Dorkofascism vs. Islamofascism



Brian Doherty's plea for not politicizing pop culture has fallen on deaf ears, as far as Battlestar Galatica fans are concerned. Two liberal writers use the Sci-Fi hit to explain some of our current foreign policy fantasies, fantasies the show's writers are obviously aware of. In the American Prospect, Brad "Sadly No!" Reed remembers how conservatives glommed onto the show in previous seasons.

Over the sci-fi show's first two seasons, many conservatives saw it as a pitch-perfect metaphor for the United States' post-9/11 battle against Osama bin Laden and his Muslamonazi horde. Galactica, which has become something of a surprise hit on the Sci Fi Channel, takes place in a post-apocalyptic universe where humanity has been decimated by a nuclear strike launched by an enemy race of robots known as the Cylons. Most of the action revolves around a noble band of 50,000 survivors who hurtle through space searching for a new home planet. Along the way, they have had to deal with Cylon sleeper agents, suicide bombers, and even a sinister pack of left-wingers who use violence to try to force humanity to make peace with their enemies.

But alas, this love affair between Galactica and the right was not to last: in its third season, the show has morphed into a stinging allegorical critique of America's three-year occupation of Iraq. The trouble started at the end of the second season, when humanity briefly escaped the Cylons and settled down on the tiny planet of New Caprica. The Cylons soon returned and quickly conquered the defenseless humans. But instead of slaughtering everyone, the Cylons decided to take a more enlightened path by "benevolently occupying" the planet and imposing their preferred way of life by gunpoint. The humans were predictably not enthused about their allegedly altruistic rulers, and they immediately launched an insurgency against them using improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers. Needless to say, this did not go over very well in the Galacticon camp.

Over at Slate, Spencer "15 is not 25" Ackerman tries to crack Galactica's code: What's the lesson the show's trying to impart with its occupation plot?

The big question that arises from the first few episodes of this season of BSG is whether the resistance is worth it. For all the show's admirable treatment of the moral complexities and the uncertainties of insurgency, its answer is an unequivocal yes. The Cylons believe themselves to be righteous, but they are monsters. They are infinitely more powerful than the humans, yet live in fear that humanity will "nurse a dream of vengeance down through the years so that one day they could just go out into the stars and hunt the Cylon once more." The Cylons occupy New Caprica, impose their will in place of any elected human leadership, round up and torture those who resist, and then do not understand why the humans refuse to accept their promises of benevolence. It often seems as if the whole motive of the creative talent behind BSG is to make you feel uncomfortable about being an American during the occupation of Iraq.

On one level I'm just glad for the expansion of cable TV, iTunes and DVD technology for making a show like this viable off one of the major networks: There's no way this show could have tackled these issues and kept its advertisers if it was on CBS, NBC or ABC.

NEXT: Selective Skepticism and the Center for Science in the Public Interest

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  1. Hmm. Isn’t the big problem with this metaphor the fact that the Cylons tried to completely wipe out humanity in a devastating nuclear attack? As opposed to, say, removing a human government in an invastion?

    Seems slippery to me. Back to my vegemite.

  2. Jonah Goldberg over at National Review had a good post on the “New Iraqica” plotline, which thankfully appears to be done.

  3. Jonah Goldberg over at National Review had a good post on the “New Iraqica” plotline, which thankfully appears to be done.

  4. As the war in Iraq get’s worse, right wingers hate more things, and more things become stinging allegories to them. It’s a goddam show where they replaced Face with a chick with a stupid cigar to make her look tough.

  5. if all the Muslims in the world were killed until only 30,000 of them remained…then yes I can safely say that they would be justified in using suicide bombers in an attempt to secure their freedom and survival.

  6. Damon,

    If you look at the Iraqi occupation in a vacuum, then it doesn’t hold up. If you view it as a continuation of a clash that started with the Crusades, the metaphor is more solid.

  7. [i]if all the Muslims in the world were killed until only 30,000 of them remained…then yes I can safely say that they would be justified in using suicide bombers in an attempt to secure their freedom and survival.[/i]

    Now just how many do we have to kill before suicide bombing is justified under your moral sensibilities, Joshua? 100,000? 600,000? A billion? Inquiring minds, etc., etc.?

  8. There’s no way this show could have tackled these issues and kept its advertisers if it was on CBS, NBC or ABC.

    What, you never watched MASH?

    plea not to politicize pop culture…..

    Brian, I love your stuff, but you musta been off your meds when you said that.

  9. Isn’t suicide bombing LESS defensible if the population is decreased to a point? Wouldn’t there be more emphasis on preserving the few remaining?

  10. This has been one of the best shows on TV right now, IMHO, and much more complex than is presented in these discussions (what! right wing pundits being simplistic! what a shock!). For instance, there was a lot of dissention among the humans about using suicide bombers, it was not some cut and dry thing.

