J. K. Rowling with 14.6 million followers has the largest twitter following of any author on planet Earth. She has been using her bully pulpit there, not only to occasionally bully those followers who dare disagree with her and to dismiss in as patronizing a fashion as she can muster the master bully, the President of the United States, but also to push (on a daily, frantic, even frenetic basis) the cause of a ‘People’s Vote,’ that is, a second go at the Brexit referendum. Rowling is a passionate ‘Remainer’ and, except for Lumos notes here and there now that the tidal wave of Fantastic Beasts publicity is done, her twittering is all about the idiocy of Brexit and the inevitable apocalypse that will result if the first referendum results are respected as final.
As near hysterical as much of this or just the weight of the number of re-tweets is, Rowling has chosen this time, of all times, to break with the political party of her youth and maturity, the leftist Labour Party now headed by Jeremy Corbyn. Part of this, of course, must be that Corbyn refuses to support a second referendum on Brexit. Rowling’s given reason, however, has made her a lightning rod for criticism from the UK’s political left. She says that she can longer vote Labour because of Corbyn’s anti-Semitism and the defense of same by his supporters. Prejudice against Jews for Rowling is a professed red-line that not even political reds, the leftists of her progressive stripe, can cross without losing her allegiance (and one assumes, generous financial support; Rowling has been known to gift Labour up to a million pounds sterling at one go).
On 22 December 2018 Rowling posted a 16 part twitter feed in something approaching King James English syntax and spelling in which she tells the story of her tribulations as a prophet to the tribe of Labour about how they have forsaken the right path and can expect a divine wrath of sorts. It is simultaneously comic, seering, and self-satirizing in a way that is re-assuring, at least to this serious reader of Rowling, that she hasn’t completely lost her mind or sense of humor about political disagreements.
After the jump, I publish the sixteen tweets, furnish a few necessary annotations Brit friends have sent me for references this Yank couldn’t grock (thank you, Elspeth!), and then explain the importance of the tweet beyond the Brexit kerfuffle for Rowling-ologists.
Rowling Twitter Thread of 22 December 2018
And lo, unto her did appear a host of Corbyn defenders, who did descend upon her mentions, and she was not sore afraid, because she was used to it. And the host did sing with one voice, ‘ungodly woman, thou foolest us not. We know the true reason thou despisest Saint Jeremy.’ 1
And she did say unto them ‘share thy hot take.’ And with righteous wrath they did declare, ‘thou fearest Saint Jeremy, friend of the poor, because he shall take from thee in taxation much more even than Herod, and so thou attackest the meek and honest saviour of this land.’ 2
And she did reply, ‘I shall not call ye dimwits, for it is the season of goodwill, but tis not Saint Jeremy who shall tax me, nay, not even if he enters the house of Number Ten, for my tax rates are set by Queen Nicola, in whose kingdom I do abide, and unto her I do pay 3
my full portion, seeking neither to flee to Monaco nor to hide my gold in far flung lands, like St Jacob, Patron Saint of Filthy Hypocrites.’ ‘Speak not of hypocrites!’ cried the host, ‘for thou dost claim to care about the poor yet doth rail against their champion, St Jeremy!’ 4
And she did answer, ‘How shall the poor fare under Brexit, which thy Saint hath always in his secret heart desired, yet he hath not admitted what was in his heart, lest fewer attend his next Sermon on the Glastonbury B Stage.’ And they did answer, ‘Saint Jeremy will achieve 5
a miracle, and he shall bring forth a Jobs First Brexit and all the land shall rejoice.’ And she did answer, ‘bollocks.’ But she bethought her of the season of goodwill, and repenting of her ire she did speak further. ‘I have, for all my life, voted Labour, yet now I cannot.’ 6
‘But his goodness doth shine out of his every orifice!’ cried the host, swarming anew into her mentions. ‘Behold his beard! Look upon this picture of him being led off by police when he was protesting racism in all its forms!’ And she did say, ‘I have looked upon his beard 7
…and also upon this picture. It is a good picture and I do like a beard, as I have oft declared. Yet must I protest, thou it breaketh my heart so to do, that this party of Labour, which I have so long loved, has become, under St Jeremy -‘ 8
‘Speak not of the Jews!’ cried the host. ‘Why must thou speak so oft of the Jews?’ ‘Yea, I must speak,’ said she, ‘for when Jews no longer feel safe in Labour then I too must leave.’ And one of the host did shout something about the Rothschilds 9
and he was hastily hushed by his brethren, who did declare, ‘he is not one of ours, thou he sports a halo.’ And another did speak and he said, ‘it is not antisemitic to criticise Israel,’ and she did put her face in her hands and want to weep. 10
But she did then look up and see many stars shining brightly in the sky and lo, they did arrange themselves before her eyes into a ‘who would make the best Prime Minister poll’ and she did cry, ‘Will ye not raise up your eyes to the Heavens? See there the People’s mind!’ 11
And they did look up at the stars and read there that St Jeremy was, as for ages past, in third place after Pontus May and Don’t Know. And she spake further, ‘do ye not see that St Jeremy is hurting your party, yea, that his inability even to organise a vote of no confidence 12
doth embolden and strengthen this calamitous government, of which all despair?’ But they did close their eyes to the stars and some did answer, ‘you are a fool who doth not understand St Jeremy’s master plan’ 13
and others still did beseech the woman to descend from the ivory tower in which, for the purposes of this story, they would wish her to dwell. And they besought her to descend into Bethlehem, and go to a certain allotment, 14
where she would find the Messiah busy with his marrows and she would be filled with the spirit of Momentum. But she did shake her head and declare that she was and would remain an unbeliever, yet full sorrowful she was, for Labour had been her home. 15
And the host did despise and condemn her, and many did tell her to fuck off and join the Tories, and before they did depart one of their number cried unto her, ‘it’s because he’ll tax you more, isn’t it,’ and she did sigh and wished him a Merry Christmas. 16X
Annotations for Americans:
Queen Nicola (3) Queen Nicola I’m guessing is the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon. Tax rates are higher in Scotland than in England. Rowling’s counter to the criticism from pro-Labour partisans that she is only complaining about Corbyn because she fears the higher taxation of a Labour government in England is that, if she were a tax dodger, she wouldn’t be living in Edinburgh.
