Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Is It Racist to Refer to Space 'Colonization'?

The language police have come for the space geeks.

Mariana Ionita/Dreamstime.comMariana Ionita/Dreamstime.comThere is a time and a place—many times and many places, in fact—when it is good to highlight that certain utterances are likely to offend. Once, my parents were on a trip and met someone who casually used the term jewed down. And far too many people still use the term gyp, not realizing it is a negative, stereotype-fueling reference to a group that faces horrific discrimination and violence. There's a reason it will be seen as a big deal if Donald Trump in fact used the "N-word," while no one would have batted an eye if a white person used that same term just a couple of generations ago. Part of the evolution of language is retiring old, bad words, or severely limiting their usage.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be on the lookout for language overpolicing as well, especially given that we're living in a time with numerous, often conflicting claims of what is and isn't offensive. There's a real risk of backlash when people are told, without good reasons, that they are doing violence to others by dint of their subtle word choices.

On Tuesday, The Outline published a usefully illustrative exemplar of such overpolicing. In "The Racist Language of Space Exploration," Caroline Haskins digs into the future of space exploration and the forces that will shape it.

Haskins does raise some interesting points and flirts with some intriguing questions. For example, she notes that there is a looming problem with the concept of private property in space, given that ownership there may well be banned by a treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory.

Haskins also flags sticky questions about the ideological forces that will shape space exploration and commerce as those concepts advance. "While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, to private property, and the rule of law," Vice President Mike Pence said recently, as quoted by Haskins. "So as we continue to carry American leadership in space, so also will we carry America's commitment to freedom into this new frontier." American concepts of freedom and the rule of law, of course, are very different from other nations', and it's fascinating to think about how those tensions might translate into conflict as we inch our way toward becoming a truly spacefaring species.

Instead of grappling with the political or policy or ideological ramifications of these questions, however, Haskins digs in on the question of how we talk about space. The subhed of Haskins' article claims that "the language of colonialism is infecting outer space, thanks to dominance by rich white businessmen and politicians." Jumping off from Trump's laughable recent comments about a "space force" and some followup comments by Pence, Haskins writes that "Trump is far from the first or only person to use the language of colonization to make a pro-space venture argument. Elon Musk famously describes his plans for a Martian settlement as a 'colony,' and a long lineage of space pundits, politicians, and thinkers invoke the history of colonizers and colonization in order to frame the future of humanity in space."

Here and elsewhere, Haskins' biggest gripe appears to be with the use of the term colony itself. As she explains, human colonies—which of course tend to be inhabited by people who could, definitionally, be described as "colonizers"—have committed some terrible atrocities. British colonizers led by William Bradford, governor of the frequently lionized Plymouth Bay Colony, for example, "massacred four hundred soldiers, non-soldiers, and children."

One fairly straightforward response to this is that humans intuitively understand that words can be used in different ways. Imprison can be used both to describe the over-incarceration of Americans, disproportionately darker-skinned ones, on nonviolent drug charges, but also by an exasperated parent telling a visiting friend, "The 3-year-old is imprisoned in his room until he chills out a bit." Few people would view this parent's use of imprison as problematic, because humans language is marvelously, wonderfully flexible. We can use a word to describe something horrible one second and then use that same word, in a different context, to describe a quotidian annoyance the next. I can describe a grisly murder in one gchat box and then flip to another and say that work is murdering me.

So of course, the type of colony being discussed matters a great deal. Many colonies, have, as Haskins notes, been used as staging points for mass atrocities—slavery and massacre and endless territorial expansion. Other colonies, such as those that exist in Antarctica or in outer space or (for very brief periods, so far) on the moon, are used as staging points for scientific exploration, for the gathering of bacteria or core samples or lunar dust and other forms of intriguing material. Much like imprison, in other words, colony can be used in different senses to describe different situations.

Haskins' article—and this entire style of discourse—mostly ignores this fact. Some colonies are bad, the argument goes, so the use of colony is inherently bad. It's similar to how the term biological sex is increasingly frowned upon in some lefty communities. Despite the fact that, unusual edge cases aside, everyone knows what "biological sex" means and the male/female divide is an obviously useful and important concept, it can also be used to harass or ridicule transgender people by jerks who say, "You're not really a (wo)man because of your biological sex!" The term itself, therefore, has to go. Or take the thankfully fringe but common-on-Twitter position that calling something "stupid" is offensive. Again, even though everyone knows that stupid simply means something like "not thought out intelligently," the thinking goes that because it could also be used to describe people with developmental disabilities, the term itself is offensive.

At heart, "This term, used in a totally different context, could be offensive" isn't an actual argument for not using a term in a non-offensive way. If it were, we'd be banning thousands of words. But generally speaking, overzealous language cops either don't bother to make any other coherent argument as to why a given term in question is offensive, or make one that is so gloopy with academic-speak that the average person likely won't grok it. So it goes in Haskins' article. Only twice does she offer true causal arguments as to what concrete harm is done by using certain types of language to talk about space exploration, and in both cases it's simply difficult to understand or buy what she's selling.

First (emphasis added):

Based off of what we know right now, the Moon and Mars are devoid of life, so this colonizing language is not actually putting other beings at risk. But, there is the risk that the same racist mythology used to justify violence and inequality on earth—such as the use of frontier, "cowboy" mythology to condone and promote the murder and displacement of indigenous people in the American West—will be used to justify missions to space. In a future where humans potentially do live on non-earth planets, that same racist mythology would carry through to who is allowed to exist on, and benefit from, extraterrestrial spaces.