    What’s great about this show is that it uses future situations to explore real issues that humans face today. Like the old classic sci-fi writers at their best!

  11. Yeah, the Cylons did slaughter tens of billions of humanity, so the analogy is a stretch. Unless you have a guilty conscience, I suppose.

    At least the New Caprica change-up is done with. As is Pegasus. The latter had to happen because the expense of maintaining two sets would’ve made the show too expensive over time. Or too kludgy as they tried to avoid showing anything but the command center on the second battlestar.

    Television science fiction has gotten interesting, because it’s dealing more with human issues and less with toys. It’s a great genre for recasting current issues in a different environment. Battlestar Galactica can be a little uneven, but it’s pretty danged entertaining for television, and at least they’re really trying to make it work.

    Given the success of BG, I’m surprised that Firefly hasn’t been revived. I like it better, anyway, though there’s room for both series!

  12. Who would have thought conservatives were that sensitive to fiction? Oh yea. Everyone.

    (although I did spend the first few episodes of the season singing to myself, “Now you do know the Palestinians are not the same thing as the Rebel Alliance?”)

  13. Firefly is so much better than BG its cronic. I understand by those desperate for good SF like BG but it just makes me miss Firefly more.

  14. It really befuddles me why Firefly hasn’t gotten picked up. Fine, it’s not “worthy” of Fox, but why wouldn’t any of the cable networks want a fairly sizable, fanatically loyal audience? Desire not to make money? DVD sales are through the roof, as I understand it.

  15. My understanding is that Sci-Fi Channel was interested in reviving Firefly, but FOX wouldn’t release the rights to the series.

    There were also a couple of rumors of Sci-Fi doing one or two direct-to-cable sequels, but I haven’t heard anything on that in quite awhile.

  16. Absolutely love FireFly. I have the DVDs. I’d buy more if they made ’em.

  17. I hate Fox. Make the show or let it go, for a reasonable fee. Jesus. If this drags out much longer, the cast and crew will be irretrievably lost.

    I don’t like the movie concept, because the charm of the series was how it took its time developing things. I liked Serenity, but I like the series better. I’m a little hotter about this issue than usual, because I’m in the process of re-watching all of the shows.

  18. Isn’t suicide bombing LESS defensible if the population is decreased to a point? Wouldn’t there be more emphasis on preserving the few remaining?

    this is a good point…also i wished that instead of focusing on whether or not suicide bombers was morally sound but on whether or not if it was tactically sound.

    I can see chief having a problem with it and i think his reservations were portrayed well…he knew the guys who blew himself up…but Ex-president Roslyn’s highty moral reservations were over the top…although the scene when she slapped the coronal and he just sat down and resolved that it didn’t matter if she slapped him was excellent writing and acting….the whole first 3-4 episodes of the 3rd season has really endeared me to the coronal’s character.

    Now just how many do we have to kill before suicide bombing is justified under your moral sensibilities, Joshua? 100,000? 600,000? A billion? Inquiring minds, etc., etc.?


    Stick that where the sun don’t shine.

  19. Gotcha. (that’s gotta hurt!)

  20. Gotcha. (that’s gotta hurt!)

    Actually no, comparing a fictional war of survival with a real war of egoists and tyrants vying for power is a false premise…i choose to ignore your flimsy comparison.

    plus there is that whole problem with inflated war related deaths figures that you vomited out…but it is good to know that in your mind a projected 100,000 deaths is just as credible as a billion.

  21. Geez, it’s a TV show with a great story. The problem with the New Iraqica storyline is that it wasn’t fresh. The only less fresh thing they could do would be an episode on Scientology. South Park did that a year ago, got nominated for an Emmy, and now all the big shows have to tackle the issue… Nip|Tuck, etc. It’s stale people. Criticizing the Iraq War is stale too.

  22. Given the success of BG, I’m surprised that Firefly hasn’t been revived. I like it better, anyway, though there’s room for both series!

    I find it hard to compare simply because BG has such a larger breadth then Firefox…what with 2 full seasons and a 3 part mini series compared to firefly’s 13 episodes and mediocre movie…

    I will admit Firefly had some kick ass episodes and had a libertarian thread that is dear to my heart but to imagine that it could keep its subject matter as fresh as BG HAS for two full seasons is hard to imagine…not impossible just hard to imagine.

  23. The original Ben Cartwright version of Cattlecar Galaxative was so bad I just assumed this show was more of the same and ignored it. Guess I’ll have to take a look.

  24. Buckshot,

    It’s a darned good show. Not perfect, but very entertaining.

  25. Buckshot,

    It’s a darned good show. Not perfect, but very entertaining.

