Culture

John Cleese Stands Up for J.K. Rowling Amid 'Misogynistic' Trans Witch Hunt

AP Photo/Edmond Terakopian

“We’ve found a witch, may we burn her?” So say the transgender activists every time Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling dares to venture out on Twitter. The radical transgender movement has declared Rowling’s moderate stance anathema, even pushing the hashtag “#RIPJKRowling,” as if to “cancel” her from life itself.

This past weekend, a group of prominent British authors, writers, actors, and artists defended Rowling from the vitriol. No lesser a figure than Monty Python master John Cleese stood up to defend her, as well.

“Dear Twits, I have added my name to the signatories of the letter in solidarity with [J.K. Rowling],” Cleese announced on Wednesday. “Proud to be in the distinguished company of Ian McEwan, Andrew Davies, Frances Welch, Lionel Shriver, Ben Miller, Tom Stoppard, Frances Barber, Griff Rhys-Jones and Matthew d’Ancona.”

The letter, published in The Sunday Times, denounces the “hate speech” Rowling has faced, calling the transgender activist campaign against her an “insidious, authoritarian, and misogynistic trend in social media.”

“Rowling has consistently shown herself to be an honourable and compassionate person, and the appalling hashtag #RIPJKRowling is just the latest example of hate speech directed against her and other women that Twitter and other platforms enable and implicitly endorse,” the letter adds, according to The Federalist.

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Why did John Cleese sign the letter?

Transgender activists have long attacked Rowling for her nuanced position on transgender issues. The author accepts that some people who suffer from gender dysphoria (the condition of identifying with the gender opposite one’s biological sex) are well served by adopting a transgender identity and even undergoing hormonal and surgical interventions. She has, however, warned that such experimental treatments may be dangerous for minors, and she has also warned that opening up women’s private spaces to biological men can have extremely negative consequences.

Tragically, it seems that transgender activists see any nuance on these issues as a betrayal of their very “right to exist.” When Cleese expressed his support for Rowling, one self-described transgender person tweeted, “Nice to see you’re in agreement with her that I shouldn’t exist,” and accused Rowling of spouting “racist s**t.”

Cleese shot back, “No, I’m very happy for you to exist. So…you think Tom Stoppard and Ian McEwan are racists Frankly, it’s more likely that you are.”

Another critic accused Rowling of using “her considerable stature to say that trans women aren’t women, that they should not be treated as women because they once had bodies that weren’t in alignment with who they were. How is this any of her business?”

Cleese responded, “I’ve always known that arguing about definitions was pointless. But when the argument touches on legal matters, it’s necessary to become more precise. So I think the case of weight-lifter Laurel Hubbard is an example of great unfairness to women who have never had a man’s body.”

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The Rowling witch hunt

As a big fan of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I must say this tit-for-tat reminds me of the classic witch scene from that movie. A mob has seized a woman, dressed her up as a witch, and demanded, “We’ve found a witch! May we burn her?” The knight Sir Bedevere asks, “How do you know she is a witch?” To which the mob responds, “She looks like one!” Of course, she looks like one, nitwits — you dressed her up like one!

In the most hilarious bit, John Cleese pipes up, “She turned me into a newt!” Silence. “I got better,” he fesses up.

Transgender activists seem to take this exact mentality with Rowling. The Harry Potter author seems to genuinely want the best for people who struggle with gender dysphoria, but she is also genuinely worried about the threat that the transgender movement poses to women and impressionable young people.

Recently, Rowling published a new mystery book, Troubled Blood, under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Activists started tweeting “#RIPJKRowling” in protest, aiming to “cancel” the author. Why? The book allegedly tells the story of a man who dresses up as a woman in order to commit a murder, an idea which activists demonized as “transphobic.”

Yet the book does not focus on any such story. According to The Spectator, the entire episode only appears on one page, and it concerns a description of Dennis Creed, a serial killer. “She said he was dark and stocky, because he was wearing a wig at the time and all padded out in a woman’s coat,” the supposedly damning passage reads. In another section, “Creed mentions the advantage of lipstick and a wig in making women think he’s ‘a harmless old queer.’”

In other words, transgender activists whipped themselves into a furor over a minute side passage in a book, just because they disagree with Rowling’s moderate stance on transgender issues.

It gets even worse, however. Apparently, some triggered transgender activists thought Rowling’s pseudonym — Robert Galbraith — was linked to a therapist named Robert Galbraith Heath (1915-1999), who performed unethical experiments to turn gay people straight. Rowling’s spokesperson clarified that the Harry Potter author — who notoriously declared that Harry Potter character Albus Dumbledore was gay, years after the series had ended — was not inspired by the therapist.

“J.K. Rowling wasn’t aware of Robert Galbraith Heath when choosing the pseudonym for her crime novels,” a spokesperson told Newsweek. “Any assertion that there is a connection is unfounded and untrue.” The true inspiration for Rowling’s pseudonym came from Robert F. Kennedy.

It is absurd to think that Rowling chose the name because she has a secret hatred for LGBT people, but it seems transgender activists can get themselves so riled up, they will believe anything negative about their opponents.

Transgender activists have found a witch. They just need the exact right pretext on which to burn her.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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