Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 163

This week we dive into the wizarding government…

The transition from the Scrimgeour-run Ministry to the Imperiused Thicknesse-run Ministry is a very quick one. Historically, even dictators such as Adolf Hitler had a gradual rise to power compared to the rapid shift in wizarding Britain’s government. How might the average workers inside the Ministry have handled the stark change, such as those creating the Mudblood-focused pamphlets? How would the citizens have reacted to this change? On the flip side, how might some employees capitalize on the opportunity presented in this very different government?

Tell us what you think in the comments, or leave us an Audioboom!

  • Well, we do see several people reacting very well to the change. In the previous chapter, somebody speak to Yaxley saying something like ‘maybe you can get me his job, eh?’ I think a lot of people just got promotions and decided not to say anything. Again, all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.

  • So many people looked up to and backed Dumbledore and all his actions while Fudge was in office. However, as soon as Fudge didn’t want to believe Ol Voldee was back most people in the ministry were willing to join Fudge and oppose Dumbledore quite quickly. I think wizards, very much like the Dursleys and their muggle neighbors, prefer to blend in and go with the flow. Being different creates risks and wizards are far from risky.

    When Dumbledore was said to be a fraud people at the ministry would also get into trouble if they were caught having any relations with him. Something similar must be happening now. Wizards don’t think a muggles do. Less logic in their minds.

    (Wait, I’m in the U.S. Should I call them No-Maj?!?)

    • The question is not ‘should you’ rather ‘can you.’ What’s the plural?! No-Majii, No-Majes, eh.

      • Was simply a joke. I think No-maj is plural. “All the No-Maj in America needed dumbed down versions of the HP series.”

        • My comment was simply a joke too, lel. Also, weren’t the books non-americanised after GoF?

    • MartinMiggs

      no, muggles are just as illogical if anything more so

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      Muggles and wizards are both still human beings. While obviously they would think differently about solving day to day problems, I don’t think there is much ground to say that either is more or less logical than the other as a whole.

  • I think most of the Ministry workers that aren’t apart of the Order see the rise of Thickness as a way of being promoted easily and their families won’t be attacked or harmed if they cooperate with the rest of the Ministry while Thickness is in charge.

  • ISeeThestrals

    I think some of it would depend on their personal feelings about muggle-borns.
    Some wizards may have always had prejudice beliefs against muggle-borns,
    even if they haven’t openly expressed them. For such wizards, they would feel
    quite pleased to be creating such pamphlets, believing this change in government
    would finally spread a belief they’ve been unwilling to announce before. For those
    that never harbored such prejudices, the transition would be quite difficult and
    bewildering. They are all quite aware that these are dangerous times, and to
    express an opposing view would cost them not only their jobs but their lives and their
    families’ as well. The best they can do is bite their tongues and keep their heads
    down. I imagine them being quite fearful of the idea of having to change and adapt
    to their changing world, perhaps desiring for Undesirable No. 1 to shift the Ministry
    back to the government they once knew. There is the chance that some workers
    couldn’t handle the stark change and abandoned the Ministry early. For the rest,
    the future is filled with uncertainties and for that matter, many might find it much
    easier to remain in a position they are most familiar with, even though it’s changed
    so dramatically.

  • SlytherinKnight

    I think that most of the magical world has an almost genetic fear of muggles, considering how easily the wizarding world fell into line with how much the Ministry is focused on making sure the wizarding world is not discovered. Look at how much trouble the Ministry under Fudge and others go to make sure that the wizarding world is NOT discovered by the muggle world. So I think that Voldemort played on that fear absolutely perfectly, perhaps even the fact that the World Wars killed so many people was a key enabler. Voldemort and his Ministry played on the wizarding world’s greatest fear, discovery. So I believe that many of the Ministry workers fell into line with the new Ministry policy in order to keep their world from being discovered because of that fear, and they felt this new policy would better protect their world, much like how Hitler played on the fears and desperation of the German people by giving them a common enemy, the Jews, Voldemort is doing the same thing by giving the wider wizarding world, a common enemy in the muggles and muggleborns.

    And muggleborns like Hermione, who come into the wizarding world trying to change the wizarding world so radically probably don’t help the image that muggles and muggleborns have in the eyes of the majority of the wizarding world.

  • FeatherSickle7662

    I think the ministry workers most likely suspect foul play in their government but in order to protect themselves and their families, they keep quiet. We see this a lot in history when people know that something wrong is happening but they don’t say anything because they would rather have someone else as the focal point of the abuse than themselves. This all very apparent in WWII as well. They come in and they do their jobs and they go home to their families. The citizens I believe react the same way as the Ministry workers. Everyone is terrified, they don’t know who to trust, who to believe and they are worried about themselves. We see Umbridge taking advantage of the take over by heading this blatant racial propaganda mission and I suspect there would be a few Voldemort sympathizers that would agree with Umbridge mission and would be willing and ready to promote such awful lies. They probably have them handing this garbage out on the street to people.

