Book talk: Should authors use their platforms to be outspoken about political issues?

It's been an age since I've updated my blog, and an even longer time since I've featured one of these discussion  topics. I've been struggling with my depression over the past few months, so the only time I really get to write is when I'm doing so for my job (and then cross posting my book content here).

Moving on... a while back a wrote a piece originally featured on W24 and in one of my book newsletters. In it I talk about authors being agents of change and asks the question: do we as readers have the right to ask them to use their voice to speak up when it comes to political and socioeconomic issues.

Check it out below:

The wonderful thing about social media platforms is that it gives you the chance to connect with people you wouldn’t normally have been able to simply chat to.

Ask any reader, book blogger or reviewer, and many will tell you that being able to engage with your favourite author online is pretty awesome.

Given that the platforms are available on a world wide scale, receiving a tweet to say “ thanks for reading my book,” is nearly as magical as being transported into the many fictional worlds our favourite authors create.

Most of my Twitter feed features many of my favourite authors and I can definitely tell you that as much as I follow them for information about their forthcoming books, writing advice and book recommendations, I also love hearing their thoughts and opinions on topical issues.

For me, fiction has always been a fantastic means to tackle issues that people would generally steer away from, so seeing this reflected in not only the author’s writing, and hearing  them speak out about it is something that has become increasingly more important to me.

With Trump’s presidency, I’ve seen more celebrities and authors take a solid stand about their political view points. Weirdly though, I’ve often seen a lot of people clapping back at them, telling them to take a seat because they’re artists not political analysts (no surprises here if you guessed that they’re Trump supporters).

Um, since when were people one-dimensional human beings only capable of doing one thing and having one thought at a time? And why can’t people have opinions about issues that will impact them and the rest of the world?

In fact, I always thought that the more outspoken a celebrity or author is on a topic, the better. If you have a huge and established fan base, there’s an unspoken sense of responsibility that rests on your shoulders to at least be vocal about issues that affect you and your fans.

No one is saying that they should never use their platforms to talk about their work and promote their books, but personally, I would prefer an author to be as vocal about topics on their platforms as they are in their books.

Words have power and the voice you have is a weapon you can use (I must credit that last sentiment to Angie Thomas, whose book The Hate U Give is exactly about this – it’s a must read). 

When I see authors remaining conspicuously quiet about issues like the refugee crisis, healthcare, racial injustice or discrimination against any other marginalised groups, I can’t help but think that they’re being complicit in their silence.

One of my favourite authors is in a position of privilege. I love her books and the fictional worlds that she creates is nothing short of phenomenal. She has more than 500 000 followers on Twitter – people who come from all backgrounds – rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight and transgender.

And never do I see even a tweet or retweet in connection with issues that impact their lives. It’s all about her work and her life.

It was Desmond Tutu who once said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

I understand that some people simply choose to use their platforms strictly for work, that they might be suffering from political fatigue, or that they fear backlash from people who simply do not agree with their views.

And goodness knows there are the kind of humans who lurk about on the internet, just looking and waiting for someone to harass into leaving social media networks completely.

I get that fear. In fact, I’m expecting someone to tweet me and tell me how dare I try to police author behaviour and who am I to dictate what they say on their social media networks. Me reminding them that this is simply an opinion-based column will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears.

Of course I believe that authors have the right to protect themselves from that kind of backlash, and I don’t think that authors alone can simply just change the world with a singular thought, but complete silence as a response?

It doesn’t sit that well with me.

I know that I would rather be uncomfortable with what an author is tweeting (because things I’m uncomfortable with make me think – and I’m always glad to be challenged even though everything in me is railing against a thought or opinion) instead of a serving of safe words that keep everyone happy.

But that’s just me.

And of course, I won’t simply stop following an author simply because he or she chooses not to engage with issues affecting the world, because at the end of the day it is their right to choose what to share and what not to.

I simply think a healthy balance of sharing work, writing and opinions about current affairs wouldn’t go amiss.

What are your thoughts on this?


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