Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Mess of Potterage

Just when you think that perhaps finally the only place you'll find Harry Potter controversy is in Trivial Pursuit 90s Edition, some fool pops up and makes a scene. CMinor has the details.
I really was planning to ignore the story of the Gwinnett County, Georgia mom who launched a court challenge in an effort to remove the Harry Potter books from libraries in her school district. Really. Campaigns of this sort crop up around here every so often; usually they fizzle pretty quickly. So I was pretty surprised this week when the story actually started garnering headlines in the national press.

It clinched the deal yesterday when I flipped on the radio to catch a bit of news. There was our girl, on CBS, voice choked with tears. She wondered aloud how, in the wake of recent school shootings, our nation could continue to allow such "evil" in our schools. So now, on top of promoting sorcery and Wicca (the original complaint) Harry and his creator, J.K. Rowling, are associated with school shootings.

Well, the patently obvious response to that would be, "Show me clear and convincing evidence that the Harry Potter books have been implicated in any school shooting." I have yet to hear of a such a case. Heck, I don't think you could even make that case for Wicca, and I'm not saying that as a fan of the practice. It's just that when it comes to potential catalysts for incidents of extreme sociopathic violence, Harry's not even a blip on my radar screen. Nor, for that matter, is a flaky, gynocentric New Age spiritual discipline (if you can call it that) that in my experience, at least, seems particularly appealing to women seeking to compensate for an overall lack of control over their own lives and actions. My suspicion regarding school shooters is that you have to be one seriously screwed up pup to do it in the first place. Still, were I going to pin blame on any form of literature or media for the actions of some of those who have, I'd be more inclined to seek out the graphically violent or politically anarchic than a 'tweener fantasy series about kid wizards.
There's much more, and it's all good. Read the rest.


Anonymous said...

According to the father of one of the boys killed in the Columbine shootings, it's evolution that prompted the murders.

Darwin said...

This is in fact dead right. (No pun intended.) If we hadn't evolved thumbs, no one could hold guns in the first place...

God and nature are both clearly much to blame in all this.

Rick Lugari said...

In fairness to the father he is on the right track, but I think he failed to make the critical distinction which would have made his point rather than making it seem absurd. The context was natural selection - survival of the fittest - and how the Columbine perps made that their rallying cry. They were going to weed out the weak in their eyes.

The problem isn't that natural selection was taught, it is that there was no moral or philosophical instruction to go along with it. Absent anything that makes one understand that all human life is worthy - that it IS important, then the logical conclusion of natural selection is to be dismissive of life. Personally, I liked what the guy had to say. He took on abortion head on.

Anonymous said...

The Devil went down to Georgia... and his name is Harry.

Darwin said...

Fair enough, Rick. That sounds like a somewhat saner set of comments. Though that almost sounds like a Ayn Rand attitude as much as an evolutionary one.

I suppose a "Dirty Harry" joke would be next up, Tex? "Make my day, wiccan..."

Rick Lugari said...

Indeed, Darwin. The father has latched on to the Darwin angle because those tow boys made a big deal about it themselves. Apparently the police have a video the boys made while planning their assault, where they were talking about natural selection and survival of the fittest and such. It seems that natural selection was sort of their moral justification for doing what they were going to do. These two outcast lads succeeding in killing others proves that they were the fittest after all (by their reasoning). The father wants the videos released to the public but so far the authorities won't allow it.

CMinor said...

I'm flattered you saw fit to quote me, Mrs. D.

Hadn't heard about the Darwinian connection to Columbine. Reminds me a bit of the Leopold & Loeb murder, and the Hitchcock movie based on it (Rope, I think.) Of course, people like that get their Darwinism mixed up with various flavors of nihilist elitism, which means it ends up being something else entirely (of which Darwin would probably have disapproved.)

I've had the impression that making the concept of natural selection understood isn't happening much at the HS level, so they may have felt free to interpret the idea any way they wanted. In a warped mind, all sorts of innocuous concepts can end up twisted.

Wasn't the previous story that they were into neonazism or fascism or something like that?

CMinor said...

BTW, big tex, I'm amused. I'll have to find an occasion to work that into conversation.

Rick Lugari said...


