The New York Times erases JK Rowling

February 18, 2022
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JK Rowling is getting cancelled again. On this occasion it is in the New York Times — or rather in a subway advertisement promoting the publication. 

You can view a longer version of the ad here. It features a person named “Lianna” who tells us all the things that Lianna is (the idea being that these can also be found in the pages of the NYT). For instance, “Lianna is a Harmony of Flavors… a Week in Crossword Land…  the Joy of Getting Lost.”

Good to know. There’s some identity stuff in there too, for instance Lianna is “Breaking the Binary… Queer Love in Color… Heritage in Rich Hues.” It would appear that the Grey Lady is seeking a younger, more diverse, subscriber base. 

Lianna delivers her list in a relaxed, almost wistful, tone of voice, but there’s a shift to a sterner cadence when we’re informed that Lianna is also “Imagining Harry Potter without its Creator.” This item of information is considered so important that it also features in the much shorter subway advertisement. 

The tag line to the ad is “Independent journalism for an independent life.” Strange then, that the only writer referred to is subjected to a deliberate act of erasure. JK Rowling has become ‘she who must not be named’, indeed ‘she who must be expunged in the reader’s imagination from the world that she created’. What’s more, she’s been singled out for the crime of thinking in defiance of a censorious cultural establishment. This is how the NYT chooses to promote its “independent journalism”.

Perhaps even worse than its treatment of Rowling, is what appears to be the implicit message of the advertisement — which is that a reader is the content they consume and vice versa. If that’s true, then no wonder some individuals feel entitled to imagine Harry Potter without its creator. 

But it isn’t true. Reading may be one of the least passive ways of consuming media content, but the fact is that the “Wizarding World” doesn’t need a single reader to (fictionally) exist. It is however entirely dependent on its creator, JK Rowling. Without her, there’d be no Harry Potter for anyone else to imagine. It’s why she gets the royalties and her readers pay them.

The New York Times is going down a dangerous road: an excessive identification with the subjective feelings of its readers — indeed their very sense of who they are. That’s dodgy enough when it comes to fiction, but for independent, objective journalism it is potentially ruinous. 


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