Sometimes an individual should simply stick to doing what he or she does best. In the case of the British author J.K. Rowling her “best” is continuing her spectacularly successful career of writing fantasy books for children; and not becoming an online agent provocateur for Greater England: a veritable troll-baiting champion of its hegemony over the island of Britain. Since 2014 the English-born celebrity has played a social media game – whether intentional or accidental – of simultaneously claiming victimhood because of her publicly-expressed political beliefs while victimising those who publicly disagree with those beliefs. This has revealed an unpalatable aspect of her character that we could have well done without.
In many ways Rowling seems to have adopted the rhetorical sleight-of-hand employed by the Fox News fringe of the Republican Party in the United States. If you and your class/ethnicity/race are in the political, social and economic ascendancy, yet you find that supremacy being criticised by those upon which it is built, the best form of defence in the modern age is to illicit sympathy and support by assuming the air of an injured party. You are the victim, not the victimiser (or the defender of victimisation).
J.K Rowling’s repeated claims of “anti-English bigotry” in Scottish nationalist circles are the equivalent of Bill O’Reilly and his protests against the supposed “war on Christmas” being waged by “liberals” in the US. Her special pleading on behalf of the “English” in relation to Scotland echoes the reality-twisting arguments of such dubious luminaries as Anne Coulter and Pamela Geller in relation to the supposed undermining and targeting of “Whites” in the States. Such stuff is paranoia with political purpose, and simply serves to whip up a form of sub-militant sentiment amongst those susceptible to it.
While Fox News creates a cultural sea in which murderous fish like Dylann Roof, the Charleston church-shooter, can swim, Rowling places herself as an incongruous fellow-traveller with such unabashed English nationalists as the right-wing, celebrity-historian David Starkey. When the controversial academic issues his diatribes against Scotland, most recently with his description of the governing Scottish National Party as “Nazis”, Rowling is notably absent from the ranks of those condemning his hate-speech. Yet the most innocuous of criticisms from youthful Scottish voters on Twitter can send her into paroxysms of outraged hysteria. How dare you question me, how very dare you?! Do you not know who I am? I wrote Harry Potter!
The problem with media-coddled celebrities, even those from a literary background (and it would be churlish to deny J.K. Rowling’s abilities as a talented – if Anglo-nostalgic – creator of imaginative fiction), is easy to summarise: the greater the success, the greater the ego. This creates a sense of self-entitlement, the need for one to be surrounded at all times by the supplicant and worshipful. Which is why the public meltdowns can be so epic when the fantasy of the internal monologue meets the reality of the external world. Not all of us think that every word spoken or typed by Rowling is dripping with Delphic wisdom. In fact many of us believe that when it comes to her views on the mastery of Greater England over the island of Britain she is blind to her own prejudices. She is the ultimate self-denying nationalist.
So rather than whining about the alleged – and invariably false – ferocity of the Scottish Cybernats and their criticisms of her frequently expressed opinions perhaps J. K. Rowling should confront her own inner Britnat? Maybe in doing so she might recognise something in others that reflects her own ideological – and patriotic – loyalties. Though in the case of Scottish nationalism such patriotism is about the freedom to choose one’s own destiny – not seeking to maintain control over the destinies of others.