Missing: Common Sense

I was recently reading a news report which said that JK Rowling was distributing posters of a certain missing British child with copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in an attempt to publicize the case. In fact, she wanted bookmarks at first, apparently, but was dissuaded because she and the publisher “have a responsibility to protect younger readers and not to expose them to certain issues without their parents’ compliance.”

This actually kind of irritated me.

Of all the causes to support, why the overpublicized case of a single missing blonde white girl? I would prefer to see posters talking about climate change, the environment, incurable disease, animal rights, or even discrimination, if the “issue” needs to tie in with the book. I mean, here’s this awesome opportunity to alert people to a little known cause, potentially making a big difference. And it gets wasted on this one case of kidnapping, which has already received a ton of press time.

Look. I don’t think that kidnapping is terribly groovy or acceptable, and I think that bringing kidnap victims home is important. But I don’t think that this case is going to be solved or benefited by putting up big posters in booksellers all over the world. I really don’t. This seems like common sense to me.

If Rowling wanted to focus on a cause which deals with children, why not focus on cage beds, an issue which she has already spoken out passionately about? Or child soldiers in Africa? Child abuse all over the world? How about infant mortality in developing nations? Child labor in Asia? These are all really important issues which deserve more public focus, and she has the power to bring them under the lens of millions of eyes.

But no, a single missing white girl is way more important.

The thing is that all of the money in the world will probably not bring this child back again. On the other hand, a lot of money and attention could make a difference in any number of the causes I mentioned above. Given that anyone who has read any sort of news in the last two months knows at least vaguely about this missing child, how does asking booksellers to put up posters make a difference? Does Rowling really believe that if Gallery Bookshop puts up a poster, some resident of Mendocino County is going to go “ah, yes, that child, I saw her in Harvest only last week!”

If Rowling really wanted to raise public awareness about kidnapping, why not make the posters region specific? Our posters could feature, say, missing children from Northern California, while Swedish posters could have missing Swedish children. I hardly think that Rowling needs a publicity stunt, so I really think that she is doing this because she means well. I know that she doesn’t genuinely believe that a single white life is worth more than thousands of other people, and she would probably be uncomfortable to think that people are drawing this conclusion. I suspect that I am not the only one who has reacted this way to the poster announcement.

What a pity to see such good intentions wasted.