17 September 2006

A Dangerous Array of Weaponry

This item of a couple of days ago in the Grauniad is worth reading for the first sentence alone… and for what that sentence implies about a variety of things.

Despite a previous history of extreme violence involving giant serpents, faceless demons, dragons, and enraged willow trees, the boy wizard was finally allowed on to the translatlantic flight, and has landed safely in Britain.

"Harry Potter Runs Airline Gauntlet" (15 Sep 2006).

On the one hand, this is a fairly amusing story. Middle-aged female Caucasian celebrity pulled over for bearing a potentially dangerous weapon? Next we're going to hear that she tried to smuggle a sealed Evian bottle onto the plane, too! Really, now—how long could it possibly have taken the security people to riffle through even a full ream of paper and find that it contained no box-cutters, bottles of lighter fluid, or anything else of that nature? And what was she going to do with her manuscript that could have been a threat onboard the aircraft—scatter the pages on the floor in the hopes that an attendant would slip?

More disturbingly, though—at least at the symbolic level—there's the uneasy treatment of a literary work as a weapon. Perhaps that isn't surprising during this administration (either Over Here or Over There). Neither Bush nor Blair seems able to tolerate active dissent, and their henchcreatures can't even tolerate mild disagreement. Even Nixon and Johnson weren't quite so virulently opposed to Vietnam war protesters, still less writers of children's books.

One of the things that makes this incident even more vaguely disquieting is the combination of ignorance in the security staff and the subtext of Rowling's works. On the one hand, it's hard to imagine a literate security guard not knowing who Rowling was when she went through security. Surely that would have been enough to focus one's attention on the potential security threat presented by the next person in line! On the other hand, though, one must remember that Rowling's works are pretty anti-dogma, and contain pretty blatant subtexts against birthrights, racism, and abuse of government power. So, perhaps, in that sense she was an appropriate target of security-force scrutiny. What that says about security, though, is better left unsaid. (Of course, the point of this entry has been to say it.)