  • RoseLumos

    It’s interesting how much the Ministry changed on the last few years: In OotP they are against Harry and deny anything related to Voldemort’s return. Then the next year they accept Voldemort is back and are back on Harry’s side to the point where they try to recruit him as a sort of mascot. The the year after that they are against Harry again.

    My question is how the Ministry and the general public react to the fact that Voldemort is no longer anyone’s priority. Seriously, on 31 July the Ministry hadn’t fallen and I assume they were still looking for Voldemort with pamphlets being made about perfection and security. Then on 1 August the Ministry fell and all of a sudden everything is fine and there is no war?

    I’m guessing there is a portion of the Ministry that is secretly happy that they don’t have to think about the war. People hate war and some of the workers are probably relieved that they don’t have to think about it anymore. We see everything for Harry’s point of view, where everyone he knows is involved in the war somehow. The average wizard probably isn’t that involved and only hears things here and there from the newspaper and friends. Honestly, life for the average wizard family isn’t that affected by the war on a daily basis. So if they go into work one day and instead of doing a job involving hunting dark wizards or objects they are told they can go back to “normal,” they might be relieved. Even if we know that “normal” is just a ruse, to a family who had no Muggle connections this year might seem like an improvement over last year.

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      I think I agree with you here, similar to my response to Griff’s comment.

  • Griff

    I think the line “Will the old hag be interrogating Mudbloods all day?” speaks volumes.

    On early reads of this book, I always assumed folks stayed quiet out of fear. And I’m sure many did– such as the witch we overhear Arthur talking to- “I quite understand, Wakanda, but I cannot be parry to” always implied to me that they had been arguing over how to react to the new regime. Wakanda wants to be complicit out of fear; Arthur’s morals will not allow him to do so.

    Yet so many of the people we see are *not* fearful, but quite nonchalant in the new ways of things. Folks are bored while making those horrific pamphlets. The world Mudblood is casually thrown around. As mentioned in other comments, someone is happy to be getting Dirk Cresswell’s job. There are a significant amount of people who are complacent in their prejudice.

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      For many people in the Ministry, I would argue, this is not the ultimate battle of good vs evil that is presented to us through Harry’s POV, it’s just the way things are going. The context and leadership of an organisation are insanely powerful in structuring the behavior of employees. So yea, for a lot of Ministry workers it’s just another day. I haven’t read the books in a while so I’m not exactly sure how aware the general public is about Voldemort’s activities and such, but I remember that it wasn’t super public was it? Idk, maybe I’m wrong.

  • Slyvenpuffdor

    This question is really interesting to me as I’m currently doing a master’s program in Organisational and Social Psychology. Firstly, let’s consider that the “average” worker in the Ministry has a neutral opinion about muggles – they don’t hate them, and they aren’t going to be their champion either. What is most salient in this situation is the shift in power and staffing changes, and the “average” worker may not be aware of Voldemort’s involvement with them. For the most part, many workers, regardless of their opinion on muggles, would keep doing their jobs as long as it didn’t force them into causing others direct harm. On one hand, workers who don’t have anything against muggles may fall into the propaganda trap, alternatively if they don’t buy in to the new Ministry, they would keep their opinions quiet and keep working to protect themselves and their families; on the other, anyone who previously (and perhaps privately) harboured anti-muggle sentiments may use this opportunity to show their support of the new regime to further their own careers. I think citizens outside the Ministry would have similar, albeit muted, reactions. There would much talk about the new Ministry and whether or not you support it, which could lead to divisions in workplaces and social groups in general. This seems to be the common thread in the answers to this question.

    There are few psychological concepts that are particularly important to shed light on here. The first is a general battery of ingroup/outgroup processes. For the most part, we can assume with some reliability that many wizards and witches do not interact with muggles in a significant way in their daily lives. Because of this lack of connection, when everyone starts to talk about how bad, evil, or unpure muggles are, it makes it much easier to accept these beliefs because muggles are seen as members of an outgroup. Secondly, the concept of pluralistic ignorance is hugely influential here. Pluralistic ignorance is the phenomena whereby members of a group have a privately held belief, but are under the illusion that everyone else is the group does not have this belief. In this specific case, many wizards/witches may be thinking “This new ministry is crazy, muggles haven’t done anything wrong,” but if no one ever speaks up about it (due to fear of punishment, being fired, etc) then there is no common ground for the belief to enter the social consciousness of the ministry workers. The most important thing to consider here is that it’s not as though the new Ministry has suddenly converted everyone to be anti-muggle or that the workers are bad people, they are simply doing what is best for them given the situation.

