"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Politicizing Sci-Fi

I'm a fan of good science fiction. By "good" I mean that which uses the "science" to aid the "fiction" to tell great stories which lend insight into our present conditions, either by taking on a grand futuristic (mythical/allegorical) scope, or by extrapolating contemporary phenomena to fictionally-compelling conclusions.

I have to admit that I'm a little surprised by the political tumilt that's come around the latest Star Wars film. Many on the radical right believe it to be anti-Bush propaganda, and have begun writing tracts which attempt to rehabilitate the Empire as the real good guys in the film. I haven't seen it so I can't really comment in detail, but it strikes me as more than a little weird.

Now I learn that Orson Scott Card has gotten in on the act. Card wrote one of my favorite books as an adolescent, Ender's Game, which is about how in a future clash of planetary civilizations, a child genius is taken into military training and in his final "exercise" actually remotely-commands a fleet which destroys the entire alien species. It's a gripping mix of Harry Potter-style prep-school drama and futuristic political/military storytelling. Anyway, it surprised me to learn that Card is a right-winger himself, and has come out swinging against George Lucas's latest.

This is all very intersting. I don't think the current level of political polarization in the US is healthy or sustainable, and my particular view is that it is culture rather than politics which has the best chance of breaking down the harsh divisions. Continuing on the Star Wars tip, I noted with interest that a great fan-film about "The Line People" was made by a homeschooled Christian kid. Now, the young man in question is (I think) too young to vote, but as a demographic he (or more precisely his parents) represent a population people I work with generally consider to be on the "other side."

Yet everyone loves Star Wars, right? Culture brings us together. I see his blog because he made this film about a film that I'm going to see (and got it on Slashdot), and while I don't share his faith, I understand and appreciate a lot of what he's saying. Maybe I leave a comment; a connection is made. We may end up on opposite sides of some cultural or political divide, but we're not enemies. We share some things. We can understand one another.

Which is, in the end, why I think the radical right attacks much of popular culture. The specific animus is often some objection over content, but I think the larger agenda is to bring about an end to democratically-created popular forms of expression.

Make no mistake, the hardcore activists who are at the core of the post-conservative GOP have been working on building a parallel media/culture for more than 30 years. They come from the school of Trotsky, Lennin and Mao; they understand the necessity of propaganda and of maintaining a state of "permanent revolution." This is why even when they control the government they paint themselves as victims. This is why they consistantly attacking any culture (or any institution of the press) which can potentially serve as a unifying force in society. Their revolution demands enemies, and creating enemies means dehumanizing your fellow citizens. Hard to do when you share a culture. Hard to do when you share an understanding about how the world works.

If you want to create a cultural revolution within America, the first step is to create a paralell ecosystem of information, a parallel reality for all intents and purposes. Through grassroots organizing, underground/alternative media and the brilliant use of subculture and coded communications, the modern post-conservative GOP has done this. The second necessary step is to demolish as much of the "common" culture and information as possible, first by cutting your own population off from it, and then by relentlessly attacking it, whether it's for "bias" or for "objectionable content." If you're successful, at some point your parallel ecosystem of information will become dominant, the new mainstream.

This is where we are headed today. On the left there are a number of institutions being built which comprise a sort of "counter revolution." At this point, I don't see much in the way of clear ideas motivating the counter-revolution, other than to derail the radical right. However given the ascendency of the radical right, not much more is needed.

Given how poorly the radical right is managing itself while in power, and given the fact that they've gotten there without ever really facing organized resistance, I tend to think that in the long run their revolution will fail. However, I'm deeply concerned about the damage that will be done in the mean time. There exists this thing outside the political realm called "the real world," in which there is trouble brewing. Dealing with the 21st Century effectively is going to require a consensus, exactly what the current political trench warfare expicitly prevents.

I don't honestly see this changing until my generation begins to truly exert our own political and cultural influence, or until structural changes brought on by the democratization of media and the proliferation of independent grassroots organizing shake up the status quo. Both are likely in the next 10 to 12 years. I just hope nothing really ugly happens before then.