Author J.K. Rowling (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Toby Melville, Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via Reuters)
Vladimir Putin has compared Western hostility to Russia in the wake of the Ukraine conflict to the canceling of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling. “Today, they are trying to cancel a whole 1,000-year-old country, our people,” Putin said. “I am talking about the increasing discrimination of everything related to Russia, about this trend which is unfolding in a number of Western states.”
While cancel culture is a genuine and sinister force in our politics, the Russian dictator (and anyone who finds this comparison persuasive) needs to get some perspective. Which is worse: Being persona non grata, censored and sanctioned, or being poisoned, invaded, and blown to pieces? Viewed that way, Putin is a chief perpetrator of the most destructive cancel culture possible — the violent assault on another country, its sovereignty, and its people. (And that’s to say nothing about Putin’s subjugation of Russian dissidents.)
That’s why J. K. Rowling was right to respond as she did. “Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics,” she wrote on Twitter.
Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics. #IStandWithUkraine
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) March 25, 2022
Lest we forget it, the argument against Western cancel culture is that it is illiberal, a form of soft totalitarianism. Putin’s governance, meanwhile, is outright illiberal, a form of hard totalitarianism. If you’re unsure which is worse, think of it like this — would you rather be spat on or stabbed?
Madeleine Kearns is a staff writer at National Review and a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.