Harry Potter and the Vanishing Safety Net

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I haven't read any of her Dumbeldore and Voldemort stories, but not for the pretentious reasons enumerated by critics like Harold Bloom ("Rowling's mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing."). No, it's just that I maintain a pile of Led Zeppelin records to fulfill the wizard and dwarf quota. And if a block of time reveals itself, allowing me to read fiction for pleasure, why on earth choose a doorstop children's book about witchcraft?

So I know little about J.K. Rowling, the multi-millionaire author of the Harry Potter series, but I do periodically come across her occasional spasms of political philosophizing, like this attack on the Tories in today's London Times. One shouldn't vote for those poor people-hating Etonians, she says, because if the tops-and-tails toffs and Bullingdon alums had their way, there would be no welfare state and, therefore, no Harry Potter. Or something. It's hard to navigate through the thicket of straw men erected and flailed at by Rowling, but this parting shot at those "greedy" non-dom millionaires, like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, is pretty straight forward:

I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain's; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major's Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism. On the available evidence, I suspect that it is Lord Ashcroft's idea of being a mug.

Most of the Times piece is a clunky and confused attack on Tories and journalists, who apparently hate single mothers: "I had become a single mother when my first marriage split up in 1993. In one devastating stroke, I became a hate figure to a certain section of the press, and a bogeyman to the Tory Government." Rowling uses this line of attack frequently, as when she wrote this hagiographic portrait of Gordon Brown for Time magazine in 2009:

Back in the mid-1990s, when he was new Labour's brooding, intellectual heavyweight, I was a lone parent struggling to get by. He said he was not interested in stigmatizing the poor but in finding solutions for their predicament. I was tired of hearing government ministers lambaste the likes of me as irresponsible scroungers. I wanted Gordon Brown in charge.

Rowling, who has donated over a million pounds to the Labour Party, also praised Brown for advocating "global financial regulations" and taking the "lead among European leaders in setting a course for economic recovery," whatever that means.

The Wall Street Journal rounds up British celebrity endorsements here. And rest easy Tory toffs, the WSJ notes that former Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley is throwing his lot in with the nasty party. Because we know this much is true: he hates single mothers.

NEXT: Geoffrey Stone Cuts Through Judicial Stereotypes

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  1. I haven’t read her work either. It just seemed silly to me.

    1. What do her books have to do with this article? But for the record, those books are awesome.

  2. I read the first book. It’s not terrible or anything, just cliched, and frankly, I detest Harry’s supposed “greatness” solely for being born to his parents and having somehow escaped Voldemort’s attempt to kill him (as a baby). Hermione and Ron do all the heavy lifting and Harry gets all the credit.

    Oh, and Quiddich is FUCKING STUPID.

    1. My calculus teacher in high school read to us on Wednesdays, because stupidass AB calc doesn’t have enough material for a year. The first book of the year was The Phantom Tollbooth, the second was the first Harry Potter. The Phantom Tollbooth is far, far superior.

      1. I havent read The Phantom Tollbooth since 3rd grade (1977-78) and havent read Harry Potter at all, but duh.

      2. Harry Potter is an amazing series. Millions of people around the world agree. But not everyone is going to like everything. It’s just a part of life. For the record, I love Phantom of the Tollbooth and Harry Potter (but Harry Potter way more since I’m not 5).

      3. Harry Potter sucks! The books are devoid of any intellectual value or original idea.

        1. So is porn,but I still like it.

          1. Depends on how smart the porn chicks are.

          2. Harry Potter also failed to turn me on.

    2. Yes, Quiddich as a sport makes no sense, which only proves that Rowling isnt a sports fan. Maybe she should have done some fucking research before writing the book.

      1. Or maybe it just proves that the books are f**king fantasy and the sport is NOT REAL. Who gives a crap if it makes sense or not?

        1. I do. There is no reason to create rules for a fantasy sport and have the rules not make sense (within the context of the fantasy world).

          She could have asked any soccer fan in the dole queue to explain why the sport is fucking stupid.

      2. As a sport, no. As a literary device it’s pretty creative.

        But as ridiculous as Quidditch is, it doesn’t come close to college quidditch.

