I recently re-watched all the Harry Potter movies to prep for Harry Potter trivia night at a local coffee shop. Now I pretty much have all of these wonderful movies memorized—except "The Order of the Phoenix." I'm not a fan of this movie (or book) compared to all the others, so I usually skip it, especially since "The Half-Blood Prince" is my favorite. But I had to watch it this time through, of course, for research. And I noticed something rather odd about a not-so-rare piece of, well, magic.
This "magic" I'm referring to isn't wingardium leviosa or lumos. It's the magic of media representation. It's that thing news and other media outlets do that can dangerously skew viewers' opinions. It's more than just bias. It's complete control over the narrative.
It's telling the viewers what to believe.
Spoilers ahead, but honestly how have you not read or seen Harry Potter, after all this time?
In "The Order of the Phoenix," Harry Potter and Dumbledore are painted as lunatics and conspirators by the Daily Prophet (the wizarding newspaper, for you Muggles), which we of course learn is the fault of the Ministry of Magic—and, by extension, the Minister himself. The Prophet and Ministry are in denial that Voldemort has returned. But instead of being rational and investigating to discover the truth, they immediately jump to the conclusion that those who believe Voldemort is back are crazy and in cahoots with potential criminal masterminds Harry and Dumbledore. Makes sense, right? They are so adamant in their denial that Umbridge is sent to Hogwarts to censor the narrative and prevent the students from gaining the skills they need to protect themselves from, I don't know, maybe Lord Voldemort.
This makes the students dependent on the Ministry of Magic. If Umbridge and the Ministry had gotten their way, the students who lacked proper defense against the dark arts training and future generations would have to turn to the others for help. They'd have to turn to the Ministry.
The Ministry of Magic's desire to control the narrative put the witches and wizards they serve in further danger. They were uninformed. They were villainizing the very wizards who could best stop Voldemort again. When the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, discovered Dumbledore's Army, his first action was to contact the Daily Prophet. Not hear any arguments in Harry and the Army's defense, not think for a minute that maybe they realize something he doesn't, but to use this discovery to further manipulate his cause by informing the wizarding public.
When the Ministry of Magic, or the government, has too much power, they can control the narrative to their will. They can use supposedly third-party media platforms, like the Daily Prophet, to represent their cause. Alternative news sources, like the Quibbler, are painted as lunacy for merely disagreeing or being different.
It's important to gather all the facts and look at things from each side of the story. This is a concept that luckily Harry and his friends understood. They were always questioning the mainstream news. We see this in "The Sorcerer's Stone" when they realized the vault at Gringott's was broken into by Voldemort. We see this in "The Prisoner of Azkaban" with the whole situation surrounding Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew. We see it in "The Goblet of Fire" with the reactions to Rita Skeeter reporting the Triwizard Tournament. And of course, most noticeably in "The Order of the Phoenix" when Harry tells Umbridge in the forest, "I must not tell lies."
Omission of the whole story is lying to the public.
We deserve freedom of the press to tell the whole story from many different sides. Only then will we be able to form our own opinion instead of letting the higher powers control the narrative for us. We need to let the media represent different, contrasting viewpoints in order to see the whole story. We must hold the media to a higher standard of representation. We need to seek out different sources that exemplify complete representation.
It's important to stay informed. But what's the point of being informed if the narrative is being controlled for you?