Friday, 7 October 2016

Jackboots and Phasers

It seems like we have another theory about the sinister message behind Star Trek, this time from the other side. Unlike that weird essay on Star I think this is mainly tongue in cheek, its a youtube video on a channel called Film Theory. But I honestly struggle to tell, I have seen people with similar presentations and styles say even more ridiculous things only to find out they were being sincere. I mean I thought that Star Destroyer guy was having a joke before I read the whole thing and realised they were being 100% genuine, and I have seen both being used by other people on the internet as the crux of a serious argument, so I think its worth taking sometime to dissect it.

We don't get off to a great start this fellow doesn't seem to understand what Fascism is. He gives a brief introduction on Fascism but aside from name checking Hitler and Mussolini there's nothing really in it that's unique to Fascism. It's just generic authoritarianism. Fascism is a word that's become incredibly overused and misused over time, probably more so then Communism. It refers to a specific ideology but most times when you see or hear the F word its used to describe a thing the person using it doesn't like. Pinochet's regime in Chile was often described as a Fascist regime and while its true the regime was brutal and relied on the police and military for its survival, it can't really be described as Fascist because its economic foundation was unrestricted capitalism (well until they needed the state to prop them up) and that's pretty much the opposite of Fascist economics. And later on the author (video star?) claims that Fascism hated capitalism, this ahistorical nonsense. His only support for this assertion is one quote from Hitler.

Now there are a number of problems with this, its considered bad practice to rely on quotations devoid of context. Especially when dealing with politicians who lie, exaggerate and in some cases are being sincere in their wishes but find once their in power will have to make some sort of compromise. A good example of this is President Nixon. Nixon is remembered as a war monger and a lying crook but in the 1968 election where he became president he ran on a fairly peacenik friendly campaign, well friendly compared to his image anyway. He claimed he would end the draft (which he did, but in 1973 during his second term) and be a better negotiator then LBJ and Hubert Humphrey.

''Every American wants peace in Viet Nam. The question is what kind of peace. The war must be ended, but in a way that does not encourage aggression and thereby sow the seeds of future wars.
''Beyond this, we need a new diplomacy -- one that looks past Viet Nam to the prevention of future wars, and one that enlists other nations more fully in their own defense.
"In Korea, and again in Viet Nam, America furnished most of the money and most of the arms -- and most of the men.
"America is a big country. But there are only 200 million Americans, and there are more than 2 billion people who live in the free world. We need a new diplomacy that will get other nations with a stake in the defense of peace and freedom to bear their share of the burden. And we need a new diplomacy that will insure that, if the people of a friendly nation again are threatened, we help them fight the war but we don't fight the war for them."
 Of course Nixon didn't really end on his watch, if anything the war escalated and spilled over into neighbouring countries. Nixon did eventually make good on his promises to pull US troops out of Vietnam and set up negotiations but most of that happened in his second term after his creditability on the war was already wrecked.

Now what's the relevance here? Well its because the evidence in the video is far from compelling. Hitler and the Nazi party did indeed criticise capitalism (the Nazi version of Titanic film blames British Capitalists for the disaster to pick a random example) but the context gives a different picture. Many of the disparaging comments directed at capitalism by Hitler and his gang revolved around the perceived damaging effects to the nation inflicted by self interested businessmen.

The video actually quotes Hitler's speech in 1927 were he declares the Nazi party to be socialists. Though thankfully he's only interested in the bit at the very end of the passage were he talks about his determination to destroy capitalism under all conditions. This speech is actually quite well known it gets used a lot by right wing types all over the internet to paint the Nazi's as socialists. And it's understandable if your naive enough to take a politician at his word. Remember Hitler also publicly  stated that he wished to be a man of peace, and allied with the Soviet Union for a couple of years after murdering German communists and spending decades warning anyone who would listen that the USSR was a direct threat to the Western world and the German race.

But this particular case is quite egregious, you see the date of the speech was 1927 when the Nazi party was doing rather badly, but the Social Democrats and the Communist party were both on the up. The mid to late 20's are seen as a period of desperation by the Nazi party as it struggled to stay relevant and break out of its 2-3% vote share. Part of this strategy was to try an nick some members from the SPD and KPD which didn't really work, of the three they always came a distant third amongst working class Germans. Another part was to provoke the other two into violent outbursts and frame the Nazi party as the only real opposition to the Reds, which did work, after the press reported the street fighting membership applications went up. But it's important to remember that even when Hitler and Goebbels tried to appeal to the left that they never deviated from their racist core.

For example the "We are socialists" speech was actually about how important Lebensraum, the colonisation of the East was to German survival.

And later on when the Nazi party lost its interest in attracting German workers to it, Hitler made multiple speeches and paragraphs in Mein Kampf talking about a need for a disciplined capitalism.

