"No one ever thinks that! No one ever thinks they’re Umbridge!"
I’m really interested in the question of discernment. I think of this scene from one of your books. It was “Harry Potter in the Order of the Phoenix,” where Hermione, the hero, and Professor Umbridge, who was clearly in the wrong, have this showdown in class. Hermione says in a moment of defiance that she disagrees with something in her textbook and Umbridge berates her like, who are you to disagree with this expert who wrote this textbook and punishes her. Now to anyone reading this, it is so frustrating and unjust. But I venture to say that no one thinks they are the Umbridge.
After Rowling's quick outburst, quoted above, Phelps Roper continues: "And some people see you as the Umbridge. You have these younger critics online and they see Hermione as standing up to an older person with power and they see themselves as standing up to you."
Rowling: "Yeah. And I understand because they’ve told me very explicitly. Why they have an interpretation?!"
Phelps Roper: "How do you know if you are a Hermione or an Umbridge?"
Well, if you’re having a lot of fun doing it and getting a huge sense of self satisfaction out of it, then I do believe you maybe want to stop and think, “am I getting a huge ego rush out of this?” That would be a good question to ask yourself. You know, is this giving me pleasure? Because I can say from my heart none of this has given me pleasure. It has given me anxiety. It has made me at times feel vulnerable. So although I don’t regret anything, I’ve had concerns from my family’s safety. Some of the threats have not been too amusing to me. There has been fallout in my life inevitably. I still don’t regret standing up, but it certainly hasn’t given me pleasure on any level.
That last remark of Rowling's reminds me of Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" — Rule #6 to be exact:
The sixth rule is: A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.
But Rowling's rule — which is emphatically not a rule for radicals — is: If you're enjoying a tactic, stop and question yourself.
A corollary rule: When your antagonists seem to be enjoying themselves, know that they are embarrassingly stroking their own ego.
"Women are the only group — to my knowledge — that are being asked to embrace members of their oppressor class — unquestioningly, with no caveat."
Said J.K. Rowling, interviewed in Chapter 7 — "What If You're Wrong?" — of the podcast "The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling."
AND: Here's the full transcript, which I'm delighted to see. I wanted to highlight the part where Rowling agonizes over the politics of the left wing, which she wants to be a part of. It's very difficult without a transcript. The interviewer, Megan Phelps Roper, prompts: "There are a lot of critics who say, you and your comments are giving fuel to the right."
Well, my answer would be, I think you’re giving fuel to the right. This is why many left-wing feminists in particular are sitting with their head in their hands. The right has wanted for years and years, not all of the right, but certainly the further the right and the religious right, have wanted to castigate the lesbian and gay and bisexual movement as is inherently degenerate and part of the left’s broader degeneracy.
When you defend the placing of rapists in cells with women, you are handing the right a perfect opportunity to say, you see, we told you the moral degeneracy that would result if you say homosexual relationships are okay, and I think for many leftists, for many feminists, we are despairing of the fact that people are, in our view, colluding with a deeply misogynist movement, which is benefitting, politically speaking, the far right.
And I worry very deeply that, as the left becomes increasingly puritanical and authoritarian and judgmental, we are pushing swathes of people towards not just the right, it’s pushing them to the Alt Right.
She said "Alt Right." I've corrected the transcript here and below. ("Alt Right" was mistranscribed as "OutRight").
That’s what scares me, that particularly young men, when they’re being told everything in the world is their fault, and they have no right to a voice, and they are everything that is wrong with society. It is, unfortunately, a human reaction to go to the place where you will be embraced, and if the only place where you can make a joke or be accepted is a place that is full of poisonous ideas, then you’re likely to go there, particularly when you’re young.
So I think that the left is making a tremendous mistake in espousing this kind of, in my view, quasi-religious, incredibly sort of witch hunting behavior, because there will be people who will just feel when they’ve been shamed and abused, and they feel it was unfair, where are they going to go? That worries me very deeply.
