERT: a crony capitalist, who makes money by selling to the corporatist Swedish State, and is also a nazi sympathizer (highlighting the common roots of German nazism and Swedish social democracy) turns out to be a serial killer.
    END SPOILERS

    And yet Stieg Larsson was a member of the Communist Workers’ League!

  • Fraser Orr writes above at May 18, 2016 at 5:19 pm in support of President Obama arguing against the ‘no-platforming’ (or whatever similar) of Condi Rice. That is sort-of OK of Obama, who is not one of my favourites – following his own style of straightforward honesty.

    However, I notice that President Obama was not insisting the Rice be there next to him. Is he replacing her – as gracious second choice – or was the original suggestion to have both?

    Best regards

  • MikeR

    Those calling for an exclusion of Trump from the UK because of his opinions, are often the same ones who will go to the film “Trumbo” and then get all self righteous about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo being blacklisted by employers who didn’t want to give jobs to such people because of their opinions – Trumbo being a fervent supporter of Stalin’s (mass murdering) regime, and wanting it imposed on the entire world.

  • I happily cop to my hatred of fantasy writing — I’ve written often about how Tolkien, for example, evokes a reaction of “Oh come on! You’re just making up this shit as you go along!*”

    Yet I thoroughly enjoyed the Potter series — read every book with utter pleasure — because they are absolutely brilliant books for children. Why? Because despite all the magical nonsense, at the bottom they are a primer for some serious personal values: courage, friendship, facing up to adversity and challenges, dealing with (often malevolent) authority figures, how to handle death or the threat thereof… the list goes on and on. Magic, in other words, is just the prop; the characters have to address all those issues head-on — and, it should be noted, the story ends with the triumph of good over evil.

    How bad can this be?

    The political bent of the author is, in fact, irrelevant to any discussion of her stories, and in fact, JKR displays a remarkably anti-statist attitude, with her withering exposition of the dealings of the Ministry of Magic as a typical government department.

    ———–Footnote—————-

    *The Tolkien Bullshit:

    “Oh no! To get to the Lake of Truth, we must first pass through the Forest of Gnark! No [elf/dwarf/hobbit whatever] has ever come out of the Forest alive!”
    “But the Dwarf carries the Magic Stone of Elsindor in his purse! The Stone has the power to overcome the evil of Gnark!”

    i.e. Set up a challenge, overcome with a single line of dialogue; repeat for a thousand pages. Jesus wept.

  • Oh, and by the way: Voltaire never said that.

  • Mr Ed

    Oh, and by the way: Voltaire never said that.

    I did not assert that he did say that. 🙂

  • Is Kim du Toit at May 18, 2016 at 6:43 pm saying that Mr Ed did not assert that Voltaire had the attitude of but equally that Mr Ed asserts he never did say “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”?

    If so, I refute it by Mr Ed’s very link, thus.

    And I do aspire to have correct my assertions, negative assertions, double negatives and triple negatives (if I ever got that far).

    Best regards 🙂 😉

  • Title of the post: “J K Rowling – echoing Voltaire”

    Forgive me for missing whatever it was that I was supposed to infer.

    But Voltaire never said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, which (apparently) is what Rowling is supposed to be echoing, or not echoing.

  • Mr Ed

    Kim,

    I disapprove of what you said I had said, but I shall defend until I have bored eveyone to death your right to say it.

    echoing the attitude of Voltaire.

    And anyway, whatever M Voltaire said was probably in French.

  • Cal

    What Voltaire actually said was this:

    “Oh no! To defend your right to claim to speak for the Lady of Truth I will pass through the Forest of Gnark! No Frenchie has ever come out of the Forest alive, unless he has some Magic Unpasteurized Cheese of Elsindor in his purse with him!”

    But he said it in old Elvish French.

  • Mr Ed

    Without wishing to annoy Kim. One should remember the context of the LotR in its time of writing, late 1930s to the 1940s, Mordor as the Soviet Union, Saruman representing fallen Germany, both hostile powers to the West. And the Balrog representing the ancient dark Terror of Revolutionary France risen again in all the chaos.

    Some Tolkien enthusiasts think that the confrontation with the Balrog was more explicitly a pointer to France in an early draft*, but Tolkien’s publisher leant on him to tone it down before Dunkirk to avoid upsetting the French.

    * Gandalf commanded the Balrog “Go back to the château!“.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    James Strong
    May 18, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Do any of you ever read fiction just because it can provide entertaining stories?

    I used to read improving books, until I became so improved that I feared I was going to “lose the common touch.” So I stopped, and have been happily reading merely entertaining books ever since.