Haskins seems to be saying that there is a risk that colonial ideology—which in the past went something like We have a right to rape and plunder our way west, whatever the human cost, since these Indians are inferior to us and we need their resources—could be used to justify missions to space. But by her own acknowledgement, there is no one in space to harm, rape, or plunder resources from. Plus, where is the evidence that the people running our present-day space exploration endeavours have a murderously racist ideology? Haskins seems to be worried about the potential for a crime with perpetrators, motives, and victims that are all hypothetical at this point, and she doesn't even explain why using a term like colony would make such a crime more likely than using a replacement. (Surely if someone is hell-bent on using outer space to oppress others, it won't bother to them what we call their evil lair on the moon.)

Here is Haskins' only other specific, causal claim about the harm of using "colonizing" language to describe space travel and, well, colonization:

Even when people aren't explicitly referring to settlements in space as "colonies," they still use the rhetoric of colonizing the New World and the American frontier, which erases the stories of and violence against the people of color who lived and ranched in the region.

There are, of course, academic uses of erases that differ from everyday ones. But The Outline is a mainstream publication, and surely author and editors alike assume that this sentence is going to mean something comprehensible to the average reader. But what could that meaning be? "Conquering" outer space is a perfectly innocent, colorful way to discuss the situation: Humans are, in fact, trying to set up a presence in a place they don't normally belong, and which they don't currently inhabit. The same goes for "taming" outer space, another commonly used word in outdated stories about New World colonialism that are today seen as offensive: Humans are, in fact, hoping to "tame" an utterly inhospitable environment to the extent they can live there for long stretches of time.

Because I am an adult human with (arguably) intact cognitive language-processing hardware in my skull, I find I can talk all day, rather effortlessly, about "conquering" or "taming" space without such talk threatening to undermine my understanding of colonialism's horrors. Nothing is erased in any way: After I'm done talking about "taming the wilds of space so humans can finally conquer it," I can check out a library book about Christopher Columbus's horrors and tweet for a while about what a bastard that guy was. My views on Columbus are shaped by my ideology and by my read of history as filtered through that ideology—not the linguistic choices I use to describe space exploration, which is an entirely different thing.

Photo Credit: Mariana Ionita/Dreamstime.com

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I'm a racist Black/White/Brown/Yellow American who claims this Mars rock for humans!

    MAGA!

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    A backwards uneducated bigot like you needs to be shown how to behave by his betters before being allowed on Mars.

    Carry on, Klingons.

  • gaoxiaen||

    My elderly (now deceased) Italian friend always said, "Better to deal with two Jews than one Italian." Disclosure: I'm half Italian.

  • gaoxiaen||

    He was a real character. Robbed a museum in Africa right after WWII finished, and was involved in jewel smuggling, and robbery of the smugglers, among other capers. A true fount of wisdom.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The United States of America was formed from 13 colonies.

    Lighten up!

  • Overt||

    To these types of people, that is a further indictment of the word colony.

  • SQRLSY One||

    My colon has been colonized by colonic bacteria, commanded by Colonel Colonic Coliformformia!

    Help!!! I am the victim of colonialism!!!!

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    And marketing campaigns from Activia?

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Dats funny.

  • Zeb||

    And those colonies did displace and kill lots of people that were already there. But that's history. That's how almost all of history is (most of it far worse, really). It's great that we've developed a more universal moral sense in some parts of the world, but it's useless to judge the past by today's standards. Humans are animals looking to survive and thrive and compete. It just looks like something else when most people are comfortable and well fed.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Pommies that I know still refer to the USA as "The Colonies", and "Yanks". Never mind that we pulled their bacon out of the fire. Twice. Plus I couldn't leave the ship for 2 weeks because we were on full alert for the Falklands.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    I'm an undocumented resident of Mars.

  • Shatterface||

    If you want to enter the US you'll have hope your tripod's legs are long enough to step over Trump's wall.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Johnny, I have news for you. If you are ever sent to Mars, you will have a SHITLOAD of documents for it.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Superman was an illegal immigrant. So there, I'm not impressed.

  • Conchfritters||

    Is OK if Trump used the "N" word. He's friends with Kanye and it's possible he gave Trump permission to use it.

  • Mongo||

    N-word = nowledge

  • Cynical Asshole||

    It's entirely possible that Kanye told Trump that he was Emperor of All Black People, and that as Emperor he could grant specific people permission to use "the n-word."

  • gaoxiaen||

    Marcellus agrees.

  • Cranedoc||

    Yep, those wildly virtue signalling ivory tower academics are putting the "tard" in "libtard" once again.

  • Elilis Wyatt||

    "Virtue signalling" puts the "tard" in "conservatard." (among other ways)
    Left - Right = Zero

  • Nardz||

    Hihn swings, and misses

  • perlchpr||

    Someone renamed the robot?

    Fuck.

    Why did someone ever create this robot for shitposting and goat sodomy?

  • Elilis Wyatt||

    Two conservatards prove me correct.
    They're also infantile. (Most are)

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Hihn, why don't you go indulge your other ho by today; being spitroasted. by hobos.

  • Elilis Wyatt||

    Now three conservatard hoboes (sp). Still all infantile.
    Who's Hihn.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Don't bother. It's obvious. If you are going to pretend to be someone else you can't write exactly the same way.

  • gaoxiaen||

  • gaoxiaen||

    Refer to Afrikaans.

  • David Nolan||

    Now five infantile conservatards

  • Zeb||

    I thought Hihn was a lot wordier and rambling than that.

