Sunday, August 8, 2010

RANT: Someone who knows just enough to be dangerous

Star Trek: The Next GenerationImage via Wikipedia
Kelly L. Ross wrote a paper called "fascist ideology of Star Trek". While he raised a few interesting points, he used all the wrong evidence to make his point, and it is this sort of "bad thinking" that I'd like to point out.

First, Ross claims ST:TNG is anti-religion. His evidence? One episode of ST:TNG.

"Such a story [TNG: Who Watches the Watchers?] is so blatantly hostile to theistic religion, that it is astonishing that it provoked neither comment nor protest. Perhaps the messages contained in science fiction television are simply not noticed."

Perhaps Ross failed to recall that 1) in the episode The Mintakans have no god (that we've seen), but are superstitious, until the main character got the incomplete mind wipe and decided "the Picard" is their god.  2) Liko was about to sacrifice Troi (disguised as a Mintakan), due to a storm which he believe "the Picard" had sent to demonstrate his anger. That was only averted when Picard returned to offer proof that he is mortal, not god. 

This episode is about trying to REPAIR the damage to Prime Directive. Picard is NOT a god, and refuse to be treated as one. The episode is NOT anti religion, but anti-belief-of-someone-who-is-not-god-as-god. Didn't one of the Ten Commandments read "Thou shall not worship false gods before me"? Mintakans are not prohibited from believing in god. Mintakans were just pursuaded to not worship Picard as god. If they choose to believe some other deity of their own creation, that is their choice to do so.

Ross then equated ST:TNG's 24th century, which seemingly has no "money", to Lenin's communism (which supposedly has no money either).

"one wonders if any of the Trek writers or producers know little details about Earth history like when Lenin wanted to get along without money and accounting and discovered that Russia's economy was collapsing on him."

However, he left this as an "implication", rather than a rigorous comparison. Instead, Ross basically claimed that 24th century is obviously communism. Ross wrote, with no further proof, that

'Marx's dream and Lenin's disastrous experiment is presented as the noble and glorious future in Star Trek: First Contact, where Jean Luc Picard actually says, "Money doesn't exist in the Twenty-Fourth Century." '

Perhaps Ross forgot about "replicators" in TNG? When most objects can simply be replicated, what is the "point" of material possessions? When hunger, poverty, and most such things are a thing of the past, energy is plentiful, technology is ubiquitous, and knowledge easily accessible, why would people still be concerned about "wealth"? No, that's not a complete answer, but it is NOT communism. In communism, there is no individual property. Everything belongs to the state. In ST:TNG, everybody can have almost any property s/he wants through a replicator. So there are PLENTY of individual property. Does Ross point that out? Nope. He's fixed on the "TNG=Communism" comparison.

And wealth did not completely disappear from the Federation. There is still "latinum", mostly referred to on DS9, not TNG, but DS9 and TNG were concurrent. ST:First Contact was 1997, while DS9 premiered in 1993, four years ago. Did Ross acknowledge that? Nope.

Next Ross directs his rant against "military as portrayed in TNG". He claims Star Trek's portrayal of "family on starship" was ignored, because there were no kids during the Borg invasion of "First Contact", despite their previous appearance on various TNG episodes.

" In Star Trek: First Contact, crew members are being captured and turned into Borg. Does that include the children? We never see any. Do Picard's orders to shoot any Borg include Borg who were human children? This disturbing situation is completely ignored by the movie."

Ross managed to completely demonstrate his lack of Star Trek knowledge. The ship that had room for families, Enterprise-D, was destroyed BEFORE ST: First Contact! It crashed landed in ST: Generations! Enterprise-E was the ship in ST:First Contact, and it did NOT have room for families!

Did Ross care? Nope. In fact, he flaunted his lack of knowledge, when others pointed out his mistake.

"Several correspondents have pointed out how the Enterprise of Star Trek: the Next Generation was destroyed in one of the movies and that the next ship was not built to contain families and children. Two points about that:  (1) the movie was made after the entire series was over, so the idea of removing the families and children comes a little late to be taken too seriously; and (2) the idea that the next Enterprise to be constructed doesn't contain families or children isn't actually stated in subsequent movies but has been added in the external lore that has accumulated around the series. This can hardly be taken too seriously either. It is certainly a half-hearted response to criticisms like those voiced here."

In other words, Ross referred to stuff happened AFTER the series (ST: First Contact) to make his point, but he called explanations regarding First Contact "little late to be taken serious". Can you say... hypocrite?

Furthermore, on Memory Alpha, Star Trek producer/writer Ronald D. Moore was quoted in 1998 that Enterprise-E definitely have NO children onboard.

Ross failed to realize that Enterprise-D, Galaxy-class, had been on the design boards for many years before ST:TNG came along, while galaxy was at peace. Klingons have signed the Khitomer Accords. Romulans have been in isolation for decades. Borg? What Borg? Since the launch of Galaxy-class in the 2360's, situation in the galaxy has changed a LOT. Federation encountered the Borg, then battle of Wolf 359 (where most of Starfleet was wiped out defending Earth from ONE Borg cube). Cardassians gotten a bit frisky, Romulans made a comeback, Dominion War is in the future. Why would Starfleet NOT remove the families in their next "flagship"?

So what was Ross's intent? What was he trying to prove? According to Ross, Star Trek: TNG was really depicting a TOTALITARIAN regime, glorified in an atheistic utopian manner,

"This danger has come with the corruption of the idea of "progress" away from individualism, the rule of law, private property, and voluntary exchanges -- in short the characteristics of capitalism and the free market -- into collectivist, politicized, and ultimately totalitarian directions. Star Trek well illustrates the confusion, ignorance, and self-deception that are inherent in this process."

So what was his proof that ST:TNG is totalitarian? No money, so it must be communism. The part about religion? No religion, must be communism. Military? Irrelevant.

I don't know you, Ross, so I am strictly going by your writing. You've basically proved that you know just enough about Star Trek (and TNG specifically) to be dangerous, and you are trying to "square the round peg" by picking the "evidence" that you claim to be supporting your viewpoint. If you can pick and choose your evidence you can pretend to prove anything, but you'd actually proven nothing. It just proves that you don't know your subject.

What you claim is anti-religion is not.

What you claim to be communism is not.

What you claim about starship design is wrong.

Thus, your statement that TNG = Communism / Facism is wrong as well.

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