J. K. Rowling on Donald Trump and free speech

May 19, 2016 • 2:15 pm

Now this is the proper attitude towards free speech, conveyed by J. K. Rowling at the PEN America gala in New York. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with Rowling about anything.

Lagnaippe: as the Guardian noted:

She ended her acceptance speech by pointing to the case of Tal Al-Mallouhi, who was arrested by Syrian security forces in 2009 over her blog entries. Al-Mallouhi was 18 at the time, and remains in prison.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.47.46 AM
Photograph: Ed Lederman/PEN America


h/t: Hardy

47 thoughts on “J. K. Rowling on Donald Trump and free speech

    1. Nice quote. Nice link. She said it right.

      Hand holding gets you children who grow up to be big versions of children. Nobody loses, no risk, no failure. Medals on the chest just for showing up and sucking thumbs.

  1. I’m amazed that some of my more left-leaning friends find this anything but a clear matter. Instead, they “struggle with it”.

    1. Yes it is a strange and pervasive issue.

      The other is the rush to judge, criticize and ridicule out of existence anyone who transgress ‘correct’ speech and ‘correct’ thought.
      To take a moral high ground.
      Even if it were a misquote, an attempt at humor or one misstep out of a thousand right ones.

      These phenomena are part of the same negative trends in the left.

      1. These phenomena are part of the same negative trends in the left.

        The terms “left”- and “right”- wing seem to be undergoing some erosion. Having been – for all my conscious life – somewhat left-wing, I do find it disturbing to see that people in arguably the most right-wing society in the world (America, should you not recognise it) are now equating “left” with “neo-fascist”.
        For years I have made a ha-ha-but-serious thing of it to describe myself as “somewhat to the left of Joseph Salin – and to the right of Ghenghiz Kahn. But that was mostly a joke to address the imprecision of the simple left-right (false) dichotomy in describing poliics.
        It is increasingly worrying to see my jokes reflected in semi-sober debate.

    2. Quite obviously free speech is only for the good guys, to use against bad guys, whereas bad guys don’t deserve free speech and should just STFU and listen. And, even more obviously, they get to say who the good guys are and who the bad.

      1. I would like to know where the claim came from, but I do remember the principle that free speech is only free speech if you can unflinchingly apply it to someone whose views utterly revolt you. In short, if you can’t apply it to your worst enemies, it isn’t free speech; it’s just having your way.

        1. Chomsky.

          “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”

          — Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media


    3. That’s because Philip K Dick was onto something & we’re living in one of his dystopian stories.

      1. I’m not sure if that is scary, or exciting. I’ll go and read some more PKD and smoke a few doobs, and … where are the at-in-a-box videos?

    4. Yeah, that has always confused me about a certain portion of the left. After all the effort the left went through with the counter-culture for the right to be offensive and subversive. Then as the culture shifts to being more permissible, some have decided that they get to be the arbiters of what society can and cannot say. It’s really not at all a complicated issue.

    5. Me too.

      I am a little concerned that some nations may actually refuse entry to a (Hank preserve us from it) President Trump.

      I’m much more concerned that he has a fighting chance to actually become president.

  2. I love what this woman did to fire the imagination of my now teen-aged daughter with the Harry Potter books. It was our standard bedtime reading until she was old enough to read them on her own. Her ability to invent names alone is Dickensian.

    Jerry, Rowling addressed the 2008 graduating class of our alma mater. In case you missed it, here’s a link to the text of that wonderful speech which contains an embedded video. Entitled “The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination,” it is the single most viewed commencement speech on Harvard’s web site. There was also some resistance to her being afforded this honor from the self-important on campus who believed she wasn’t a serious author.


    1. My now 27 year old daughter grew up on the Harry Potter stories. She was lucky to discover the first volume in her school’s Scholastic Books flier and thought it looked interesting. That was before they caught on. By the time the later volumes were released she and her mom were waiting in lines at book stores to purchase two copies so they wouldn’t need to wait for one of them to finish before the other could dive in. It was quite a thing to watch.

      1. My now 27 year old daughter grew up on the Harry Potter stories.

        [SELF] Gets zimmer frame. Orders stairlift.
        I read HP cover to cover (book 5, IIRC) while recovering from a nervous breakdown caused by 5 burglaries in 8 days. Escapism!