    I remain, of course, almost superhumanly improved. ;^)

  • Cristina

    PersonFromPorlock, LOL

  • Nicholas (Excentrality!) Gray

    Like a lot of socialists, she probably thinks that strong governments are only wrong if they are right-wing, and modelled on the Nazies, hence all that business about mugblood, and blood lines. Her ‘Harry Potter’ stories are good adventure stories, and that is all kids really want- the magical element added some literary magic, but I bet if she wrote non-magical stories for kids, they would also sell well. In fact, before she was outed, her private detective book had good reviews.

  • David Bishop

    Voltaire’s sentiment or his own words? (SG Tallentyre was the nom-de-plume of Evelyn Beatrice Hall.)
    http://www.voltaire.ox.ac.uk/www_vf/about_voltaire/didnt_say.pdf

  • Richard Thomas

    MikeR, for a split second there, I thought “Trumbo” was going to be a Trump parody film.

  • Fraser Orr

    It always struck me as futile, in fact counterproductive, to get too concerned who said which wise and pithy saying. A saying is wise intrinsically, not because of who said it. In fact, an over emphasis on that makes logical fallacy of appeal to authority seem more valid, and so it really is rather counterproductive.

    There is a matter of attribution — not claiming someone else’s work — but who said what really doesn’t matter, it is what they said that matters.

    One of my favorite pity sayings regarding free speech is “let a thousand flowers bloom.” However, unfortunately the original speaker of this was Mao Tsedung, and he used it to encourage opponents to speak up with their different viewpoints so that his secret police could find them, catch them and execute them. So the provenance is not particularly appealing, but that does not in any way diminish the underlying intrinsic beauty of the idea so sullied by his murderous paranoia.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I wonder if Mao’s phrase “let a thousand flowers bloom” was actually a quote from someone else, or a traditional Chinese saying. I’ve no evidence for this supposition but to me it has the flavour of a proverb being quoted. Can any readers familiar with Chinese culture advise?

    Against that, Mao apparently did have some skill as a poet. Maybe I just don’t want to believe that such an evil man could come up with such a beautiful image.

  • Even evil people are people. Hitler had a genuine interest in architecture and his ideas were less ridiculous than those of many a post-war concrete brutalists. Stalin had a genuine interest in etymology and occasionally wrote articles on word derivation; late in life, he wrote one reproving a faction he himself agreed with, saying they were persecuting their scientific opponents, preventing free scientific discussion, etc. (shades of Obama and free speech!). I’m sure Mao’s poems were not as good as mine [heroically resists temptation to add yet another link to it 🙂 ] and they will of course have been praised beyond their merits, but they might have _some_ merit. At a stately home where they are collected, I’ve seen many pictures by Hitler that I thought so-so and one or two that I thought quite competent; from vague memory of seeing the work of both, I’m not sure Hitler and Churchill were that far apart in their painting skills. (Churchill’s ‘Painting as a Pastime’ is a fun read. It is claimed that in the men’s hostel, Hitler would sometimes advise and help other would-be artists, though, as with Mao’s poems, one wonders if these stories grew in the telling when he was in power.)

    A thoroughly anti-nazi priest who once had to talk to Hitler was later asked what he looked like. He replied, “He looked like any man; that is, like Christ.”

    One of the things I admired in JKR was her sketch of Voldemort’s early years. I’m not sure it’s an unmitigated success, and I don’t criticise Tolkien for not providing a ‘Sauron’s childhood” summary – JKR was writing a children’s book in which such things more naturally fitted – but I admire the attempt, and it is certainly very far from an unmitigated failure.

    Kim seems to be criticising Tolkien for the writing skiil(lessness) of his imitators. Dianna Wynne Jones’ essay Inventing the Middle Ages devastates them without denying the debt she owes to Tolkien himself (both his books and his lectures she attended at Oxford). JKR will have (already has?) imitators who will make a travesty of her ideas and techniques but that will not affect the quality of her books. In “Fire and Hemlock”, the heroine writes a Tolkein imitation in her early teens – and is at first furious, but soon must shamefacedly agree, when the hero points out that it’s garbage. (He continues however to send her all sorts of fantasy books in a desperate attempt to educate her about the world she’s really living in.) In short, one may despise the rip-off writers while recognising they exist precisely because the source had something impressive.

  • Mal Reynolds

    My impression of JK Rowling has always been as much less of a “closet libertarian” and more just of a socialist. The evil house in Hogwarts, Slytherin, holds ambition as one of its highest values. Ambition = evil sounds like a view of ambition that every socialist I know holds and not a single libertarian. Add that to the ridiculous “economy” of the wizarding world that only someone without a clue how an economy could function (i.e. a socialist) could suggest. A humongous state supported purely by what, the small shops of Diagon alley? Sure the reality of a monolithic state is shown in a realistic (i.e. bureaucratic and incompetent) way but her conception of a society where such a state seems legit suggests more left wing ideals.