    It's possible that there is more than one annoying old crank in the world.

  • Fancylad||

    Listen Mikey, if you don't want people to realize your sockpuppeting, don't use all the copypasta from your Hihn posts.

  • Elilis Wyatt||

    WTF???

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Hihn, do you think you are not obvious?

  • Elilis Wyatt||

    WTF????

    Make up your minds, conspiracy nuts. I thought I was supposed to be Mary Stack.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    So you're Mary Stack pretending to be Hihn, pretending to be some new douchebag.

    Makes sense.

  • Zeb||

    Shut up, Tulpa!

  • General_Tso||

    What is a map of the solar system, but lines drawn on a piece of paper?

    We can go anywhere we want without anyone's permission.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Yeah, and I bet those lines drawn by imperialist powers will some day lead to endless solar system wars and ethnic struggles.

  • Cynical Asshole||

  • Brett Bellmore||

    If I have my way, by then I'll be nestled comfortably in an outbound comet with an engine firing continually to give it a hyperbolic 'orbit'.

    The Kuiper belt is where it's at! That's the real frontier, planets are for people who want to play at space colonization.

  • Shatterface||

    When I was a kid we still had NINE planets.

    Thanks, Obama.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    There still nine, if you count the counter earth world of Gor.

  • gaoxiaen||

    I'm emigrating to Ganymede.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If America isn't going out there to space plunder space resources and space enslave the space indigenous there, then why are we space bothering at all? Also, the Sovereign was the ugliest of the Enterprise classes.

  • Ben of Houston||

    I still preferred it to the NX-01. The Sovereign is at least elegant in design

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Well the NX-01 was pretty good by primitive mid 22nd century standards.

  • QuidNYC||

    One of the primary benefits of space colonization will be getting away from people like this... leave them to rot in their Marxist dystopia on Earth.

  • John||

    Or follow the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy model and send them off into space. I like that idea. Let's set up SJW utopia on Mars and let them go there.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The Hitchhiker's Trilogy posits that the Earth was settled by the people an older culture ditched because they did not want to deal with them anymore (like hairdressers). We are their descendants.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    So we do the same to the progtards. And Tony is probably a hairdresser anyway, so that works.

  • Overt||

    I was hoping that these intellectuals would be so busy gazing at their own navels that they would not take notice of plan "Escape this Rock" until the cat was firmly out of the bag. Sadly, their hackles are up and they are starting to form an opinion about space exploration. We can only escape these morons if they fail to tie our hands with all sorts of stupid rules and regulations.

    If (and its a big if) Elon Musk or Bezos are able to get a private exploration effort underway, just imagine the caterwauling they will exhibit. Why, entire colonies owned and operated by Blue Origin? Who will ensure that the workers have enough break hours? Who will protect their rights to healthcare and food security? Perhaps government advisors, chosen from the top Social Justice schools ought to be mandated on every off planet flight?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    leave them to rot in their Marxist dystopia on Earth.

    Agreed.

  • Shatterface||

    Mars is a socialist Planet. Those canals were built by unionised labour. Alexander Bogdanov wrote a book about it.

  • Conchfritters||

    "The language of colonialism is infecting outer space, thanks to dominance by rich white businessmen and politicians."

    What he meant to say is that he pines for the days just a couple of years ago when NASA's main mission was Muslim outreach to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.

  • Shatterface||

    I'm waiting to see how well Muslims hold up fasting from dawn to dusk during Ramadan on the Moon.

  • Zeb||

    And figure out which way to face for prayer. THough I guess for a particular point on the moon, it's not going to change much.

  • LarryA||

    It's the rich white businessmen and politicians that lets the cat out of the bag.

    For-profit colonization = bad. They want to substitute the "egalitarian not-for-profit feminist collaborative gender-inclusive union-made people-of-color gun-free socialization" of space.

  • No Longer Amused||

    One of the most pointless articles I've read in years.

  • Idle Hands||

    The pearl jam one was pretty dumb.

  • Idle Hands||

    At least it was short and stupid though.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Seriously, a two pager? Someone is working overtime for next year's Award ceremony.

    Clearly, both academics and reason writers need an apocalyptic event, as they all have too much time on their hands.

  • ||

    I'll be sure to keep using 'space colonization'.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    I often bring up my master and slave driver setup on my homebuilt PC in mixed company.

    Also, Sid Meyer's Colonization was underrated.

  • Shatterface||

    I'm with Kurt Vonnegut: we should call it the Big Space Fuck.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    So it goes.

  • General_Tso||

    For bonus points, I'd like to work 'imperialistic' into space colonization if possible.

  • John||

    There is a whole fantasy underground of people who dream of setting up a Catholic Imperium in space. Imagine Star Wars Republic meets the Holy Roman Empire.

  • General_Tso||

    Warhammer 40k kind of goes in that direction.

  • John||

    That is a space game? I didn't know that. Science Fiction is a really cheap way to write historical fiction. To write good historical fiction, you have to really know your history. It is a trade-off between a regular novel and historical fiction. In the novel, you have to come up with a story but since you are inventing it, the details can be whatever you like. Historical fiction gives you the story but you have to know history to get the details right. Science Fiction and fantasy eliminate the need for the details being right but still allow you to get your stories from history. The Game of Thrones guy has made millions turning half-assed historical fiction into fantasy. You can do the same with SciFi.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Exactly John. You always see SciFi with Socialism as the most effective way to create societies and space machines to explore space.

    No free market in sight.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Not always.

