Friday, November 11, 2011

Politics of Trek: “Patterns of Force”

If you haven’t seen the original Star Trek series, you should. Not only is it deeply woven into our culture, but it hits a high-water mark in terms of science fiction addressing social issues without beating you over the head with the message. Moreover, whether they realized it or not, it’s a fundamentally conservative/libertarian show. So today I want to start a new series pointing out some of the most conservative Star Trek episodes from the original series. . . as compared to the ultra-liberal Star Trek: The Next Generation. Let’s start with Episode 50: Patterns of Force.
The Plot
This is “the Nazi episode.” The crew of the Enterprise is called to Ekos to investigate the disappearance of Federation historian John Gill. Gill, one of Kirk’s professors at Starfleet Academy, went to Ekos to observe their culture. As the Enterprise nears Ekos, they are shocked when a nuclear missile is fired at them. Beaming down in secret, they discover that the Ekosians have replicated Nazi Germany, right down to the uniforms, and the Ekosians are planning to exterminate their peaceful planetary neighbors, the Zeons. What's worse, John Gill has made himself the Führer!

Eventually, Kirk and Spock find a way to get to Gill. When they reach him, they discover he’s been drugged into a stupor and is little more than a literal figurehead. Deputy Führer Melakon is the real power.
Why It’s Conservative
On its surface, you might think a story about Nazis is left wing. After all, Hollywood wants you to believe the Nazis were a right wing phenomenon equivalent to Libertarianism/ Conservatism. This is laughable, as the national socialist Nazis were everything the left claims to love. Yet, many people still ignorantly accept the idea the Nazis were rightists rather than leftists because that’s what they’ve been taught by leftist teachers. So it shouldn’t surprise if a show about Nazis was meant as an attack on conservatives.

But “Patterns of Force” isn’t actually an anti-Nazi story. Rather, it’s a warning against the idea of the “benign” totalitarian government. To see this, we need only look at the episode’s payoff scene where Kirk questions Gill after McCoy counteracts the drugs given to Gill. Kirk angrily demands to know why Gill violated the Prime Directive (non-interference in alien worlds). Gill answers that the Ekosians were a divided people and Gill thought he could unify them using the Nazi model. Kirk then asks why Gill picked the Nazis, who were cruel and murderous. Gill (with an assist from Spock) explains that the Nazis, while ruthless, were highly efficient and highly organized. Gill believed he could recreate the good parts of Nazi Germany without the bad parts by being a benign dictator. Here's the transcript:
KIRK: Gill. Gill, why did you abandon your mission? Why did you interfere with this culture?
GILL: Planet fragmented. Divided. Took lesson from Earth history.
KIRK: But why Nazi Germany? You studied history. You knew what the Nazis were.
GILL: Most efficient state Earth ever knew.
SPOCK: Quite true, Captain. That tiny country, beaten, bankrupt, defeated, rose in a few years to stand only one step away from global domination.
KIRK: But it was brutal, perverted, had to be destroyed at a terrible cost. Why that example?
SPOCK: Perhaps Gill felt that such a state, run benignly, could accomplish its efficiency without sadism.
KIRK: Why, Gill? Why?
GILL: Worked. At first it worked. Then Melakon began take over. Used the. Gave me the drug.
This is not a liberal message. To the contrary, it is a fundamentally conservative message.

Liberals desire powerful government. They believe that even totalitarian regimes can be good so long as they are run benignly. Indeed, you’ll often hear liberals suggest that we should suspend things like rule of law and free elections or give the state tremendous power so it can achieve some supposedly noble goal that can’t be achieved the legal way.

Conservatives, on the other hand, know you cannot give power to one person without taking away freedom from another, and they understand that what sounds like benign power to some is tyranny to others. They also understand that when too much power is given, tyranny will always follow. That’s the point of Lord Acton’s most famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

This difference in belief is the core or fundamental difference between conservative and liberal thinking.

And while it is true that many liberal stories involve people fighting against oppressive governments, it is important to note that they rarely (if ever) criticize the concentration of power. Instead, they merely attack those who would misuse the power, i.e. those who would use the power for purposes of which the liberals don’t approve -- this is why oppressive governments in liberal stories are always police states, military dictatorships or theocracies. And in many cases, the resolution of the story involves the replacement of the evil government with a benign council of experts or bleeding hearts who will then use that power “to help people.”

“Patterns of Force” rejects this as faulty logic. It warns that you cannot have a benign dictator. It warns the problem is the concentration of power itself because the misuse of that power is inevitable. And no matter what the intentions may be for the creation of the state, the very concentration of that much power will attract someone who will misuse the power for evil.

And that makes this a fundamentally conservative message.

65 comments:

Scott said...

I always loved this episode and understood it's message at a very young age. Thanks for posting an exellent review...I will be sharing. "Scotty" is beaming you up!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Scott! I'm glad you liked it. This has always been one of my favorites too and it's the message that has always stuck with me -- there is no such thing as a benign dictator!

Tennessee Jed said...

As a long time devotee of the original Trek, I love this article, Andrew. The benevolent dictator just doesn't exist. The message is "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed! I'm glad to hear it! I'm planning to do more of these. I am hoping to give people a sense of the great conservative lessons in the original Star Trek.