St Jacob, Patron Saint of Filthy Hypocrites (4) I have it on good authority that this ‘Jacob’ who “hides his gold in far-flung lands” is a reference to Jacob Rees-Mogg (Wiki) who scandalously, in the minds of Remainers like Rowling at least, supports Brexit but has moved his financial holdings off-shore, which is to say, out of reach of the UK tax authorities. See ‘Brexiters Putting Money Off-Shore’ for that story (you’ll need to scroll down to find St Jacob; quite a few wealthy Brits have chosen this option to protect their money). Cormoran Strike readers will recall that The Silkworm opens with a Lord and MP who has his millions invested offshore; that vignette now reads like Rowling’s wish-fulfillment fantasy about “St Jacob” Rees-Mogg getting his just desserts.
“Something about the Rothschilds” (9-10) This is perhaps the part most likely to escape readers like myself in the US who do not follow the inside-baseball of UK politics (we are lucky to learn in the American news media a mention of a change of UK Prime Ministers; we’re much better informed on the Royal Family and its conjugal condition). It turns out that the flag always waved by anti-Semites, the Rothschilds international banking conspiracy guide-on, has recently been brought out out of the closet by a Member of Parliament and given an enthusiastic re-tweeting; see Rothschild’s Twitter Tirade: Antisemite MP?
The MP denies any anti-Semitism in his criticism of the Rothschilds. To those aware of the historic dog-whistle implicit to this charge, outside the guilt or innocence of the Rothschilds empire, it is very hard to ignore the association (think ‘Swastika: Hindu symbol or Nazi emblem?’). Rowling raises this subject to tar Labour with trying to hush up its anti-Semitism or at least to separate themselves from its members who are anti-Israel, Rothschild critics, and perhaps haters of Jews.
Importance for Rowling Readers
What are we to make of what some in the UK claim is a “Frankly libellous” tirade of Rowling’s against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn? Here are my three contributions to the conversation which I offer in hope of your sharing your thoughts:
(1) Stephanus Numbers and Twitter Threads: I don’t know if this is a first — I have to doubt it but this is the first time I have encountered it — but I found the use of twitter bites in biblical language hilarious. The content is funny, but what tickled me was that I had never noticed before that tweets in a numbered thread when read are indeed something like reading Christian scripture, divided as it is into chapter and individual verse numbers, the so-called Stephanus numbers.
(2) If It’s Biblical, It’s Chiastic: Note the structure of the 16 ‘verses.’ The beginning and end, verses 1-2 and 16, are accusations that Rowling is rich and therefore (QED) she is only really concerned about protecting her hoarded wealth. This is straight Marxist cant and a touchstone of cultural Marxists in our time that is always on parade in order to disenfranchise the wealthy and ‘privileged’ because their views are necessarily self-interested, unlike the poor (and the wealthy who claim to speak for them) who speak the truth independent of concerns about advantage.
In true ring fashion, as Rowling-ologists would expect, this bracketing is reflected in the passage’s center; in chiasmus, the ‘meaning is in the middle’ which echoes and points to start and finish. The center of Rowling’s phillipic is about the Jews and Corbyn’s anti-Semitism.
Rowling’s meaning, then, in the voice and tone of Hebrew prophecies, is in this criticism of the neo-Marxism and class hatred of the Labourites; she identifies herself with the hated rich and calls down those leftists who are prisoners of envy or who are just inciting hatred of the better off to further their political ambitions. Again, readers of Cormoran Strike and especially Lethal White will have no trouble recalling Jimmy Knight, ‘heroic’ leftist agitator, first class cad and deadbeat (did I mention ‘abuser of women’?), and shameless anti-Semite.
(3) Self Mockery: After my second reading of the 16 verses I thought of Alexander Pope and his Rape of the Lock. Pope writes a poem in the style of Homer and Virgil about the least important of subjects, the theft of a lock of hair from a woman by an overly enthusiastic suitor. The sum of the artistry, satire to the point of burlesque, is to render the trivial social concerns of Pope’s contemporaries ridiculous. I think Rowling’s thread has much the same effect and it reflects as much on her as it does on the Labour strawmen with whom she argues, a self-mockery that I choose to think is intentional.
Note the parallels of the turtle-back structure, for instance. There is no counter in the front half to verse numbers 11-13, in which Rowling calls as Prophetess for the Labourites who have departed from the True Faith to look to the heavens, which in this case reveal the results of opinion polls concerning who would make the best Prime Minister (Corbyn polls third behind May and ‘Don’t Know’). This passage is wonderfully ironic and self-immolating; can anything be less ‘heavenly,’ that is, fixed and eternal, than the ephemera of opinion polls which change by the hour? I think we’re obliged to assume Rowling is laughing at herself as much as at the Labourites and the pathetic quality of this conversation, always voiced in the language of God’s Prophets and the Coming Apocalypse. Do you think Isaiah would give a fig about Brexit?
The mock-heroic quality of the tweet stream in KJV cues the careful reader that Rowling is aware of her own overboard passions on the subject and that maybe we can calm down and have a good laugh about this, as apocalyptic as she obviously really does believe a No Deal Brexit will be.
Or am I being too generous? Too critical? Click on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the post’s headline and let me know what you think!