Since the whole world is in crisis, a crisis in the world of publishing might seem like a niche issue. But something that has been going on at the publishers Hachette is worth noting. Not least as it may be a portent of worse things to come elsewhere.
Earlier this month the publishing house was thrown into turmoil after its most famous author, JK Rowling stirred up the most demented people in our society. Rowling – whose Harry Potter series was all published by Bloomsbury – has written a number of books for Hachette, most recently a scheduled book for children called ‘The Ickabog’.
But earlier this month, Rowling objected on Twitter to a headline which used the words ‘people who menstruate’ in order to get around having to say ‘women’. Rowling rightly pointed out that we used to have a word for these people. She was correct, and she and many women like her are perfectly within their rights to be offended by this sort of terminology, forced on people as it increasingly is by the most impossible-to-satisfy people in the land. By which I mean those trans and non-trans people (who fancy themselves ‘allies’) who think that women like Rowling do not have a right to say what they think. People who think that women should be happy to be erased. People who pretend that saying that there are two sexes (‘men’ and ‘women’) is not just hate speech but actual violence.
Until fairly recently, the heady cocktail of stupidity and sensitivity required to imagine that JK Rowling is some anti-trans bigot would have been confined to a few campuses. But as I wrote in The Spectator’s cover piece last week, today the illiberal youth the campuses have created have poured into the professions, where they imagine their role is to educate people far more knowledgeable than themselves.
No sector suffers from these presumptuous puritans more than the worlds of publishing and journalism.