I couldn't agree more: "the benevolent dictator just doesn't exist." It is in fact premised on the false assumption that you can use power without imposing on people against their will.

T-Rav said...

Very interesting episode, it sounds like. I assume (or hope) things worked out well for everyone in the end? (Except maybe for Gill, who might have had some 'splainin to do to the Federation...)

This is an important issue, and you're right, not many shows do address it. I'm not sure The Twilight Zone even does, except maybe in an indirect manner. I can't think of any examples from film or TV to buttress this point, but I would recommend Chapter 10 of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, titled "Why the Worst Get on Top." Brief summation: Benign totalitarianism doesn't exist because it relies on people who have no problem making decisions for others, and such people, not being bound by humility or other ethical principles in that regard, will be similarly lawless in other endeavors as well. Worth a read.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I watched all the original Star Trek episodes when they first came on, then spent the next three decades watching re-runs on local channels. During that time I went from radical leftist to conservative. Somehow, the series worked well with my underlying thoughts about good vs. evil and bravery vs. cowardice despite my political peregrinations.

Your description of Pattern of Force is spot on. When I first watched the episode, I was into my pro forma anti-Nazi liberal phase. Now when I see it, I still hate the villains, but not simply because they are Nazi-like, but because they are enemies of freedom and human dignity. That's the difference between a good series and a great series.

It's also the reason that I never had the same view of The Next Generation. Technically vastly superior to the original, it had none of the original's clear-eyed vision of the battle between good and evil. At times it was so politically-correct it squeaked. It never held my attention the way the original did. Today, setting aside the primitive special effects, the original is still topical and on the money. Many of the TNG episodes are already beginning to look stale.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, It is an excellent episode. It's been copied now many times by other Sci-Fi shows, but they all miss the point and think it's just about showing the stars in slick uniforms. In fact, the later series (particularly Voyager and DS-9) revel in the idea of playing uniform-clad sadists. It never occured to them there was a political point being made by the original series.

In any event, the original Star Trek had a lot of neat, conservative episodes like this and I'm hoping to highlight them all so people can see what the show that has been slandered as "just a space western" really demonstrated and why it's had such longevity with the public.

On your point, Hayek is brilliant and he's absolutely right. People tend to gravitate towards things that fit their desires. So someone who craves power will gravitate toward it. And being someone who craves power already, they have few limits when given actual power.

On Gill... you actually feel sorry for the guy before it's over. It's a really well written episode and I HIGHLY recommend it!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent post Andrew!

I concur wholeheartedly about this one containing a powerful conservative msg..

We can see another similar difference between conservatives and leftists (other than the one you mentioned) even in the US today.

Leftists prefer democracy or mob rule (unless they aren't in power) while conservatives prefer republicanism or liberty and for the very reasons you mentioned concerning power, because a mob can be just as bad as a single dictator (indeed, a mob is often led by a dictator type of leader(s).

Also what T-Rav said!

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I agree completely. I wanted to like TNG so much... and it was a decent show.... BUT it never quite matched Star Trek for me. And the reason was that Star Trek was so much more than just a show about some people in space, TNG wasn't.

TNG really was just about some people flying through space who occasionally had to solve some fake moral dilemmas in politically correct way. Star Trek was morality plays about right and wrong, good and evil and it dealt head-on with all of the issues of the day and I never once felt that it was inconsistent or that it was lying to me to make me believe something that wasn't true.

And even when I as a kid didn't particularly like the message because it wasn't "cool" or whatever, I never once failed to recognize that they were right and I had to concede that.

In hindsight, the show looks even better to me all the time by the failure of other shows since to really duplicate what it managed to achieve. And I wonder how much of that is simply the lack of moral clarity in Hollywood today?

Plus, it was just a well done drama with some great dilemmas and solid solutions by characters you really came to love and respect.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Mob rule is no better than rule by dictator. And you're right, the preference for pure democracy combined with civil and uncivil disobedience is nothing more than the use of force to suppress who might disagree.

Conservatives believe in rule of law. Liberals believe in rule of people. And that's a HUGE difference with some incredibly significant results.

DUQ said...

Excellent review! I look forward to more. This is definitely one of the better known episodes and deservedly so. Are you planning to do all the episodes?

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Thanks! I don't know yet how many I'll end up doing. Not all of the episodes are political so some would be hard to do in this format. But I might still find a way. I guess we'll see.

I'd like to flip it over and do some of the worst liberal TNG episodes too at some point.

tryanmax said...

Nicely done. I can't think of a time when I wasn't conservative (I guess that makes me heartless) but that doesn't mean I haven't done some growing like you guys describe for yourselves. In fact, I've come full-circle on some things.

When I was a child, everything was between good and evil, but you knew who was who by the hats they wore. (This is where leftists generally get stuck.)

As I got older, I started to see shades of gray, where what is good here is bad there and such. But the gray was murky and confusing. (This is where the centrists like to hide.)

Now I find myself coming back to the realization that it is only about good and evil after all, but it's not the hats that tell you who is who. Everything comes down to order vs. chaos, and anyone who would court a little chaos to achieve order has no idea what they are flirting with.

That might be the summary of this episode in a nutshell.

tryanmax said...

"summary in a nutshell" is a redundancy, isn't it?

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks tryanmax!

