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Harry Potter — welcome to the Internet age

In this day and age, when you can buy an iPhone that not only allows you to surf the ‘Net, answer phone calls and watch videos but also mediates labor disputes and performs minor surgeries, it’s naïve to think that any information can be kept under wraps for very long.
/ Source: contributor

Secrets are difficult to keep, especially today. Just recently it was disclosed that the CIA once tried to kill Fidel Castro with help from the Mafia. The people involved managed to keep that juicy tidbit in the vault for almost half a century, but eventually they came clean. If that plot had been concocted in recent weeks, however, its details and merits would be debated on Nancy Grace and Chris Matthews almost immediately, and Larry King would conduct an exclusive interview with the disguised hit man.

By contrast, the Harry Potter craze, which is in its final throes, is not nearly as important as a state-sponsored assassination of a Communist strongman — at least outside the world of publishing. But judging by the reaction to leaks of the final book in the series, you would think unseen conspirators in the media and on the Internet had joined forces with Lord Voldemort to spoil the hopes and dreams of doe-eyed waifs across the globe.

In this day and age, when you can buy an iPhone that not only allows you to surf the ‘Net, answer phone calls and watch videos but also waxes your car, mediates labor disputes and performs minor surgeries, it’s naïve to think that any information can be kept under wraps for very long. And in the case of “Harry Potter and the Bottomless Reservoir of Residuals,” or whatever the final book is called, the anticipation was such that someone, somewhere, was going to let the black cat out of the bag.

Spoiler alert: I have no idea what happens in the latest book.

In an odd way, Harry Potter and Howard Stern are partners in crime here, or at least they had been when the shock jock was on terrestrial radio. If you were offended by Stern’s radio show, there was one sure-fire way to avoid being so — don’t listen. Turn off the freaking radio, or change the channel. But if you sat there and listened for several minutes as he played the bongos on the butt cheeks of lesbian strippers, then your outrage became more preposterous with each resounding slap.

Along those same lines, nobody has yet come to my door, forced me to the computer, ordered me to Google “Harry Potter leaks,” and then cackled in glee as I read the ending of the series before the book has had a chance to amass more wealth for the author, her publishers and everyone else who gets a taste of the pie. I know the information is out there, not because I saw it online but because I know it is the nature of man to squeal.

Even the Gray Lady likes to blab. The New York Times snagged an early copy — there was a guy in a trench coat near the loading dock, he said, “Pssst!” a few bucks were doled out that were not expensed, and beyond that I can’t give out any more information on the leak unless you Google “The New York Times” Harry Potter leaks” to get leaks on the leak — and published a review.

Actually, the Times said it bought a copy of the book in a New York City store. The review, by Michiko Kakutani, ran on the paper’s Web site. It gave away some details, but held back on the biggies.

Naturally, this produced outrage, although Castro seemed to take confirmation of an assassination on his life by the United States with more good humor than J.K. Rowling and her posse exhibited upon news that the final cash cow had been prematurely slaughtered.

Said Rowling: “I am staggered that some American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children.”

Staggered? Really? First of all, there are roughly 6.7 billion people in the world, and most of them don’t give a hog wart about Harry Potter. Also, if I may apply some football parlance here, if you’re trying to keep a book secret from 6.7 billion people — including more than 300 million in the U.S. — and a tiny handful manage to break the code, that’s an excellent completion rate. I would even go so far as to describe it as “staggering.”

A spokeswoman from Bloomsbury called the leaks “very sad,” and then compared the situation to the Boston Tea Party: “But over here it is blockades as usual, with the embargo being enforced unflinchingly and without exception by all of our customers.”

At first I thought that made sense, but then I realized it was “Bloomsbury” and not “Doonesbury.” I figured it had to be Uncle Duke putting us on.

But no, it’s the British publishing house that presides over the Harry Potter series. I think the spokeswoman would have been better served citing more positive events in British history than the Boston Tea Party, like David Beckham and Posh Spice leaving to come to America.

The leaks in question will not spoil anything for anybody who really cares. Harry Potter devotees, young and old, are a loyal and resilient lot. I’ve been outside today, and I have yet to see packs of weeping children roaming the streets, looking to exact revenge against the horrid adults who robbed them of their literary innocence.

The spilling of these beans — Bertie Bott’s Jelly Beans, to be exact, yet another ancillary source of revenue — comes with the territory. The downside of a wildly successful series of books that delights people of all ages is that, occasionally, amid the tsunami of hype created by the author, the publisher, the movie studios and all the merchandising entities, a miniscule ripple of disobedience may ensue.

Spoiler alert: The Harry Potter series ends with a complete lack of perspective.

Michael Ventre lives in Los Angeles and is a regular contributor to