J K Rowling says No.


There are those who would do anything rather than think. Grease the cat’s boil, clean out the henhouse, kill the cockroaches in the back bedroom – anything rather than get down to applying the grey matter. I’m inclined that way myself (and yes, Virginia, there are those who say I demonstrate it on a near-daily basis).  Instead, many people substitute Follow-the-Star.  That’s why Arnie Schwarzenegger became governor of California and Ronnie Regan president of the United States. That’s why Tony Blair had Noel Gallagher and other Britpop artists round to No 10 for drinks. And that’s why so many headlines are being given to  J K Rowling’s donation of £1 million to the No campaign in Scotland. 

Of course there’s no reason why artists or celebs shouldn’t be sharp political thinkers. But there’s equally no reason why they should be. If you were scheduled for a brain operation, you’d be unlikely to call on the services of Alexi Sayle because he makes you laugh or Lionel Messi because he’s magic with a football. Sometimes it works: Mike Nesbitt got to be leader of the Ulster Unionist Party because people had seen him on the telly, but  he still led the Ulster Unionist Party to a very creditable performance in the recent elections. In the south, Jimmy Deenihan is Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; before that he was a highly successful Kerry footballer. Nesbitt and Deenihan, Schwarzenegger and Regan are different in that they became politicians; but should we pay any heed to celebrity endorsement of a political party or cause?

No, no and no again. Because it links two things – the celeb and the cause – between which there’s no rational connection. When I worked in education I used to meet people who were eminent in the university’s management system. Sometimes they assumed this entitled them to pontificate on other, unrelated matters with equal authority, and they got quite tetchy when challenged by those lower in the academic pecking order. Alas,  there were more often deferred to, even though there was no reason why their management skills entitled them to superior insight in other areas.

J K Rowling has, I understand, accompanied her £1 million donation to the No campaign in Scotland with a detailed argument on her website. I have no idea whether that argument is sound or not and I doubt if I’ll spend the time checking it out. In that I’ll be like a lot of people, I suspect. They’ll hear about the headline endorsement and, lazy sods that they are, they may well allow it to influence their September vote on Scottish independence.

Celebrity endorsement stinks. And we stink too if we let it take over our brains.

39 Responses to J K Rowling says No.

  1. Am Ghobsmacht June 12, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    I think Sean Connery would disagree with you Dr C…

  2. Am Ghobsmacht June 12, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    Funnily enough, I have am under the impression that out of all the arty types who try to influence people, comedians tend to be the most frowned upon as when they try to say something that ‘isn’t funny’ people switch off.

    I find this to be a cruel irony as comedians scrutinise society and culture very closely and are probably amongst the best qualified to point out the failings in our society, yet as soon as a ‘fool’ speaks out of turn we don’t want to know.

    For example, I have a faint memory of Harry Enfield demolishing politicians in a televised debate of sorts but at the end of the evening he was still the court jester and no one took him seriously.

    • Jude Collins June 12, 2014 at 10:27 am #

      Excellent point, A G. I’m sure S Connery would disagree. I’m not saying celebs don’t have the same rights as the rest of us, to support or oppose a cause/political party; but I’m saying they’re overweening if they think their views deserve any more respect than the next man/woman’s, and we’re fools if we accord them more respect.

      • Am Ghobsmacht June 12, 2014 at 10:39 am #

        That is true Dr C, it scares me to think that people would follow the advice of a Kardashian or such like.

        And we know some people would.

        Celebs (as per yer point I believe) muddy the meritocratical waters somewhat.

        To highlight all of our points, here’s Dylan Moran’s take on a similar matter, the governorship of Schwarzenegger: (fast forward a minute): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlLpCh-lE54

    • Iolar June 12, 2014 at 11:26 am #

      “The Fool know that the only true madness is to recognize this world as rational.” Jan Kott

  3. Normawilson June 12, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    Good Morning Jude,

    I suspect if she had donated the the one million to the yes party, you would not have chosen this topic this morning.
    I do not think for one moment the Scots will go independent.

    There is nothing wrong with it, I just think we are stronger together all Brits.

    Look, there is no use beating about the bush Jude, I am reading the book Phillimena at the moment, and if I have thought it once, I have thought it one hundred times. Thank God I was not born in the republic under De Valera.
    I can only equate it to China or Russian, such draconian measures?

    How can an institution like the Catholic Church been allowed to play carte Blanche
    With young peoples lives like that.

    I am now today beginning my 60’s this is the first day of it, I have grew up here, in this wee part of the country, and came through the troubles unscathed.

    In 69 I was 15, I do wish my fellow countrymen had have done things differently, and shared.

    But, should I live to see a united Ireland I don’t think it will be the end of the world, and thank God the church does not have the same grip that it used too.

    So, if in September things go one way or the other changes are coming.

    • maryjo June 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

      Ah yes, Norma, the power of a book. I read Sean O’Casey’s “The Bishop’s Bonfire” just a few weeks after leaving school in 1963 and the strict Catholic edifice, that had enclosed me for 18 years, came tumbling down in the short time it took to read a one-act play.