I've always been a conservative too, though I've been able to see the other side of things from time to time. I prefer to think of myself as simply having an open mind and looking for the right answers without prejudice.

That's an interesting view, the order v. chaos thing. I've often felt that the biggest proof of the existence of God is that the universe has order. But I think we need to be careful in how we define order. Some would argue that the Nazis or Soviets created very orderly societies and that capitalism is about "positive chaos." I'm not sure those are accurate descriptions, but it is an easy misinterpretation for people to make.

I tend to view good and bad as going back to respect. If you respect the rights of others, respect the property of others, and live in a way that others will respect you, then you're on the side of good. But if you find yourself feeling you have rights to impose your will on others or that you have the right to act in ways that you wouldn't respect in others, then you're probably on the side of bad.

I know this leaves open the big question of what causes us to feel respect, but I think there is something inherent in human nature that makes that fairly obvious to us.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, this is kind of vague, but I feel that there's a natural order and a fake or artificial order. The latter would be the kind you get from totalitarians, who try to impose their vision of what humanity should be upon the humanity that is. They can be somewhat successful, but it's ultimately built upon a lie, and this episode would appear to show that.

The natural order is a little less clear. Attribute it to human nature and/or God, as I do, or whatever else you want, but I do believe there's a true order to things which we defy at our peril. What that is in all its complexities, I can't say, at least not entirely, and yet, we see pile upon pile of evidence that it is there.

That's my two cents.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I think would agree with you.

First, I think there obviously is order to the universe. Whether we understand it or not, there is mass and energy and forces like gravity that do their things to perfection. It is that order that allows the universe to exist and makes it such a great place for life. That order also establishes the rules and as you say, try to go against those rules at your own peril.

When it comes to human behavior, there also seems to be a natural order, and that order derives from the collective actions of billions of people making decisions about their daily lives. If everyone simply let that play out, rather than trying to manipulate it -- as governments do -- then I personally believe the world would be a peacefully happy place.

But when government decides that it wants to change the natural order for whatever reason, it can have some temporary success, but there are always consequences because part of the natural order of things is the scientific rule that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, there are always consequences to what you do.

The bubbles Ron Paul talks about are a perfect example of this. The government decides to solve a problem by pushing people to buy homes. At first, this works because home ownership rises and home prices rise. But then the problems begin because we're going against the natural order of things. Soon more steps must be taken to avoid the unexpected problems that start appearing. Eventually, it all blows up in our faces. That will always happen when the government substitutes it's judgment for the judgement of millions of people. And the more power the government exercises to achieve this (i.e. the more fake order it creates) the bigger the eventual blowback will be.

On "Patterns of Force," I'm not sure it goes that deep or takes this precise course. I think it really is more limited in terms of just telling us that there can be no such thing as a benign dictator because power is a corrupting, abusive thing which will be abused.

Ed said...

Very deep guys! Thanks for the review Andrew! I'd forgotten about this episode and I look forward to more reviews of the series.

I look forward to your take down of the NextGen stuff too because it's incredibly liberal.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed! I have said that and it's true -- we should be pointing the things we like as conservatives so that people know what we'd like to see more of!

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a lot about the Next Generation, but they are definitely liberals and that hurt many of their episodes because it ruined their conflicts and led them to present false or worthless resolutions.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Michael Crichton talked about a fascinating theory called Chaos Theory.

Because chaos ensues when (for instance) people like the AGW crowd try to "control" the climate because they think it needs to be controlled based on scant data.

Few would argue that we know everything about how the climate or the economy works, yet there are some that will try to manipulate it when they can't possibly know what the consequences would be.

The unknown unknowns as Rumsfeld put it.

Granted, we know more about the economy because we definitely know what doesn't work: govt. intervention and manipulation; that the less we intervene the better it works but there's still plenty we don't understand.

Our Founders didn't call it that but they knew intuitively (and from experience and history) that the only way liberty can flourish is to keep govt. to a bare minimum.

Just as there are unintended consequences in the material world when we don't know what we're doing the same could be said about the immaterial (mind, soul, spirit) IMO.
Even atheists must acknowledge the mind and that science can't begin to explain stuff like beauty, music, and love.

They try but it never makes sense.

Those who deny reality or truth live in illusion to some degree.
That's why these folks never learn from mistakes or history.

Their faith in the illusion they wanna force on reality always kicks chaos theory into motion whether in the horizontal or vertical aspect of reality (or both, because one affects the other.

Particularly when it involves the mind or soul (see: public education).

T-Rav and Tryanmax is talking about the same thing if I'm not mistaken, actually we all have been to one extent or another but in slightly different terminology. :^)

Anyway, Crichton explains it better and in more detail plus without the metaphysical part but I think it's still valid in any aspect of reality one is talking about.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I have to say, one thing I love about our audience here is that we can move seamlessly from talking about actors in Nazi uniforms to the nature of the universe! :)

I think the mention of chaos theory is an excellent point. That theory tells us that no matter how well we think we can organize and control the world around us, it will always find ways to surprise us. And I think that is a truly solid argument for limited/non-intervention because the more you try to control the bigger the explosion will be when chaos asserts itself.

I really do accept the idea that order is good AND the strange seeming paradox that the best kind of order derives from not trying to create order, but from letting the seeming chaos of millions of actions by millions of decision makers create an order by finding their own equilibrium. It's only when we try to impose a different order on that equilibrium that everything goes off-kilter and things go horrible wrong.

