Following your favorite author on social media can be a bit... strange. It's kind of like getting drinks with your old high school English teacher. On the one hand, you still think they're brilliant, and you appreciate all the ways they changed your life. On the other hand... you don't necessarily want to hear their intoxicated opinions on Obamacare. But just because something makes us uncomfortable, it doesn't mean that it's automatically wrong. Actually, authors weighing in on politics can be an amazingly positive thing in many cases. So here are a few reasons why it's more than OK for authors to be political online.
After this most recent election, I understand why some people might want nothing more than to scrub social media off the face of the planet, and also to stick their head in the sand like a cartoon ostrich. It's tempting. Unfortunately, we live in a political world, and tuning out completely is only going to make things worse.
Like it or not, the internet has become a major center for political discourse. You don't personally have to be posting memes about socialism to be politically involved, but you also can't stop someone else from voicing their political opinion online. Even if that person is your favorite author.
1. Authors are real people
Yes, all of them. They're not just puppets sitting at typewriters. They are real people with families and lives. They, like most real people, have political opinions. You might wish that the author of your favorite YA fantasy series would stick to writing about whimsy and elves, even on Twitter, but that author has every right to tweet about supporting Planned Parenthood instead. Free speech doesn't protect you from criticism, but it does mean that you can tweet freely on your personal account.
2. All your faves are problematic
I mean... we all read Rowling's History of Magic in North America, right? Yikes. So, yes, it's perfectly fine to be upset with a well-meaning, beloved author for posting something uninformed online. Sometimes, a book that you love might even be written by someone with repugnant political views—just ask the fans of Ender's Game. It can be hard to reconcile an author's beliefs with their writing. But ignoring the ugly truth doesn't help anyone: authors are allowed to speak their problematic minds, and we are allowed to criticize them.
3. Representation matters
Sometimes "you're too political" is code for "you forced me to think about people other than myself and I don't like it!" Often, when authors are accused of "being too political online," it's because they're speaking up about the lack of diversity in publishing, or because they don't necessarily see Hermione Granger as white. But everyone deserves to see themselves represented in literature, and fighting for more representation is never out of line.
4. Staying out of politics is a privilege
For many people, including authors, "being political" is not a choice. It's a necessity. If the government poses a threat to your rights, your health, or your life, then being political is a survival strategy, not a hobby. Even authors who've achieved incredible fame and fortune, like our problematic fave J.K. Rowling, have lived through poverty or discrimination that inform their political voice.
5. Authors have always been in politics
The internet might put authors' politics right in your face, but authors as political activists are nothing new. From George Orwell to Dr. Seuss, famous authors have been open about their politics for a long, long time. Seriously, Horton Hears a Who! was written as an apology to the Japanese for racist cartoons Seuss drew during WWII.
6. Online platforms can have a huge impact
Social media can be garbage, sure, but it can also be a force for good. Many authors are using their considerable online platforms to promote charities, encourage political action, and draw attention to under-reported issues. Twitter isn't always the most elegant or direct way to solve the world's ills, but that doesn't make it useless.
7. All literature is political
All of it. There is no such thing as an apolitical book. The Aeneid was commissioned as Pro-Rome propaganda. Pride and Prejudice is a love story about socio-economic classes. Superman was denounced by the Nazis for being Jewish. It's OK for authors to be political, because nothing exists in a vacuum. Simply writing is a political act, however you go about it.