    Vernor Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky" is a good counterpoint. One of the protagonist groups are rather libertarian merchants.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Cool. I shouldn't have said "always" as I dont know a bunch of SciFi.

    My depth is Star Wars.

  • Echospinner||

    No way.

    You never read Heinlein, Clarke, Dick, Bradbury, Asimov, Herbert, Adams, Niven, L'Engle,... none of those?

    You must have. Really?

    In a way it would be cool if I never had. Then I could read all of them for the first time.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Asimov and Clarke would fall into the socialist camp. I could tolerate their short stories but their long form was just very boring.

  • Echospinner||

    You read 2001, Childhood's End, Dune, I Robot, et al. These are some of the classics.

    So having read them there were political themes. Star Trek was what? Globalist for sure. Liberal for those days. First mixed race kiss on TV in America. Well Uhura. There is a you tube where she tells all about that scene if anyone cares.

    Nice thing with sci fi. There are few boundaries.

    Hope it stays that way.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I hear there are lots of boundaries now, it's just that you have to stay on the OTHER side of them today, to avoid being exiled from fandom.

  • perlchpr||

    You might like the work of Michael Z. Williamson if you like SF at all. His main universe has a handful of human colonized planets, mostly dominated by a UN overlorded Earth, which has gone as ridiculously neo-feudalist left-wing as you might imagine, and also has one planet Grainne, which is basically Libertopia. Eventually, Grainne starts making Earth look bad by being productive since they aren't buried in regulations, and there is major conflict.

  • Shatterface||

    You never heard of Robert A Heinlein? Larry Niven? Jerry Pournelle?

    American science fiction was built on the 'Edisonade' - stories about free market entrepreneurs conquering space with their fabulous inventions and can-do attitudes.

    Even in Europe, socialist writers like HG Wells had their own Edisons, inventing Time Machines and Cavorite-powered space capsules without government help (although the stories were darker, and ironic.)

  • Overt||

    They also let you do things like pitting Ninjas against Western Nights without having to deal with details like geography and time machines. Sci Fi is great at giving you the ability to mix different concepts that wouldn't be compatible otherwise.

    One of my favorite aspects of Dune was that Herbert was able to mix feudalism in a future interstellar empire. He rightly figured out that the firearm made the feudal system untenable. You couldn't bribe a well trained, and equipped lord knight with land to keep territory in check when a common peasant could pick that investment off at 100 yards. And so Herbert created the Shield technology that made all firearms useless. And with that, he created his own Arthurian legend that stands on its own with a unique blend of medieval mood mixed with epic scope.

  • John||

    That is a great point about Dune. And it makes the point that is lost on gun controllers who fantasize about a "world without guns" that the personal firearm was the greatest force for freedom in human history. Without firearms, the population has no chance against trained and well-armed men. If you read the history of the middle ages, which I do a lot, one of the things that stands out after a while is how public opinion just didn't matter. Kings and leaders worried about the opinions of the great lords and families. The idea that the population's opinion could matter at all about anything just never occurred to anyone. Lands and entire populations were traded like chattel amongst the great families of Europe. The idea that the population of a given region or city could get a vote on which lord ruled it was totally foreign. Really Joan of Arc is about the first example of a population saying no to foreign rule. The reason was that before firearms the population was utterly defenseless against trained an armed men. It took a lifetime of training n the martial arts to be a night and serious money to buy the arms. Once trained and armed, the average person without that was utterly defenseless. The personal firearm changed that. A frail old woman with a musket could kill the greatest knight.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Excellent point and one that teachers loathe to admit, so they dont.

    Firearms are the great equalizer.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I thought Edward Woodward was the great Equalizer.

  • Rhokaza||

    I don't think that point is lost on gun controllers. I think that is their entire agenda. Imagine the entire world as feudal Japan after Tokugawa took over the country using guns, then outlawed guns for the common folk. You again have all of the power consolidated in a small group at the top. Those people rich enough to afford weapons and armor and spend the time necessary to learn to use them. That is the vision they are pushing for.

    The firearm is the second most important invention in the history of the world for "democratizing force", after the printing press.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I've actually seen gun controllers cite Tokugawa as proof gun control could be made to work.

  • Shatterface||

    Herbert had the brilliant idea of outlawing thinking machines in his universe so Dune hasn't dated the way most Sixties sf did which featured skyscraper-sized supercomputers spewing out ticker-tape and humanoid robots doing calculations on slide-rules..

  • Zeb||

    Making interstellar travel available, but tightly controlled by the Guild and not too cheap or easy was an important part of it all too.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Warhammer 40k is the space opera version of Warhammer, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. It is a Star Wars to Middle-earth relationship.

  • General_Tso||

    A game that has also produced many, many novelizations.

    Space opera, really.

  • Overt||

    Maybe then we should use the term "Space Settlement"? Oh no wait, "settlers" brought on the clash with and eventual obliteration of native americans. So that is problematic.

    Oooh, how about this? The Soviets did a lot of work pioneering (ugh, problematic) the settlement of vast, un-populated wilderness under conditions so extreme as to be instructive stepping stones to any sort of settlement we create off this planet. Indeed, these settlements were the embodiment of social justice, where workers found unity and even redemption working together to ensure the survival of their fellow brothers. No capitalistic imperialism raping the land of its natural resources.

    Yes, yes I think that will work quite well. Henceforth, we shall endeavor to establish Space Gulags all across the galaxy.

  • John||

    And you can learn so much in space. Maybe we could call them "education camps" or since everyone will be educated when they get there but learn even more "re-education camps".

