Joanne Harris faces Society of Authors members vote on whether she should quit as chair over her ‘tasteless’ Twitter poll about JK Rowling death threats

  • Ms Rowling had tweeted her horror after writer Salman Rushdie was stabbed
  • Author immediately received response from troll: ‘Don’t worry, you are next’
  • Ms Harris then appeared to make light of the death threat with a Twitter poll

Chocolat author Joanne Harris is facing a vote on whether she should quit as the chairman of the Society of Authors after she was accused of mocking JK Rowling with a ‘tasteless’ Twitter poll about death threats.

Ms Harris posted the poll on Twitter in August after Harry Potter author Ms Rowling had expressed her support for her fellow writer Sir Sir Salmon Rushdie, who had just been stabbed at an event in the US. 

Ms Rowling immediately received the response from a Twitter troll: ‘Don’t worry, you are next’.  

Ms Harris then asked her Twitter followers: ‘Fellow-authors… have you ever received a death threat (credible or otherwise).’

The options to respond were ‘Yes’, ‘Hell, yes’, ‘No, never’ and ‘Show me, dammit’, suggesting scepticism about how serious the threats were.

After furious backlash, the poll was deleted, but that did not stop Ms Harris from facing calls from fellow writers for her to step down from her post.

Now, a group of 10 members of the Society of Authors, including feminist writer Julie Bindel, who is a friend of Ms Rowling’s, have proposed a resolution for the society’s upcoming annual general meeting calling on Ms Harris to step down.

According to The Bookseller, the resolution states that Ms Harris’s behaviour is ‘not compatible with the society’s goals of protecting free expression and their policy of dignity and respect’.

After the news emerged, Ms Harris tweeted claiming she too had received a death threat in an email that read: ‘We are coming for you’.  


Chocolat author Joanne Harris (left) is facing a vote on whether she should quit as the chairman of the Society of Authors after she was accused of mocking JK Rowling (right) with a ‘tasteless’ Twitter poll about death threats 

Ms Rowling tweeted on August 13 after news emerged on the attack on Mr Rushdie. 

He was stabbed multiple times as he took to the stage to give a talk on artistic freedom in at the Chautauqua Institute in New York.

It emerged at the weekend that Mr Rushdie has lost sight in one eye and mobility in one hand as a result of the attack. 

Ms Rowling said in her tweet: ‘Feeling very sick right now. Let him be ok.’ 

The responding death threat was posted by an Iran-supporting Islamic extremist called Meer Asif Aziz, based in Karachi, who described himself on Twitter as a ‘student, social activist, political activist and research activist’.

Ms Harris’s Twitter poll was then published later on August 13. 

Ms Bindel was among those who criticised the post, branding it ‘disgustingly inappropriate.’ 

Ms Harris posted the poll on Twitter in August after Harry Potter author Ms Rowling had expressed her support for her fellow writer Sir Sir Salmon Rushdie, who had just been stabbed at an event in the US. Ms Rowling received a death threat after posting her message 

Ms Harris then asked her Twitter followers: ‘Fellow-authors… have you ever received a death threat (credible or otherwise).’ 

The poll was later deleted by Joanne Harris, who replaced it with an alternative version shown above

Novelist Simon Edge had said the poll was ‘indefensible’ and said it is ‘high time’ the Chocolat author stepped down.

Today it was reported that 10 members from the Society of Authors’ 12,000-strong membership proposed a new resolution aimed at Ms Harris.

An additional resolution from Ms Bindel and others reportedly called for the society to review ‘how to pursue its stated aim ‘to protect free speech’ and put in place a robust framework to do so, including a member and management committee working group that looks at how best to protect the fundamental right of all authors to express themselves freely within the law, and to uphold the impartiality expected of the society, including all who govern and work for it.’

The second resolution was tabled after a war of words between Ms Harris and fellow author Kate Clanchy, who was last year accused by online commentators of using racialised stereotypes of children in her book Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. 

Ms Clanchy compiled a report that she sent to the Society claiming it and Ms Harris had entered the dispute over the book when they should not have done. 

According to The Bookseller, she wrote: ‘A de facto morality clause from my publisher was something the society might have campaigned against: instead they found themselves an important voice in calling for it.

‘This leaves the society with ongoing difficulties as they attempt to defend free speech.’

Ms Clanchy also separately accused Ms Harris of calling her ‘ignorant, cruel and patronising’.

The second resolution will be voted on in an electronic poll at the Society’s meeting on November 17. 

A spokesman for the Society of Authors said: ‘The members’ resolutions will be heard and fully debated at the a.g.m. 

‘However, in relation to resolution six, Joanne Harris strongly denies that she has acted in ways that are incompatible “with the society’s goals of protecting free expression and their policy of dignity and respect”.

‘On resolution seven, we commented at length about our approach to freedom of expression on 15th August, 17th August and 19th August. 

‘This is quite aside from our ongoing work working against morality clauses and “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPPs), as well as supporting the wider campaigns of free expression organisations such as English PEN.’

Ms Harris today posted a ‘sample’ from her Twitter messages. 

One read: ‘Your woke values are incompatible with the functioning of civil society. 

‘Please resign from your position at the Society of Authors, and retire from public life until you learn how to behave like a decent person.’ 

She also highlighted the apparent death threat, which also included a ‘death’s head emjoi’ and was unsigned. 

Last night, she appeared to take a swipe at her critics as she tweeted in response to news about the extent of Mr Rushdie’s injuries.

She wrote: ‘There’s something very wrong with our Press when this grotesque attack on free speech is repeatedly eclipsed by the voices of a privileged few, claiming to have been cancelled.’

Ms Harris was approached for comment.  

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