J.K. Rowling And Graham Norton Clash Over Cancel Culture – Forbes
J.K. Rowling attends the 70th EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) at Royal Albert Hall on … [+]
Graham Norton sparked a debate with his recent comments on cancel culture, after being asked his thoughts on the phenomenon during an interview at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
The mere mention of “cancel culture” always seems to ignite controversy, as the phrase has become a bit of a buzzword that is used to describe unhinged harassment campaigns, valid criticism, and melodramatic Twitter backlash, all amplified by clickbait and social media.
Referring celebrities that cry about being censored, while communicating through newspaper op-eds, popular podcasts, and Netflix comedy specials, Norton had little sympathy, stating:
“In what world are you cancelled? I’m reading your article in a newspaper, or you’re doing interviews about how terrible it is to be cancelled … it’s free speech, but not consequence free.”
The interviewer turned the conversation to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, whose views on trans people have prompted backlash from activists, sparked condemnation, and to many former fans, poisoned her legacy as the author of a beloved children’s story.
Norton had a thoughtful response, criticizing celebrities speaking beyond their expertise, and being elevated above experts; Norton noted that his own opinion “adds nothing to the discussion,” and suggested:
“Talk to trans people, talk the parents of trans kids, talk to doctors, talk to psychiatrists, to someone who can illuminate this in some way. I’m very aware that, as a bloke on the telly, your voice can be artificially amplified, and once in a blue moon, that can be good, but most of the time, it’s just a distraction. It’s for clicks … If you want to talk about something, talk about the thing, you don’t need to attach a Kardashian or whatever to a subject, the subject should be enough in itself.”
Norton’s sensible response was widely praised, and ironically, inspired several thinkpieces elevating his voice; despite Norton’s insights, the attention economy is fueled by the opinions of famous people. After all, Rowling is an expert on wizards and magic schools, not trans people, but in the current media ecosystem, fame eclipses expertise.
Norton’s answer prompted a defensive response from Rowling, who wrote on Twitter:
“Very much enjoying the recent spate of bearded men stepping confidently onto their soapboxes to define what a woman is and throw their support behind rape and death threats to those who dare disagree.”
Note that Norton didn’t actually define what a woman is (and certainly didn’t condone death threats), but simply urged that the voices of trans people and experts be elevated in the discussion, above those of celebrities. British musician Billy Bragg piped up to point out that Rowling was illustrating Norton’s point.
Rowling continued to push back against her critics, conflating good-faith criticism, bad-faith criticism, and violent threats together into one indistinguishable mass.
When it comes to celebrity voices being amplified to the detriment of truth and clarity, Joe Rogan provided a timely example, his name trending on Twitter while Rowling clashed with Norton.
On his podcast, Rogan spread a repeatedly debunked urban legend related to trans people and identity while interviewing Tulsi Gabbard. With a straight face, Rogan insisted that an American school had installed a litter box in the girl’s bathrooms for a student who “identified as a cat.”
Norton’s point, it seems, speaks for itself.