      3. Research, guv? I bet Maggie Thatcher closed the library that Rowling was going to do her research at! Guv!

    3. You’re an idiot and no one cares what you think.

      JK Rowling is amazing and fully support everything she said. I may not be completely up to date on UK politics since I’m from the US, but I do agree that no child or their mother should live in poverty.

      1. Who doesnt oppose people living in poverty?

        The question is about means, not ends.

        And an evil means is evil regardless of the end result it produces.

      2. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

        The Rowling fans are coming and defending her…priceless. Do you believe in the power of Hogwart’s too, Gabby?

        1. Oddly enough, there were no trolls in Harry Potter.

          1. WTF is Hagrid then?

            1. Not sure if you’re attempting funniness, but he is a half-giant.

          2. Wasn’t there a troll in the bathroom?

          3. There was a troll in the first (or maybe second HP book.

          4. Yes there was. Harry stuck his wand up its nose.

    4. Harry was a tool of Voldemort’s choosing to take down the evil wizard. Credit for the original take down goes to Harry’s mother. Harry gives proper credit at the end to Snape.

    5. I detest Harry’s supposed “greatness” solely for being born to his parents and having somehow escaped Voldemort’s attempt to kill him (as a baby)

      Harry was baffled by this as well and not at all comfortable with the role of savior that others tried to impose on him.

      But at the end, Harry willingly walked into what he thought would be his death for the sake of his friends.

      Harry was simply a decent fellow.

  3. I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s

    *barf*

    1. You do realize that the liberty we claim to defend arose from the British culture you vomit at, no?

      1. More importantly it came from telling certain parts of British culture (the monarchy for one) to FUCK OFF.

        The US was founded on political violence.

  4. Without that safety net she could not have had all that free time to write her books. I think they should tax her 99% of all her income as the time and energy she used was the property of the state.

    Kidding aside i can respect her for staying and paying her tax bill rather then running to a tax haven. But i am confused as to why she is so angry at others for doing just that. She likes her socialist utopia and she is paying for it. Why does she need to force other poeple who do not have her affinity for it to pay for it as well?

    1. Why does she need to force other people who do not have her affinity for it to pay for it as well?

      What with the confusion ? Isn’t that what socialist utopias are fundamentally all about ?

      1. Actually many of them aren’t smart enough to understand that. When we had a local school referendum I tried to explain to supporters that a “yes” vote meant TWO things:
        1) I am willing to pay another $250 a year to the local school, and
        2) I am willing to force all of my neighbors to pay another $250 a year to the local school whether they want to or not.

        They really could not follow the logic. They’d just repeat “I think these new programs are great and I don’t mind paying more to have them”. They could never understand that they were also trying to force others to pay more.

        Then I’d point out that no one was stopping them from donating $250 of their own money to the school at that very moment and they’d just shake their heads, tell me that I just “didn’t understand”, and walk away.

        1. Welcome to democracy (I think on reflection you’ll find that you’re the one who ‘doesn’t understand’. Not everyone is a libertarian).

  5. Where does Rowling get the idea that a divorced woman with a child is what people mean when they criticize “single mothers”? That’s been accepted for decades, if not generations. The criticism is for single women who intentionally have children they can’t support, and then expect the government to do so.

    Or perhaps it’s just a rhetorical tactic on her part, to conflate the two into a better stick to whack opponents with, the way anyone who objects to illegal immigration is supposedly “anti-immigrant.”

    1. I’m inclined to cut Rowling some slack on this.

      There are people who stimatize all single mothers. (“It’s her fault for marrying a deadbeat loser.”) She may well have encountered several of them.

      She did work her way out of it and feels indebted to the system that enabled her to survive. Writing (even cliched writing) is hard work. I give her full credit for making her way out of the system.

      Criticise her ideas for what is wrong with them. Don’t engage in ad hominem attacks on her.

      1. That wasn’t an ad hominem attack, just pointing out the confusion/conflation of terms. She gets points as a rich liberal for (AFAIK) paying the taxes she supports, unlike so many of them.

