Regarding J.K. Rowling's Recent Ridiculous Comments on Twitter...

(31 comments)

... it's old news.  I don't condone any abuse she recieved, but (and this isn't one of those 'buts' that really means 'ignore what I just said') her stated views are terrible... and, despite the apparent surprise of some, predictably terrible.

Rowling wrote a book about how dangerous it is for softy governments to ignore terrorism - in 2003!

Rowling put the following into her books:

  • Gold-obsessed Goblin bankers with big noses and a nigh-communistic inability to comprehend or respect 'human' notions of private property.
  • A race of willing slaves with brown skin, huge rolling eyes and 'pickaninny' speech patterns.
  • Giants who are born savage and thick, and who live in 'primitive' tribes.

In her Potter books, there’s only one political extreme and it contains both the Right and the Left, both representing an evil and illegitimate challenge to the mainstream and the established, which is legitimate whatever it does and however unaccountably it works.  So of course she thinks the ‘far Right’ and ‘far Left’ are essentially the same.  She’s already told us this.  As the above adumbrations illustrate, she’s horribly insulated from the implications of her own privileged position.  It shows in her politics (which allows her to insult the memories of millions of left-wingers who died fighting fascism) and her politics shows in her writing.

As I wrote somewhere else:

"Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise represents - like so many villains - the distant and distorted echo of the snarl of radical anger.  He is himself thoroughly unsympathetic, as Koba comes to be when he starts murdering other apes.  However, even thoroughly unsympathetic villains like Voldemort (who, as the snobbish fuhrer of the magic-Nazis, is not someone I’d vote for) tend to represent the - to use a hackneyed phrase - ‘return of the repressed’. And repression is political.  That which is oppressed is also repressed in mainstream discourse.  Voldemort can ascend because he takes advantage of faultlines in Wizarding society that reveal deep, structural injustice and hypocrisy, ie the ethnic cleansing of the giants, the economic ghettoisation of the Goblins, the resolutely undemocratic and unaccountable nature of Wizarding government, the enslavement of the Elves, etc.  Now, J.K. Rowling never really addresses these problems.  She occasionally has goodie characters display a bad conscience about them (ie Hermione’s patronising SPEW campaign and Dumbledore’s occasional remarks to Harry about how badly Wizards have treated other races) but the addressing or remedying of these injustices is NEVER made crucial as a precondition of saving the Wizarding World. The Wizards never really have to face the consequences of these injustices, or change them.  Harry & Co fight to reinstate the status quo that includes all these structural injustices.  The happy ending involves no emancipation of the Elves, no change in Wizarding attitudes to giants (indeed, Rowling makes it clear that the Wizards are essentially right about the respectively servile and primitive nature of these races!)  The happy ending involves no real tackling of the deep strain of racial prejudice about bloodlines.  The happy ending involves one of the goodies being ‘appointed’ the new (unelected) Minister of Magic.  Etc.  It’s clear what this means.  The only person fighting to change the Wizarding World was Voldemort.  The baddie.  The goodies were all fighting to, a few tweaks aside, keep it exactly the same."

 

Comments

CJM 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I think that's a gross misinterpretation of "Order of the Phoenix". It's about governments ignoring terrorist threats until it's impossible to do so, set in the 1990s. Immediately followed in the next book by the opposite attitude, about a government locking everyone they can up, but not addressing the problem. Essentially allowing Fascism to win.

Now Rowling might be anti-change, and pro the Status Quo, but it's unfair to lump her in with Bush. She's more against most things.

(This is probably a ridiculously pedantic post about a single sentence)

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Max Curtis 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"It's about governments ignoring terrorist threats until it's impossible to do so..."

But in 2003, that WAS the story of Iraq. The Bush administration took masses of unfiltered, unverified intelligence reports, picked the ones that fit a predetermined narrative, and made a case to the public that Iraq was an imminent, existential threat. So the US warned against ignoring terrorist threats until it'd be impossible to do so.

Of course, in a story about Wizard Hitler, this line of thinking makes sense. But given that US-UK alarmism over Iraq was a fabricated justification for going into an unnecessary war, it was, at the very least, irresponsible of Rowling to write a story about how such alarmism might actually be a-OK after all.

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CJM 11 months, 2 weeks ago

But then it follows it up by saying that a gung-ho, "arrest everyone who is poor enough to get caught" attitude is just as bad as "Head-in-the-sand" strategies in "Half-Blood Prince". In "Goblet of Fire", the "Thatcherite in the Troubles" character is not only wrong, but actually makes life worse for everyone.