That's not to say that everything is always perfect in a natural states -- it's not. Nor does it mean that the equilibrium can't change over time to accept new ideas or a new structure, e.g. the end of racism or a sudden affinity for cheese over corn. But when these things happen naturally, it comes without the backlash and carnage of the government trying to force the change. And that makes it stronger and better for society.

The next big question is "is God speaking through to us through that order?" That's a theological question with no right answer, but let me put it this way -- whatever gave the universe order also has created this order. So going against that order also is going against the natural structure of the universe... whoever or whatever created it.

T-Rav said...

Ben, that's a good point about chaos and unintended consequences. (Crichton mainly spelled it out in "Jurassic Park," fyi.)

I've always thought that one of the defining qualities of conservatism is the recognition that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you think about it, there are practically no actions which have no negative consequences for anyone. Even undeniably good actions, such as the winning of World War II (the ultimate good war), can have some bad effects; in this case, Soviet oppression of Eastern Europe for over a generation.

Realizing that is a big deal, because it leads you to be cautious about taking action and to first consider the risks and benefits of a proposal. You get very suspicious of people who claim to have a "cure-all" for society's ills. This is the textbook conservative reasoning, from Burke onward.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I think that's right, conservatives understand there is no free lunch in anything, i.e. actions always have consequences. Liberals either don't get that or don't care because their solutions are always simplistic: if you want A to happen, mandate A... and everything is fixed.

And that explains why they can favor a benign dictator, because they don't understand that the exercise of power necessarily requires that the power be used against someone AND then people will respond/react to the new state of being in unexpected ways that will cause new problems to arise, which will require more force to be used.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Andrew...

good job. This highlights a conversation a colleague of mine and I had a year or so ago. (We're both conservative professors so we stick together) how I could enjoy so many films by leftists, etc.

Easy... those -- like Gene Roddenberry -- who are interested in telling good stories essentially have to rely on conservative themes to get a satisfying narrative. Aristotle's basic outline still holds true. Most (I'd say all, but that's dangerous) good stories are essentially conservative in theme if not in setting or even tone.

Roddenberry wanted to tell good stories... and even though he was a utopian -- the Federation (and Earth's government) never struck me as statist so much as it could be libertarian because scientific progress had resolved many of the Earth's bugaboos such that war was unnecessary and thus government could focus on space mostly.

That's naive utopianism of course -- as most utopianism is -- but it is a classically liberal idea or an Enlightenment... that human reason would resolve all issues.

Anyway... great episode and great review.

Did you know they recently showed that episode in Germany in free TV for the first time ever?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2057908/Germans-boldy-Nazi-Star-Trek-episode-43-years-filmed.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Thanks! I agree entirely.

I think most (not all but most) good stories necessarily require conservative themes because those are the themes with which humans relate. Conservative beliefs form the behaviors we consider noble (e.g. self-reliance, individual achievement) and conservative solutions are the solutions we consider "common sense." Thus, if you're going to make a story that resonates with people, you must do it in a "conservative universe."

That's not to say you can't lay a liberal veneer over the story by, for example, having the hero pushing for some liberal policy or choosing a liberal boogeyman as a villain, but underneath, good stories almost always need to be premised on conservative ideals. And I think the difference between the original Star Trek and the newer Treks really highlights that difference -- as I hope to show throughout the series.

Also, let me point out that I am not saying Roddenberry or the rest are conservatives. I'm just saying what they've created here is a fundamentally conservative story.

And, I agree entirely with your choice of words when you say "classical liberalism." I think Star Trek can best be described as a show with "classical liberal" values. Unfortunately, Roddenberry et al. eventually drifted to the left and become modern liberals, which is something very different.

I agree about the Federation too at this point. It doesn't sound like it's much of a government. In fact, it sounds rather libertarian. It has a small fleet that keeps the peace but other than that you never hear about taxes or regulations or codes of conduct. It almost sounds like a government premised entirely on just providing public protection.

Finally, I read that about Germany! Apparently, they were concerned about showing Nazi uniforms on German public television so they never showed this episode until recently. Thanks for the link: LINK

Ed said...

Andrew, I've often heard people say "Star Trek" was a classical liberal show. I look forward to seeing this articles to see how that all breaks down.

Interestingly, I never got the feeling either that the Federation was a strong government in people's lives. In fact, it seems to be irrelevant to people except that it runs Star Fleet, which seems to be the only branch of the government.

Anonymous said...

Great article! Also, great article on the war movies. I saw the link at Big Hollywood.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, In fairness, the government isn't really the focus of the show. But you are right that you never see any other parts of their government like an IRS, a President, a Congress or assembly, etc.

In any event, there is no sense in the original series that the government regulates people's lives.

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, Thanks! Yeah, it's been a busy day thanks to John's link. About 700 people have visited that article already today.

ScottDS said...

Agent 86 was right: it really is about control vs. kaos. :-)

I do wish the later shows explored more of the inner-workings of the Federation. It's one of those murky areas (like WW3) where fans are left to their own devices, especially in terms of its relation to Starfleet, its economy (or lack thereof), etc.

Interestingly, there's a novel by Keith R.A. DeCandido titled Articles of the Federation which is like The West Wing in the 24th century: a year in the life of the Federation president.