        1. Yep. Unlike Warren Buffett who likes to point out he pays a lower percentage than his secretary. So, why doesnt he make a voluntary donation then?

          1. Because Warren Buffett is a cunt.

            It’s not about HIM paying more, it’s about forcing OTHERS to pay more.

            That is what gets off those sick fucks.

            1. You forgot to include “retarded fetus” in there some where.

              You’re slipping JB.

          2. Didn’t he just give away billions of dollars? Far more than he would have paid to the government had he paid the same rate as his secretary. I think he is wrong about lots of things, but I do not think Buffet is a terrible hypocrite or anything.

    2. Many of those women do NOT have children they get pregnant accidentally, because they don’t have sufficient knowledge about how to practice safe sex. And even if they do they don’t have the money to purchase it.

      1. Bullshit.

      2. Apparently the men who father these children do not know how to use birth control or can’t afford to purchase it either.

    3. *Many of those women do NOT have children on purpose*

      1. 40+ years of sex ed in schools and they don’t know where babies come from…?

        1. They obviously know where they come from, but many women do not know how to use birth control and even if they do they can’t afford it.
          Some of them still use it and end up pregnant. I can’t stand it when people see a single mother with 3 kids and automatically assume it’s her fault. Accidents happen and not everyone is comfortable with abortion and adoption. At least they’re trying to raise their children, some people don’t care enough to even try.

          1. Its not hard to figure out how not to stick a penis in your vagina.

            1. Its not expensive either.

            2. Papaya was claiming that they intentionally got pregnant, which is bullshit. There are some young women who do intend to get pregnant for a lot of screwed up reasons, but most of them who get pregnant were doing stupid stuff thinking they were in love and not thinking through the consequences of their actions. I know you guys are perfectly rational human beings who are always and everywhere aware of all the consequences of every action you undertake, but you can’t expect that of everyone, especially women (and men!) between the age of 15-25.

              1. I wasnt responding to Papaya, was I?

                The threading sucks, but cant you follow it?

                I was responding to this:

                They obviously know where they come from, but many women do not know how to use birth control and even if they do they can’t afford it.

                1. You were responding to a response to Papaya, attacking the responder’s argument against Papaya.

                  1. You were responding to a response to Papaya, attacking the responder’s argument against Papaya.

                    No I wasnt. I was responding to the one comment. I didnt care about the response to Papaya at all. I was not defending Papaya’s comment, I was picking on a bullshit statement on Gabby’s part.

          2. Gabby, you are a bit incoherent. YOu need to keep better track of your pronouns.

            And it is not hard or expensive to procure birth control. I am pretty sure Planned Parenthood gives it away for free. People are just lazy. People also should be able to have kids for whatever reason. But the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for it.

          3. Apparently the men who father these children do not know how to use birth control either.

    4. I agree with the point you are trying to make, but I must object to the sexist way you are making it.

      Woman + man create child.

      For every ‘single mother’ there is also a single father … whether he is on the scene or not. And if the child’s maintenance is taxpayer subsidized, they are subsidizing the man’s half of the responsibility as well. In fact, if the father is not on the scene, the taxpayer is subsidzing more of his half than the mother’s.

      Again, I agree with your point that Rowling is not the ‘single mother’ who she claims was being hated.

  6. When lone parent JK Rowling’s life hit rock bottom, I doubt anyone was interested in her political philosophizing–don’t know why anyone should care now.

    (And how many times does this woman get to publicly repeat her personal story of woe? Good god, her novels have all been turned into movies, that are out on DVD. Isn’t there a time limit on such now ancient lamentations?)

    1. Actually JK Rowling worked for Amnesty International when her life “hit rock bottom.” So her knowledge of politics isn’t just coming from nowhere. There are many people who care a lot about what she has to say. This is a brilliant woman who’s been through a lot in her lifetime, so don’t try to discredit her just because she’s a famous author. She knows what she’s talking about and since she’s discussing childhood poverty, it’s makes PERFECT sense for her to use her own godd*amn story as an example. Considering what she went through, she has the right to repeat it as many times as she d*mn well pleases.

