By: Shu-Yi Oei
Confession: I love Mallory Ortberg, and after today, I might love her even more.
Here’s the latest from Mallory and The Toast: Harry Potter/Panama Papers Fan Fiction! This, after various news sources reported that Emma Watson was named in the Panama Papers data leak as having set up a BVI offshore company.
(Hat tip: Various friends on Facebook)
Perhaps my favorite line: “I used to be a lot of things,’ Hermione said decisively. ‘I have money now instead.’” Boom! Harry Potter meets Ayn Rand.
The fan fiction is very funny, but honestly, I am personally more taken by Ortberg’s beautifully crafted pseudo-legal disclaimer:
“*WITH THE IMPORTANT CAVEAT THAT THE OFFICIAL LINE RIGHT NOW IS THAT HER SHELL CORPORATION WAS CREATED SO SHE COULD PURCHASE PROPERTY PRIVATELY AND WITHOUT FANFARE, WHICH IS CERTAINLY POSSIBLE, I DON’T MEAN TO IMPLY SHE IS 100% A TAX DODGER BUT IT CERTAINLY RAISES SOME QUESTION, OKAY, BACK TO THE FAN FICTION NOW, AGAIN BEARING IN MIND THAT THIS IS JUST FOR THE SHEER DELIGHT OF PICTURING A LIBERTARIAN HERMIONE IN A SMOKY ROOM CREATING SHELL CORPORATIONS AND BUILDING TAX SHELTERS, ALSO HERE IS A QUICK PRIMER ON THE PANAMA PAPERS IF YOU’RE UNFAMILIAR OR READ A PRIMER A FEW WEEKS AGO AND THEN FORGOT”
The tone is so spot on, it made me weep.
In seriousness, though, the fact that the Panama Papers has made The Toast (which can generally be described as a feminist website with lots of literary and pop culture references) tells us something about how public opinions surrounding offshore tax evasion and structuring become disseminated throughout popular consciousness. Sure, organizations like Tax Justice Network and Oxfam write about tax havens and offshore evasion all the time and those venues tend to be more salient to us tax people. But public opinion surrounding convulsive events such as data leaks is also shaped in other popular fora as well—in this case, by Ortberg using the fierce set of tools at her disposal (humor, sarcasm, wit, movie references, an encyclopedic knowledge of random things like the history of the Protestant church, Greek mythology, and 19th century Gothic romance novels, etc.). Whether and how these informal modes of opinion transmission actually affect legal and political outcomes is a question that needs systematic inquiry.