Re: this episode, I actually just saw it for the first time a few months ago (this Jew beat the Germans to it!). It's definitely an interesting concept. And Floyd is correct: the best storytelling is often conservative in nature (to the extent that I'm knowledgeable of such things)... but this leads me to believe that more movies are conservative than are usually given credit, even though they may not be political in nature. Everything from most of Adam Sandler's films to the Police Academy films could be considered conservative.

(I'm not counting the people who get their pants in a bunch over prurient content, of course.) ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott,

Yep... Chaos!

On the Federation, the truth is the government cannot exist under the structure they have created in the later series. Once you eliminate money and give people the ability to have anything they want through replicators and even an ability to have their fantasies played out in holodecks, society will collapse into hedonism. There simply is no reason anymore for most people to leave their homes at that point. And there's certainly no reason/motivation for them to do the dirty jobs that still would need to be done -- garbage men, nurse, morgue worker, etc. Thus, the human race would either slowly wind down into lifeless, degenerate blobs, or there would be a huge backlash against that society. Essentially, the Federation would collapse.

The idea of a Star Fleet could never work either at that point. For once thing, who will volunteer to be the guy who cleans the toilets? And why bother in any event. If you want to explore space, then you make your own ship and you go -- there’s no reason to waste years at some lousy school or follow some code. TNG assumes that people will still act like they do today only without the bad parts because there's no money anymore. But human history shows that’s not true.

On the conservative nature of films, you are correct with a caveat. I think a great many more films (most actually) are conservative at their core than people realize. But what Hollywood is doing is throwing liberal veneers on top of conservative frames. Thus, what you get is a strange disconnect where liberal characters are fighting to bring about liberalism, but they are acting according to conservative principles and they are selling their ideal liberalism as a conservative thing.

That’s why films like Erin Brocovich stop before the real solution kicks in. Because what she’s after is to get the federal government to come crush her enemies. But that won’t sell to movie audience. So instead, they paint her as a lone hero taking on an oppressive force and they role credits the moment we are told she had defeated the oppressive force. But if you think about it, she’s really only petitioning the biggest, most oppressive force in the country to come take out a company that she can’t deal with herself. And the actual resolution of the dispute would be when the Feds step in and take money from the company and impose regulations. That would be the truthful liberal version, but that wouldn’t sell. So they tweak the script to create a conservative story, but then simply insert her liberal goal as “the outcome” without going into detail of what she actually wants to give the story a liberal veneer.

Make sense?

ScottDS said...

Make sense?

But of course!

AndrewPrice said...

Excellent! I would hate to think I was talking gibberish! :)

ScottDS said...

Thanks. It actually addressed another thought I had which was:

People who claim most movies are liberal propaganda, I tell them, "Oh yeah? Name 10 movies released last year that advocated some big government solution (or similar)."

Of course, there aren't 10 movies from last year that do that - but there might be a few that fit your description.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's a hazy issue because liberalism doesn't sell. Hence, you will almost never see a film that says "we should grow the government to epic proportions to solve all our problems." You did see this in the 1930s (Grapes of Wrath), but not today.

Instead, what you get are films that say things like "I am a heroic individual who is fighting to help someone who needs help" (by getting the government to intervene and ....). Only, they leave off the part in parenthesis because that's the part that doesn't sell.

Erin B is again a good example. It's sold as "brave single mom takes on evil corporation." But what's really going on is "single mother lawyers up to build case for government intervention." So the film actually does advocate increasing the size, scope and reach of government, it just never says it. It would be the same thing with a film about "black father holds people hostage to get healthcare for his son." (Denzel). The goal there is to make the government expand its role to include providing healthcare to its citizens. But that's not as sexy as "one man against the evil hospital system."

You also have to consider the number of sucker punches and boogeymen who make it into films. Most films these days have villains. And with rare exceptions (generic drug lords) they are almost always liberal boogeymen (evil soldier, religious, fanatic, businessman). So while those films aren't directly advocating an increase in the size of government, they are propagandizing other aspects of liberalism, i.e. they are telling you what kinds of power should be considered misuses.

And then finally, you often get straight up policy pictures: Day After -- anti-nuclear weapons. Day After Tomorrow -- pro-global warming. Men Who Stare At Goats -- antiBush, antiIraq, antiAmerican military.

So films can be clearly liberal even though they aren't specifically saying "we need to enlarge the government."

ScottDS said...

I understand. The "We need to enlarge the size of government" plot was just an example. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Scott,

The Crazies -- anti military
Alice in Wonderland -- feminist garbage
Green Zone -- anti American
Repo Men -- anti corporate America
The Last Exorcism -- anti religious
Machette -- anti opponents of illegal immigration
Wall Steet Money Never Sleeps -- anti-capitalism
Sex and the City 2 -- pro Muslim... yeah.
Karate Kid -- politically correct remake
The Other Guys -- leftist sucker punches galore


But never the less, you are correct. The vast majority are not political and probably rely on a conservative foundation for their plot to work. But perception is what matters and both sides seem to think they benefit from the perception that Hollywood is exclusively liberal.

ScottDS said...

Well, to give the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure most people are only concerned about the end result but in the case of something like The Green Zone where the filmmakers' intent was blatantly obvious...

