His very bright wife, Lissa, has her own blog and also writes children's literature. Together, they made a robust case for their perspective which you can read all about and the 39 comments that go with the original post here.
That said, I got to thinking about the idea that most readers of HP are not troubled by these character flaws or the evidence of a morally relativistic world. Why aren't we? (I confess, I am one of those who is not... not troubled, I mean.)
I posted the following [excerpted] comment and have added some thoughts at the end:
Lissa said: As Scott has pointed out, it really makes [Harry] an anti-hero (an established literary identity), and that's very unusual to see in a series aimed at children--and the fact that many otherwise bright people seem not to notice the moral relativism at play in these books suggests that moral relativism (or situational ethics) has become something of a cultural norm. Which is disturbing, don't you think?
What has been intriguing to me is to think about why more of us aren't easily swayed by "the mountain of evidence" that the two of you (Lissa and Scott) are so capable of producing for your perspective. (Reminds me a bit of the failed OJ trial wherein jurors disregarded Marsha Clark's case and found him innocent... but, but, how could they do that?)
You ask if perhaps the cultural climate is moral relativism and I think actually you've pegged it. It isn't that moral relativism has somehow snuck up on us or that it is so clearly wrong or dangerous either (hold on for a minute while I develop this point). It's that we are confronted with it every day in layers upon layers.
Who any more leads an integrous, unblemished life? What we look at are the big swatches of what a person achieves over time more than their daily decisions or habits. Think of the obsession with reality TV where we really do see moral relativity at work all the time and have to decide who to root for. We actually have to make decisions about how much lying or cheating we'll tolerate in our own willingness to back someone.
We do it with politicians (current administration or the last one - take your pick of moral relativists leading our nation), with celebrities (Bono or Mel Gibson?), with our churches (will you align with a church known for avarice and womanizing or one known for pedophilia), or sports stars (Kobe or OJ), or causes (PETA or Operation Rescue)?
We have been bombarded (in recent times) with complex, morally disappointing leaders, stars and what we wanted to believe were vanguards of integrity and have become adept at sorting through the "superficial" errors they make or even the intentional bad-choices-that-we-don't-approve-of-but-will-tolerate while judging the larger picture of what that person or group of people is about and overlooking the things that really don't detract (for us) from that larger picture.
So when we read HP, we already have developed the skills to say what we think is worth being offended by and what is not. We really aren't trying to determine whether Harry is moral, has a conscience or not. We are trying to discover whether on the whole, this boy's life's trajectory is one we admire and root for. We have been training for this moment since the dawn of postmodernism...
We earthlings seem to feel we've been left on our own to outwit, outplay and outlast the bad stuff that wants to come for us.
So what do you think? Is moral relativism a problem? Does media exposure ruin our heroes so that we can no longer imagine them as full of integrity? Do we overlook basic human decency (whatever we deem that to be) in favor of a larger picture accomplishment (whether it is in politics, great acting, NGOs, or athletic skill)? Are we justified in doing that?
Do we believe any more that anyone lives a meaningful, important life without moral failing? Do we expect moral ambiguity and failure? Are we bored by integrity?
Would the Harry Potter books be as entertaining without the lying, cheating and stealing? Are we entertained by the outwitting the system that lying, cheating and stealing imply? (Think of the Reality TV Series Survivor.)
Is it possible, in fact, that we've created a heirarchy of morality in this postmodern context wherein some previously obvious wrongs are now optional, depending on the perception of the participants and the spectators?
These are some of my questions on this quiet Saturday evening...