Chocolat author under fire after posting tasteless ‘death threats’ poll mocking JK Rowling

Joanne Harris, the celebrated author of “Chocolat,” is being urged to resign as chairman of the Society of Authors following accusations that she mocked fellow author JK Rowling with a Twitter poll about death threats in the wake of the stabbing of Salman Rushdie on Friday.

As American Wire reported, after tweeting her support for author Salman Rushdie, who was allegedly stabbed by Shia sympathizer Hadi Matar at a lecture in New York, Rowling received an ominous message from another suspected extremist.

“Do not worry you are next,” warned a Twitter user who goes by the name Meer Asif Aziz.

In response to the threat against her colleague, Harris started a poll, asking fellow authors, “have you ever received a death threat (credible or otherwise).”

Optional responses included “Yes,” “Hell, yes,” “No, Never,” and “Show me, dammit.”

To many, Harris was clearly casting doubt on the serious nature of the threat received by Rowling.

The backlash was immediate, according to the Daily Mail.

Writer Julie Bindel called the poll “disgustingly inappropriate” while novelist Simon Edge said it was “indefensible” and stated it’s “high time” Harris stepped down from her position with the Society of Authors.

Harris deleted the poll and replaced it with another, this time without the words “credible or otherwise.” Also toned down were the choices of responses.

“I posted a poll, but removed it because I felt I’d got the tone wrong,” Harris tweeted. “But here it is again, because I think it’s important to see the extent of this problem. Fellow-authors, have you ever received a death threat?”

But the damage was already done.

“I was a management committee member for the Society of Authors until last year,” tweeted Katharine Quarmby. “I raised the death threats against JK Rowling in 2020 and 2021 and asked that the Society put out a statement condemning them. This did not happen and has not happened since.”

Quote-tweeting Quarmby, a user asked, “Why would @Soc_of_Authors squander its credibility on matters of free speech and the safety of writers, merely because its current Chair @Joannechocolat hates @jk_rowling and other women who are vocally opposing the erosion of their sex-based rights?”

“Oh, hang on…” the user added.

Harris responded by dismissing the claim that she hates Rowling.

“I don’t hate JK Rowling, and have never said or implied as much,” she stated. “But hey. Don’t let that spoil your argument.”

“I posted a poll, removed it because of a massive negative reaction, then later decided I wanted to double down on it, because I am incredibly lacking in self-awareness,” stated another user in response to Harris’s revised poll.

Meanwhile, the Society of Authors (SoA) released a statement. While it didn’t name Harris by name, it clearly condemned her lack of support for her fellow author.

“Perhaps an attack like this is rare, but sadly the threats, abuse and harassment that many authors receive is not,” the Society tweeted. “For every high-profile death threat — like those targeted at JK Rowling only hours after the attack on Rushdie — scores of others go unreported.”

“We condemn every type of personal attack on authors for exercising their rights to express themselves freely — whether physical, verbal, legal or political,” the SoA stated.

Harris responded to the Daily Mail article with a lengthy, angry thread.

“So. It seems I made the Mail today,” she tweeted. “I have nothing but contempt for the piece, and for those behind it, but if you’ve seen it, a couple of things. 1. My poll on death threats to authors had nothing to do with JK Rowling. I don’t hate or envy her, and have never implied I did.”

“2. I am wholly against threats of any kind, to anyone, regardless of their politics, opinions or views,” she continued. “That includes JK Rowling, or anyone whose opinions I might sometimes disagree with.”

Harris blamed the criticism of her poll on transphobic people who were out to get her.

“Some of you may have noticed the volume of harassment I get on a regular basis from certain gender critical people. This is entirely because I signed a letter supporting trans rights three years ago,” she stated. “I still support trans rights. The same people are behind this latest stunt.”

“The same people are also behind a long and aggressive campaign to try to force me to resign as Chair of the @Soc_of_Authors,” she explained. “Most of these people (including Graham Linehan, who does this regularly) are not members of the SOA, and never have been.”

“But given that the Mail (with some help from malicious agitators) has promoted me to Chief of the @Soc_of_Authors, implying that I run the company, let me reassure you. I don’t run it,” she said. “I am one of an unpaid Committee of twelve elected volunteers. I don’t get to make policies.”

“I have opinions – don’t we all? – but any suggestion that what I do for the @Soc_of_Authors is driven by any sort of prejudice is crass and absurd,” Harris argued. “I do it because I care about authors’ rights and protections. That’s all authors, regardless of whether I like them or not.”

Harris said she won’t be addressing this matter again and expressed “contempt” for those who criticized her.

“I’m not taking any more questions, or saying anything else about this now,” she tweeted. “The people behind this latest attack are beneath contempt, and I have no intention of giving them any kind of satisfaction.”

“They know who they are,” Harris added. “And so do I.”

 

 

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