...I doubt Alice in Wonderland was conceived as a feminist something or other. In other words, I don't think that's what attracted Tim Burton to the project, whereas it's obvious what attracted Matt Damon and Co. to the former. (But I agree - it's not a good movie.)

But it's all semantics at that point. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

True, though I wouldn't be too sure about the intent or lack thereof. John Carpenter is a good example. He always teamed with producer Debra Hill, who is an ardent feminist and they made sure to insert feminist ideas into his horror films. It was never particularly obvious (except Ghosts of Mars), but that was the intent.

But in the end, I think what matter most in any event is what ends up on screen. It doesn't matter what the filmmaker intended if what they put on screen turns out to be something completely different. So I always go with what it turned out as.

But in the examples above, you will hear a lot of conservative complaints.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

John Carpenter and feminism... is that why we didn't get to see Adrienne Barbeau topless in The Fog! Damn feminsits!

All those libral movies you listed AP -- they sucked -- big time.

Most if not all hit movies are conservative at their core -- even ones like The Hangover (conservative doesn't equal Protestant moral values concerning vice) -- friends stick together and go on a quest to find their missing friend going through some pretty dangerous situations to correct their mistake, the value of marriage, of being treated well by your spouse... those are pretty traditional values.

it's practically a Christian movie. ;-)

El Gordo said...

It´s a good episode, but something sticks in my craw and that is the notion that the nazi regime was cruel but efficient. Nazi efficiency is just a cliche. The advances made in the first years were easy, given that the regime had inherited an industralized country with a well educated workforce and considerable resources (including a public administration of high quality) which it could now mobilize by decree. But their miracles were not sustainable. Let´s not forget that only a few years after Hitler came to power, he began a war that allow him to plunder the wealthiest countries of Europe. What is efficient about stealing?

During the war, the German bureaucracy committed terrible blunders that kept war production far below its potential. Not efficient.

Let´s not forget that a democratic Germany that found itself in far worse shape than in 1933 also managed an economic resurgence in the decades after the war.

By not directly contradicting Gill, the episode still gives some credence to the idea that there is a tradeoff between efficiency and freedom. There isn´t. Even if there was such a thing as a benign dictator, he would eventually run everything into the ground.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Yep, that's why there's no nudity! LOL! It is an odd thought that Carpenter inserted feminist ideas in his films, but they are there -- they just aren't obvious (hence, they never really strike you as being lectured to).

On the movies listed, I concur -- they stunk. And it was the off-putting insertion of political ideas that made them stink.

And I agree that hit movies are almost always conservative because they are premised on conservatives ideas and themes which resonate with audiences as "right/noble conduct" and "common sense." Liberalism, by comparison, is premised on ideas that run counter to human nature.

I also agree that "conservative" does not mean "Protestant values." Conservatism is much broader concept and it deals with things religion doesn't really touch upon, e.g. economic matters. I prefer to say that conservatives values are "traditional values" (which includes religious values but also goes further -- it's the things the Greeks called "virtues") whereas liberal values tend to be counter-culture values. So things like being loyal to your friends, self-help, the nobility of individual achievement, supporting people as you allow them to succeed or fail on their own terms, etc. have become conservative values. And that resonates with people in their day to day lives.

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, Excellent point.

You are absolutely right about the Nazis. The idea that they were efficient and somehow properly managed the country/economy except for their murders and the wars is entirely false. They, like the communists, made constant, repeated mistakes and did lots of economic damage. The only thing preventing that from being obvious was that they were propping up their economy by plundering other countries and they boosted their economy through the use of millions of people as slave labor. On those terms, it's very easy to make an economy appear to soar for a few years.

So in that regard, you are correct that this episode does help perpetuate that myth because Spock of all people (who should know everything) agrees that they were so efficient.

BUT that said, it doesn't offend me here for two reasons. First, I see this mainly as writing shorthand. The stereotype of the Nazis was "cruel but efficient" at that point and that was still being accepted by historians (the same historians who then still claimed that FDR ended the depression with his policies). So I don't hold it against a Hollywood writer that they wouldn't know to go against that grain at the time. Today I would demand more, but not in 1968.

Secondly, I think it doesn't interfere with the overall point about totalitarian regimes being bad. In fact, it strengthens it because it says "even though you can get all kinds of benefits out of going this course, it will still end in disaster." I think that's actually a stronger message. Because if he'd said "well, they weren't that efficient and look what happened?" Then people would focus not on whether the benign dictator idea was wrong, but whether or not the Germans were really efficient and that would completely miss the point they were making.

So while I agree with you, it doesn't offend me in this instance.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, nice list you compiled for Scott. A great example of identifying evil just by the hats they wear. It's simplistic and only works with boogeymen.

I think ElGordo nicely illustrated what I meant by courting chaos for the sake of order. The Nazis may have had a brief stint with organization, but they achieved that through murder and terror--chaotic means. The order was never genuine and it was destined to descend back into chaos.

Similarly, the Bolsheviks are a prime example of using chaos to build an order. Conversely, our Constitution was designed to create order through order. That is why we conservatives agree that the problem is not our Constitution, but all the barnacles that have been attached to it.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Thanks. Good point about the "over-simplification of evil." I think that's what boogeyman basically are, a vast oversimplification which is then used as a stereotype to cast blame on a whole class of people.

