In a government far, far away…

  By Shamus   Mar 14, 2006   21 comments

Via Eidelblog I find this post, which in turn led me to a bit from Robert Hayes, where he makes the case that the Rebellion in Star Wars is evil, and the Empire is flawed but not nearly as bad. It makes for an interesting read.

Which got me thinking about some other recent sci-fi movies. Take, for example:

  • Serenity, where the characters struggle to escape the power of an overly-meddlesome government.
  • The Matrix, where a small group of rebels struggle to overthrow a system which cares for their every need, because it also denies them free will.
  • Equilibrium, which is a bit like the Matrix in that the state takes your free will and in return makes sure that there are no shortages or inequality.
  • Demolition Man, which had a world where the only people who were poor were the ones who refused to live in the overly-PC world of regulated safety and enforced politeness.
  • Aeon Flux and Ultraviolet, which I have not seen but which seem to be along the lines of “individual vs. the state”.
  • The upcoming V for Vendetta, which has a theme that should sound pretty familiar by now.

So my point: What is up with these lefty Hollywood statists (read: commies) and their libertarian / individualist themed movies? Outside of the movies, they gaze up at the massive edifice of government power and lament that it isn’t nearly big enough. Then they go back to making their stories about overthrowing the state and freeing the individual. How do they reconcile these two?


LEFT: Palpatine (who looks like Lieberman to me) favors a large and highly centralized government. RIGHT: Smash the state!
Now, who would Clooney normally vote for?

I wouldn’t expect the Cato Institute to bankroll a movie where the heroes defeat a band of rebellious capitalists and bring about an egalitarian utopia, and I don’t expect the Hollywood types to keep dry-humping individualisim and limited government onscreen while pursuing (ahem) other goals.

What’s up with that?

20121 comments. Blackjack!


  1. smapdi says:

    I can only assume you are being facetious. At least I *hope* you are, because you usually sound like a reasonably intelligent human. You’d have had to live in a cave for the past 6 years to hear “big government” and still think of the political left.

    ‘Lefty’s only *thought* they wanted big government. Now that Bush has given it to them, with such profligacy that their original vision of ‘big government’ seems like a fart in a windstorm, they aren’t so sure. They sure as hell didn’t want *this* big government

  2. Shamus says:

    You’d have had to live in a cave for the past 6 years to hear “big government” and still think of the political left.

    They did not turn into the party of small government just because Bush (and let’s not also forget the legistlative branch) have been working towards an even BIGGER government. If the two parties are in a race to grab as many of my rights as they can, I’m not going to cheer for one of them just because they’re in second place.

    But more to the point: I’m not talking about “the left” in general, but the HOLLYWOOD left, which is more or less openly communist. My point was that they pursue collectivist goals while harboring individualist fantasies, which is amusing to me.

  3. Kulthar says:

    Interesting (and also highly amusing) to note that most americans have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of communism.

  4. mr k says:

    I know this is, like, a year old, but calling holywood commies is just frankly odd… the communist party was for central control by a massive government with no elective aspect- exactly what several of those films are pretty much warning against. Holywood is certainly more liberal, but wanting government intervention is not the same as wanting dictatorship….

  5. Morits says:

    Communists want the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, a powerful state rule by the Workers of the Workers, for the Workers.
    Bush etc rules a powerful state by, of and for the Bosses. That is the exact opposite of Communism.
    Liberals seem to want a Nice state that gives enough candy to stop the Workers wanting Communism.

    Calling Liberals “Communists” muddies the waters.

  6. Bob says:

    Nice summary of liberalism ;)

    To get back to the question Shamus asked: What people want and what people dream of are different things and Hollywood sells dreams.

    Most people want to be reasonably safe from crime but lack the resources to personally protect everything they value. Most people want stable economies and the job security that brings. Most people want tomorrow to be a lot like today. Most people accept that this is best acheived through some sort of government and most people are willing to trade some liberty for some security (although where people sit on that scale, and what sort of government they want varies hugely).

