Evgeny Lebedev pledges to use House of Lords seat to defend JK Rowling from the ‘social media mob’

Evgeny Lebedev (L) and JK Rowling. (Stuart C. Wilson/TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty)

Evgeny Lebedev, one of 36 new members of the British parliament’s unelected House of Lords, said in an opinion piece published Saturday (August 8) that he will use his seat in the upper house to “fight to stop online mobs killing free speech”.

Lebedev compared people, er, pointing out that maybe what someone is saying is anti-trans and part of a wider transphobic system that results in trans people being more susceptible to violence, poor health, rape and sexual assaulthigher rates of attempted suicide, experiencing legal rollbacks that effectively erase them from existence, swelling rates of homicide, homelessness and unemployment and, overall, dramatically shorter lifespans, maybe isn’t OK, to “1930s Stalinist show trials”.

Indeed, Lebedev, who owns The Evening Standard and The Independent, penned a piece in the Mail on Sunday about this “new wave of McCarthyism”. He said this “social media mob” have targeted figures such as JK Rowling.

Evgeny Lebedev says JK Rowling trans rights row is a ‘huge deterrent against speaking freely’.

Members of the House of Lords, an ancient chamber that reviews legislation by the elected House of Commons, primarily consists of former lawmakers, wealthy donors and other prominent figures. But the recent roster of appointees by prime minister Boris Johnson has raised pointed concerns of cronyism.

Lebedev described such criticism as “snobbery and casual racism”. Touching off this, Lebedev explained he, in part, chose to accept the peerage to better protect people’s “freedom of speech”.

He cited the recent firestorm surrounding JK Rowling who shared “opinions online about gender” as an example of how: “Virtually anything one says on gender, race or sex can now be seen as an act of violence of some sort.

“The problem is that this leads to an impoverishment of discussion and debate.

“The personal consequences, whether online or actual, can be a huge deterrent against speaking freely.”

Rowling, who has had no formal medical training, has ignited row after row over her opinions on trans rights in recent weeks, notably when she appeared to compare healthcare available to trans youth to conversion therapy.

“Equally shameful are the condemnations of Halle Berry for accepting a role as a transgender man,” Lebedev added, referring to when the actor in July suggested she was planning to play a trans man in an upcoming film.

Ultimately, Berry pulled out of the film role, and stressed in an apology: “As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.

“I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days and will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake.

“I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera.”

Lebedev said that this apology was “disturbing”.