      1. A secretary at AI? Yeah, that’s going to help form a reasonable view of politics.

        Go back to your livejournal account and finish your slash fiction.

        And make me a sandwich.

      2. There are many people who care a lot about what she has to say.

        Yes, there are many idiots out there.

      3. She knows what she’s talking about and since she’s discussing childhood poverty, it’s makes PERFECT sense for her to use her own godd*amn story as an example. Considering what she went through, she has the right to repeat it as many times as she d*mn well pleases.
        reply to this

        Eh, modern usage sometimes escapes me. How would I title my next polemic The Hammer of the Twits in German?

  7. Most of the British writing I read is “serious” music monographs (tut, yo), and there are sudden primal eruptions in almost every text about the writer’s imagined relationship of mutual understanding (Labour) or impacted oedipal animosity (Tory) with some incarnation of the government, past or present. It’s just everywhere.

    They’re done.

    We’re almost done.

  8. And rest easy Tory toffs, the WSJ notes that former Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley

    I know this much is true: Very few people in the states give a tin fuck about British politics, including me.

    1. Oh, James! I see that you have not bought a ticket for the world.

  9. Oh, I checked. Rowling will be 45 years old this year, while she published the first Harry Potter novel at age 32.

    Yup, life can be tough before turning 32. My tears well-up for her…

  10. I clicked on the Brit celeb endorsements and realized I don’t know who the fuck those people are. Patrick Stewart endorsed Labour, not surprising from a lame pretender to Captain of the Enterprise. Brian Eno endorses the Lib Dems who I think are to the left of Labour but more “socially liberal” as far as the Nanny State shit goes. No mention of Nigella Lawson, the oldest and only Brit chick on my “celebrities I really want to fuck” short-list.

    I thank my ancestors who, from the 17th to 20th Century, bailed on that shit hole of a country.

    1. But, the voice, SIV, that voice.

      However, seeing that he endorsed Labour, I hope he gets permanent laryngitis.

    2. Archer < Janeway < Sisko < Kirk < Picard < Jellico

      1. Something I agree with you on. Well, maybe not the complete order, but clearly Jellico belongs at the top.

        I wanted to see Riker court-martialed.

        1. Hmmm….I think the order is:

          Archer < Janeway < Picard < Sisko < Kirk < Jellico

        2. I pretty much hated all the main characters except for Picard and Data after that episode. What a bunch of whiny crybabies! No wonder every race in the quadrant was bold enough to attack the Federation at one point or another.

        3. I always despised Riker; just came off as a smug jackass.

          I always wanted to see something unpleasant happen to him, like some weird unpleasant alien venereal disease.

          1. Yeah, it’s too bad Tasha Yar was the one who got murderized by the talking tar pit, instead of Riker. But then again, Johnathan Frakes never ended up in Playgirl while he was starring in a “family” show–a family show where people are murdered and mind-raped on a consistent basis.

        4. You’re both wrong.

          Janeway < Picard < Jellico < Archer < Sisko < Kirk

          Jellico gets potted down for only being a 2 ep character. It takes more than cock-swinging authority to make a good leader. Had he stayed for another week, I suspect Worf would have fragged him.

          1. I like Picard, but I have no idea who Jellico, Sisko or Archer are.

  11. I will admit to reading the series. I try and read everything my kids are reading.

    As far as kids fantasy books go, they are well done. There are certainly better writers in the genre, but she does a fair job.

    The books are not offensive to my libertarian sensibilities, and have some decent themes and messages.

    Just my .02, since nobody else seems willing to admit they read the books.

    Rowlings politics, on the other hand, very offensive. With that much money, I imagine I’d be giggling too much all the time to even give a statement on politics 🙂

    1. I’m 22 and I grew up reading her books. I love them. They’re some of my absolute favorites. I think she’s one of the best writers in the world. I’m a pretty avid reader (mainly of classics), so I can recognize a great writer when I see one and JKR is one of a kind, even if some people are reluctant to admit it.

      One thing I’ve noticed about celebrities who come from humble beginnings is that they never forget where they started. JKR is no exception. Just because she’s made millions from writing Harry Potter, does not mean she’s not the same woman who worked so hard just so her little girl could have some food to eat.