JK Rowling attacks everything in her books, including both sides of politics, the middle class, the upper class, the working class, campaigners and people who accept the status quo. I view her as a modern day Jane Austen.

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Max Curtis 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Sorry, I'm not sure I understand your first sentence.

Rowling attacks quite a lot of things, but "everything" is a bit much. I think it's fair to say she abstains from attacking a certain kind of liberal politics that people like Hermione embody. Sure, she pokes fun at Hermione and her politics (hence why her club is called SPEW), but liberalism gets through the series more or less unscathed.

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CJM 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Sorry if my first sentence didn't make sense. Essentially, Rufus Scrimgeour is Minister for Magic in "The Half-Blood Prince". He begins a series of arrests that cause Stan Shunpike to be placed in jail without any trial, but releases Lucius Malfoy because he's rich and can buy his way out. He claims the fight is going well, and that the Ministry has everything under control. The links to George Bush, Tony Blair and Guantanamo Bay are obvious, and more generally the way politicians avoid full responibility even when they acknowledge a problem (Climate Change, Fascism in Europe in the 1930s, Fascism in Europe and the USA in the 2010s). Scrimgeour ultimately makes matters worse, and lets Voldemort take control, ushering in Wizard Fascism.

Similarly, Barty Crouch Sr. moves to bring in the martial law Bush and Thatcher brought in. This is shown to not be a good thing, when compared to the more nuanced attitude the Order displays in the next book.

Yes, JK Rowling supports Liberalism (though not ironically, see the Jane Austen reference). However, this post really, really misidentifies the politics behind her reasoning. She's thinking about "Elect-ability", and believes Corbyn lacks charisma, is selfish in his dealings, and so outside the "Overton Window" that he is unable to get elected. You can debate these opinions, and I do not agree with them As someone who considers themselves a socialist (but not a Marxist), and who is far to the left of JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series, I struggle to understand the way Marxists often refuse to accept internal change or rebellion being the best ways or only ways to bring about change without giving an alternative way. If voting is weak, and internal change untenable (and I'm not convinced by you American slavery example) and no outside nation to intervene, what other option is there but rebellion? I'm probably oversimplifying. I'm not a huge theorist.

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Kieran Martin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I think Rowlings's point is the one cherished by many centrists, in that change is often slow and needs to be reached by compromise. There is a clear indication that wizards treatment of magical species is wrong (clear because Dumbledore consistently delivers it, and outside of book 7 he is essentially the avatar of correctness). It's true that the story doesn't explicitly address what will happen next (the epilogue was clearly pre written before Rowling wrote most of the books, and reads like it), but the fact that several wizards who have been much more pro treating magical species better are now in positions of power (all three of them are much more positive towards house elves centaurs and giants than the rest of wizardkind) is an indication that things might change for the better.

One could also make an argument that when one is facing a literal murdering facist then you make what alliances you need to, and then deal with the rest later.

I think your broader point is fair. Rowling, like many centrists, believe that the safest course of action is slow progress made over decades, leading to a more progressive society. But to those who are currently being oppressed, this kind of slow progress is not very helpful, and often actively unhelpful. Of course, the question is whether Corbyn really represents radical change anyway

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Christine 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Except the far left and the far right are the same. I saw both attacking Rowling on Twitter for being a woman who managed to establish her own wealth while giving it to the underprivileged, while somehow connecting her to the deaths of Iraqi children as if it made their points less inane. The right has stuffy white men criticizing Rowling for being progressive, while the left has just as uppity white men criticizing her for being racist. It's pathetic. And what you also failed to see was that Cornelius Fudge's Ministry was seen as wildly incompetent and Rowling wrote Harry and many other Hogwarts students as wanting to become Aurors so they could change that establishment from the inside rather than the violent revolution you so surely suggest. Acting like she somehow supports fascism or insults the memories of left-wingers while being a left-winger is ridiculous and utterly hypocritical. Instead, you are bullying JK Rowling, you are bullying women who want to be as successful and as outspoken as JK Rowling. And by establishing a right way and a wrong way for women to act in your view, you are indeed enforcing fascism.

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Max Curtis 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Under this line of thinking, the only problem with the Ministry is who's running it, not whether a Ministry is actually a fair or just system of government. Put a Fudge or Umbridge in charge, and it's bad. Put a Harry or Hermione in charge, and it's good.

