There's a pattern in a lot of the hand-wringing in this article (and, I suspect, elsewhere) that's worth pointing out. For example:
“Hermione is such a tightly wound young lady, but she’s liberated by some butterbeer,” she said. “The message is that it gives you liquid courage to put your arms around the guy you really like but are afraid to.”
“I hope parents can talk to their kids and tell them even though Harry Potter made that seem fun, that it isn’t O.K.,” said Dr. Welsh, the author of a 2007 article about alcohol use in the Harry Potter series, published in The Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse.
I find it interesting (as does Amanda Marcotte in a pretty good post) that these people don't want anyone conveying the message that alcohol "gives you liquid courage" to express your feelings or that drinking is fun. That's a bit odd, though, because these two statements are undeniably true. Alcohol does lower inhibitions and drinking is fun.
Have any of these people considered the implications of keeping your kids from certain behavior by lying to them about it? It isn't like there aren't any bad things about alcohol you can tell them truthfully. Why risk losing the trust of your kids the second they find out that drinking really is like liquid courage?
I think Amanda may be right, furthermore, that this lack of openness about alcohol and our zeal in trying to keep it out of the hands of everyone under 21 probably has contributed to the apparent increase in college binge drinking, particularly in the strange way that college kids look at alcohol as if it's a priceless commodity that can never, ever go to waste and must be drunk NOW NOW NOW.
I think too many temperance movements and too many ad campaigns and too many Wars on Drugs have really warped our perspective on alcohol and drugs. We as a society should take a step back and reevaluate what we think about alcohol and drugs (everything from caffeine to heroin), what we know to be true, and what the dangers actually are. It doesn't do us much good to tell our kids that EVERYTHING WILL KILL YOU IF YOU TOUCH IT, only for them to discover that we were lying. The end result is the same as if we told them nothing at all: they will rely on experience and their peers to find out the truth.