JK Rowling warns against ‘black-and-white thinking’ in new podcast: ‘Look more deeply’

‘We should mistrust ourselves most when we are certain,’ Harry Potter author says

Tom Murray
Tuesday 21 February 2023 12:33 GMT
‘I never set out to upset anyone’: JK Rowling speaks out over trans controversy in podcast teaser

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


JK Rowling has criticised “black-and-white thinking” in her new podcast, The Witch Trials of JK Rowling, which is partly intended to address the backlash over her comments about the transgender community.

Follow live reactions to the podcast’s release here.

The Harry Potter author has faced repeated criticism in recent years over her various statements about gender ideology, which some have characterised as “transphobic”.

Rowling has always rejected these accusations, saying that she “knows and loves” trans people.

In the second episode of the podcast, host Megan Phelps-Roper examines the impact of the Harry Potter books, which were initially lambasted by evangelist Christian groups who believed they shared heretical themes with children.

“[As an author] You really seem to have this deep awareness of this type of human behaviour – the temptation to fall into this very simplistic black and white kind of morality,” Phelps-Roper told the author.

“But there is also a clear presence in the books that there is such a thing as good and there is such a thing as evil... How do you discern when a behaviour falls on one side of that line or the other?”

JK Rowling
JK Rowling (Getty Images)

While not explicitly calling out the backlash she has received over her comments about trans people, Rowling said the question went to “the very heart of much of my worldview”.

“There’s a huge appeal – and I try to show this in the Potter books – to black-and-white thinking,” the author said. “It’s the easiest place to be and in many ways, it’s the safest place to be.

“If you take an all-or-nothing position on anything, you will definitely find comrades, you will easily find a community... What I feel very strongly myself [is]: we should mistrust ourselves most when we are certain. And we should question ourselves most when we receive a rush of adrenaline by doing or saying something.”

Rowling continued: “Many people mistake that rush of adrenaline for the voice of conscience... In my worldview, conscience speaks in a very small and inconvenient voice, and it’s normally saying to you: ‘Think again, look more deeply, consider this.’”

In an interview ahead of the podcast’s release, Phelps-Roper said it was “never intended to vindicate” Rowling.

“It’s an attempt to understand what’s happening, and to do that you need the perspectives of so many other people – on all sides – because the issues are so complex,” the activist, who is best known for escaping the extremist Westboro Baptist Church, said.

You can read The Independent’s timeline of JK Rowling’s comments about women and transgender rights here.

The first two episodes of The Witch Trials of JK Rowling will be released 21 February on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other audio platforms. The following five episodes will be released weekly.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in