    Also fits in way more comfortably with her support for the Labour party…

    Having said that I enjoyed the books, very much a part of my childhood and I would finish reading each book the day it was released. Just looking into the politics of JKR and the books (something for this post, not something I was doing at the time) suggests my above comment.

  • Ray P

    Joanne Rowling appeared at the Lord Levenson enquiry and criticized the freedom of the British press. She later put her name to a letter demanding restrictions on the press, prepared by the Hacked Off campaign group and sent to David Cameron.

  • Alisa

    BTW, I am told by someone who was actually present at Obama’s Rutgers event that, later in that same speech, he proceeded to implying that the free speech of AGW Deniers should be limited.

  • Alisa

    It sounds like for Mao, the “let a thousand flowers bloom” proposition was mitigated by the Tall Poppy Syndrome.

  • Cal

    “It always struck me as futile, in fact counterproductive, to get too concerned who said which wise and pithy saying. A saying is wise intrinsically, not because of who said it. In fact, an over emphasis on that makes logical fallacy of appeal to authority seem more valid, and so it really is rather counterproductive.”

    Sure, except that those pithy desktop calendar sayings already make an appeal to authority, being attributed (rightly or wrongly) to various esteemed thinkers. Many of them are just vague, puffed-up platitudes, and only get traction because some supposedly wise thinker supposedly said them.

  • Banner

    Good for her giving the members of PEN a badly needed remedial lesson about freedom of speech. Of the several hundred despicable retards that signed that execrable protest letter last year I wonder how many will actually listen to comments such as those made by Rowling, never mind actually change their minds.

    Has that asshole Teju Cole responded yet?

  • Blue Kayak

    In the first Potter book, where Voldemort is a mere wraith living off of unicorn blood, Dumbledore says (paraphrased as I don’t have it with me today – sorry) something about how terrible it is to kill an innocent and beautiful creature just to enhance your own life.

    My first thought was – he’s talking about abortion. What a great pro-life speech.

  • Thailover

    Blue Kayak said,
    “something about how terrible it is to kill an innocent and beautiful creature just to enhance your own life.”

    To base considerations of the value of life on how “innocent” or pretty it is, is asinine. We don’t eat cows based on how guilty or ugly they are.

  • Thailover

    James Strong wrote,

    “Do any of you ever read fiction just because it can provide entertaining stories?”

    Of course, but as one gets older, one notices how authors smuggle in political “messages”. Sometimes those messages are good and sometimes not so good. Examples include the pilot for the original star trek, i.e. capt pike and “number 1” and others being essentially pets/experiments for three throbbing headed aliens. That was an obvious metaphoric criticism of a triune god and the Adam and Eve scenario in the garden of Eden. Ditto for the movie The Island with Ewan McGreggor and Scarlett Johanson as a metaphoric adam and eve with Dijimon Hounsou playing ‘satan’, a strong-arm of “god” who eventually became sympathetic towards the escaped couple’s fight (and flight) for freedom and out of their gilded cage. Another along the same (and popular) theme being V for Vendetta, with V as “Satan”, born of a trial by fire and who now seeks to undermine the distopian fascistic nation set up by “god” (John Hurt) by influencing humanity to free themselves from this tyranny by rejecting this overlord, starting by teaching Eve(y) (Natlie Portman) that there are some things worth fighting for, even if it cost one one’s own life in the process, and once one realizes that, from balls to bones, one is no longer afraid of the overlords.

    I agree with you on Ayn Rand’s fiction. But at least her works are overtly political and philosophical. Playing on a similar theme as those above, her work Anthem is overtly about social control v personal freedom. The protagonist chooses the symbol and name of Prometheus at the end (instead of Lucifer), but the point is made nonetheless.

  • Thailover

    PS.
    Wow, talking about this running theme above, how could I have forgotten Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, with “god” Big Brother, and “Satan” Emanuel Goldstein? Big Brother runs everything and knows everything, presumably even the number of hairs on your head and the trajectory of every sparrows path. And Goldstein as the vilified opponent to “god’s” plans. What’s particularly interesting in the story is that we become aware that we don’t even know if these characters even exist within the story…and that it doesn’t matter if “big brother” or Goldstein are real, because it’s the system that uses the idea of their existence to batter and abuse people, owning them like chattel.

  • Mr Ed

    Blue kayak

    “something about how terrible it is to kill an innocent and beautiful creature just to enhance your own life.”

    I may be cynical, but I take that as akin to the sentiments of a pro-choice vegan.

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