Today, Protect Democracy and the Harry Potter Alliance released a new toolkit for students, educators, and Harry Potter fans to take action to protect democratic values through the words and ideas of Harry Potter, titled “Wizards Protect Democracy.” The toolkit they’ve produced identifies six key areas that have historically signaled the decline of democracy, according to experts. It then provides examples of each area within both Harry Potter and America today. There is also a call to action for each of the six areas. Each area is a core focus of Protect Democracy’s work as a nonpartisan nonprofit. The toolkit will be distributed through the Harry Potter Alliance’s network of thousands of members in over 30 countries around the world.
“Wizards Protect Democracy” is specifically designed to target young adults and demonstrate the importance of democracy in a new and appealing way. A recent study from the Democracy Project, a partnership between Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center, found that young adults feel less strongly about the importance of democracy than respondents over the age of 29. Just 39 percent of young adults gave democracy the maximum rating of “absolutely important”—far below the 60 percent figure for respondents as a whole.
The Harry Potter Alliance has a long history of working with young people to turn fandoms into bastions of activism. Using lessons from content that people already understand and cherish, the Harry Potter Alliance finds accessible ways to share messages and projects on equality and human rights. Similar to Rock the Vote in the 1990s, millennials are using cultural tools as a way to bring more people into activism and civic engagement. The Harry Potter Alliance has used fan activism to successfully petition Warner Brothers to change all of their Harry Potter chocolate to Fair Trade or UTZ-certified, collect over 390,000 books for communities around the world, and make thousands of phone banking calls for same-sex marriage equality in Maryland and protecting immigrants in Oregon. Fan activism methodology has also been used by groups registering voters at Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time screenings, and groups fighting for representation in films like Star Wars and Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Aditi Juneja, communications organizer with Protect Democracy, explained the partnership by saying, “We felt it was really important to do a project reaching young people because they are the future of democracy. We need to find creative and sustainable ways to keep them engaged in our democracy. And the Harry Potter Alliance, that’s their whole mission.” Protect Democracy’s recent work includes their Roadmap for Renewal, a legislative blueprint that lays out priorities for the next Congress including core rule of law principles, equal protection, and voting access. Partnering with the Harry Potter Alliance, Protect Democracy now hopes to reach a new audience.
“Most of the great stories of our time are about fighting for equitable, just, people-powered governance. The biggest villains in Marvel use violent dictatorship as their threat; the Rebellion is desperately trying to save the galaxy from the Empire; and when Voldemort controls the Ministry, Dumbledore’s Army finds a way to continue to fight,” says Janae Phillips, Director of Leadership and Education at the Harry Potter Alliance. “These are beloved epics that fans know and understand on a deep level. When we put current events into this framework, fans know exactly what to do: fight back.”
The six core areas that the toolkit focuses on are areas that Protect Democracy uses in defining the scope of their work. They include politicizing independent institutions, spreading disinformation, executive power grabs, quashing dissent, delegitimizing marginalized communities, and corrupting elections. According to leading scholars, each element is an indicator that democratic functions are eroding within a society. The toolkit illustrates each area with an example from Harry Potter. For example, for the executive power grabs section, the toolkit discusses actions taken by the character Dolores Umbridge and then compares them to actions taken by US presidents, like declaring war without congressional approval and attacking the judicial branch. Each section also has a call to action, explaining what readers can do to support democratic ideals in each field. For example, in the executive power grabs section, the calls to action include a guide on engaging representatives in Congress, to advocate for other branches of government checking the power of the President.
The toolkit can be found here:
The Harry Potter Alliance is a nonprofit organization that turns fans into heroes. Since 2005, they’ve engaged millions of fans through our work for equality, human rights, and literacy.
Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.
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