Sportsmen and women too: no-one expects them to be deep thinkers or anything other than politically naive. Nice one, Sir Beefy; you've earned it.
Writers are different. Writers need to guard their independence. How do you speak truth to power when power is your friend and patron?
I'm thinking about Salman Rushdie of course. We believed he was one of us and it seems he is one of them. Browning said it best-
Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat.
Browning was thinking of Wordsworth (though he always- politely- denied it). We love the young revolutionary Wordsworth of Tintern Abbey and Intimations of Immortality. The older Wordsworth with his government pension and his unread theological epics is a bit of a joke.
The least likely people have turned down knighthoods. Kipling for instance. Yes, he supported the Empire and all that- but always on his own terms.
Here's what Salman said in a press release: "I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognised in this way." O, good grief- you're the author of Midnight's Children, Salman; that's your glory.
The Islamic fundamentalists have always viewed Salman as the running dog of Western Imperialism. In the past we were able to say, no, he's a lone, brave voice- an honest man- answerable to no-one. But this latest development sort of undermines our case, doesn't it?