Post-colonialism is hard!!! At least for Star Trek? Daily Bullshit, August 16, 2016

I’ve really been trying to refrain from comment on the 2016 presidential campaign. As my readers surely well know by now, I regard both major party candidates as a catastrophe. That this is so surely seems manifest now, as “[Donald] Trump has destroyed himself more efficiently than any opposition campaign could ever have done,” discrediting populism especially for elite propaganda purposes, and freeing Hillary Clinton to triangulate to the right.[1] Trump, whom Michael Moore thinks didn’t really want to be president in the first place,[2] has decided he won’t (and perhaps can’t) tack towards more responsible rhetoric, all but assuring his defeat in November.[3] His performance as a general election candidate has been much, much worse than I anticipated, so bad as to earn condemnation from Karl Rove.[4] And if Clinton indeed “seeks to placate her own party’s liberals,”[5] she shows no sign of it in appointing a decidedly non-progressive (except perhaps on family issues) transition committee.[6] (I intentionally disregard as mere hot air Clinton’s campaign advertising—among other progressive goodies—“pledge to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and to impose a new tax on companies who move their headquarters abroad . . . [to] spend . . . on big new infrastructure projects.”[7]) In all this, it is Chris Hedges, in a column Truthdig republished yesterday from a couple months ago, who appears prophetic, forecasting doom for progressivism[8] that Thomas Frank now sees realized.[9] Of course, some of us realized all along, even if not in this particular form, that this is what Clinton would do anyway.


Star Trek

I found The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 infinitely more interesting than the original series. I especially liked the latter series (DS9) because it wasn’t just one more big happy Starfleet crew; Voyager’s crew might have been part Maquis, but with rare exceptions, they much too rapidly came together as yet another harmonious Starfleet crew whose captain could never muster even the philosophy of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (which, for all his gravitas, is still sorely lacking). And Enterprise was cringe-worthy in every aspect right up until they decided to cancel it—which is a pretty weird time to decide to actually bring in some decent scripts.

And in these days, those micro mini-dress uniforms for female characters in the original series are more than a little too much. Let’s not even talk about Yeoman Rand as stereotypical blonde secretary or Captain James T. Kirk’s serial and oh so predictable feel ’em, fuck ’em, and forget ’em womanizing (where power is an aphrodisiac and we know that in the closing scene that Kirk can smile contentedly because he just got laid but Mr. Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy maybe not so much).

Annalee Newitz may not be giving the interplay between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy its due, but I think those of us who have ever been Star Trek fans have some soul-searching to do: What underlies this incredibly optimistic vision of the future? Does it really reduce to good versus evil, paradoxically disregarding the Prime Directive that every Starfleet officer allegedly swears to uphold even on pain of death? Does it not rationalize colonialism under the guise of an allegedly beneficent Federation in a cold (sometimes hot) war with the demonized and unsubtly imperialist Klingon empire?

Are we really ready to accept that in this 23rd century enlightened but still with a ways to go “United Federation of Planets,” where as Newitz puts it, “humans [still] have to work for a living,”[10] that we are not fooling ourselves in imagining there is no political and economic equivalent to the military-industrial complex? In such a suspension of disbelief, how do we explain the mentality and persistence of Section 31 and its self-declared rationale for its “dirty work” and for its own existence of enabling the allegedly high morals of Starfleet? What about that military-style hierarchy in Starfleet itself?

In a contest between good and evil within the Federation and within Starfleet, how indeed can we imagine that “good” prevails, mostly, except for Section 31, over “evil?” Is such altruism even possible when “humans [still] have to work for a living?”[11]

What about the role of Earth not only in the Federation but in Starfleet? Is Earth not like the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, first among “equals,” but with a veto? And are crude capitalist characters such as Cyrano Jones or better-established but still profit-seeking-above-all-else corporations really such an anomaly? Really?

Yes, indeed, I think Newitz may have a point. But critical theory emphasizes omissions and her essay should be seen as a beginning of criticism, not an end.

Annalee Newitz, “Why does the Star Trek franchise keep returning to its origins?” Ars Technica, August 16, 2016, http://arstechnica.com/staff/2016/08/why-does-the-star-trek-franchise-keep-returning-to-its-origins/


  1. [1]Thomas Frank, “With Trump certain to lose, you can forget about a progressive Clinton,” Guardian, August 13, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/13/trump-clinton-election-chances-moderate-policies-economy
  2. [2]Michael Moore, “Trump Is Self-Sabotaging His Campaign Because He Never Really Wanted the Job in the First Place,” Alternet, August 16, 2016, http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trump-self-sabotage-campaign
  3. [3]Nolan D. McCaskill, “Trump: ‘I don’t wanna change,’” Politico, August 16, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/is-trump-changing-his-strategy-227075
  4. [4]Tom Boggioni, “Angry Karl Rove blisters ‘impulsive’ Trump in epic rant: ‘Does he want to win?’” Raw Story, August 12, 2016, http://www.rawstory.com/2016/08/angry-karl-rove-blisters-impulsive-trump-in-epic-rant-does-he-want-to-win/
  5. [5]Gerald F. Seib, “Hillary Clinton’s Conundrum: Keeping Left Happy, Pursuing Opening on Right,” Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/clinton-conundrum-energetic-left-opening-on-right-1471275257
  6. [6]Matthew Yglesias, “Hillary Clinton’s newly announced transition team gives us a hint of her priorities as president,” Vox, August 16, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/8/16/12500798/clinton-transition-team-salazar
  7. [7]Gerald F. Seib, “Hillary Clinton’s Conundrum: Keeping Left Happy, Pursuing Opening on Right,” Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/clinton-conundrum-energetic-left-opening-on-right-1471275257
  8. [8]Chris Hedges, “Con vs. Con,” Truthdig, August 15, 2016, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/con_vs_con_20160619
  9. [9]Thomas Frank, “With Trump certain to lose, you can forget about a progressive Clinton,” Guardian, August 13, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/13/trump-clinton-election-chances-moderate-policies-economy
  10. [10]Annalee Newitz, “Why does the Star Trek franchise keep returning to its origins?” Ars Technica, August 16, 2016, http://arstechnica.com/staff/2016/08/why-does-the-star-trek-franchise-keep-returning-to-its-origins/
  11. [11]Annalee Newitz, “Why does the Star Trek franchise keep returning to its origins?” Ars Technica, August 16, 2016, http://arstechnica.com/staff/2016/08/why-does-the-star-trek-franchise-keep-returning-to-its-origins/

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