Fred and George and the Ministry of Mayhem and Dirty Tricks

by Steve Willis

“All warfare is based on deception.”
-Sun Tzu in The Art of War
Two characters from the Harry Potter series came to mind as I was reading a book called Secret Soldiers by Philip Gerard about the deceptive strategies of the American forces during WWII.

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., actor and son of one of the founders of United Artists, played a part in beginning the secret division of the U.S. military that used high fidelity sound in battle. Inflatable tanks, fake artillery, pyrotechnics, and false radio traffic were used to deceive the Nazis into thinking that forces were in one place when, in fact, they were somewhere else. The British were already way ahead of the Americans at that time. Field Marshall Montgomery had used deceptive practices to throw the Germans off at El Alamein in North Africa. Later on in the war, British counter-intelligence misled the Germans into thinking that Allied forces would invade Greece instead of Sicily, a story recounted in Ewen Montagu’s book, The Man Who Never Was.

Another bit of British trickery was described in the book A Man Called Intrepid about Sir William Stephenson who, along with other agents, caused all kinds of trouble for the Axis forces during WWII: influencing Hitler to delay his invasion of Russia (which proved disastrous) and to not invade Great Britain at all. Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond books, worked for Williams and probably got many of his ideas for special dangerous devices from his work with the agency.

So, back to the Harry Potter series: who comes to mind when you consider the adjectives deceptive, distracting, disruptive, devious, and dangerous to anyone who crosses them? It seems to me that in the coming wizarding war that Fred and George make up that missing ingredient that will spell success for the good guys. The way they approach evil is so different from the Death Eaters or the Order of the Phoenix. Both of those grown-up organizations are serious and determined. Fred and George are determined, but even in the face of serious situations they are flippant. In the first war the Marauders may have played a similar role, but Fred and George Weasley far surpass anything that James, Sirius or Lupin ever contrived.

I think that J.K. Rowling has been giving us some hints about this for quite a while. The first enemy at Hogwarts was Filch and Mrs. Norris. Outwitting them proved a very easy task for the twins, but it probably helped them to hone their skills.

We have learned some important things about the personalities of Ron’s twin brothers. When it comes to personal values, Fred and George have a solid sense of justice and a strong loyalty toward their friends. It takes a lot to rattle them, but their loyalty comes out in the form of vengeance when someone does manage to push them too far. There are few things they resent more than a limit of their freedom and because of that, Voldemort is a natural enemy to them. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named knows deception too, but he doesn’t know Fred and George’s irreverent joke shop style of deception and that, I think, puts him at a distinct disadvantage. He may have crushing power, but they have finesse.

Lupin demonstrated to his class that evil could be defeated with laughter. Evil wants to be feared and respected, it hates humiliation and ridicule; I believe there is a strong likelihood that Voldemort will suffer just that at the hands of the twins and their devices.

The twins have had to deal with difficult people in the past. They realized that to get the bad guys to take the bait, you had to know their weaknesses. When they decided to punish Dudley for his cruelty to Harry they knew that they would have to capitalize on Dudders’ weakness for food. Harmless looking candy was their lure. Sure enough, Dudley fell for Ton Tongue Toffee. Imagine a Death Eater trying to curse someone as his or her tongue is growing as long as Nagini. What would happen if the enemies’ wands got mixed up with some of Fred and George’s wands? How effective would the Death Eaters be in a battle where they were trying to perform dark magic with a rubber chicken?

A little more on this subject of wands: Ms. Rowling has shown that the joke wands of the twins feel very much like the real thing – their very own mum mistakes one for her own. In the battle that took place in Order of the Phoenix, we saw the extreme chaos and the scrambling for wands when a wizard drops his or her wand or is disarmed. What would have happened to Hermione if the Death Eater who attacked her had not only been unable to speak but didn’t have a working wand? Nothing. What if fake wands were turned into Portkeys that took anyone who grasped them into the bottom drawer of some far off cabinet or into the u-bend of a toilet in the girl’s bathroom?

Fred and George’s encounters with Professor Umbridge seem to be the strongest harbinger of coming encounters with dark forces. Delores is truly one of the most evil characters in the Harry Potter series, thus far. She is a competent witch and very clever. She has no problems at all with letting her desired ends justify the use of any means at her disposal. She is conscienceless and ruthless. Still, she is soundly humiliated and thoroughly disassembled by the wizardcraft of two teenagers. Trying to stop the fireworks only multiplies them and prompts insulting and taunting pyrotechnics. With this distraction going on the “good guys” can get their business done.

Just think of all the inventions that they’ve produced and how those might be used in a war setting. The “headless hat” that the twins invented impressed even Hermione. Invisibility cloaks seem to be rare and valuable, but Fred and George were able to make a fairly cheap (though partial) replica, which with a little more work could most likely be made to extend to the whole body of the wearer without all the clumsiness of the invisibility cloak. Also, consider how their Skiving Snackboxes might be used to the Order’s advantage and Voldemort’s disadvantage?

Frustrating, angering and humiliating an enemy can be very dangerous (and may mean the ultimate end of the Weasley twins), but when rage is incited, it can also bring an enemy to abandon his or her strategies and make foolish mistakes. When a person or group of persons react instead of deciding what to do, they will invariably be defeated by those who are choosing their tactics (and we all know how J.K. Rowling emphasizes the importance of choice).

Will Fred and George be a part of the psychological assault, distraction and deception of Voldemort’s wizard Nazis? Of course, only Ms. Rowling knows. Still, it does not seem outrageous for her to use the twin’s considerable talents in the upcoming wizarding war.

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