“We concede that capitalism itself is not the enemy; but rather it is capitalist excess and irresponsibility, such as Jewish Finance Capitalism and the destruction of profiteering from interest, that we must strive ruthlessly against....We do not seek to replace the capitalist system, but to harness its productive capacity for the betterment of the German Nation."

There was also another factor, Hitler believed very strongly that financial and international capitalism was dominated by the Jews, and was one of the two means the Jews had for attacking and dominating the human race, the other being of course "Bolshevism".

The Jewish train of thought is, moreover, clear. The 
bolshevization of Germany, i.e., the extermination of the 
national folkish intelligentsia and the exploitation of Ger- 
man labor power in the yoke of world Jewish finance facili- 
tated thereby, is thought of solely as a preliminary to a 
further extension of this Jewish tendency to conquer the 
Indeed he was so focussed on resisting Jewish financial capitalism that he dedicated one of the later chapters of Mein Kampf "The Will to destruction of Jewish Finance" to the subject.

But beyond speeches, the reality of the Fascist regimes shows how shallow the anti-capitalism of big business really is. See Fascist economics in theory is based on class collaboration and mediation. Labour and Capital are viewed as competing, sectional and at times selfish interests and if the two are in open conflict or one side dominates completely the nation in its entirety suffers. So in order to balance the two, the Fascist party (representing the entire national community) will act as a mediator and moderating force on the two to ensure the best possible outcome for both sides. The Deustche Arbeits Front (DAF) the main organisation for German labour would support wage increases and holidays and other benefits on occasion, in order to ensure high productivity. But on others they would support employers in preventing wages from rising beyond a certain point, make sure the workers would work long shifts, and assisted in the transfers of workers to strategic industries.

In addition the Nazi party provided German industry with thousands of slave labourers. Even in the concentration camps factories and workshops owned by private companies could be found. IG Farben the chemical giant that produced the pesticide Zyklon B operated in Auschwitz

The history of the founding of the camp is connected with the initiative by the German chemical concern IG Farbenindustrie A.G. to build its third large plant for synthetic rubber and liquid fuels. The new camp was to be located in Silesia, beyond the range of Allied bombers at the time. Among the several sites proposed in December 1940/January 1941, the final choice fell on the flat land between the eastern part of Oświęcim and the villages of Dwory and Monowice. The decision was justified by the favorable geological conditions, access to railroad lines, water supply (the Vistula), and the availability of raw materials: coal (the mines in Libiąż, Jawiszowice, and Jaworzno), lime (Krzeszowice), and salt (Wieliczka). Furthermore, the belief that it would be possible for the firm to employ prisoners from the nearby Auschwitz concentration camp was by no means a trivial consideration, and may in fact have been decisive in the choice of the project.

IG Farben put the pieces of the deal in place between February and April 1941. The company bought the land from the treasury for a knock-down price, after it had been seized from its Polish owners without compensation; their houses were vacated and demolished. At the same time, the German authorities expelled the Jews from Oświęcim (resettling them in Sosnowiec and Chrzanów), confiscated their homes, and sold them to IG Farben as housing for company employees brought in from Germany. Some local Polish residents were dispossessed in the same way. Finally, IG Farben officials reached an agreement with the concentration camp commandant on hiring prisoners at a preferential rate of 3 to 4 marks per day for the labor of auxiliary and skilled construction workers. In a letter to his colleagues about the negotiations, IG Farben director Otto Ambros wrote that “our new friendship with the SS is very fruitful.”

And this is just one example, a far more complete list of German firms taking advantage of slave labour in the camps can be found here.

So no matter what Hitler thought about the pursuit of money, the reality is that his Fascist regime was heavily dependent on capitalist enterprises to function, and it worked to support them to ensure the needs of both state and capital were met.

But let's move on now, what about the rest of his statements? Do his other claims about the Federation stand the test of scrutiny? Well not really.


The viewer is told that we only ever see the viewpoint of the Federation, and that just isn't true. Throughout the franchise we get alternative views. DS9 is the best in this regard, by the time season seven ends we know just as much about the Ferengi, Bajorans and Cardassians as we do the Federation, if not more. We also see different points of view from within the Federation, that's actually an important subplot in early DS9, the Maquis are group of extremely disgruntled colonists are highly critical of the Federation.

But its not just DS9, in TNG and TOS we do get the Klingon and Romulan side of the story in several episodes. Even Voyager tried to do this with its long running villains the Kazon, Hirogen and Borg. Its just that they weren't very good at it.

