Yes, she tells one heckuva story. But her books are also deeply moral allegories, and that’s what I most admire about her. Shami Chakrabrati, Director of the British human rights group Liberty, agrees with me:
[Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is] all about the War on Terror as far as I’m concerned. […] The Ministry of Magic is raining down in various draconian ways in response to a very serious threat from the dark Lord Voldemort. Early on in the book we see that the owls – who are a means of communication – are being intercepted to and from Hogwarts School – so that’s your increased surveillance. Poor old Harry is wrongfully accused of something and is up before a kangaroo commission where every trick in the book is used against him: they change the time of the hearing, and there’s no proper due process, and that’s very reminiscent of some of the secret commissions that sprang up…during the War on Terror, this attempt to bypass traditional…justice as we understand it. In the book what it might feel like to be in front of something that purports to be a court but clearly isn’t comes across incredibly well. There are human rights issues all the way through it, and there’s even a scene where Harry is tortured. It’s great fiction, and what with the massive readership and the movies and everything you can reach so many more people than with polemical writing or political activism or whatever. It will reach – and has done already – so many more children and young people than I, or anybody who campaigns for rights and freedoms, ever could. What’s wonderful is that she’s got people reading this – about intrusive surveillance and torture, but also about solidarity and resistance and great human virtues.
Here’s why I think she’s right:
Now that’s a message worth spreading this holiday season.