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Space Plantation.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Conquest of Space.

  • Zeb||

    I like that idea. Then The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress will happen.

  • O Square||

    umm no LINKS today ? or is ENB just embarrassingly late ?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    She was waiting for a Manafort Guilty verdict this morning since the jury is set to start deliberating at 0930.

    Lefties everywhere wont be able to concentrate today because they hope Manafort is guilty, so it means that Trump is guilty (of something).

    When the not-guilty verdicts come in, those will be dismissed as more Russian hacking of juror's minds.

  • sarcasmic||

    Stereotypes wouldn't exist if they didn't contain a grain of truth. Taking offense to that grain doesn't make it untrue.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Don't be niggardly, stereotypes develop from an abundance of truth.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    True. Stereotype Accuracy; Most stereotypes are stereotypes because they're true.

    And, strangely enough, when the average person gets enough individualized information about a person, they go by that information, not the stereotype; Stereotypes are only used in the absence of information.

  • Longtobefree||

    Your stereotype is my generalization based on experience.

  • ||

    See then they get into the switcheroo game, if you generalize they argue specifics, when you get into specifics they go general, this banter continues until the "raaaaycyst" card is played, which is only a guilting ploy into ending the game on account of rain.

  • Longtobefree||

    Only those sissy baseball players stop because of water. American football and rugby carry on muddily.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Actually, rugby -- and footy -- players get regular water breaks on the field.

  • Zeb||

    It's for the field, not the players.

  • FusterCluck||

    FFS

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    But The Outline is a mainstream publication,


    Perhaps, or maybe --and I may be going out on a limb here but, please, bear with me-- you're giving it way too much importance than it duly deserves. Especially when the publication could not find anything better to publish than a disturbing rant against the use of the word "colonization" to refer to space faring shit, written by a person with a mind riddled with more paranoid perversions than Alex Jones' own mind --with the proper proportion taken into consideration, of course.

  • John||

    It is my understanding that the publishing industry and critical community for SciFI and Fantasy have been completely overrun with SJWs. The result has been that things like this publication and the Hugo awards and such just don't matter anymore. The people who read SciFi and fantasy continue to read what they like and not read the SJW nonsense that gets the critical praise and awards and the critics and awards have become irrelevant outside of the people involved with them.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    the critics and awards have become irrelevant outside of the people involved with them.

    This seems to apply to pretty much all areas of popular culture. The Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, etc. are all just pointless self congratulatory back patting and fart sniffing sessions.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    It's true: At one time the Hugo awards were a pretty good guide to what was worth reading. But that ship sailed a decade or two back.

  • Kurt Edwards||

    Wow! that's a long way to go to get to "no"....

  • Elilis Wyatt||

    Every English dictionary says you're nuts on "gyp." The rest is just as wacky.
    Where does Gillespie find these people?

  • Dinerboy||

    News flash. Absent the presence of the human race, even the Earth itself is meaningless. So, absent *any* life, there's nothing to "exploit," in the social justice variant use of the word, in space. Mars and the asteroid belt don't care what we do to them.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Furthermore, if humans don't 'do anything to them rocks' our Sun will start to melt us and our achievements in less than 1 billion years.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    See! Global warming!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    So, absent *any* life, there's nothing to "exploit," in the social justice variant use of the word, in space.

    I'm really looking forward to the hysterics from the SJWs when/ if microbial life is ever found on Mars.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    WTF?

    I guess to some progressive oppressed-peoples intersectionalists nobody, at least white male first worlders, can go to a new place without unfairly fucking over the people that aren't even there.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Colonization and the conflicts resulting from the movement of peoples all over the globe are older than history. Western intellectuals seem to be the only ones who have developed a crippling guilt complex over their culture's colonial past. Somehow deciding that European empires are uniquely terrible in the human story.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Western intellectuals seem to be the only ones who have developed a crippling guilt complex over their culture's colonial past.

    True, you don't see too many Muslims lamenting their conquest of North Africa. There may be some minor guilt felt by the Japanese over their conquest of Indo-China prior to and during WW2. Then again, they truly did some nasty shit, and far more recently than European colonization efforts, so a little guilt would be expected. But they're not nearly as bad about that as western intellectuals are.

  • DenverJ||

    The Japanese in general refuse to admit that they committed any atrocities, and insist that any reference to Japanese crimes is Chinese propaganda.

  • ||

    But fuck whites,right? Fuck this european colonization advanced the region. The people saved by the european advances brought with colonization far outweight any killlings. Also people largely ignore how for example the "incas" where the opressive indians of the region and many other indian tribes fought with the europeans to fuck them up. But fuck white people right? Bullshit.

  • Longtobefree||

    A whisper from stage left;
    "The Koreans, general; don't forget the Koreans."

  • Untermensch den 2||

    I wonder if Haskins has thought about the problem that replacing the word "colonization" would only serve the powers she wants. Let's suppose, for argument, that we decide we are going to call what we are doing "dwelling" instead of "colonizing" and everything is going swimmingly until we discover a sentient species of methane breather on Titan. If we were to forthrightly admit that we were colonizing, it would be easy to point out the parallels to past behavior, but it we insist that we are doing something differently in "dwelling," those criticisms are blunted.

    Changing the word doesn't change the substance of something. But it does make it harder to see historical parallels. Haskins is wanting us to engage in Doublespeak that would actually work against her professed goal and make it easier, not harder, for her opponents to treat the hypothetical Titanians badly.

