Should writers stay out of politics?

Today, I’m going to take a look at something slightly different: should writers (and, possibly, other artists) share their opinions on the world’s events? And if yes, how?

There’s a lot going on in the world. Riots in Honk-Kong, wars in the Middle East, environmental struggles, anti-vaxxers, anti-WMD treaties being torn apart, human rights, minority rights, and whatever else.

And most people have some opinion on at least some of those matters.

As a writer, you take some amount of public space (however minimal) with the fact your work is out in the open. If/when you get to the point your work has been read by hundreds (or eventually way more) people, some of them will be interested in your presence because of them – whether it is following you on social media/blogs or engaging in conversations on various platforms. And the reason they do is primarily because they’re interested in your art (and I believe this applies not just to writers but to musicians and painters as well) – but they might be interested in your opinions as on other matters as well.

And, believe or not, some of them might be willing to forsake you if they find their oppinion differs much from yours. I still remember that there was someone blaming the authors of the historical computer game Kingdom Come: Deliverance of racism because there was no black people involved – despite the fact black people did not live in central Europe back in 1403.

Likewise, the Swedish metal band Sabaton, known for having songs based on historical warfare (focusing on WWI and WWII) was accused of being… pretty much anything (leftist, rightist, pro-nazi, pro-commie,…), depending from which PoV a song was told. Which, when mentioned in their Sabaton history YouTube show, their singer commented with this line:

Mentioning your political opinions, especially if you live in a country with strong division in the political spectrum, might also do a lot of harm. The major issue I see is taking the attention from your work to your opinions and the more involved you get in it, the more time you’ll waste by dealing with messages that have nothing to do with your work.

Another risk is gaining the attention of trolls – and they’re nasty pests. One of the authors who faced a swarm of trolls and butthurts for her opinions was J.K.Rowling – though she, being done with her ‘main’ writing, risked little when it comes to sales potential. After all, you can’t really unsell millions of books. Still, the amount of memes made of the fact she retconned the sexual orientation of several characters is not small.

If there’s and advice I can be 100% sure on, it’s don’t feed the trolls. Especially beginning authors can’t afford such a risk. You don’t want to deter someone who might enjoy your book just because you support a different party than they do or because you have a different opinion on some topic.

And for all I’ve mentioned above, I think there’s a good reasoning why to stay out of politics as an artist. If you feel the need to discuss those matters, then having a separate, personal account on your platform of choice might be the safer way – though it could be good to make sure it’s not obviously linked with your ‘artist alter ego’ account. I’d guess this might be easier if you write under a pen name as making the connection might be harder then.

So, before you let something into the world that’s not related to your art, give it a good consideration, for your own good.

I’ll welcome your thoughts on this matter so feel free to leave a comment.

5 thoughts on “Should writers stay out of politics?

  1. Good question! I personally share very little of myself because I’m disenchanted with social media. I would much rather people enjoy my books/stories than just me. Ultimately, I’m pretty calm and boring 😉 So, I’d rather people know my writing more than me.

    PS: The issue with Rowling was that a lot of readers felt she changed sexual orientations ONLY after it became “safe” and “uncontroversial,” so the motives were questioned. She also seemed flippant when she added these bits of info. They ended up having no effect on the stories (or contradicting them, some claimed) and ultimately it felt hollow.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just stopped reading two fiction books because the authors got way too political with their narrative and characters. The world is already fraught and divided. Don’t need to try to relax and night and read it in a novel.

    Liked by 1 person

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