JK Rowling
© The Fact Site
If anyone deserves the accolade "national treasure", it is JK Rowling. The Harry Potter author is one of Britain's biggest taxpayers; stumping up almost £120 million over the past three years. No jiggery-pokery, all paid directly through Scotland's self-assessment system. During lockdown, Rowling donated £1m to UK charities working with homeless people and victims of domestic abuse. Her talent, entrepreneurship and triumph over adversity make her a superb role model for children, while her defence of women's rights is inspirational.

Yet far from being hailed for her vast contribution to public life, our pathetic cultural elite desperately hope she will disappear. The phrase 'cancel culture' could have been invented to describe what Rowling endures. In refusing to compromise on her belief that being a woman is a biological reality she has been branded a heretic, dropped from polite society and legitimised as a target for insult and abuse.

Rather than honouring Rowling, at schools across the country, virtue-signaling teachers have insisted on erasing her name from the titles of school houses. And not merely content with distancing themselves from Rowling, others brand her work dangerous. It emerged this week that the University of Chester has slapped trigger warnings on Harry Potter books, cautioning students on the "young adult literature" module that the texts may prompt, "difficult conversations about gender, race, sexuality, class and identity."

Trigger warnings emerged on US campuses about a decade ago. They were said to allow students who had suffered past psychological trauma to prepare themselves for content that might provoke flashbacks. Since then, their use has exploded.

In the same week, we learnt that the University of Northampton is advising students that Nineteen Eighty-Four contains "explicit material" that they might find "offensive and upsetting". Call me callous but wasn't that rather Orwell's point? Readers are supposed to find the censorious and controlling state offensive, not be protected from it. But such warnings are no longer about safeguarding the vulnerable: they are red flags designed to highlight politically controversial content.

When even Harry Potter - a series more suited to 10 year-olds than university students - is considered "dangerous", then what book is safe? To Kill A Mockingbird is being purged from school reading lists from Nevada to Edinburgh. A Tennessee school board has banned Pulitzer prize-winning Holocaust novel, Maus. And publisher Pan Macmillan recently cut all ties with author Kate Clanchy after social media critics attacked her Orwell-prize winning account of school life, Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me for supposedly employing "racist" stereotypes.

The overbearing cultural elites dominating schools, academia and publishing assume that without their prescriptive advice we might read books with outdated racist attitudes and become racist. We might read Harry Potter and become transphobic. These self-appointed moral guardians need to back off and leave readers to make up their own minds.

A final, and particularly grating, dimension to all of this is that many of today's woke censors conduct their antics at our expense. Were it not for taxpayer subsidies, institutions from the BBC to many UK universities wouldn't exist to provide a platform for the virtue signallers to impose their prejudices on the rest of society. Nor would divisive pressure groups such as Stonewall survive without a steady flow of public cash.

Meanwhile, Rowling calmly carries on writing, selling books and stumping up the taxes that pay her critics' wages. They should be thanking her, not trying to cancel her.