      • Ceannaire June 12, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

        Happy Birthday, Norma – Breithlá sona duit.

        I’m glad that I wasn’t born under De Valera’s rule either. Don’t worry, any future united Ireland would be the opposite of what he lorded over. Thank God.

    • Jude Collins June 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

      Good afternoon to you, Norma. An interesting question for conjecture: what would have happened to these women if the Catholic Church hadn’t existed? Just askin’, like…

    • Antonio June 12, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

      ”I can only equate it to China or Russian, such draconian measures?”

      well clearly you know nothing about China and Russia

    • RJC June 12, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

      Norma, if you don’t mind me asking – when you say “we are stronger together all Brits” – what do you mean by this? What is this strength and why is it required? Who do feel the ‘Brits’ need to be strong in the face of?

      Hope you don’t think I’m being rude asking this, I always enjoy reading your comments.

    • ANOTHER JUDE June 13, 2014 at 8:11 am #

      Norma, you don`t think it is a good idea then for Britain to have a church tied to the state? Why should the C of E be the official church? Their record is not spotless, also De Valera could only dream of a state as religiously ruled as the six counties were, with the Orange Order choosing the Prime Minister and Government ministers. Incidentally, have you ever heard of Kincora?

  4. Argenta June 12, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    “Celebrity endorsement stinks”.So if a celebrity endorses Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein,does that stink also?

    • Jude Collins June 12, 2014 at 10:25 am #

      It does if people allow that to do their thinking for them. You should try reading my pieces before commenting on them, Argenta.

  5. Francis D June 12, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    It will be interesting what other Magical Rabbits from the large Top Hat of celebrity culture shall be pulled before the referendum.

  6. Alan June 12, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    I think the fact she’s an Englishwoman in Scotland is the problem. If it was an All Ireland border referendum and some famous English author living in the north donated £1million to the pro UK cause, it would draw criticism. The UK is totally controlled by England, so it’s little surprise English people are happy with the status quo.

    • Teri June 12, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      I am not too sure that the English who live in Scotland are all happy with the status quo. A poll a couple of months back showed that a third of English living in Scotland intended to vote Yes. There also exists an ‘English Scots for Yes’ group that is at present touring Scotland spreading the message for an Independent Scotland.

      Incidentally, there’s also an Irish for Yes group comprising Irish -both Northern Irish and Irish Irish who are doing their bit for the cause.

      The YES campaign is very much a grass roots campaign with people from all political parties and none campaigning together, as well as specific groups.

      At present the polls are showing the vote to be very close. The UK government themselves have spent £140,000 of tax payers’ money having polls conducted and refuse to publish the results of any of them. An insider at Ipsos Mori who carried out one of the polls stated the government would not allow it to be published as it showed a good leader for YES.

  7. paddykool June 12, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    Jude :
    Celebrity endorsement has a more baleful influence than any of us would care to admit…should it be John Wayne endorsing the very cigarettes that went on to kill him or the mountains of product that are regularly shifted on television and in magazines b y countless sportsmen, film stars and models. The adverts are paying for the magazines themselves so in reality we are being manipulated from the get go.
    Women know that some water-based cream isn’t going to turn them into the latest “face” but they readily go along with the fantasy that advertisers have colluded in and spend extraordinary amounts of money on little pots and potions. I’m sure any female’s bathroom armoury far outweighs her male partner’s similar array. That’s advertisers tapping into either insecurity or a lust for pretty little bottles.

    Similarly, when the writer of Harry Potter opens her mouth, her audience is already a world-spanning cult , hanging onto her every squeak. She doesn’t have to be right or wrong and yes, you don’t have to plough through the whole piece to glean a truth from her words of wisdom. She’s already made her impact. It would be the same if it was the latest rockstar. The young fans would hang onto every word from the font.

    Mind you , you might ask what any politician knows about anything. All this current lot we’ve got are being trained how to behave on the job. They’d all be from different fields initially. What prepared Peter Robinson to pontificate on race and religion in his previous secret identity as an estate agent? Similarly, the ability to read the news from an autocue doesn’t also bestow the wit and wisdom of …..Groucho Marx{!}[I was going to say “Solomon”!] on TV Mike.
    I personally don’t think that the Scots will go for independence this time . They might want to on a devil –may –care basis to put one up on those perceived, arrogant English down there ¸but I think they ‘ll stick with the devil they know for now .They’ll probably be happier for another while with those old certainties.
    Funny you should mention Alexei Sayle. My eldest daughter is currently living in his old house….

    • paul June 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      You stole my thunder paddyk. While I often cringe about celebrity endorsements for various causes, I cringe just often when politicians tellus in a condescendingmanner that they know what is good for us.

      Like anyone else a celebrity has the right to speak their mind and opine on the issues/causes of the day. It is also fine to agree with them. As the article suggests, the problem is too many people listen to and subsequently follow the celebrity without making up their own mind.

      If one bases their opinion solely on media/celebs, one could assume the royal family is a fine tradition steeped in honor, class and grace. If however one reads of the history of the royal family , of the conflicts they have started and pain inflicted over the centuries, one could come up with a completely different opinion.