    If anyone has other questions about organisational psychology feel free to ask!

  • Erinn Lynn

    We can’t forget Thicknesse wasn’t exactly low on the Ministry totem pole either, he was Head of the Department for Magical Law Enforcement. Almost all of the departments in the ministry already answered to him (by extension) and so it’s a natural step up for him. His gradual rise already happened, and while he may not have expressed pureblood supremacist opinions, he was already in the position by the time the anti-muggle born policies started to roll out.

    I also think because so many ministry staff were around during Voldemort’s last rise to power, that may have caused them to sit back quietly and let the changes happen. They remember the disappearances and attacks from 17+ years before and they worked hard to stay alive and safe through that rise. This time around it was all too familiar, and they would have had 3 years of rumors in the back of their mind to scare them into submission. As for those employees that chose to capitalize, the weak seek power, as evidenced by Peter Pettigrew. They would have acted on their instinct of self-preservation and jumped at the chance to appear to support this new order. However I’m not sure they would have acted on their newly expressed acceptance, if tested. They didn’t join the Death Eaters previously for a reason, but I’m sure they would be more than happy to grab the chance to be promoted and make powerful friends in order to save themselves and their families.

    Just want to say, I love the show! I was late to the party, but I’m excited to get involved with commenting.

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      I agree that since Thicknesse was already pretty high up the shift in power wouldn’t have been TOO jarring for much of the Ministry.

  • FwooperTunes

    The situation under a dictatorship makes most employees bow their heads and pray to get through the day alive, well and with a paycheck. This topic has made me wonder some things about wizarding activism and protests. I wonder if there has ever been a Ministry of Magic Occupy? I wonder if some eccentric wizards bombarded the Ministry one day and frolicked in the fountain using magic to making the statues come to life or magicking the water to squirt at Ministry officials. We can only imagine the creative and diverse tactics anti-Ministry activists could perform. I know these types of action could not happen under the Imperiused Thicknesse-run corporation, but I would love to imagine that the raining office was a little act of resistance towards the new rules and workers.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    This may be a bit of a stretch but, historical context may be a contributing factor. There was discussion way back in CoS[?] about how muggle-borns were viewed at different times in wizarding history. At some point, if I’m remembering this correctly, MBs were thought to be quite powerful or desireable while purebloodedness was viewed as weakness,given the incestual nature of preserving bloodlines. So perhaps wizardinv society is, in a way used to a certain amount of fluidity in attitudes towards birth status. Granted this is a drastic change in policy al all at once but given there have been such staunch supporters blood status currently[i.e. The Malfoys, Blacks, etc.] it is possible some of the average Ministry workers sort of saw this coming, though maybe not to such an extent.

    Add that to how quickly this change in government occ

  • BadgermoleButterbeer

    One likely reason why everything moved so quickly is that with Voldemort in power (or very close to it) less than two decades before a lot of the common non-ministry people just went back to survival mode. The only folks in the wizard community that wouldn’t remember when he was in power last would be student age. (Possibly another reason why Hogwarts was now mandatory. So that everyone who isn’t old enough can be brainwashed into subjugation.) Practically no one outside of Order members would be willing to fight when they remembered how much they could lose. Having known people that have lived in cultures where one can be imprisoned for their religious or political beliefs, I recognize how hard it is to get over it and live your life in the open when you are safe. Imagine having that safety for a while and then being put back into that culture. Most folks would hide themselves away to avoid getting hurt, imprisoned, or killed rather than fighting back. It’s just not worth it.

  • BadgermoleButterbeer

    Another thing, we’re talking about politics here in a multi-party system. It’s not as cut-and-dry as here in the USA (not that things are cut-and-dry here either…) where there is more or less a binary system of Republicans and Democrats. But there are definite factions in the MoM. People that are for muggle-borns being integrated into wizard society and folks that are against them. People that are willing to see elves, werewolves, centaurs, goblins and other magical species as sentient and worthy of protection under magical law, and those who think that wizards are above all of them. Regardless of where a person stands on these and I’m sure many other issues, all the ministry workers have to work together. And just like in real-world politics, when a regime change happens, a lot of the people keep working in politics. They may change jobs a little, (move a peg or two up or down in the hierarchy), but for the most part they will be doing what they always did. Making the country run as smoothly as possible while trying to promote their own agenda.

  • Page394

    As you said in the podcast, I think the wizard society is very small and they have little trustful communication between them. Most of the ministry workers would’ve believed what the Prophet said without question, while the wizards that do think and have common sense, are afraid of the truth and don´t trust anyone that could share their opinions and actually oppose the ministry.
    The ones who take advantege of this are without a doubt, the purebloods, thirsty for recognition.

    If Lucius hadn´t been in Azkaban, do you think Voldy would’ve chose him as minister?