Politics and Media in Harry Potter

How time slips by! Back in May my book Values of Harry Potter got a little media attention — and now the final film of the series opens next week!

Over at Big Media, Jason Salzman, a left-leaning bulldog of an investigator, discusses my chapter, “News Media in Harry Potter.”

Salzman has some criticisms. He doesn’t like my mention of Paul Krugman’s article on the Gabrielle Giffords shooting as an example of bad journalism. Salzman thinks I “could have come up with better examples from the spectacular archive of journalistic foibles.” He’s probably right. However, I just picked some examples basically at random that happened to be well-known to me. I don’t think readers will have much problem adding to the list.

But Salzman thinks I basically make my point that the series presents both a negative and a positive conception of media. He grants, “There seems to be an obvious lesson in the dangers of state control of the press here…”

But Salzman ends on a pessimistic note:

I noticed that Armstrong did not say the truth “will” prevail without quality journalism [though it “can”], and he’s right. You have to wonder today, with serious journalism struggling, whether enough of the truth will get out there for our experiment in democracy to have a happy ending.

So maybe the lesson in the Potter series that Armstrong lauds isn’t the one we really need. We need more books showing how the truth doesn’t prevail in the end when journalism is forsaken or corrupt. That’s where things look to be heading to me.

I, on the other hand, am thrilled and excited by the many new opportunities made possible by the blogging and social media for citizens to engage with journalists, correct reports, and even report the news. For a great example of this, one need look no further than Salzman’s own accomplishments.

For May 31, Denver Diatribe invited me to join the weekly podcast. We discussed the political themes of the novels, especially the corruption of the Ministry of Magic and the tyrannical rise of Voldemort.