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Harry Potter

Censorship, Propaganda and You.

Everyone has heard of Harry Potter, even those hiding under a rock in the middle of nowhere. Good, bad or indifferent, opinions on these books are everywhere, and I'd like to take a stab at the subject.

Of course, the standard disclaimers apply...I do not represent J.K. Rowling, Warner Brothers, blah de blah, this is my opinion only, stuff stuff stuff, and no animals were harmed during, etc.

First off, I have a complaint about common sense. It's not common enough, apparently. This idea is very simple, and applies to *everything*, no matter what the situation...if you haven't familiarized yourself with the source, don't make a judgement! If you haven't read the Harry Potter books, why have you decided *anything* about them? Reading opinion pieces about them isn't reading the books. Watching the movies isn't reading the books. And certainly listening to someone on TV rant about the subject isn't reading the books.

Secondly, it's hardly fair to approach a book (or movie, or a song, etc.) with a preconceived notion of what it's about. No matter what the book is about, if you're searching for a hidden agenda, you'll probably convince yourself that you've found it. Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.

Of course, if you're one of *those* people, then anything I might say is useless, since it's coming from a Witch. But why would you be here?

These books are a happy, light fantasy for children. We had the same thing with Narnia, the Oz books, even the Myth series by Robert Asprin for older kids. I'm always happy to see new, *good* fiction books, so of course I'm delighted by the Harry Potter series. My kids will have every single one in hardback, as well as all the stories about Narnia and Oz.

Everyone likes a good story. That's all that Harry Potter is about. There is no political agenda, no dark, hidden evil plot against anyone, no secret messages... it's just a good story.

But, if after reading these books, you decide that you don't want your children reading them, just don't buy them. It's that simple.

If you don't trust your child's judgment and good sense, just tell them why you have a problem with the Harry Potter books. Tell your kids that you don't want them reading these books. Practice actual *parenting*, rather than demanding that the government do your job for you. Don't deny these wonderful stories to the people who want to read them. Who are you to make such a sweeping judgment?

To do so is censorship. Calling for these books to be banned in libraries and public schools only hurts those who *do* want to read them. Would you like a list of other books that have been banned? Visit Banned Books Online for a wordwide list, which includes such classics as Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, George Eliot's Silas Marner, and of course Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. True, the Harry Potter series isn't quite Twelfth Night caliber, but I'm sure you can see the point I'm making. These books were all banned because a small, vocal group didn't like some of the ideas expressed... and so censorship damaged a part of our literary education.

When those small but vocal groups can't pull off complete censorship, propaganda is the favorite fall-back. If you're told over and over that looking in the box will kill you, are you going to look in the box? Probably not. How about if a bunch of people said that they had looked in the box, but were still alive? And that the box had a pretty flower in it? Would you look then? Maybe, but probably not if those vocal ninnies are still screaming about a nasty, painful death.

This is an example of propaganda. Simple, huh? All it takes is a few people screaming about something they don't like, but it's somehow powerful enough to stop another person from trying it out for themselves. Powerful enough to stop a person from *thinking* for themselves. Are you really going to let some yodeling idiot do your thinking for you?

Don't you find it interesting that the people screaming the loudest about the evils of Harry Potter have said themselves that they haven't read the books? That they never will? They haven't even bothered to read a few chapters before denouncing them. This isn't "informed decision making" (which is good), it's propaganda (which is bad).

So now the "You" bit. I won't say that it's your duty as an American citizen to uphold the Constitution by standing against those who try to take away our rights and freedoms...oh wait, I did say that. And while in the grand scheme of things, a book or five don't look so important, it's the little things that matter. All those little things build up over time... just look at the Patriot Act.

At the very least, do your own thinking. Read the books for yourself, then decide.

And then, after taking this small but oh-so-important step... apply it to other things. Other books, other movies, other people. Especially other people. Have you been told over and over again that Gays are out to corrupt the nation's youth? That they're evil, and intent only on spreading that evil? If you believe it... do you actually know any gay people? How about people of other religions? Right now it's very trendy to hate Muslims. Do you know any? Ever read their holy book? Ever bothered to find out for yourself?

How many times have you simply accepted what you've been told, without ever bothering to learn for yourself?