  26. I hate Fox.

    Yeah…Fox’s stock in trade has been cancelling great shows with fanatical fan bases. Remember Space Above And Beyond? Another Sci Fi show that rocked.

    Still, I am glad the New Iragica storyline is almost over. There was some great writing and deft and surprisingly deep storytelling. It’s not as if I didn’t enjoy the episodes…I did.

    But in the end, I watch BSG to get a break from Iraq, crazy Muslim terrorists, loonie Right Wingers and stupid far-lefties.

  27. I don’t think I live in a cave, but I didn’t know Battlestar Galactica was being remade as a new show. Third season no less? Yow. I need to flip on the tube more. So now the Culture Warriors are bitching about remakes of old tv shows that are only viewed by a remote subsection of the populace? Guess that’s easier than staring at the mountain of un-rebutted direct criticism they’ve had leveled at them.

  28. > I would agree with you on cable tv option gives them the ability to sci-fi finesse the stories and cover issues that the majors won’t touch…. Now we’ll see how they move into the fog of the new territory the original never did get around to, and the way NBC handled the first one, it never would have….

  29. Pretty interesting show, and seems pretty balanced in terms of its balance of liberal-conservative bias. The latest episode swung back in towards the ‘conservative’ point of view; back on the ship the former insurgents started carrying out summary executions of supposed collaborators.

  30. …pretty balanced in terms of its balance of liberal-conservative bias.

    Agreed, tokyojoe, but while this is barely one of my criteria for watching a news show, It’s almost never a part of my criteria for watching or enjoying a fiction show.

    Anymore, claims of ‘bias’ are just labels applied by people massively biased themselves. I could care less if I ever hear the word again.

  31. People stretch too hard in trying to analogize Galactica to the current US/world situation. It’s a mash-up, with a singular ability to get us to look at the kinds of situations and controversies we face in the “real world” from at least two sides. For my money, the new BG has been pretty good at morphing the good guys into bad guys and back again, often enough to suggest (though not slavishly mirror) the complexities of the “real world.”

    I agree that Firefly is best done as a series (or perhaps a miniseries), and I’m not happy with FOX for apparently keeping the lid on any further Firefly development until the principals are too old to reprise their roles. BG is much, much better than you would expect of a “reimagined” 70s kitsch SF show, but Firefly definitively shows how to do space science fiction as western. I also heard the rumors of possible Firefly movies-for-tv to be shown on the SciFi channel, and I hope they prove true sooner, rather than later, while Inara can still be shot in bright light in relatively hard focus, and the Captain still fits in the Tightpants. C’mon FOX, play ’em or trade ’em.