I think the point is a solid one about order v. chaos. I think what you have in totalitarian regimes is the imposition of the appearance of order through brutal force, often following the use of chaos to get people to clamor for order. But that order is fake order and breaks down quickly, causing chaos as it collapses. By comparison, a "natural order" doesn't really break down, it tends to slowly shift over time to a different equilibrium point.

Look at the stock market as an example. If left alone, prices move around within a fairly small range as buyers and sellers make decision. But if the government (or some other enormous player) comes in and places a huge bet, then things start jumping. And when that bet becomes unsustainable, a crash occurs.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew: It is fascinating to me the direction the comments go in. Lots of food for thought.

I think there are timeless principles at work and they work in every aspect of reality.

One of the biggest mistakes of leftism is that they cut themselves off from traditional wisdom.
Wisdom that took thousands of years to produce.

Because they know better. But those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat the same errors over and over again.

When one is disconnected from reality one is blind to reason and wisdom.
This is why their intellect, as such is so screwy.
They are deaf and blind and they want us to follow them.

They are also driven by the deadly sins, primarily envy and greed which can never be sated and is an offshoot of pride (the bad kind).

They don't respect property rights but they sure as hell don't wanna give theirs up.

We all must struggle against the destructive power of envy, lust, greed, etc., and sometimes we fail.

The main thing is to not get consumed by pride, envy, greed, etc.. and to realize how destructive it is.

The Nazi's were definitely driven by deadly sins, and they ain't called deadly for nothin'.

The class warfare...ENVY, that Obama and the democrats tell us we should feel is demonic and it's evil to attempt to control folks by encouraging them to give in to their hate of someone elses success or luck.

There's never a call from the democrats to be grateful for what we have.
Being grateful builds ones character, but envy tears it down and if one is consumed by it they eventually become infrahuman. They lose their humanity.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, It is fascinating to see where the comments go around here. That's what I love about our audience though, is that they bring a lot of interesting thoughts to every discussion and we do get these really neat discussions where people are really contributing some interesting philosophical thoughts.

On the sins, Christianity didn't pick those at random. As with the Greeks before them, and whoever else before the Greeks, it's been obvious for thousands of years what kinds of behaviors are constructive and what kinds are destructive. The problem with modern liberals is that they have rejected the past in toto and are trying to build a new world that laughs at the "primitives" in the past. That means they've taken on "sins" that they think they can harness. It also means they fundamentally misunderstand human nature and therefore, modern liberalism is deeply flawed and is always destined to fail.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Well said Andrew.

One of the glaring glitches in Star Trek is they say there's no money but there is credits which are basically debit cards from what I gather.

So there is electronic money.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, The "no money" thing came out in the Next Generation. They hadn't gone that far in the original series. And I'll bet they regretted going there because it made a lot of their episodes oddly confusing when they had to bribe people and couldn't explain what people were using as a means of exchange for valuable items.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Oops. Thanks for the correction Andrew.

Yes, they did paint themselves into a corner with that stupid idea.

There will always be private property of some sort, no matter how much the left wants to get rid of it (and most really don't when it comes down to it).

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, The idea that we can eliminate private property is a long-time utopian dream for communists. They haven't thought it through.

tryanmax said...

Ben, you really broke it down to the root. Gratitude vs. Envy.

It takes gratitude to appreciate that there are patterns of behavior which are beneficial and can be followed as opposed to there being no rhyme or reason. And it requires envy to believe that destructive behaviors should have the same rewards as beneficial behaviors.

Thus, it is no surprise that the left chooses to embrace chaotic behavior, they want a chaotic world to justify their belief that the success of others and their own failings result from chance.

The futility of their efforts is that the universe is ordered on a level they cannot touch.

Individualist said...

Hi Andrew

Great synopsis. I remember the episode but I was young and the political nuances went over my head at that time.

I think you are spot on and seeing your analysis I think beyond what you have said it seems to be an allegory for liberalism. When you hear liberals argue it is always that whoever is in charge is "Evil" and that this other "Good" person should be running things. Never does it seem to be the case that whjatever it is does not require control to begin with.

To answer your earlier question from a few posts back. No I never got my account at BH back... that I know of... truth is that after a month I quit checking altogether. At this point I just have not cared. Sorry to say. Part of it is that I have had so many other things going on right now.

AndrewPrice said...

Hi Indi! Welcome back! :)

Thanks!

You've put your finger right on a problem I see all the time with liberalism. Every time it fails, they blame the failure on "the wrong guy" trying to implement it. It never occurs to them that the policy itself if the problem. And that's the same thing with the benign dictator issue -- they believe that "if only the right guy with the right motives" were running things, it would all turn out ok. But that's just not true. It can never end well because the fundamental problem is the concentration of power itself. You just can't use force to control people and ever hope to get a good result.

Sorry to hear about BH. Still, you're welcome to visit here! I've always enjoyed your view of things! :)

98ZJUSMC said...

tryanmax said...
That is why we conservatives agree that the problem is not our Constitution, but all the barnacles that have been attached to it.

November 12, 2011 1:21 PM


An excellent way to put it.

AndrewPrice said...

98ZJUSMC, Isn't that the truth. We've got 200 years of power-grabs that have slowly corrupted a very beautiful structure. If we could reverse those, this country would be in great shape again!

