Check Your Sources: Gilderoy Lockhart and the Daily Prophet

 

Lockhart

A couple weeks ago we discussed Hermione’s expert use of open source information — namely textbooks and the Daily Prophet — to figure out exactly what was hidden beneath Fluffy’s ginormous paws. However, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we find out that Hermione may put too much trust in her sources. Her infatuation with Gilderoy Lockhart despite his obvious ineptitude demonstrates that she missed something right in front of her. A good spy knows to use the press as a source of information that may be manipulated and flawed.

Hermione and Gilderoy

As we find out in Chamber of Secrets, Gilderoy Lockhart is quite the celebrity— in part thanks to all of the wonderful press that he receives from the Daily Prophet, and from the magazine Witch Weekly, which voted his the Most Charming Smile five times in a row (CS 91)! Interestingly enough, no one on the Daily Prophet staff thought to investigate Lockhart’s feats, so avidly detailed in all of his many books. Note also that the professors at Hogwarts determine—quite quickly—that Professor Lockhart is a fraud. You’d think that any newspaper with even a concept of investigative reporting could have found this out just as easily! But then again, any reporter who looked into Lockhart’s alleged accomplishments would probably find himself or herself at the wrong end of a well-aimed Memory Charm—so perhaps the Daily Prophet would be unable to find out the truth after all (CS 297). Lockhart waged what spies call a disinformation campaign to avoid anyone discovering his lack of defense against the dark arts ability. In later books, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, learn to be much more skeptical of open source intelligence.

Spy Term

Disinformation Campaign (n): an intentional program of distributing false information. Example: Lockhart “leaks” a story about being captured by trolls to boost his popularity. His best-selling books are also carefully designed to distribute false information.

What are some other examples of disinformation campaigns in the Harry Potter series? What about in real life?

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