  32. Speaking of Osama bin Laden…

    One thing that struck me as odd in the days after 9/11 was Bush saying “We will not tolerate conspiracy theories [regarding 9/11]”. Sure enough there have been some wacky conspiracy theories surrounding the events of that day. The most far-fetched and patently ridiculous one that I’ve ever heard goes like this: Nineteen hijackers who claimed to be devout Muslims but yet were so un-Muslim as to be getting drunk all the time, doing cocaine and frequenting strip clubs decided to hijack four airliners and fly them into buildings in the northeastern U.S., the area of the country that is the most thick with fighter bases. After leaving a Koran on a barstool at a strip bar after getting shitfaced drunk on the night before, then writing a suicide note/inspirational letter that sounded like it was written by someone with next to no knowledge of Islam, they went to bed and got up the next morning hung over and carried out their devious plan. Nevermind the fact that of the four “pilots” among them there was not a one that could handle a Cessna or a Piper Cub let alone fly a jumbo jet, and the one assigned the most difficult task of all, Hani Hanjour, was so laughably incompetent that he was the worst fake “pilot” of the bunch. Nevermind the fact that they received very rudimentary flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, making them more likely to have been C.I.A. assets than Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. So on to the airports. These “hijackers” somehow managed to board all four airliners with their tickets, yet not even ONE got his name on any of the flight manifests. So they hijack all four airliners and at this time passengers on United 93 start making a bunch of cell phone calls from 35,000 feet in the air to tell people what was going on. Nevermind the fact that cell phones wouldn’t work very well above 4,000 feet, and wouldn’t work at ALL above 8,000 feet. But the conspiracy theorists won’t let that fact get in the way of a good fantasy. That is one of the little things you “aren’t supposed to think about”. Nevermind that one of the callers called his mom and said his first and last name, more like he was reading from a list than calling his own mom. Anyway, when these airliners each deviated from their flight plan and didn’t respond to ground control, NORAD would any other time have followed standard operating procedure (and did NOT have to be told by F.A.A. that there were hijackings because they were watching the same events unfold on their own radar) which means fighter jets would be scrambled from the nearest base where they were available on standby within a few minutes, just like every other time when airliners stray off course. But of course on 9/11 this didn’t happen, not even close. Somehow these “hijackers” must have used magical powers to cause NORAD to stand down, as ridiculous as this sounds because total inaction from the most high-tech and professional Air Force in the world would be necessary to carry out their tasks. So on the most important day in its history the Air Force was totally worthless. Then they had to make one of the airliners look like a smaller plane, because unknown to them the Naudet brothers had a videocamera to capture the only known footage of the North Tower crash, and this footage shows something that is not at all like a jumbo jet, but didn’t have to bother with the South Tower jet disguising itself because that was the one we were “supposed to see”. Anyway, as for the Pentagon they had to have Hani Hanjour fly his airliner like it was a fighter plane, making a high G-force corkscrew turn that no real airliner can do, in making its descent to strike the Pentagon. But these “hijackers” wanted to make sure Rumsfeld survived so they went out of their way to hit the farthest point in the building from where Rumsfeld and the top brass are located. And this worked out rather well for the military personnel in the Pentagon, since the side that was hit was the part that was under renovation at the time with few military personnel present compared to construction workers. Still more fortuitous for the Pentagon, the side that was hit had just before 9/11 been structurally reinforced to prevent a large fire there from spreading elsewhere in the building. Awful nice of them to pick that part to hit, huh? Then the airliner vaporized itself into nothing but tiny unidentifiable pieces no bigger than a fist, unlike the crash of a real airliner when you will be able to see at least some identifiable parts, like crumpled wings, broken tail section etc. Why, Hani Hanjour the terrible pilot flew that airliner so good that even though he hit the Pentagon on the ground floor the engines didn’t even drag the ground!! Imagine that!! Though the airliner vaporized itself on impact it only made a tiny 16 foot hole in the building. Amazing. Meanwhile, though the planes hitting the Twin Towers caused fires small enough for the firefighters to be heard on their radios saying “We just need 2 hoses and we can knock this fire down” attesting to the small size of it, somehow they must have used magical powers from beyond the grave to make this morph into a raging inferno capable of making the steel on all forty-seven main support columns (not to mention the over 100 smaller support columns) soften and buckle, then all fail at once. Hmmm. Then still more magic was used to make the building totally defy physics as well as common sense in having the uppermost floors pass through the remainder of the building as quickly, meaning as effortlessly, as falling through air, a feat that without magic could only be done with explosives. Then exactly 30 minutes later the North Tower collapses in precisely the same freefall physics-defying manner. Incredible. Not to mention the fact that both collapsed at a uniform rate too, not slowing down, which also defies physics because as the uppermost floors crash into and through each successive floor beneath them they would shed more and more energy each time, thus slowing itself down. Common sense tells you this is not possible without either the hijackers’ magical powers or explosives. To emphasize their telekinetic prowess, later in the day they made a third building, WTC # 7, collapse also at freefall rate though no plane or any major debris hit it. Amazing guys these magical hijackers. But we know it had to be “Muslim hijackers” the conspiracy theorist will tell you because (now don’t laugh) one of their passports was “found” a couple days later near Ground Zero, miraculously “surviving” the fire that we were told incinerated planes, passengers and black boxes, and also “survived” the collapse of the building it was in. When common sense tells you if that were true then they should start making buildings and airliners out of heavy paper and plastic so as to be “indestructable” like that magic passport. The hijackers even used their magical powers to bring at least seven of their number back to life, to appear at american embassies outraged at being blamed for 9/11!! BBC reported on that and it is still online. Nevertheless, they also used magical powers to make the american government look like it was covering something up in the aftermath of this, what with the hasty removal of the steel debris and having it driven to ports in trucks with GPS locators on them, to be shipped overseas to China and India to be melted down. When common sense again tells you that this is paradoxical in that if the steel was so unimportant that they didn’t bother saving some for analysis but so important as to require GPS locators on the trucks with one driver losing his job because he stopped to get lunch. Hmmmm. Yes, this whole story smacks of the utmost idiocy and fantastical far-fetched lying, but it is amazingly enough what some people believe. Even now, five years later, the provably false fairy tale of the “nineteen hijackers” is heard repeated again and again, and is accepted without question by so many Americans. Which is itself a testament to the innate psychological cowardice of the American sheeple, i mean people, and their abject willingness to believe something, ANYTHING, no matter how ridiculous in order to avoid facing a scary uncomfortable truth. Time to wake up America.

  33. Enlightenment:

    Things have been pretty slow around here for a couple of days, This brilliant piece of reasoning perked me right up.

    So, where exactly did you get the Meth, did you buy it or make it yourself? Reads like good shit.

  34. Sounds like enlightenment has that Loose Change movie memorized.

  35. My Number One Rule is that I don’t trust* any source of information that is not divided up into reasonable paragraphs.

    *By “trust” I also mean “attempt to read.”

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