What JK Rowling Can Teach Us About Surviving Cancel Culture


Cancel Culture has been around long enough for victims to develop a strategy against it.

Don’t apologize, unless you truly did something wrong. Realize the so-called mob is often very small and disconnected from the public at large.

Best of all? Ignore the mob until they find another target. Mark Wahlberg did just that after woke scolds attempted to cancel him after his unsavory past “resurfaced” anew.

Yes, a young Wahlberg attacked innocents as a teenager, hurling racial slurs in the process. He faced criminal punishment for his gross actions, apologized repeatedly and went on to lead a seemingly exemplary life as a father, husband and A-list actor.

“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling essentially aped all of the above strategies when the mob came to her door, but the Cancel Culture crowd refuses to back down.

They may never leave her alone.

It all started in 2020, a time when Rowling’s “Potter” legacy, and a crush of progressive-approved stances, marked her as celebrity royalty. She hated Donald Trump, retconned her own literary canon to make it more inclusive and enjoyed media adoration along the way.

Then she Tweeted an unabashed defense of her fellow women on Twitter, triggered by an op-ed calling women, “people who menstruate.” Far-left progressives recoiled at her verbiage, but Rowling didn’t back down. 

She doubled down.

“If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth … The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women—i.e., to male violence—‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences—is nonsense.”

Rowling, like Dave Chappelle in recent months, reached out to the trans community in the process.

“I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

That changed everything. Suddenly, her seemingly invincible brand took a direct hit. Media outlets raged against her. Columnists said the “Potter” legacy had been permanently soiled.

The three main actors from the “Harry Potter” franchise – Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint – distanced themselves from her in the public arena. Rowling had been branded a bigot in the public square by actors who owed their career (and bank accounts) to her imagination.

Things looked grim for the author’s public persona, but the Cancel Culture mob routinely moves on to other targets. Rowling’s “crimes” were Tweets and essays, after all, not physical violence or calls for anything other than kindness.

It didn’t matter. Cancel Culture places anti-trans critiques above all else (just ask Chappelle), and Rowling had crossed a line that couldn’t be uncrossed.

Even a hostage-style apology might not work at this point to undo the damage.

Some could argue Rowling wasn’t “canceled” in any profound way. She still had the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise, and no one had siphoned her book royalties from her. That didn’t capture the efforts made across the culture, either by those who truly believed she had attacked the trans community or just feared anyone suspecting they sided with her, to erase her from the mainstream.

“Harry Potter” fan sites like MuggleNet and The Leaky Cauldron vowed not to report on her, her honors, or similar news items.

She ironically became like Lord Voldemort, the Potter villain whose name should not be spoken. Her name no longer appeared on the site, along with fan art or related imagery of the British author.

A New Zealand book festival removed a Potter-themed event in 2021 due to Rowling’s gender commentary.

The recent HBO Max reunion special, “Return to Hogwarts,” made sure not to include Rowling in the ceremony. She appeared, oh so briefly, via archival footage of the franchise she created.

A British secondary school removed Rowling as the name of one of its houses due to her trans comments, replacing it with Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes.

Even threats of potential violence couldn’t slow the Cancel Culture attacks on Rowling. A trio of trans activists shared the author’s address on Twitter last year, drawing a sharp, revealing rebuke from Rowling.

“They should have reflected on the fact that I’ve now received so many death threats I could paper the house with them, and I haven’t stopped speaking out … perhaps – and I’m just throwing this out there – the best way to prove your movement isn’t a threat to women, is to stop stalking, harassing and threatening us.”

Reporters refused to attack or critique the activists in question, nor were they “canceled” for putting Rowling’s life in danger.

It’s important to note the press, by and large, agreed with Rowling’s cultural cancellation, either quietly or with how they framed stories about her. Reporters have shared every last morsel of punishment she faced without the sense that things had gone too far.

That explains why reporters pounced on former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart’s claim that Rowling’s “Potter” films were anti-Semitic for including gold-grubbing goblins with pointy ears and sharp teeth, similar to anti-Semitic tropes of yore.

Stewart’s rant on the subject caught fire in a media environment eager to pile on Rowling for clicks and Cancel Culture kudos.

Stewart quickly backpedaled, denying the charge and arguing his comments were “light-hearted” in nature. Perhaps the far-left comic didn’t realize all the work Rowling has done to battle anti-Semitism.

The same media also framed another Rowling news cycle in a curious way. Two U.S. groups that run the Quidditch sport, invented by Rowling for the “Harry Potter” books, changed their names to distance themselves from the author.

Turns out a key reason for the change involved trademark issues, but that narrative is less damaging to Rowling, of course, so it didn’t make many headlines on the subject.

This list is incomplete but indicative of how Rowling has been treated over the past 18-plus months.

How has Rowling responded to this cavalcade of cancellations? She’s stood tall through it all. She hasn’t backed down or served up a “hostage”-style apology. She doesn’t poke the Cancel Culture beast quite like Chappelle does with his humor, but she refuses to change her mind despite the endless backlash.

Compare that to how Stephen King and Scarlett Johansson responded to their respective Cancel Culture attacks. King quickly apologized in 2020 for daring to say quality should matter most when it comes to art.

Johansson, after briefly accepting the role of a trans woman in a film to be called “Rub and Tug,” served up a mewling apology (more than one, actually) while turning the part down.

Both King and Johansson are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams and could survive a Cancel Culture retribution.

Instead, they let the mob speak for them. 

Rowling may remain as progressive as before, but her steely response to an attack with no signs of stopping puts her in a rare category these days.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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