As I recall they were definitely goth and the neonazi/fascism thing seems familiar too. But I don't see how those influences are contradictory to their idea of natural selection. I mean isn't the whole weeding out the "lesser" races and eugenics ideology just applied natural selection?

DMinor said...

One small flaw in the natural selection motive -- weren't the fittest supposed to survive to reproduce? - Dminor

I dunno, Rick, once you apply it I'd say it ceases to be "natural" selection. What you're describing is also known as "social Darwinism" although it was around long before Darwin (remember Malthus?) --Cminor

LogEyed Roman said...

That some wacko would connect Harry Potter with school shootings is, sadly, not surprising to me. It's wildly unrealistic, but there can be a logic based on some truly silly assumptions. Some time ago, LawDog gave a grimly cheerful account of a brutal, stupid chronic bully and drug user getting himself killed by using a BB pistol to beat and threaten an innocent man--who turned out to be license to carry a concealed weapon. Bang bang, and the thug's story is over. Okay; a woman posted a furious comment to LawDog's site vilifying him for being amused by this horrible occurrance(What horrible occurance? I'm with most of the other commentors. I love a happy ending.) Then she added that this of course showed that LawDog HAD TO be a RACIST.

Now let me assure you that nowhere in LD's account was any mention of the race of either the unfortunate thug or the Good Citizen who put him out of our misery. But I've encountered this kind of thinking before.

Something like "Racism" is used as a generic label of evil. LawDog was bad and cruel, so of course he must be a racist, is the "logic".

I met a man who said that the Native Americans were in fact very peaceful to one another before white people came here; that in fact they learned to take scalps from white people and never did it before. I quoted him an English translation of an Indian funeral prayer which was ancient long before the Vikings visited, let alone Columbus, in which the friend of the deceased donates a scalp, stating when and where he took it, showing his friendship to the deceased--you see, having that scalp meant that the deceased would have the soul of the original owner of the scalp to be his slave for all eternity in the Happy Hunting grounds. Sweet, eh?

My interlocutor was unperturbed. Well, then, they must have learned that from Christianity, too. How, I asked, since it certainly was a common practice before Christ? Well, he answered, it was actual Christianity, you know; that whole thing of being judgemental and mean to each other that Christ was only a later expression for.

External facts are of no interest to such people. It's like trying to discuss reality with a hard-core anti-Semite. The Jewish bankers and the Communists were working together to ruin Germany before World War II. Never mind how ludicrous it was for hard-core capitalists to ally with Communists. Rich Jews and communists are bad so they must be pretty much the same. Harry Potter is bad and Pagan. So is Evolution. When Bad Things Happen, the other Bad Things must be responsible. Thus, Harry Potter and school shootings. Simple, really, for a two-year-old. Some two-year-olds are a little slower in development than others, I guess. It's scary that some can vote and drive cars etc.


Rick Lugari said...


Yeah, that's what a rational person would think. And just so we're clear, I'm not positing the notion that by teaching Natural Selection we created these disturbed individuals, which is what at least on the surface what the father of one of the victims claimed. He's obviously basing that on the information he has about what those boys attributed to their motive.

(remember Malthus?)
I'm not THAT old! ;)

Anyway, I think you actually make the point - the point that I was trying to correctly or incorrectly attribute to the father which in my mind gives his statement a bit of credibility. From my initial comment:
The problem isn't that natural selection was taught, it is that there was no moral or philosophical instruction to go along with it. Absent anything that makes one understand that all human life is worthy - that it IS important, then the logical conclusion of natural selection is to be dismissive of life.

We know that man is a higher order of creation, a reasoning creature, endowed with an immortal soul, but fallen, etc. However, not everybody accepts that, to many of the whacked PETA types a man is no better (and probably worse) than any other creature. If we too were to accept that man was no different than any other beast, then his using his will to "apply" natural selection is indeed true natural selection. I reject that as true, but what I'm saying is that to those who don't hold what we do about man, it is reasonable to consider the killing of another as nature in action.

CMinor said...

Well, all right, Rick--
that I grant you.

Anonymous said...

So this is probably of topic, but I notice that Homestarrunner has been added to your likns in the same category as Iowahawk. I'm glad you're finally recognizing quality, crap your pants humor when it pours mountain dew all over your keyboard.