J. K. Rowling’s full-throated defense of free speech at the 2016 PEN Literary Award Gala in New York is a breath of fresh air:
“Only last year, we saw an online petition to ban Donald Trump from entry in the U.K. It garnered half a million signatures,” she said at Pen America’s annual literary gala in New York. “Now, I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there.”
Rowling, author of Harry Potter, who has called her book’s villain Voldemort “nowhere near as bad” as Trump, recognizes that her right to “call him a bigot” also protects Trump’s right to say bigoted things. This sort of intellectual honesty and respect for basic liberty, increasingly rare these days, is worth savoring.
Her speech continues, “My critics are at liberty to claim that I’m trying to convert children to Satanism. And I am free to explain human nature and morality. Or to say, ‘You’re an idiot,’ depending on which side of the bed I got out of that day.”
A self-described moderate and liberal, she is disturbed by the intolerance of the online petition to ban Trump from the U.K., which was debated for three hours in Parliament: “If my offended feelings can constitute a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral grounds on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the right for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes.”
Brava, Ms. Rowling.