Free-Speech Warrior Putin Laments Cancellation of J.K. Rowling

Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is going very poorly, but he still had time to rant about western hypocrisy on Friday.

This time, his comments had a familiar flavor. As his armed forces kill thousands of civilians, Putin chose this moment to — not for the first time — weigh in the never-ending and nebulous cancel-culture debate, going off on what he sees as the West’s proclivity for shutting down points of view it does not agree with. He singled out the backlash against Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling over her stance on transgender issues.

“Recently, they canceled the children’s writer Joanne Rowling because she — the author of books that have sold hundreds of millions of copies worldwide — fell out of favor with fans of so-called ‘gender freedoms,’” he said, according to a translation from the Financial TimesMax Seddon. (Rowling’s career is actually still flourishing.)

Putin then accused the West of similarly trying to “cancel” Russia by shunning works of art produced by luminaries such as Chekhov, comparing the practice to Nazi book burning. “It’s impossible to imagine such a thing happening in our country,” Putin said.

Yes, everyone knows that, unlike those censorious western elites, Putin is a champion of open and vigorous debate.

He also complained that Hollywood had “canceled” the essential contribution of the Soviet Army in defeating the Nazis in World War II. (Clearly someone hasn’t seen the 2001 Jude Law picture Enemy at the Gates.)

Putin’s rant was less frightening than some of his other recent jeremiads, like the one in which he invented an alternate history of Ukraine to justify his war. But it was also on the pathetic side. He sounded less like a fearsome ruler and more like a guest columnist on Bari Weiss’s Substack.

And though Putin positions himself as very much not of the West, American influence on his thinking is also notable. For years, right-wingers in the U.S. have been taking more and more cultural cues from Russia and other illiberal countries in the former Eastern Bloc. Clearly, the influence cuts both ways.

For her part, Rowling wasn’t thrilled about receiving Putin’s sympathy.

More on Vladimir Putin

See All
Free-Speech Lover Putin Laments Cancellation of J.K. Rowling