      1. I dont read much fantasy, more of a sci-fi reader, but, ummm, compare and contrast Rowling with Tolkien. Or Lewis. Or Wangerin (The Book of the Dun Cow is the most underrated fantasy novel of all time, considering how few people know about it. It might be the best fantasy novel I have read. YMMV, especially depending on your taste for christian themed literature).

        1. I would have mentioned The Wheel of Time too, but I was smart enough to never start it.

          Robert Jordon — what a twot.

        2. I thought Chronicles of Narnia was awesome when I read it at 6. Then I read LOTR and recognized Lewis as the poopsmith that he was.

          Then again, the movie version of Lion/Witch/Wardrobe was even worse than the book.

          1. This applies for the Rowling to Tolkien comparison too, but Lewis and Tolkien were aiming at different audiences. Lewis was writing childrens books, Tokien wasnt.

            When I was in middle school, I checked out the first LoTR book and the first Dune book. Guess which one I started and got bored with and didnt read until I was about 30 and which I finished a few days later?

            1. Helter Skelter?

          2. Tulpa:

            Tolkien is clearly the King, but don’t judge Lewis on his children’s fiction.

            Try Till We Have Faces or That Hideous Strength.

        3. I do love the Tolkien, but if you want truly adult fantasy check out George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series. It is jam-packed with murder, incest, rape, war, rape, incest, murder, rape, dragons, castrations, betrayal, rape, ice monsters, rape, bastards…

          rape.

  12. Stay classy Reason, I can see how someone who lifted themselves out of poverty with help from a safety net might offend you since you have nothing to offer, but a child’s poutrage.

    1. It offends me that someone believes they have a right to my money just because they need it.

    2. Yes, of course, this is the class to which we must all aspire.

      1. Wow, that fucking pisses me off

      2. Urge to kill…rising!

  13. Harry Potter is pretty good as children’s literature. That Harold Bloom feels the need to disparage a children’s book series tells you how far the literary elite has fallen. Pretty soon he’ll be criticizing the weak characterization in Veggie Tales and pointing out the plot holes in Dora the Explorer.

    1. I always hate to agree with Tulpa, but…there it is.

      1. You hate me only because you love me. Admit it and embrace the forbidden passion.

        1. Forbidden passion…aaaaaaaaa…

        2. Jesus, get a room already.

    2. Ive only seen 1 episode of Veggie Tales (but Ive seen that 1 episode 3 times!) and the characterization seemed surprisingly strong. You know, for a bunch of veggies.

      1. Well, eating asparagus always gives me strong characterization, so there.

  14. Rowling lives in her own fantasy world. I suspect her situation was never quite as bad as she claims. The real bottom of the barrel in her part of the world, the chavs, doesn’t seem to exist in her writing. There is plenty of class warfare with most of the villains enjoying hereditary wealth while the heroes are accustomed to meager means (although Harry has quite a stash of an inheritance assuring his expenses are not a concern while not under the thumb of his mundane custodians). The hordes of multi-generational government dependents who account for a serious proportion of the UK’s societal problems and just not there in Rowling’s world.

    Imagine if a similar fantasy set in the US pretended the human wreckage of the Great Society debacle had never been.

    It’s so much easier to applaud the welfare state when you ignore its worst effects.

  15. At least Tolkien wasn’t a single mother.

    1. He was actually raised by a single mother. Don’t think they had welfare in South Africa in those days, though.

      1. South Africa……

        RACIST!

  16. In apropos of nothing except that it’s where I find myself tonight: God, Ocala, Fla. is quite the shithole.

    1. Ha ha, loser!

      Why are you there?

  17. En route to Daytona Beach assignment — and trying to find a second travel story to justify my expense account.

    1. And my fucking hotel doesn’t even have fucking Comedy Central – no South Park. Fuck!!!

      1. Ha ha, loser!

        At least you can go swimming at Daytona. Should be pretty damn nice around now.

        1. That’s what I’m countin’ on…

  18. . I was tired of hearing government ministers lambaste the likes of me as irresponsible scroungers.

