The Department of Mysteries: Osama Bin Voldemort and George W. Fudge

by Bob Sindeldecker

Part of the brilliance of Jo Rowling is the way she ties the characters and events of her fantasy world into their counterparts in Our World. In this essay I will compare some of her characters to real people who bear some striking similarities to them.

At the time of this writing on Friday, October 29, Osama Bin Laden has just released a new videotape to the world. The U.S. Presidential Election of 2004 is 3 days away and nobody knows which way it will go. By the time you read this the result will be known and, perhaps, Bin Laden may have been captured. Even then, however, these comparisons will remain.

Osama = Voldemort
Well, duh. Who else would he be? He is a seemingly all-powerful being who strikes fear in the hearts of millions. He is enigmatic, created by specific forces present in the world he grew up in, and empowered by later circumstances. Just as Voldemort was shaped by his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, Osama was shaped by his personal struggle between Western pleasures and Islamic discipline. As Voldemort exploited opportunities in a Wizard culture that was not ready to fight him, so Osama achieved his greatest success in Afghanistan, where the Russians paid no attention to him. Just like Voldemort, Osama continues to run free because the man charged with catching him has tried to pretend he is not there. And just like Voldemort, Osama has seemingly come out of nowhere to shock the world again, as if to say, “Surprise! I’m baaaaack!” (or: “BOO!”)

Al Qaeda = Death Eaters
Consider their ways. Al Qaeda is made up of men fiercely loyal to their leader, as are the Death Eaters. Al Qaeda strikes without warning in places you would never expect, like the Death Eaters. Both groups have powerful, rich members who finance their activities (The Malfoys = The Bin Sauds, anyone?). Both are made up of a mixture of ideological fanatics and bloody, opportunistic criminals, both seeking their own goals under the same banner. Both have their agents in among ordinary society, hiding in plain sight. Both have suffered setbacks which seemed to most people like a total defeat, but which proved to have almost no effect on their activities. It is as if Jo Rowling is ripping her stories from today’s headlines.

Bush = Fudge
In the English language, to “fudge” is to stretch the truth, or to completely ignore it. This is what George W. Bush does. In fact, people used to say some things about Richard Nixon which also could be applied to Bush, such as:

Q: How do you know when he is lying?
A: His lips are movingAnd:

Q: Which of his words are untrue?
A: All of them, including “and” and “the”

Indeed, Bush is like the Wizard of Oz in a way, trying to misdirect us, telling us to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” – although I am not so sure the man behind the curtain isn’t Dick Cheney. But he definitely tries to distract us from our real problems. He is just like Cornelius Fudge, Minister Of Magic, who has done his best to focus people’s contempt on that crazy old coot Dumbledore, the attention-seeking Harry Potter, etc. – anything but the real menace at large.

In the same way, Bush tries to convince us that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States, that the Iraqis love us, that everything in Iraq is all nice and sweet now (at least where US troops are in control) and that John Kerry is an evil “flip-flopper” who wants to destroy our country. I much prefer the Potterverse: at least those villains aren’t real.

But Fudge will be sacked in the next book. Oh, if only we could do as good.

Dick Cheney = Umbridge
Well, they’re both short and fat, hehehe. But really, Dick Cheney is America’s Umbridge for several good reasons. First, he is supposedly Second-In-Command, but is really the power behind the throne, as I think Umbridge will prove to be. Second, he is a determinedly evil man who has manipulated his way into power behind other, more prominent figures. Third, he is a fanatic ideologue who is manipulating a somewhat clueless miscreant who is nowhere near him in terms of competence, but who has a much better public image. Fourth, he is totally ruthless and will use any means to get his way. Fifth, he seems to have no clue or concern about how he is perceived by others. I could go on, but I have to finish this sometime. 🙂

Bill O’Reilly = Rita Skeeter
If you don’t know about Bill O’Reilly, he is a TV host who has been a strong supporter of George W. Bush. He does this by ridiculing Bush’s critics and opponents. This is the same thing Rita Skeeter did to Harry in GoF. And just as Rita said her employer, The Daily Prophet, “exists to sell itself,” so O’Reilly’s employer, the Fox Television Network, exists for the same reason. But I won’t say Fox = The Daily Prophet. That’s too easy. Instead…

Sinclair Broadcasting = The Daily Prophet
Sinclair Broadcasting is a TV company that blatantly violates its obligation to serve the public without prejudice. Instead, they run propaganda programs as “news” and refuse to run news that makes George W. Bush look bad, claiming it is propaganda. The only reason they have not had to pay massive fines or been shut down entirely is that they have been protected by a Bush appointee. TV in America is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, and the man in charge of the FCC is Michael Powell. If the last name sounds familiar, it should: he is the son of Colin Powell, former Army general and current Secretary Of State. Hopefully our new president (HEM! HEM!) will appoint an FCC Chairman who will enforce the law.

John Kerry = Dumbledore
I will not for a minute say that Kerry is a kind old savior who will make everything all sweet and nice. He is a politician just like any other, and I am sure if he wins the election, within a year the same people who voted for him will hate his guts (but I am voting for him anyway). No, John Kerry is like Dumbledore because he is the voice of truth flying in the face of all the lies. He has been saying for over a year that America’s invasion of Iraq was a mistake (“crime” is how I would describe it) and that the real danger was Still Out There, namely Osama Bin Laden. And, as we’ve seen in the past 24 hours, he was right.

Also like Dumbledore, Kerry has been vilified, denounced and ridiculed — everything except proven wrong. That the Bushies cannot do.

Harry = … ??
I had to throw this in because I knew it would be the one comparison everyone would want to see: who is Harry Potter in Our World? The fact is, I don’t think there is one. Harry will be the true savior of all humanity at the end of Book 7, and I hope and pray we do not need one too. I hope things never get that bad. But consider what Harry does. He loves his friends, he is brave in the face of opposition, he always keeps his sense of humor, and everything is better just because he is here. If anyone in Our World equals Harry, it must be …


… Jo Rowling.

I am Bob Sindeldecker and I approved this message.