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Graham Norton sparked a mild Twitter eruption this week when he discussed the subjects of cancel culture and transgender issues.
In a video from an interview with the TV host at the Cheltenham Literature Festival that was posted online Wednesday, Norton said it felt absurd that many of those who complained about being “canceled” were then able to talk about their cancellation in newspapers and in interviews.
“The word is the wrong word,” he said. “I think the word should be ‘accountability.'”
Norton used John Cleese, who has become an ardent campaigner against cancel culture (and is set to make the subject a regular topic on his newly announced show on right-leaning network GB News), as an example.
“It must be very hard to be a man of a certain age, who’s been allowed to say what he wants for years, and now suddenly there’s some accountability. It’s free speech, but it’s not consequence-free.”
The interviewer, Mariella Frostrup, then raised the subject of J.K. Rowling, whose comments and stance on transgender issues have received widespread criticism, suggesting that there had been “attempts at censorship” against the Harry Potter author.
Norton didn’t mention Rowling by name but said that, rather than getting the opinion of celebrities, such as himself, on matters like transgender rights — something that “adds nothing to the discussion” — people should instead “talk to trans people, talk to the parents of trans kids, talk to doctors, talk to psychiatrists, to someone who can illuminate this in some way. I’m very aware that, as a bloke of the telly, your voice can be artificially amplified, and once in a blue moon, that can be good, but most of the time, it’s just a distraction. It’s for clicks.”
Norton added: “If you want to talk about something, talk about the thing. You don’t need to attach a Kardashian or whatever to a subject; the subject should be enough in itself.”
Somewhat predictably for any discussion about cancel culture and trans rights, the comments sparked considerable debate online, with J.K. Rowling herself wading into the argument. When British musician Billy Bragg praised Norton for his comments and “suggesting that the media talk directly to trans teens and their parents rather than merely amplifying the takes of a celebrity,” Rowling fired back, saying she was enjoying the “recent spate of bearded men stepping confidently onto their soapboxes to define what a woman is and throw their support behind rape and death threats to those who dare disagree.”
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