So why is it that the only options are blood-soaked revolution or working "from the inside" to make Ministry bureaucrats a bit better? Isn't it possible to want to radically change the system without sticking Fudge's head on the pointy end of a wand?

Changing the establishment from the inside is definitely a noble goal, but it's not always the best or only option. Would that have freed the slaves in 1860s America? It certainly doesn't free the House Elves in the Wizarding World. Instead, the only thing a good, moderate, sensible person can do is form clubs and wear buttons.

And how is this in any way bullying her? Call it rude if you want, but you make it sound like anything negative about a hardworking, successful woman is somehow anti-feminist. It's just a political criticism of a major literary figure, in much the same way that you could critique George Orwell or Roald Dahl without somehow imposing fascism on them.

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Jack Graham 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I'll gladly stick Fudge's head on the pointy end of a wand. And Dumbledore's too.

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Alan 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Is there anyone you /don't/ fantasize about killing for the glory of the People's Revolution?

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Kyle Edwards 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Pretty sure that he doesn't fantasize about it for the glory of the revolution, but because he hates evil/incompetent people. Also, Jack, could you please expand on your criticism of Dumbledore? What specifically do you object to what he does? I'm mightily curious to hear.

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Jarl 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Jack hated English Bob from Unforgiven for being such a cruel stereotype of the british working class and hated Kazran Sardick for being an inspirationally reformed rich person, and Dumbledore just gets friendly fire from that.

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Alan 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I thought Jack just hated the Doctor for reforming Kazran, because Kazran had some sort of existential right to a miserable abused childhood that would lead him to grow up into an a-hole, even if that meant that thousands of people dying senselessly.

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theoncominghurricane 11 months, 2 weeks ago

This is complete nonsense. Plenty of leftist women were also making quite reasonable critiques of her and as ever remained ignored because they don't fit the narrative. You haven't proved the far left and far right are the same because equally distasteful men have been attacking her for different reasons. You've just proven a problem with men. I've seen plenty of centrist men do the same to targets they disagree with (Diane Abbott being one of the most acceptable). The only reason J.K.'s not being attacked by those men as well is because they agree with her.

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Christine 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I only saw a handful of leftist women compared to the legions of white men who claimed she was pro-genocide simply for thinking Corbyn doesn't hit all the progressive boxes. https://twitter.com/communick/status/771303904973905920 Like how this tweet claims she's pro-Genocide because she "supports" Israel despite giving no evidence other than to check her Twitter, which hasn't shown anything but defense from angry bigots who can't handle a woman in power saying her piece. Those who say the far left and far right are the same are also the people who will ignore and often support and atrocity as long as it was committed by a radical leftist while claiming that every bad thing that's ever happened in history was because of the conservatives. That is an absurd blanket statement, along with Jack's claim that revolution in the Harry Potter universe is demonized by Rowling's vision and not because it's helmed by the wizard equivalent of Hitler, because whether we like it or not, some historic revolutions were bad in the long run, leading to the merciless slaughter of millions simply because they didn't salute. Every fascist monster like Assad follows a leftist murderer like Pol Pot, and to absolutely deny the left can reach the same horrors as the right is unforgivable.

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Kyle Edwards 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't think that is what anyone is trying to say here. Of course the left can reach the same horrors as the right; however, history shows that ideology that is leaning towards the right has caused far more horrors to occur. I believe (and please don't hold be to this, as I have no degrees or higher education in History beyond college and general knowledge) that this is because the right i.e. conservatives lean towards the traditional views, which are almost always more oppressive towards minority groups than those seeking to change the social order.

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Kyle Edwards 11 months, 2 weeks ago

This post: "Those who say the far left and far right are the same are also the people who will ignore and often support and atrocity as long as it was committed by a radical leftist while claiming that every bad thing that's ever happened in history was because of the conservatives."

Previous post (by you): "Except the far left and the far right are the same. I saw both attacking Rowling on Twitter for being a woman who managed to establish her own wealth while giving it to the underprivileged, while somehow connecting her to the deaths of Iraqi children as if it made their points less inane."

Me: I am confused. These points directly contradict each other. Also, to the first point: I believe that the far left would be the ones to support atrocity committed by other radical leftists who hate conservatives, not those who believe the two extremes are the same.

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Kyle Edwards 11 months, 2 weeks ago

While I may be biased somewhat, I'd say that it doesn't prove to be a problem with men. That assertion is just as generalist as the comments you just criticized. It is a problem with a specific minority of angry people whose extreme views lead them to hyperbole and hateful comments. There are angry and mean people in every group, with every political leanings. I'll concede that it's a small point in your overall argument, but it bugs me.