    The persecution complex is strong in this one.

  19. The Harry Potter books were great, and Rowling is a leftist fool. You can believe both statements at the same time.

    Interestingly, the books were rather libertarian/conservative in tone. Voldemort wasn’t “misunderstood”, he was downright evil. The government was generally portrayed as corrupt, bossy, and micromanaging, but unwilling to engage actual threats. In other words, just like Obama.

    1. The books also dismissed the nanny state, which is probably one reason why they are so popular with kids. Children get to have fun, play with dangerous spells and materials, drink, and even fly! Sounds downright fantastical if you’re not old enough to remember life before 1990.

  20. This dumb cunt likes to have a gun pointed at her and money demanded from her. She gets off on it.

    Anytime she wanted, anytime, she could write a check to the British government and they would cash it. Instead, she writes checks to other sick fucks like her.

    Rowling doesn’t give a shit about poor people or about government money for poor people; what she cares about is forcing other people at gun point to fork over more money.

    Rowling = sick and twisted fuck.

  21. Tulpa|4.14.10 @ 8:22PM|#

    Papaya was claiming that they intentionally got pregnant, which is bullshit. There are some young women who do intend to get pregnant for a lot of screwed up reasons, but most of them who get pregnant were doing stupid stuff thinking they were in love and not thinking through the consequences of their actions. I know you guys are perfectly rational human beings who are always and everywhere aware of all the consequences of every action you undertake, but you can’t expect that of everyone, especially women (and men!) between the age of 15-25.

    Tulpa, I want to have your retarded fetus.

  22. MC Moynihan says:

    ‘. . . I maintain a pile of Led Zeppelin records to fulfill the wizard and dwarf quota.’

    So when MCM thinks of non-Rowling-related dwarves and wizards, his mind turns to . . . Led Zeppelin.

    Tulpa says:

    ‘[Tolkien] was actually raised by a single mother. Don’t think they had welfare in South Africa in those days, though.’

    According to Tolkien’s biographer, his father Arthur died in South Africa when JRR was 4.* His widowed mother back in England saw to his upbringing and education (including occasional bouts of homeschooling) until she was 12. During this time, Mabel’s parents stopped supporting her because she had joined the Catholic Church. Mabel died of diabetes when Tolkien was 12. In her will, she designated her priest, Father Francis Morgan as the guardian of Tolkien and his younger brother.**

    * In South Africa, Tolkien was bitten by a spider, which was quite traumatic for him at the time, but he got over it and it never affected his work in any way.

  23. A lot of mothers have raised children without the welfare state. My mother for one. Just because she wants a dynamic in which the rich pay for the poor, that doesn’t mean that everyone who makes money should be forced to fork over more cash. I’m glad that she was able to find help when she needed it, but I do wonder why she couldn’t make a go of it on her own like my mother. She is basically saying that without the safety nets, she would have starved to death or something. I highly doubt that, as most people throughout history were able to get through similar situations with no safety nets.

    1. Good point. I think the term “single mother” has been bastardized (no pun intended) beyond it’s original meaning. All of the single moms I know have either an extended family and/or friend support network. Or the state is “daddy”. Or both. To me, a single mom is just that, relying on herself almost exclusively to raise her child and support herself, with the exception of alimony and child support as the father has the responsibility to help provide for children unless he is prepared to legally separate that relationship.

    2. Same situation here. Parents divorced early and we were dirt poor for a while. Hell, mom made my clothes for a period on her sewing machine. We got by with assistance from my grandparents and living *very* frugally.

  24. This time I tell you about myself. My name is Camille. I’m a writer. I’m working on a novel. If I dress up like a nurse twice a week, I make enough money to write the other five days. Funny how the traffic of money brings our dreams and fantasies to life; every transaction is like a small prayer… If so many men have a thing for nurses, you can be sure someone will be standing right where I am, collecting the offerings.

  25. Kudos to your entrepeneurial ethic. Other than that, big deal. Whaddya want, a cookie?

  26. Sure, baby, if you say so. But if my novel ever gets published think you would put down ten euros to get it?

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