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J.K. Rowling Appears To Sic Lawyers on Queer Critic for (Arguably Accurately) Saying Her Views Align With Nazis

.K. Rowling arrives at the "Fantastic Beasts: The Secret of Dumbledore" world premiere at The Royal Festival Hall on March 29, 2022 in London, England.

It appears that J.K. Rowling—who, like Nazis, has stoked hatred against trans people, Jews, and other minorities—recently appeared to force a queer person with a fraction of her wealth and reach to retract criticism of her and post a public apology on Twitter.

Actor J.J. Welles posted on Twitter that Rowling “absolutely has views that align with Nazis.” Welles then wrote that “I think relying on tropes and stereotypes is VERY 1930s propaganda.” Like both modern and historical Nazis, Rowling has repeatedly trotted out extremist rhetoric to demonize trans people—for instance, calling them “violent, duplicitous rapists” and writing a novel that depicts a trans woman as a murderer. Rowling has also made use of antisemitic stereotypes in her work, including the goblin bankers in the Harry Potter franchise.

Rowling responded to Welles’s tweet with, “Okey dokey, JJ, we’ll play it your way. Give my regards to your solicitor!”

Soon after, Welles deleted his tweets and replaced them with an apology. Twitter users were quickly able to assume that Rowling had threatened Welles with legal action, forcing him to take down his original statement and replace it with the apology.

Tweeting the two screenshots side by side, lawyer Alejandra Caraballo commented that “JK Rowling likes to play the victim when in reality she’s a giant bully. When people criticize her, she sends her legal team to threaten them with legal action and financial ruin to retract it and apologize. A billionaire is abusing the legal system to silence her critics.”

Rowling has amassed around $1 billion from sales of Harry Potter media, like Hogwarts Legacy. She appears to then use this money to attack people like Welles.

How could J.K. Rowling silence trans critics by threatening legal action?

There are two issues at play here: a type of lawsuit called a SLAPP, and the United Kingdom’s libel laws, since Welles also resides in the U.K.

As a billionaire with vast reservoirs of wealth to spend on legal fees, Rowling could theoretically use SLAPPs, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, to silence critics. In short, a SLAPP is a lawsuit that’s designed to overwhelm its victim with legal fees, whether or not they’re actually in the wrong. SLAPPs are leveled at critics, activists, and other targets who don’t have the wealth or resources to spend months or years defending themselves in court. SLAPPs are often frivolous, with little chance of winning in court—but the point is to silence victims who don’t have the means to take it to court in the first place.

In the United States, many states have passed anti-SLAPP laws, in part to protect people exercising their right to free speech under the First Amendment. However, the United Kingdom’s strict libel laws make it much easier for wealthy people to silence critics.

In the U.S., the burden of proof in libel cases rests with the person claiming to have been injured (in this case, that would be Rowling). In the U.K., on the other hand, the burden of proof rests with the critic (in this case, Welles). Public figures looking to stifle criticism often sue writers and other critics in British courts, where the law usually favors them.

Luckily, Welles’s followers could immediately tell what had most likely happened. After he posted his apology, there was an outpouring of public support. Now, many trans people and allies are using the hashtag #JKRowlingHasViewsThatAlignWithNazis to spread the word about how dangerous her bigotry is.

(featured image: Stuart C. Wilson, Getty Images)

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