    She is like the whoever thought to call used cars "pre-owned" in order to escape the connotations of pushy salesmen in plaid jackets selling lemons. But that doesn't make a "pre-owned" car anything but a used car. It only hides the problems from the gullible.

  • BigChiefWahoo||

    "Used car" was coined as a euphemism for "second hand car". There is no end to euphemism.

    IS "colonialism" the same as "imperialism"? I think the author should research the etymology of "colony".

  • mondo_cane||

    "IS "colonialism" the same as "imperialism"? I think the author should research the etymology of "colony"."

    For scientists to develop a colony of bacteria for study is obviously an imperialistic act against microbes.

    This concludes today's lecture on the wrongfulness of using language to communicate.

  • Zeb||

    Imperialism often if not usually involves some colonialism. I don't think colonization is necessarily imperialistic, though. There were lots of cultures, for example, that colonized around the Mediterranean that weren't really building empires, but simply moving to where there was more room to grow.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    The language police have come for the space geeks.

    As one of those space geeks, let me just say: Fuck off, slavers.

  • John||

    A few years ago they were bitching about the practice of calling secondary hard drives "slave drives" because even saying the word "slave" was offensive. Fuck off is too mild for these idiots.

  • OliviaaaRandal||

    Very interesting information. Live and learn. Students should understand the importance of good education. A great way for this is motivating books, lectures. Where the children will explain in detail the importance of studying

  • Wrath0fKahn||

    I'm sorry, that first paragraph reeks of having your cake and eating it in the facile and pathetic way. If you think the common usage of 'gyp' harms gypsies then I don't really think it makes much sense to draw the line in the sand between that and 'colonization'.

    Be brave, don't worry about being a person the NYT editorial board might be willing to hobnob with, be somebody willing to be fully rational, free, and human, regardless of whether the upper classes approve.

  • Mickey Rat||

    One does get the impression that Singal does not object to the development of Newspeak in principle, he just wishes it is done less rashly.

  • JFree||

    Talk about an easy problem to solve.

    Just name one of the spaceships the SS Frantz Fanon. Then it can't possibly be exploitative colonialism

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    This loony hysteria can't last. Makes me wonder when progressives are going to all summarily drink the Kool Aid.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    " given that ownership there is may well be banned by a treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory."

    Being a "signatory" to a treaty means diddly squat under US law. Only ratification by the Senate makes a treaty law.

    Shamefully, we did ratify. We should look into pulling out.

  • JFree||

    As if ratification by the Senate making it law actually means a damn thing either

  • Cynical Asshole||

    This. If Elon Musk builds his Big Fucking Rocket and he and some like minded individuals actually do go to Mars, whose going to stop him? Put another way, does the fact that the government signed and ratified a treaty actually bind individuals?

  • Ron||

    exactly once in space how can the U.S. or any other nation claim control over your activities without using direct force but oif people like Musk out pace the nations race into space what are they going to do about it. i see a day when the super rich live off world with free enterprise and exchange between ships and planets with lots of smuggling back and forth to earth. there will be space pirates and everything. I think someone made a movie about that once or twice something called star wars I think

  • ducksalad||

    I guess you guys didn't read about the proposed US Space Force. The first and foremost duty of that force would be to ensure that no one out there does anything without prior official approval. Space is going to be mostly about getting your permits and inspections lined up.

    Elon Musk probably spends more time dealing with federal regulators than many full time lobbyists, and that's not likely to change.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I'm inclined to agree, though I'd like it better if we took the treaty, stamped a big FU on it, and drop kicked it into the US general assembly. Just to have it formally out of the way, so as to foreclose anyone suing in a US court to stop Musk.

    I just wanted to point out that being a "signatory" doesn't mean squat. We're "signatory" to a lot of treaties we aren't party to, because the Senate never ratified.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Read plainly, Haskins seems to be saying that there is a risk that colonial ideology—which in the past went something like We have a right to rape and plunder our way west, whatever the human cost, since these Indians are inferior to us and we need their resources—could be used to justify missions to space. But by her own acknowledgement, there is no one in space to harm, rape, or plunder resources from.

    What, you haven't seen that documentary, Starship troopers?

    Would you like to know more?

  • Shatterface||

    :-)

  • Cynical Asshole||

    In short, what's going on here is that Haskins and others who make these sorts of arguments are fundamentally misunderstanding human language and cognition

    That and they're projecting. They're too stupid to grok the concept that the same word can be used in different ways, some of which may be genuinely offensive towards certain people and others that aren't, and they assume that everyone else is as dumb as them. After all, they're super smart, their mommies and their advanced degrees in victimhood studies say so, and if they can't get that concept then surely all those mouth breathers out there can't be expected to either.

  • Number 2||

    I am growing tired of this.

    First, what is The Outline, who in God's name is Caroline Haskins, and why should I give any weight to what either has to say? Does one person's spouting off make whatever he or she says "fact?" Let us also remember that with the cacophony of voices commenting on issues out there today, one needs to be outrageous in order to get attention.

    Second, why is it "extreme" to condemn "Space colonization" when the author of the piece simultaneously condemns the use of the word, "gyp," which until today I had no idea had anything to do with People Formerly Known as Gypsies. I doubt that anyone in my life who used that word knew that it meant anything other than "shortchanged" or "cheated." And have we forgotten how the meaning of words evolve over time? "Villain" originally referrred to someone who lived in a village. Now we use to term to refer to bad guys. Are we offending people who live in small towns?

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    "Are we offending people who live in small towns?"

    All the time, it seems to me

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Thank goodness the Ferengi are centuries ahead of humans.