However, I agree 100% with the rest of what you just said. Don't write a narrative unless you're willing to point out the parts that don't perfectly fit.

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phuzz 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Eh, if the first thing you hear about some 'drama', is not the original comments, nor the reactions to those comments, but an analysis of the reactions to the comments, then you can safely assume that it's just a storm in a twitter-tea-cup.

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Kit 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Yeah. What comments, and how are they ridiculous? <--- is my reaction to the headline, not an actual question one desires answered.

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taiey 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"It's Friday night, I want a drink & some peace. Before I go, a few stats for the people who like their socialism mouthy and impotent.
600,000 — The number of children lifted out of poverty in the eight years following New Labour's 1999 child poverty pledge.
175,000 — The number of extra apprentices between 1997 and 2007.
103,000 — The number of extra teaching assistants between 1997 and 2007.
81,000 — The number of extra nurses in the NHS between 1997 and 2007.
39,000 — The number of extra doctors in the NHS between 1997 and 2007.
39,000 — The number of extra teachers between 1997 and 2007.
69 — By March 2009, waiting times for a hospital appointment in England had fallen by 69% on March 1997.
61 — In 2010/11, spending on benefits and child tax credits had risen in real terms by 61% on 1996/97.
50 — By March 2009, the number of people on in-patient waiting lists in England had dropped by 50% on March 1997.
Three — By the end of the last Labour government, the UK was the third-highest spender on family benefits of any country the the OECD.
Call people like me 'Tory Lite.' Call us 'neoliberals.' Call us whatever the hell you want. Call me back when your achievements match those."

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Kyle Edwards 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Thank you so much! I just kind of assumed she said something casually insensitive, as opposed to the reasoned arguments she laid out. I'm kind of curious, now (since I have VERY limited knowledge of British politics): what was so offensive about what she said? Any context?

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Luca 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Growing up with Harry Potter, I'll always have affection for it, but I still find it weird how much people embrace it as a leftist work while turning a blind eye to the many problems.
Some of it is probably because I'm Brazilian, so many of the finer points of her ideology are lost in translation. Her critique of conservative media really resonates well here, for example. And my facebook feed is filled with people who have good political sense posting memes comparing the recent fraudulent impeachment to that time in 'Order of the Phoenix' when Umbridge became (which is not an entirely bad comparison, especially since both Dilma an Dumbledore are hardly saints.) Still, everyone seems to ignore that domestic elves are terrible.
I could say that this shows that people are more liberal than they think, but it's probably just that everyone still has affection for this thing from their childhood, just like me. I don't even know if I would be so critical of Rowlings's politics if I hadn't read your old posts about it.

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Riggio 11 months, 2 weeks ago

As I do quite often, I generally agree with Jack, though I'm not as angry as he is. ;-)

Rowling seems to have thrown herself into the Twitter debate with gusto, and she does have her heart in the right place. One point she made that I came across recalls her younger days as an unemployed single mother, who was genuinely helped by Labour government domestic policies. Many women who are now in the same situation as the pre-Potter Rowling are ground deeper into poverty by the austerity policies of Cameron's and now May's government (and they won't be helped by the inevitable economic sanctions – if not a full-on trade war – from Europe that will accompany a genuine Brexit). She wants a Labour government to reverse the inequities that have grown under the Conservatives. For that reason, I'm glad she's at least using her profile to spark genuine popular political discourse in a country that, while it isn't mine, is still close to my personal heart.

But for fuck's sake, enough of this "electability" nonsense! Jeremy Corbyn is not a radical communist – he's a perfectly ordinary social democrat. Still a little too state-centric for my liking, but the guy's from the 20th century. And unlike a lot of old people from the 20th century, he has a huge throng of young supporters who can bring the Labour Party's vision of social democracy into the globalized, ecologically transforming (or collapsing, given your mood) world of our century. His shadow cabinet's messaging is still kind of shit, focussing on minor squabbles instead of making the kind of incisive systematic critiques that can shift Britain's Overton window in a social democratic direction. Social democratic policies and philosophies themselves aren't "unelectable," but the presentation of them is. So while too many people are arguing over whether Labour should continue being Conservatives+poverty reduction programs to win the votes of people with insufficient imagination, no one is putting any energy into promoting a globalized vision of social democracy!

I'm pissed off enough with my own country's social democratic party shooting itself in the foot over the last few years.

