May 19, 2008

Harry Potter fans out there may remember that this is the spell by which Boggarts are defeated. These shape-shifters assume the form of your worse fear. For Lupin (a were-wolf) it is the moon, for Harry it is the Dememtor – a clever piece of writing here as you expect it to be He who must not be named; Harry is afraid of loosing his soul, he is not really afraid of Voldemort.

The way the spell works is to make the object of your fear ridiculous, to make it laughable. This remains one of the most effective techniques of rhetoric available to us as humans. If you hear a really negative rumor going the rounds don’t argue against it with facts (that never works), instead exaggerate the rumor to the point where it becomes farcical and it will washed away by laughter. A variation on this is to link a negative, dangerous or over narrow idea through metaphor, with a nonsense image. Appreciative Enquiry with the final scene of Life of Brian for example ……

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