    But most people dream of Utopia in which they are strong enough to protect everything they care about and everyone has enough to eat and drink. In this dreamed of world we don’t need governments and *any* limit on our liberties is a bad thing. So Hollywood creates characters that would be in Utopia (where the happy ending live) if it weren’t for some seemingly unbeatable enemy because Hollywood is about what we dream of. In the films mentioned above that opponent is the government/society because they make great seemingly unbeatable opponents.

    Free Radical is a fine example. Deck is seeking his personal Utopian state in which he can govern his life without any sort of restraint or fear because he would be untouchable if he “wins”. The bad guys (that is the corporation) have seemingly insurmountable strength and do all sorts of classic bad guy things to limit liberties, making sure that the reader hates them and ultimatly cheers for anyone that opposes them. Are we rational in doing so? Sure the corporation is no-good but think of the thousands of people pushed into unemployment and starvation should it fall. Deck is a criminal who routinely damages employers, routinely pushes people into poverty yet we cheer him. Why? Because he is all about our dream of freedom and of self control whereas the corporation is all about restricting freedoms and liberties.

  7. Shandar says:

    I think focusing on the power systems in these movies is missing the point.

    These movies are really about justice vs. injustice, and it is easier/faster to ascribe great injustice to large powerful systems, like the Empire. If the Empire were just, it wouldn’t need overthrowing.

    Luke isn’t out to destroy big government, he’s out to stop injustice.

    I know from your posts that you are Christian. I am too. Tim LaHaye and his ilk have done a marvelous job of linking Liberal with Communist so effectively that Conservative Christians think all Liberals are godless commies. In fact, many Christians are liberals precisely because they are following the example of Christ.

    At least that is how I became a Liberal. I thought about opposing injustice, healing the sick, clothing the naked, being a peacemaker, giving aid to the poor, mercy, forgiveness…and liberalism seemes to be the political philosophy which most closely mirrors my spiritual one.

    I’m a liberal because I believe in fighting for social justice. Not because I believe in centralized government or limiting individual freedoms. There may be things about the political philosophy you don’t share which are still in line with the spritual philosphy you embrace, and it could be that the common ground is more important than the points of conflict between us.

  8. Shandar says:

    Shamus,

    One other thought on your mention of the left not becoming the party of small government just because the right became the party of bigger government. That may be true, but how does continuing to support the right reduce the size of government?

    And, as to the Left in general…it isn’t what it was. The center has moved so far to the right that by today’s standards, Richard Nixon would be considered a liberal.

  9. Shamus says:

    Support the Right? I do no such thing. They get neither my money nor my vote.

    Above, you claim that YOUR values led YOU, as a Christian, to become “a Liberal”.

    Get this: Helping the poor of your own free will is directly at odds with forcing other people to live by YOUR values. So the right wants to make everyone live the “Christian” way by outlawing “Sin”. The Left wants to take peoples money and regulate their behavior “for the common good”.

    It’s the same thing. You’re all tyrants who have never seriously considered minding your own business about anything.

    Show me the part of the Bible where Jesus took peoples’ money at gunpoint to advance his ministry, and then we can talk about how “Christian” it is.

    I give generously to chairity. I would NEVER, EVER presume to force another human being to do the same.

  10. Shandar says:

    Well, actually, I did read on your bio page after posting that you had become libertarian and left the Republican party behind.

    I don’t really want to get into a big fight with you, I was merely saying that as Christians I presumed we shared some common ground. Maybe we don’t after all.

    I just didn’t think it was fair to write off everyone who has a different political philosophy than you do with a single sentence, and so, I spoke up against what I felt was an injustice, however small.

    It’s your website, and your comments forum, and I can see that differening viewpoints aren’t as welcome as they might have seemed at first.

    I still enjoy your comic very much, and hope I didn’t spoil any part of your day. I really wasn’t trying to impose my tyranny on you or anyone else. Sorry if I offended you, it certainly wasn’t my intention.

  11. Shamus says:

    I wasn’t nearly as agitated as it might seem from reading the comment above. That’s pretty much my boilerplate response to stuff like this. Sorry if I was rude. This is exactly why I don’t talk Politics on this site: I’m too rough with the subject and then we all stop having fun.