      I do not pretend to be the smartest person out there, but I was taught from an early age to investigate issues and make up my own mind. GRMA ma and da

  8. Jude Collins June 12, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    How wonderful – Alexi’s old home! It’s not like that bit in ‘The Young Ones’ where he burst through a wall?? He’s a serious writer now…I do miss him.

  9. Jude Collins June 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    PS Of course it should be Alexei – Tá bron orm – apologies.

    • William Fay June 12, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      Yes Jude, the same way Regan is spelt Reagan. I presume you’re struggling with a blog for today, more substance in a Harry Potter book.

    • paddykool June 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      Jude : Yep his old home in Liverpool is quite a palatial place.i think he probably bought it with the royalties of that mad single he had out[“John, got a new motor”} back in the 1980’s . I think it housed a whole commune of writers and artists in its heyday , but it would have been hell on wheels to maintain and heat . A big old townhouse….probably originally owned by some old Liverpool slaver!
      It’s now divided up into some very tasty flats, rented out at the usual mad prices . Old Alexie had the head tightly screwed on by the sound of it . As you say , Jude , he’s a writer first and foremost,Parents both old communists. He’s a month younger than me and was also {for his sins} like myself an old art student..That would explain a whole lot, eh?

  10. Theresa Watson June 12, 2014 at 1:36 pm #


    Rowling and Galloway saying – NO, sound like two good reasons to vote YES.

    • Jude Collins June 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      Ha ha – very good, Theresa. I want to like Galloway more but I find it hard. Haven’t ever read Rowling but there’s something …empty about her personality. And now this £1 million and ‘It’s good to be together’ to the Scots – I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a GA backlash…

  11. RJC June 12, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    I would imagine that paddykool of this parish is familiar with Guy Debord’s theory of ‘The Spectacle’. I have a somewhat half-arsed understanding of it myself, although good old Wikipedia comes to my aid when my mind wanders, as it so often does.


    A fair few Scottish artists, writers and musicicans seem to be fairly vocal about where they stand on the referendum debate. Most of them do not have a million quid to chuck at it mind you. We can choose to listen to them, or we can choose to ignore them. It’s harder for some to ignore if glamorous photos of them are plastered all over the papers though, eh?

    Stuart Braithwaite, the lead singer/guitarist of Glasgow band Mogwai offers some fairly convincing ‘Yes’ arguments in his Twitter feed @plasmatron

    It would appear there is a lot more money to be made in boy wizards than there is in distorted guitar music.

    • paddykool June 12, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      RJC : Funnily enough, i ‘d never come across the term, but I do get your drift. We are absolutely living in those times now …even more so for our current younger generation who have embraced the concept to such a degree that they appear to fast becoming clones in looks, appearance and their very tastes. Even the well -educated ones are very accepting of the idea of an advanced sort of commodity capitalism. It’s very much a pavlov response of ..”I want it …and i want it NOW!!!”…driven by advertising and competetiveness…An advanced case of keeping up with the Jones’….hah! :

  12. ANOTHER JUDE June 13, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    George Galloway has always been against Scottish independence, he says Scotland has still got a very bitter anti Catholic ethos. Not surprising really, considering the UK`s sectarian laws of succession. Personally I consider most British people politically thick, how can thousands of Labour voters switch to the hideous UKIP?

  13. giordanobruno June 13, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    Didn’t you interview Robert Ballagh about his political views.
    Why should his views be of interest but not those of Rowlings?

    • Jude Collins June 13, 2014 at 11:28 am #

      PS – Why didn’t you try me on Roddy Doyle? Or have you not read the book??

  14. Jude Collins June 13, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Simples. He’s a republican political activist as well as an artist. Has been for decades. Don’t you ever read the papers??

    • giordanobruno June 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

      He is a celebrity first and foremost. There are many political activists. You chose to interview the famous one.
      Your book is on my to do list. Not at the top though.

      • Jude Collins June 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

        I don’t know if I should even talk to one with such misshapen priorities…I’ll be honest I chose people who were either poltiicians – the large majority – plus a few who were well-known and had some interest in/connection with politics, and who might draw in readers who’d otherwise not come. Thus Fr Brian D’Arcy, Roddy Doyle, Robert Ballagh. But all have some political interest through their work. Now. Go out and buy THREE copies of that book, and give the extra two to the first deserving poor you meet.

        • giordanobruno June 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

          Buy it? I believe it’s available in the library.

          • Jude Collins June 13, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

            Dear God – are there no depths to which you will not sink?

  15. Jude Collins June 13, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    PS Robert Ballagh would bate your pan in for calling him a celeb. He’s a serious – very serious – artist.

  16. giordanobruno June 13, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    I see that Pope Francis is the latest celebrity to pontificate,so to speak, on the Scottish debate.
    Does he believe people can’t think for themselves?
    Go on Jude you tell him!.

    • RJC June 13, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

      Nice to see the Orange Order in agreement with the Pope over something though, eh?