  • Ron||

    Her piece does raise some interesting points and flirt with some quite intriguing questions. For example, she notes that there is a looming problem with the concept of private property in space, given that ownership there is may well be banned by a treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory.

    How is private property in space a looming problem or once is space we are all open borders and any one can enter your personal space bungalow and use up your resources. whats the difference between private property on earth which is in space vs private property in space. she's clearly a socialist who is trying to "protect " space from capitalism

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    And the first time someone enters another's space bungalow and uses up that person's resources there's gonna be a fight, and the stronger (or better armed, or just downright meaner) will win. And someone will have to set up a way to resolve that dispute, and then another, and then we'll need some group of people who are dedicated by profession to maintaining social order, and we will have to have those paid to judge the right and wrong of each situation, and there we will be: right back where we started from. Ain't progress grand?

  • mondo_cane||

    Not if you're a Klingon.

  • NoVaNick||

    In biology, bacteria and cells growing on plates have long been referred to as colonies. But we all know that science has always been a racist/sexist/ableist endeavor, except for those who fucking love science!

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    OK, "Space Colonization is out".

    I will henceforth use "Space Crusades".

    I mean, "Space Invaders" would just confuse everyone.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    "Space Liberation"

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    "Space Annexation"

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    "Occupy Space"

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    "Space Plantation"

  • NoVaNick||

    Occupy Space would only work if space were already owned by a KKKorporation

  • Number 2||

    "Space lebensraum"?

  • vek||

    Didn't have time to read comments yet, but I will say this: As somebody who is part buffalo fucker (or "Native American" in PC language) I have zero problem that America was colonized. The fact is that most of the Indians that died died of disease. We actually actively killed very few. The Indians themselves were killing just as many of themselves in endless wars before we came along.

    White people showed up, and made this place VASTLY better... Not only for whites, but for Indians. The same is true everywhere else in the world. Countries that were colonized by Europe are in fact wealthier today on average than their nearest neighbors that weren't. See Stefan Molyneux's recent speeches in Australia if you want to hear more about how savage the Aboriginals were down there. They are better off because they got colonized, PERIOD.

    Sure murder, and war, and all that stuff is mean... But whatevs. The Mongols killed more people than the British ever did, and you don't see Mongolians being ashamed of it. They brought a lot fewer positive things along with them too!

    I'm done apologizing for us doing the EXACT same thing any other ethnic group would have done if they could have. Especially since we brought science, technology, and prosperity along with us everywhere we went. I'm doubly done since I'm a mixed breed that only exists because this process happened.

  • vek||

    And as for space, I'm going to go out of my way to use the most vicious, evil, colonialist words I can now!

    I also hope we run into an Avatar like world, and oppress the shit out of the inferior hippie like local aliens. That'd be friggin' sweet!

    Whiny people like the person who wrote that nonsense article need to be ridiculed, called fucking retarded pussies, and laughed out of intelligent society. It is the only way to deal with that level of stupid.

  • Seamus||

    The best commentary on imperialism is to be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7tvauOJMHo

  • vek||

    Yup. And you could easily replace Roman with British/French/Spanish/Dutch etc. It would be every bit as true.

  • John||

    You are exactly right Vek. But people don't want to hear the complex truth about history. They want a story that makes them feel good.

  • Tony||

    Well, we wouldn't want to do it today.

  • vek||

    Sure... But so what. It happened. It wasn't any worse than anything else that happened historically, like the Mongols, the Muslim invasion of India (which might have killed as many as 80-100 million people), etc etc etc. So we should stop uniquely freaking out about it all, and making it out like it was worse than anything else evar!

  • Eddy||

    Other offensive words to avoid are (bleep), (bleep), (bleep), and "fuck."

  • DJF||

    """"""gyp," not realizing it is a negative, stereotype-fueling reference to a group that faces horrific discrimination and violence. """"

    I was one of the people who wanted to discriminate and violate that group when they ganged up and tried to steal my wallet in Rome. Saying Gyp is the least I wanted to do.

  • Shatterface||

    "While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, to private property, and the rule of law,"

    That's what photon torpedos are for.

  • DenverJ||

    If most people don't know the origin of "gyp" then how can it be offensive?

  • ||

    Because if it isn't knocking white people and it is derived from the name for another culture, then tadah, it is "offensive"/controversial.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Years back I had a client, a young "gypsy" woman jailed for prostitution. The DA duly informed the court that the record should be amended to refer to her as "Romany". My client tugged on my sleeve and told me that she was not "Romany" but a "gypsy" and wanted to be referred to only as such. I so informed the court, the DA started to say something along the lines that the individual's own preferences didn't matter, but the judge waved her off and said that he would use the term "gypsy" for the duration of the trial. The DA was chuffed but my client was happy.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Umm, I wonder if it occurred to this Haskins person that there is a fundamental difference between when the Europeans of a few centuries ago traveled to Africa or the Americas and the humans who will be traveling to Mars: namely, Mars has no existing populations!

    That is not to say that space exploration won't at some point run into some kind of intelligent or even semi-intelligent life forms. I'd frankly be surprised if there isn't at least some interesting sea life in the oceans underneath the frozen surfaces of Enceladus or Europa, for example.

    But let's be honest: anywhere humans are likely go in the not-too-distant future, they are very unlikely to encounter any kind of tribal peoples or even animals who stand to lose anything from these encounters.