  3. As irritating as it is, if history is any guide, the core values of tomorrow will spring from somewhere along the fringe of today.

    1. I’m trying to remember who (metaphorically) got 3 brownie points, or something more substantial, for answering an early version of The Ultimate Question of [42) with “There is nothing new under the sun.”
      Which, as per email to PCC(E) earlier, is not true. (re: large neoProterozoic organisms with low tissue diversity).

  4. Same for me. Rowling (to my awareness) was consistently spot on, and alas in ways I would have thought claptraps not too long ago.

  5. I was thrilled by her comments when I heard them. I think she’s spot on too. It’s good to hear so many respected figures saying the same.

    And I love the Harry Potter books as well. I’ve even got the first two in Latin. I plan to get the audio books too, which are narrated by Stephen Fry.

      1. I thought when I saw them on Amazon that that might be why they were translated into Latin – it’d be a great way to get kids to read stuff in the language.

        1. Paired with Asterix et Obelix, they’d make many Classics grads! And the world needs Classics grads because we give the world a little bit of sparkle. 🙂

            1. Have you heard of the Shakespeare restoration project?
              The Klingon Language Institute are seeking to restore he works of Sheq’spir to the original Klingon.

              1. I don’t know whether this is real, but it sounds cool. Learning Klingon, however, is just too hard. I struggle with Shakespeare as it is. I’m a fan of Brick Shakespeare though, where the scenes are recreated with Lego-type bricks then used to tell the stories comic style.

              2. Brick Bible is good too. I have the Old and New Testaments. I should look into the Shakespeare ones.

              3. Oh, you’ll love this Diana! I’ve just discovered (at that search I linked to) that they’ve done, among other things, some Greek myths too!

              4. That’s great! I was just wondering about myths and how they should be bricked!

    1. I plan to get the audio books too, which are narrated by Stephen Fry.

      Do it.
      [in voce Jean-Luc Picard] Make it so!

      1. Jim Dale is amazing, though I too would love to hear the Stephen Frye versions.

        But, better still, if you like Dickens, try listening free to Mil Nicholson on loyalbooks.com (Formerly librivox). She is amazing.

  6. I classify myself as a firm supporter of the principles of free speech and agree with the famous saying usually (but wrongly) attributed to Voltaire. However, I do make a distinction between discourse containing points with which I disagree for various reasons and what are simply gratuitously offensive remarks often directed against people who are in some way different, whether on account of skin pigmentation, sexual orientation or disability. I would doubt that many of us have difficulty recognising the more extreme examples of the genre. However, the problem lies in establishing just where the border should lie (and if indeed, there should be a border.).
    A case in point concerns the recent problems within the upper reaches of the British Labour Party where some members have been suspended from the party pending investigation and hearings, for making comments about possible links between National Socialism and “Zionism” in the 1930s. I believe that criticism of Israeli Government policies is often justified. what I don’t believe is that all such policies can be viewed through the prism of “Zionism”. Yet, there seems to be a growing viewpoint which categorises all anti Israeli sentiment as being rooted in “Zionism”. “Zionism”,used as a term of abuse, consists of holding to the view that there is a Worldwide Jewish Conspiracy which seeks to control, inter alia, the banking system. Allied to that is continuing belief in myths such as “the blood sacrifice”. It is in the interstices between opinions, on the one hand, that Israel should retreat beyond its 1967 borders, and, on the other, that Israel (in league with the USA)was formed and exists principally to manipulate markets and maintain “slave labour capitalism”.
    Just where can a consistent line be drawn? Let us consider two examples:- 1) The Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet. I, personally, have no difficulty with these. 2) A cartoon which appeared two or 3 years ago in the Times (London) which alluded (unintentionally, according to its creator) to the “Blood Sacrifice”. That did make me feel distinctly queasy and I am not sure that I can defend its productions on the basis of Voltaire’s alleged dictum.

  7. I have yet to dip my toe into the HP world (beyond the films, which I’ve seen).

    My son (12) just started the first one on Kindle on 28-April (that one was done that night — he was tired next morning); and he had them all read by 10-May.

    Maybe I should try them!

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