While speaking on a podcast, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling insisted that she “never set out to upset anybody” when discussing past threats from transgender activists and religious radicals.
During the first two installments of “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling,” Megan Phelps-Roper, a Westboro Baptist Church escapee and political activist, spoke with Rowling to discuss her tumultuous public life and legacy.
Early in the first chapter of the podcast from “The Free Press,” Phelps-Roper asked how Rowling became the subject of intense backlash, both from left- and right-leaning figures.
“What is it about this woman and her work that has captured the ire of very different groups of people across time?” Phelps-Roper wondered in a letter she sent to Rowling in Scotland.
When Rowling received the note, she offered for Phelps-Roper to visit her home where she addressed the significant number of attacks she has experienced since the first Harry Potter book was released.
“I never set out to upset anybody,” Rowling said during the podcast. “However, I was not uncomfortable with getting off my pedestal.”
Rowling took time to respond to online critics who claimed she had ruined her legacy and could have been beloved forever if she had not spoken out against transgender issues.
“I think you could not have misunderstood me more profoundly. I do not walk around my house thinking about my legacy,” Rowling said.
While the last Harry Potter novel was released in 2007, Rowling has remained a prominent and polarizing figure in the modern media landscape. Much of the controversy has stemmed from her Twitter activity, as over the last few years Rowling has repeatedly defended the concept of biological sex and expressed concern that legal and linguistic revisions could potentially erase the experience of biological females.
Comments such as these have led many on the left to refer to her as a “trans, exclusionary radical feminist,” or TERF.
However, Rowling found herself a participant in contentious political discourse dating back to the 1990s when she became the target of religious radicals who believed the Harry Potter books advocated for witchcraft and even the practice of Satanism.
Many pushed to ban the books in school libraries and classrooms, and to this day the series remains one of the most banned book series in the world.
Rowling warned against the idea of “black and white thinking,” both from past threats from the far-right and current threats from the far-left.
“There’s a huge appeal – and I try to show this in the Potter books – to black-and-white thinking,” the author said. “It’s the easiest place to be and in many ways, it’s the safest place to be.”
She added that taking an “all-or-nothing position” on anything will help find an individual among comrades and a community, but added that people should mistrust themselves when they feel certain about a particular subject or issue.
“Many people mistake that rush of adrenaline for the voice of conscience. In my worldview, conscience speaks in a very small and inconvenient voice, and it’s normally saying to you: ‘Think again, look more deeply, consider this.”
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