Sgt York said...

Here's hoping this particular subject eventually finds it's way to examining DS9, which was a veritable gold mine of conservative ideology.

AndrewPrice said...

Sgt. York, I would eventually like to get to those, definitely. DS-9 was a very different show than TNG and had some really great conservative lessons.

Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Your commentary here is flawed due to your academic ignorance of political science. Nazism is considered a Rightwing ideology due to its emphasis on nationalism (it's "NATIONAL Socialism," not "INTERnational Socialism") and adherence to traditional order (there is no Communist "stateless utopia" in the Nazi agenda). Your focus on selfish individualism and near-rejection of any group identity keep you from understand the sociology at work in this field. You are typical of conservatives in that you talk about issues on which you are not educated, instead of sticking to matter you do know--like tweeking out the Evinrude and plowing fields and working with Larry down on the lube rack. Try actually studying the matter before you go off like your Tea-brained cohorts.

Individualist said...

"Your commentary here is flawed due to your academic ignorance of political science. Nazism is considered a Rightwing ideology due to its emphasis on nationalism (it's "NATIONAL Socialism," not "INTERnational Socialism") and adherence to traditional order (there is no Communist "stateless utopia" in the Nazi agenda). Your focus on selfish individualism and near-rejection of any group identity keep you from understand the sociology at work in this field. You are typical of conservatives in that you talk about issues on which you are not educated, .."

Anonymous whose post was deleted but the email was not... I have left out the ridiculous insults but will answer that section that at least pretends to have substance.

Nazism is a form of Fascism which was first described by Musolini. It is an offshoot of socialism specifically syndicalism which states that workers should form a syndicate and own the means of production (the company). This has nothing to do with individualism and is definitely a form of communism.

Fascim was the attempt to place this in the realm of government and instead of a workers syndicate the government itself would own the means of production i.e. the stock in compamies.

This is the inherent and most important peice of fascism and is the 100% polar opposite of the principles of Individualism whether that is the rugged individualsim of the founding fathers, the philosophy of AQyn Rand or the pragmatic principles of capitalism of Adam
Smith.

As to stateless communism, excuse me where is that in existense. Just because the communists pretended that they were international does not change the fact that China and Russia sought control of every communist state. So the internationalist meme you site does not exist in practice.

As to the NAzi's NAtionalistic idenity. So what! America practiced NAtionalism in WW2, so did the French, the Japanese, the Italians, the British, the Canadians and every other country. Even the Soviet Union and China practiced Nationalism despite the lip service given to some international stateless fairy tale they never had any desire to enact.

Fascism is probably the most intense form of collectivism there is. And how do you explain Barack Obama taking at gunpoint 60% of GM, 12% of Citigroup, 80% of AIG and those are only the ones made public. Sounds like this is FASCISM doesn't it. And when he distributed half the stock taken to Cronies who got the lion's share. The Unions. Sounds like Sindicalism to me.

Note I have answered your questions without insult. IF I am so stupid and uniformed as you state then obviously there are facts I don't know and you can correct me on it. If you can manage to state them without insult so that Andrew does not have to delete the comment I am all ears... or is it eyes.. Thanks

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, It actually ended up in the spam filter (not deleted). I just pulled it out. I haven't had a chance to read it to respond yet.

AndrewPrice said...

Anon-Moron,

I hate to break this to you, but I am well versed in political science. I also have a brain, which you clearly do not. But that's kind of what one comes to expect from your side of the spectrum since your side hasn't really achieved anything except murdering hundreds of million of people.

To clue you in, your argument is essentially this: "my professor told me the Nazis were right wingers, so it must be true." That marks you as a mouth-breathing fool and a mindless follower extraordinaire. Moreover, the distinction you use to try to hide your shame from your National Socialist and communist fellow travelers is laughable. You are essentially arguing that a sweater which is meant for export is not a true sweater because it's meant to be sold somewhere else. The reality is it's the substance of the form of government, i.e. the fundamental nature of the sweater, which matters. And you are idiot for believing your distinction matters.

As an aside, your laughable use of the term selfish-individualism and your being upset at my rejection of group identity marks you as a good little Nazi and pretty much proves my point. Thanks fool.

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, Anony-moron,

I've got back news for you. I just declared the Tea Party as having international goals. That's right, Tea Party International. By your "logic," that makes us leftists. So now you need to support the Tea Party.

So be a good little follower and get in line b*tch.

PikeBishop said...

Andrew: Bored tonight and looking over old stuff. I first came across this post in the spring of 2011, when you cross posted it on Big Hollywood. We exchanged thoughts in the comments (I was Teacher in Tejas)and I enjoyed reading your ideas. And then I found Commentarama.

I hate the fact that when the Breitbart Empire ditched "Intense Debate" for Discuss all those great comments on everything from Star Trek Nazis to the dental plan for Dr. Evil's henchmen just disappeared into the ether.

Sigh!

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I know. I think they made a huge mistake switching over. When they did that, they lost the feel of the place and so many of the regular commenters seemed to vanish. I don't know if they just couldn't figure out the new system or if they just decided it was time to leave, but that really marked a dramatic change in the Breitbart Empire.

And then not only losing the comments, but it's nearly impossible now to access old articles over there, so everything they wrote that built the place all but vanished in one stroke. That was a real shame.

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