On the face of it, there is little in common between the beloved creator of the Harry Potter franchise and the controversial businessman-turned-reality-show-host-turned-US president. But J K Rowling has managed to join Donald Trump and even give his supporters fodder against her, by emulating his Twitter-happy tendencies. Late last week, Rowling attacked Trump on Twitter for not shaking hands “with a small boy who only wanted to touch the president”.
Rowling’s chagrin was based on footage of Trump apparently snubbing Montgomery Weer, a three-year-old bound to a wheelchair. Unfortunately for Rowling, the clip she reacted to did not present the complete picture. Weer’s mother later clarified that Trump was nothing but cordial to her son and Rowling had to apologise to the family.
Rowling has been a vocal critic of the US president since his campaign last year and Twitter has been her preferred battleground. Trump himself uses the platform constantly — to react to late night comedians in the wee hours or even to announce the reversal of the Obama-era acceptance of transgenders in the military. But in using Trump’s medium of choice against him, Rowling ought to have heeded the advice of another fantasy writer, many years her senior.
In the Lord of The Rings, J R R Tolkien cautions against believing that a medium or weapon is completely at the mercy of its user. “No matter how noble your intentions,” he says, “the ring has intentions of its own”. Social media encourages its users to provide instant opinions; to share reports without verifying them. For Trump, the publicity generated by his controversial tweets has often been an advantage. For Rowling, her faux pas has undermined her, often, legitimate criticisms of the US president. But both of them, it seems, are losing the nuances of political rhetoric in their 140-character war.
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