In my lifetime, we’ve seen such a shift on the left, and I still would define myself as of the left, but I was born in the 60s when transgression really was the preserve of the left, when challenging authority, and when making the dark joke, and when breaking societal norms was very much the preserve of the left.
I’ve lived to see the left become incredibly puritanical, and rigid, and watching the Alt Right, and this isn’t a new phenomenon. The Alt Right is not the conservative right, with whom I disagree on many, many things. I’m just saying, we’re seeing a growth of something very much facilitated by the internet, that the alarms and disturbs me, and it worries me that the left are absolutely playing into that demographic’s hands.
ALSO: Let me comment on that quote, the one line that made me check the time stamp as I was out running this morning, because I wanted to hand-transcribe it for you: "Women are the only group — to my knowledge — that are being asked to embrace members of their oppressor class — unquestioningly, with no caveat."
Women are expected to be empathetic and giving — whether it's in our nature or whether we're conditioned and disciplined into it. It's central to the subordination. We're loved and valued — by others and by ourselves — because we take to this role, so naturally or fakely. It's part of the oppression that we can only win by not winning. Sacrifice! Give! And what a fine woman you are.
J.K. Rowling quotes Andrea Dworkin.
"William Wordsworth swore by walking, as did Virginia Woolf. So did William Blake."
From "Whatever the Problem, It’s Probably Solved by Walking" by the writer Andrew McCarthy (NYT).
"I always thought when you got to be a certain age, you’d give anything to be younger. But I am so excited to be dead in, like, 20 years. Because there’s not much more of this I can take."
How to be a stickler in the fuzzy aura.
"Some critics who have called Rowling’s positions anti-transgender — a sentiment she denies — called for a boycott of Hogwarts Legacy...."
“Does it get any more cozy than Hogsmeade?” The first time you hear this refrain in Hogwarts Legacy, the new blockbuster open-world video game based on the Harry Potter franchise, you may find yourself agreeing with your character, who has just said it. The higgledy-piggledy Hogsmeade Village is indeed cozy, a market town filled with a plethora of shops to purchase various wizarding wares. Then, as you hear the phrase for the fifth, tenth, and 15th time, you may begin to feel as if the long-in-development video game is trying too hard to convince you of this fact. Its repetition sums up almost the entire emotional register of Hogwarts Legacy — the wish-fulfillment fantasy of inhabiting the Potterverse it seeks to offer and the lack of confidence with which it does so. This is an insecure game, one you can tell is buckling under the weight of everything that accompanies it: the discourse, fan expectations, and J.K. Rowling herself.
Does that mean Harry Potter fans won't enjoy it?
The actual gameplay, the parts that come closest to making you feel like you’re an actual Hogwarts student, are mildly successful. There’s an undeniably nostalgic charm to exploring the labyrinthine corridors of Hogwarts. The castle is full of mysteries: hidden doors, disappearing staircases, moving paintings, a string quartet of instruments that play themselves — many elements of visual and audio design coalescing into a genuinely wondrous interactive whole....
Sounds like they will.
This is a very long review, with much talk about what's so terrible about JK Rowling, but the last line is a review of the substance of the game:
The treacly nostalgia is laid on so thick it’s stupefying.
Who knows the extent of the Potter fan's taste for treacle?
This will have an immense impact: "The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling."
"But nothing Rowling has said qualifies as transphobic. She is not disputing the existence of gender dysphoria."
As Rowling herself notes on the podcast, she’s written books where “from the very first page, bullying and authoritarian behavior is held to be one of the worst of human ills.”
Those who accuse Rowling of punching down against her critics ignore the fact that she is sticking up for those who have silenced themselves to avoid the job loss, public vilification and threats to physical safety that other critics of recent gender orthodoxies have suffered. Social media is then leveraged to amplify those attacks.
It’s a strategy Phelps-Roper recognizes from her days at Westboro. “We leaned into whatever would get us the most attention, and that was often the most outrageous and aggressive versions of what we believed,” she recalled....