Being A Writer Is A Dangerous Occupation
Author J.K. Rowling gets another death threat on Twitter. This time after denouncing attack on author Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed at a conference.
About a decade ago, I began a free blog on workplace bullying and abuse.
I had written a book, Surviving Bullies, Queen Bees & Psychopaths in the Workplace, and hoped to spark a national conversation on the problem of abuse and harassment at work.
My first inkling this may be a dangerous pursuit was when a woman who had publicly commented on one of my posts emailed me in a state of panic. She said her boss had visited my blog and recognized her name. “Please remove it!” she begged. “I may lose my job.”
(Sometime later a manager for the Social Security Administration rejected my application for a job, calling my blog a “red flag” that I would be a troublemaker. The federal court system says I have no recourse for this violation of my free speech.)
The stakes seem to be getting higher.
Instead of losing a job, it seems lives are on the line.
Salman Rushdie, an Indian born British-American novelist, was stabbed 15 times this week at a literary event in Buffalo, NY, before he was to give a lecture on free speech. Rushdie has lived in fear since 1988 when he published his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses. The late supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa (religious decree) calling for Rushdie’s assassination.
Rushdie was attacked on stage by Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old from New Jersey who is said to be sympathetic to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. . Rushdie is now on a ventilator and may lose an eye.
Enter J.K. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter series and arguably one of the greatest authors of the 21st century. She tweeted in solidarity with Rushdie: “Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok.”
To this, Asif Aziz, a student and social activist from Pakistan, responded, “Don’t worry you are next.”
This is just the latest of hundreds of death threats posted on Twitter against Rowling, who is the focal point of a hate campaign by the trans community because she insists that women are not just “people who menstruate” but comprise a sex that is distinct from male. She has been a lone voice, without the support of traditional feminist groups that take money to uphold women’s rights.
For years, Twitter ignored the death threats against Rowling, while banning women from its platform who say that men could not be women. (Canadian writer Meghan Murphy was permanently suspended in 2018 because she referred to a trans woman as “him.”)
On Saturday, Rowling contacted @TwitterSupport and asked whether there was “any chance of some support.”
This time Twitter froze Aziz’ account - until he removes the death threat against Rowling.
Twitter and Death Threats
No one should have to ask Twitter to remove a death threat from its platform. They should just do it, and quickly. And if women can be permanently suspended from Twitter for saying men can’t be women, surely anyone who makes a death threat on Twitter should be permanently suspended from its platform.
It is hard to imagine a more self-defeating trend in society than to sanction the intimidation of writers. Even if writers are dead wrong, they perform a critical public service. They spur debate. They are a source of illumination. In this case, Rowling isn’t wrong. Which makes her situation even sadder.