Rowling is right that the Conservatives have to go. But she's ultimately very unimaginative – and I'm not just talking about the warmed over Hero's Journey vs Nazis plot of the Potter series. The only kind of systematic political change from bland neoliberal economics she can conceive of is violent Hitlerism or violent Stalinism. She seems unable to conceive that you can radically change a country's (and a planet's) governance structure through peaceful means to build a genuinely improved world. Even though we've done it with modern democracy, the end of the slave trade, the dismantling of the British Empire, and we're working on it with the environmentalist movement and the anti-neoliberal movements all over the world.

And that's too bad for her, really. Now I'm going to enjoy my morning off work and maybe read some Neil Gaiman, which is much more stimulating than reading anything of Rowling's, whether a Twitter war or a Harry Potter book.

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Chong Li 11 months, 2 weeks ago

*Are* any of those things radical changes, though? I've heard it said in many leftist circles that slavery, for one, is still alive and well in the form of sweatshops, the prison-industrial complex, etc.

Do peaceful means ever genuinely change anything, or do they just kick the can somewhere else?

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taiey 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I'd like to believe he's electable, but polls suggest otherwise.

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Eve Schmitt 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The Epilogue should have been called "these are the things we lost in the Fiend Fire." It should have been a tally of all the things that the Wizarding world lost in its struggle to survive against its neoreactionaries. I would have liked the epilogue to give some inkling that the Wizards understood what they had gone through.

Because the Wizarding world can't continue to ignore the fact that it's in trouble. One of the prominent themes of the series is that the Old Ways are dying. Pureblood houses are becoming inbred to the point of oblivion. The Wizard children's tales are being forgotten. There's only one fully Wizard village left in Britain. The ancient artifacts are disappearing. Hell, the whole of the last book is a quest to DESTROY most of the remaining artifacts -- because they have been corrupted by Voldemort, the physical manifestation of the stagnation and corruption of the Old Ways.

In some ways, the series is about the way in which fighting to preserve a community means that the Old Ways have to be left behind. To save the lives of the people, their precious possessions must be cast into the fire. Literally, in the case of Rowena Ravenclaw's diadem. As a matter of fact...the Fiend Fire devours more than just Ravenclaw's diadem, didn't it? It destroys everything in the Room of Requirement. A thousand years of accumulated possessions. Everything the students had left and lost there since the school's founding, gone in a trice.

The Wizarding World, in the course of saving itself from the logical endpoint of one of its worst habits, loses so much of what had made it in the first place. Artifacts smashed. Elders dead. Institutions infiltrated and corrupted.

Do the characters understand this? Rowling doesn't make that clear. Do the characters in any way understand that the deep structural flaws of the world caused them so much loss?

No. Hermione's the only member of the heroes who offers an effective heresy over the course of 7 books: "We're literally a slave-owning society, why do none of you see anything wrong with this?" And her attempt to free the elves is written as a joke, forgotten by book 5. Hermione, the smartest of the the trio, a character who understands what it's like to come from the margins of a society, offers no further heresies in the series. Harry, also having lived on the outside of his society, offers no outsider perspective and no heresies.

I want someone to say SOMETHING, dammit! I want someone in the Wizarding world to notice that their obsessive insularity almost caused their destruction! I want them to notice that they're being increasingly left behind by Muggle technology! I want them to notice that their refusal to adequately deal with the worst of the Old Ways caused the Old Ways to effectively devour themselves, destroy irreplaceable historical treasures, kill a large percentage of a small community, and put students on the front line of a war.

The epilogue was the last chance to indicate that the Wizards understood this, that they aren't just a bunch of Establishment Liberals too content with their world to notice it's sliding into oblivion.

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Alan 11 months, 2 weeks ago

And the Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement was unthinkingly unleashed by Vincent Crabbe, a thuggish oaf who had spent the last six books as a nearly silent supporter of the reactionary elitist Draco Malfoy, only to turn into a sadistic monster in the last book who thoughtlessly unleashed absolute destruction.

There's a metaphor in there somewhere about Trump voters, I think.

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Anonymous 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I came here only out of curiosity to see what "JK Rowling's recent ridiculous comments on twitter" were and am still just as mystified as when I arrived.

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Tom Marshall 11 months, 1 week ago

"I don't condone any abuse she recieved, but (and this isn't one of those 'buts' that really means 'ignore what I just said')"

Well put, Jack, and I'm glad you said that - and I hope you didn't think that by me raising the topic of her abuse being awful in response to your tweets that I was saying you covertly condoned it. Was very far from my intention!

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