HP review

Anna Clare McDuff amcduff at math.sunysb.edu
Fri Jul 4 06:49:37 EDT 2003

On Fri, 4 Jul 2003, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:

> Well, yes, except that the HP books already *are* being burned.
> That's why I felt this was unfair.  If Liddle felt that Adams was
> talking through his backside, fine, just ridicule him for his stupid
> or unjustified argument.  But it is different to say 'you're making
> what I feel are stupid criticisms about these books, therefore I'll
> group you with the extremists who are calling for the books to be
> banned/burned/censored'.   When those extremists are so frighteningly
> much in evidence in society.

	I dunno, I agree with you that it's generally a cheap tactic in to
lower the tone of an argument by accusing your opponent of being a
bookburner or whatever, kind of like the old rule that the first person
who mentions Nazi Germany in a debate has lost, but the tone of this
particular argument wasn't ever very high what with Adams' snide (and
logically suspect and factually wrong) insults about what he perceived to
be Rowling's political beliefs. So I don't think we can *in this case*
accuse Liddle of dragging the argument into the gutter :-).  But also,
more generally I think that ridicule is a very good weapon to use against
fear. And the greater and more present the danger the more we need it!
Kind of like the Riddikulus charm used against Boggarts in Harry Potter,
in fact. :-) (for the Potter abstainers I should explain that in the books
the boggart is a shapeshifting bogey that hides in dark places and will
take on the form of whatever the discoverer of the boggart most fears in
an attempt to frighten them to death. Boggarts can be killed by forcing
them to take on a ridiculous shape and then laughing at them). I think
that if we allow book burners to intimidate us, to make us bow before
their rage, and take their demands more seriously because otherwise
they'll get out the firelighters and marshmallows, then they've already
won part of the battle. In my ideal world book-burners would merely be
seen as very sad people with an expensive taste in bonfires and so I am
not minded to take them seriously.

	Liddle *does* make it clear, I think, that he's not merely
responding to the Adams article but to the whole debate surrounding it as
well when he said "They were engaged in burning all of their Harry Potter
books, of course - and their Harry Potter videos and Harry Potter mugs,
broomsticks, posters and T-shirts. I suspect, after having absorbed a
Guardian treatise on the work of JK Rowling - and subsequent contributions
to the letters page - your children were similarly occupied over the
weekend. If not, come on, mum and dad, get with the programme - have a
little word, huh?" )  And as for the bookburning elements of his sketch,
well, I think it falls into the category of exaggeration for humourous
effect, and also serves as a warning and reminder that it's just as easy
to reach fascist territory by walking to the extreme left as it is
to get there by walking to the extreme right.


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