Writers call for Society of Authors chair to resign after poll following JK Rowling threats

An open letter has been sent to the society saying: "we believe Joanne Harris’s position as Chair of the Management Committee is untenable"

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British writers are calling for the resignation of the Society of Authors chair Joanne Harris after a tweet she posted following threats made to JK Rowling.

Police said they are investigating a report of an “online threat” made to Ms Rowling after she tweeted her reaction to the stabbing of Sir Salman.

The Harry Potter author, 57, shared screenshots of a message from a user who had written “don’t worry you are next” in response to her tweet about Sir Salman.

But following the threats Chocolat novelist and chair of the Society of Authors, Joanne Harris, an advocate of trans rights, published a poll.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling

Harris wrote: “Fellow-authors... have you ever received a death threat (credible or otherwise).”

The options were: “Yes”, “Hell, yes”, “No, never” and “Show me, dammit”.

Harris then deleted the tweet, saying she “got the tone wrong”, before posting another poll.

This one read: “Yes”, “Yes, more than once”, “Never” and “Just show me the result”.

But following the tweet, novelists such as Julie Bindle, Christina Dalcher and Paula Byrne have sent a joint letter to the Society of Authors calling for Harris to step down.

The letter read: “This had turned into a polarised argument between supporters and detractors of Rowling, with many of the latter loudly complaining that the focus of discussion had shifted from Rushdie’s troubles to Rowling’s.

“To make matters worse, the poll also appeared to make light of the attack on Sir Salman Rushdie, even if not intended to do so.

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie

“It is now time for the Society of Authors to live according to its principle, clearly stated in the Where We Stand section of its website, of ‘protecting free speech’ and opposing ‘in the strongest terms any attempt to stifle or control the author’s voice whether by censorship, imprisonment, execution, hate speech or trolling’.

“It should go without saying that this opposition should not be contingent on individual members of the Board of Management’s political agreement with the person under attack, and for this reason we believe Joanne Harris’s position as Chair of the Management Committee is untenable.”

Ms Rowling previously said she had "received no communication whatsoever from Harris expressing sympathy for the death and rape threats I've received".

She added: “Harris has consistently failed to criticise tactics designed to silence and intimidate women who disagree with her personal position on gender identity ideology and has said publicly, 'Cancel isn't a dirty word. We habitually cancel things we no longer want.'”

"I find it impossible to square the society's stated position on freedom of speech with Harris's public statements over the past two years and stand in solidarity with all female writers in the UK who currently feel betrayed by their professional body and its leader,” she told The Times.

Harris has hit back on Twitter, saying: “I support trans rights. I also have a son who came out as trans a few months ago. But my personal feelings about the gender-critical movement don't affect my belief in free speech, or what I do for the Society of Authors.

“We vigorously promote free speech. But free speech comes with an equal right to a response.

“JK Rowling has every right to her opinions. I may not share them, but that's fine. And I totally condemn any threats to her, as I do to anyone. I think the literary world can do better than this fabricated culture war, and that's what I'm trying to do.

“Sometimes, it's exhausting. But just because I won't take your side, or join your hashtag, or be in your gang, doesn't mean your rights won't be fought for as fiercely as anyone else's. Because rights are more important than politics. We're all in this together.”