    As for private property, I would assume that one of the main draws of a moon base or a mars settlement would be just that: a private chunk of real estate, however cold and desolate, where you can definitely be left alone. If they want to export the nanny statists right along with the space explorers, they may find few intelligent and self-reliant people willing to go. Sending a bunch of whiny, entitled, safe-space-seeking brats on a space mission is probably not a good idea, unless the motive is to get them out of Earth's hair for good.

  • ||

    Is it racist if we call it invasion, mass migration, nomadism, the answer to all is fuck no. Next waste of bandwidth article.

  • ||

    Fuck you columbus advanced humanity. And human progress. I hate how people still to this day side with backwards savages.

  • mattrue||

    OMG, I have this free Google Home Mini sitting on my desk not doing very much and so yesterday I ask it for the news and this SJW crap about racist space colonization comes on. People are frightened of Google knowing everything them, but clearly this shows they have no flucking clue what my politics are, or maybe the only people who buy Google Home Minis are SJWs. Who knows...

  • Longtobefree||

    Thus ends the lesson for today.
    To summarize, nothing is free. You will be paying for that home mini until the day you use it as a clay pigeon.

  • vek||

    It's not just about showing you what they think YOU want to see... It's about showing you what THEY want you to see.

    I had a GF who was converted from a middle of the road centrist, who leaned prog tard because women don't use logic, to full on TDS by the media and filtering of things online. Since you're on a libertarian website you probably have a coherent ideology, and logic behind it. For people without any particular political compass, they can be swayed by only being shown a certain viewpoint.

  • Longtobefree||

    Just for the record:
    Caroline Haskins does not have the right to tell me what words to use, or when to use them.
    Colonize it will be. Deal with it.

  • zombietimeshare||

    Call it Space Gentrification to be followed shortly thereafter by Space Ghettoization.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    "Some colonies are bad, the argument goes, so the use of colony is inherently bad."

    Some men are bad, so the use of "men" is inherently bad. Some women are bad, so the use of "women" is inherently bad. Some homosexuals are bad, so the use of "homosexuals" is inherently bad. There is no end to it.

    The only apparent answer is that everyone just shut up.

  • DenverJ||

    And get the duck off my lawn.

  • vek||

    Actually the apparent answer is to shame these idiot SJWs until THEY dare not open their mouths. Then everybody else can carry on with their lives in peace!

  • Variant||

    WTF? Did I stumble onto Salon accidentally?

  • Bobos||

    "...no one would have batted an eye if a white person used that same term just a couple of generations ago." What is he basing that statement on? Way to continue the myth that just every white person in America before 1970 was an uncouth racist. When Agatha Christie's book "Ten Little N***ers" was released in the US in 1940, they had to change the name because of how offensive that word was considered here.

    So, yeah, that was actually a word many people would have "batted an eye" over.

  • vek||

    It's a matter of degree bro. I lived in CALIFORNIA, and hearing nigger jokes in the 90s wasn't uncommon. Keep in mind these weren't people that actually hated black people, just using it as a naughty offensive word, but not the worst word ever.

    50 years ago nigger was more like saying shit in polite company, versus talking in great detail about raping a baby with a cactus or whatever the most offensive thing you can think of is. It wasn't a polite word, but it wasn't the worst thing in the world either.

    People who would bat their eye over somebody saying shit might have been upset several decades ago, but most people it would have been a big nothing burger.

  • mondo_cane||

    You're making a mountain out of a molehill with your wordplay and semantics. Don't you have something better and more important to write about? This is nothing but word salad off the top of your head.

    And to think I wasted my time reading it when I could have been watching cat videos on YouTube.

  • Steve-Gregg||

    So, does this mean that all those art colonies lefties established everywhere and love so much are really racist cisgendered bases of violence and exploitation against people of color? They are colonies, after all.

  • wagnert in atlanta||

    "Is It Racist to Refer to Space 'Colonization'?"

    Are you white? Then yes.

  • Mark22||

    That doesn't mean I think it was good that the Americas were largely "conquered" in genocidal fashion.

    Really? When was that? Because it sure as hell didn't happen in US history.

    And far too many people still use the term gyp, not realizing it is a negative, stereotype-fueling reference to a group that faces horrific discrimination and violence

    Discrimination, negative views, and stereotyping are fine with the NAP; violence of course is not.

  • Dan S.||

    "The 3-year-old is imprisoned in his room until he chills out a bit.""The 3-year-old is imprisoned in his room until he chills out a bit."

    Should a child be referred to as "the 3-year-old", rather than by his/her name? Should he/she be locked/imprisoned in his/her room because of a general perception that he/she did not "chill out", rather than for some specific act?

  • Echospinner||

    Caroline Haskins an intern for a minor publication.

    Jean skirts are incredible. Her latest.

  • BruceMajors||

    I'm surprised reason didn't find a way to agree with this charge.

  • ||

    The original meaning of the word nice -- in the sense of "he/she is such a nice person" is a synonym of retarded. Almost every clinical term or polite euphemism used for something in the past becomes an insult sooner or later. Even words like fun and joke have some pretty grim origins.

    If we ban every word that can be used to denigrate someone, even euphemistically, we'll be reduced to grunting at each other. And even then, grunting the wrong way might be objectionable.

  • ||

    I suspect Haskins may be having a projection problem. She considers herself reasonable and rational, and -- as is the case with almost all of us -- is disinclined to inspect her own prejudices too closely. So because she perceives certain words a certain way, and feels certain things when she hears those words, everyone must as well.

    So OF COURSE everyone must be thinking of genocide and violent conquest and the like when they hear or use the word 'colony'. Therefore colony is bad and no one should use it.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online