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‘Lost to Cancel Culture’: UK Writers Dump Society of Authors For Rival Union Amid Gender Row

Novelist Joanne Harris, chairwoman at the Society of Authors, had triggered controversy after some writers accused her of being dismissive of the abuse and threats faced by authors like JK Rowling for their gender-critical feminist stance.

Writers are reportedly abandoning the UK’s largest union of the industry for a rival outfit which has vowed to “come to defense of beleaguered authors”, such as those criticized for rejecting the “woke” belief that self-identified gender takes precedence over biological sex.

The Society of Authors (SoA) has been pronounced “lost to cancel culture,” while the Free Speech Union (FSU), in contrast, has offered members of the literary world new provisions allowing them to to “protect themselves” in light of the ongoing gender row, according to local media reports.

Previously, members accused the Society of Authors, which represents about 12,000 writers, and its charwoman, novelist Joanne Harris, of failing to support members like JK Rowling who have been facing backlash for alleged “transphobia”.

“It has become increasingly clear to us that freedom of expression is under severe pressure within the literary world, with publishers and literary agents often failing to defend their authors when their speech rights come under attack. The freedom of authors to express themselves and of people to read their work without interference or mediation by self-appointed censors is a fundamental human right,” the Free Speech Union, founded by British journalist Toby Young was cited as saying.

The FSU has claimed that its newly-appointed Writers’ Advisory Council, comprising members such as authors Helen Joyce, Julie Bindel, Anna Pasternak and Andrew Roberts, will help writers “build a public voice capable of putting the case for freedom of expression as robustly as possible”.

Earlier, Joanne Harris, chairwoman at the Society of Authors, found herself in the crosshairs when members declared that the union was failing to duly support authors that were being “cancelled” or even targeted with abuse for their gender-critical views, such as JK Rowling.

The best-selling authoress, famous for her iconic Harry Potter saga, claimed that the Society of Authors under Joanne Harris’ leadership had “consistently failed” in this regard. Rowling, a “gender-critical” feminist who has denied being transphobic, has repeatedly received death threats for her stance in sex and gender debates. Rowling has been under fire for years for criticizing the use of “gender-neutral” language to describe menstruating women, the allowing of access to women-only spaces and sporting competitions to biological males, and for challenging assertions by politicians that “trans women are women.”

The author of the famous Harry Potter saga also received what appeared to be a death threat not long after a stabbing attack on fellow author, Sir Salman Rushdie, that left him critically injured. The British-American author who was born in India and who has won numerous literary prizes over the course of his literary career, was stabbed in August as he was about to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in New York state. Rushdie’s book ‘The Satanic Verses’ is regarded as blasphemous by many Muslims.

After the Rushdie attack, Harris posted a Twitter poll asking authors if they had ever received “credible death threats,” in what some perceived to be a swipe at JK Rowling.
An open letter penned earlier by author Julie Bindel and a host of others declared that Harris was dismissive when it came to the abuse faced by members of the union, and expressed “deep disquiet and anger at the Society of Authors’ abject failure to speak out on violent threats towards its members.”

It was suggested that Harris quit her post “in light of her documented behaviour and comments, which are not compatible with the society’s goals of protecting free expression and their policy of dignity and respect”. However, when a vote was held to remove Joanne Harris, the deliberation went in her favour by 608 votes to 143.

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