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Culture war

The cultural left has had its day

JK Rowling: resilient sales. Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty

“Exactly when the tide turned, I don’t know,” says Janan Ganesh in the FT. Perhaps a year ago, when Joe Biden promised in his State of the Union address to “fund the police”. Or a week ago when Puffin bowed to pressure to keep Roald Dahl’s “sometimes cruel” works in print. Or the fall of Nicola Sturgeon over, among other things, a gender bill. “Or the resilient sales of JK Rowling.” Back in 2020, the year of “vigorous statue-toppling” and “defund the police”, you wouldn’t have counted on any of these things happening. But today, 2020 looks like the “high noon” of the cultural left, not the dawn of it. What happened?

Dissent is a “fair-weather pastime” – just as the 1968 unrest in Paris came deep into the Thirty Glorious Years of the French economy, so identity politics grew up in the decade of “economic expansion and peace” that followed the 2008 crash. “As those benign conditions fell away, so did the movement.” It’s hard to care that Augustus Gloop is called “fat” when inflation is in double digits. It’s hard to “deplore microaggressions” while Ukraine is enduring a “rather macro one”. Something else has changed, too – “liberals have stopped pretending there is no problem to confront”. The pressure on Puffin came “as much from the cognoscenti as from the Daily Mail”. Today it is not just conservative eyes that roll at the latest “progressive edict”. Liberals used to dodge this fight. “Enough of them to matter have joined it now.”

🧙‍♂️🤬 For months, says Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph, “legions of militant online activists” furiously campaigned for a boycott of the new Harry Potter video game, Hogwarts Legacy, in protest against JK Rowling’s alleged transphobia. How well did that go? The game has sold “an astonishing 12 million copies” in its first two weeks, making it one of the fastest-selling titles ever. For all their “shrill, self-pitying demands”, the anti-Rowling mob have been trounced. “Ordinary people, out in the real world, simply didn’t care what they thought.”