Why Is Putin Talking About J.K. Rowling?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

As Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second month, the Russian president named (unprompted) an unlikely ally while speaking out against the sanctions and boycotts his country is facing as a result of his war: author J.K. Rowling.

In an astoundingly delusional television address on state TV — currently the only news source Russians have access to — on Friday, Putin referenced Rowling as a victim of the West’s “cancel culture” that’s now coming for his country. You may recall Rowling has spent the past few years spouting transphobic rhetoric online, which has made her decidedly less popular in liberal circles. In Putin’s words:

They canceled Joanne Rowling recently — the children’s author, her books are published all over the world — just because she didn’t satisfy the demands of gender rights. They are now trying to cancel our country. I’m talking about the progressive discrimination of everything to do with Russia.

It’s not clear what Putin means by “discrimination,” though it could be the fact that many major companies have suspended all their business dealings with Russia, crippling its economy. He could also be referring to the mountain of sanctions he’s incurred from global leaders as a result of his attack, which have escalated so severely that some residents are comparing the current scarcity of products in Russia to Soviet-era food shortages.

Rowling seemingly responded to the comparison on Twitter denouncing Putin and voicing her support for Ukraine, along with a link to an article about jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

As if likening himself to a TERF children’s-book author wasn’t delusional enough, Putin also compared “cancel culture” to the 1930s Nazi book burnings. “We remember the footage when they were burning books,” he said. “It is impossible to imagine such a thing in our country and we are insured against this thanks to our culture.” He claimed that “there is no place for ethnic intolerance” in Russia, “where for centuries representatives from dozens of ethnic groups have been living together.”

Putin certainly knows a thing or two about censorship, considering Russians are currently cut off from any news sources not funded by the Kremlin. His most recent spate of censorship laws made it illegal to even call his invasion of Ukraine a war. The comparison to Nazi Germany falls in line with Putin’s purported reason for starting a war with Ukraine, which Russian propaganda claims is to save Ukrainians from a neo-Nazi regime. So far, Putin’s “special military operation” has killed over 900 civilians, including 90 children, targeted hospitals, and denied humanitarian aid to besieged cities. I can’t think of anything more worthy of cancellation.

Uh, Why Is Putin Talking About J.K. Rowling?