Conquest and colonisation:

He also says the Federation is a colonising power, which it undeniably is, we spend many episodes at Federation colonies. But then he links it to human colonisation on earth. The destruction of the American Indian societies, the scramble for Africa etc. That is in a word bizarre, see all those colonies are on worlds that had no intelligent life, and the only way to join the Federation is through mutual consent. We see episodes were the Enterprise encounters primitive planets and the crew is supposed to leave them alone. But if they were only interested in empire building and resource gobbling they would love these planets, they would be very easy to dominate and exploit.

The Prime Directive, Star Fleets most important rule, so important that we're told that a Captain is prepared to give his life and the lives of his entire crew to uphold, states this, civilisations that don't have warp technology are to be left alone.

I can think only one episode where the Federation tried colonising a planet that was already inhabited by intelligent creatures (TNG Home Soil). But that was because they didn't know it was there. The species was a form of intelligent crystal,  and once they find out the crystals are intelligent and alive they call the operation off.


Now we getting into familiar ground, much is made of how we don't see ships that don't belong to Star Fleet even though we do. Remember the Maquis? Well they were so critical of the Federations policy that they went rogue and started turning their own ships into a sort of attack fleet. Also Sisko dates and marries and independent freighter captain. There is also quite a few references to individual Federation planets having their own fleets and ship designations.

A combat vessel knocked up by farmers

Communications, its often brought up that the Federation owns a monopoly on interstellar communications. Every time I hear this I think do they? Because there doesn't really appear to be any difference which communicator you other then the prop frame. You can ring up Romulus or use a Klingon hand communicator to hail the Enterprise, the only restrictions seem to be on whether the bad guys can track the signal or if the person your calling is out of range or in some space anomaly that interferes with communications.

Basically what I'm getting at is that they don't really develop their communications technology on the show. Like the transporters its just a means of plot convenience. You can use something the size of a smart phone to alert the flagship of an alien plot with little issue, unless the episode is about the crew overcoming whatever was preventing them from making a call.

A bit later on the author gets back to the point by taking Trek philosophy "The needs of the many" and mirroring it to what he claims are Fascist philosophical pillars, but are mostly just generic collectivist sayings. Like Hitlers "Society's needs come before the individuals'" though to be fair in this section he does get the Fascist idolisation of the state right. And he is correct with  the Italian Fascist symbol being a bundle of sticks with an axe blade. However that was the symbol for ancient Rome, from the time of Roman kings to the Republic era and survived into the Imperial period. Mussolini talk a lot about rebuilding the Roman Empire apart from deliberate evoking of Roman imagery the two societies simply aren't comparable.

 However he draws the connection by linking it to the bundle of sticks proverb and not a representation of the Fasces. The problem here is that the Fasces were a direct reference to the proverb which comes from one of Aesop's fables,

An old man had a set of quarrelsome sons, always fighting with one another.  On the point of death, summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a bundle of sticks wrapped together. To his eldest son, he commanded, "Break it." The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the bundle. Each son in turn tried, but none of them was successful. "Untie the bundle," said the father, "and each of you take a stick." When they had done so, he called out to them: "Now, break," and each stick was easily broken. "You see my meaning," said their father. "Individually, you can easily be conquered, but together, you are invincible. Union gives strength."
There's also a similar story about the Bulgar king Khan Kubrat, the Bulgarian national motto (Union gives strength) is a reference to that tale.

 And the proverb was used by the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh while he rallied his people to fight in the war of 1812. So what's happened here is a case of disingenuous, the author has taken something Fascists use to argue that the source they  used and by definition all other usage and allusions by others is automatically  fascist. This would be like claiming Hindu religious rituals are fascist because a lot of them involve drawing some form of Swastika.

That's really the crux of his argument, what's left is a bit where he uses Kirk being punished for mutiny as an example, but unless he's claiming military discipline is inherently Fascist as too, is just another out of context fallacy. He ends comparing the relationship between the Federation and the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians etc to the Holocaust (no seriously its at 12:10 in the video). Not only is that in very poor taste, it's not remotely true. The Federation doesn't demonise its enemies, at every turn it tries to make peace. They never conquer any of their major enemies, they turn the Klingons into allies, and gave up settlements in disputed space with the Cardassians, and agreed to neutral zone between them and the Romulans, and promised not to build cloaking devices.

The only time we ever encounter a Federation member demonise and entire species, like Captain Maxwell in TNG's the Wounded, or Picard and the Borg, or Section 31 in Deep Space Nine, their shown negatively, with their motives being challenged and explained. Maxwell lost his family in the war with the Cardassians and couldn't let go. Picard also had trouble putting what happened to him at the hands of the borg, but in the episode I Borg he realises he has issues and works to overcome, them. And Section 31, well their incredibly paranoid and have their plans to commit genocide thwarted by the series main cast.

Point is, as a joke this video isn't funny, as a serious argument its a joke.

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