    I would say we probably share lots of common ground on personal matters and how one should strive to emulate Jesus, and we will forever disagree on how we should relate those values to government. Hmmm. That was pretty good. I should have said that in the first place.

    Thanks for reading. Really, I’m a nice guy when we’re not talking politics.

  12. Shandar says:

    I’m sure you are, or I wouldn’t have written in the first place (Pearls before swine and all that). :)

    Peace.

  13. Lacynth says:

    And, now, a comment from someone of a totally different religious perspective.

    Religion and politics do not mix. Not in our Federalist form of government, at least. It will be a tyranny, and will always be viewed as a tyranny, until all forms of religion are removed from the halls of government. This includes the “Religious Right”, and anyone that has “Rev.” proceeding their name. Else, we get silly things like teaching Christian Creationism in the classroom, with no respect what-so-ever that there may be someone from a different religious leaning in that classroom. One of the things that this countries creation was based on was the freedom of the people to worship as they saw fit, free from the intervention of the government in ANY form. Electing Reverends and Priests into places of political power goes completely against this ideal. I am a Reverend myself, and as such, will never be running for political office. Because, simply, religion and politics do not mix. The last time we tried that, a lot of innocent people got burnt at the stake.

  14. Shamus says:

    I’m right with you, Lacynth, although I think the REAL source of trouble isn’t religion but a more general desire to impose one’s values onto others. If someone decides to pass a law that opresses or exploits me, does it matter to me if they’re doing it because they think God wants them to or because they just don’t like me?

    The key isn’t to get Religion out of politics, but to safeguard individuals from the tryranny of thers, regardless of where their values come from.

  15. NobleBear says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I also appreciate that you identify them for the ideology in real life that they (perhaps unintentionally) endorse: communism.

    It’s also interesting to note that rebellion never begins with those who dissent making petitions, negotiations and civil disobedience; it always cuts straight to storming the Bastille. Though, in fairness, following a more just process is not as entertaining.

  16. Vladius says:

    I have noticed this trend as well. Serenity remains to this day one of my favorite movies of all time, but I can’t fathom how they managed to pull off all this anti-governmental messages amid all the bullcrap about “Teh US is teh reel terriritz lol”

  17. I suppose that there has never been a successful revolution that was also peaceful, at least that i have heard about. But really, at the end of the day,because they are run by human beings who have more individual pwer because of their running it, what most government’s ultimate goal is, is to stay in power. Helping people or imposing things on people or whatever their plan is all comes after having the power to do it.

    So of COURSE they would not allow someone to come in and undermine them in a direct and peaceful way, they would respond peacefully but powerfully if that person became too powerful. Or, not so peacefully. Look at Mcarthyism, after all. That was all based around fear of new ideas and types of government on the American’s mind because of sed government’s prescence in the nws. If you wanted to overthrow a government, you would have to do it violently, and cleverly.

    By the way, I am a non-religious god believer. I believe that god is *definitely* out there, but that after we die we’re probably just dead and gone anyway. And as for government, I am a liberal minded independnt, who believes the two party system is grossly inefficient because it simply amounts to two groups who will never compromise battling for power, with one side only ever gaining something as a result of a rival’s monumental failure.

  18. Gabe says:

    Shamus, I completely agree with your most recent comment(#14), even though I am an atheist. I have absolutely no problem with religion in general, only the things it can cause people to do on rare occasions. No offense intended, but in a way I see religion as a crutch(for lack of a better term) that I understand the some people’s need for. Some people need to believe there is something waiting after death, some were simply raised with the existence of a higher power being simple fact, I just find it hard to believe an omnipotent benevolent being such as your God would allow all the atrocities of today, not to mention the ones done in His name. If he existed, I would expect him to stop this from happening by means of divine intervention. As I was saying, my problem with religion, and I mean just about any religion, is when ignorant people presume to know what they’re talking about, sometimes completely misunderstanding their own religion. The crusades are a prime example of this. If I have in anyway offended you I apologize.

    Oh, and how can you claim the empire in Star Wars to be the lesser evil? They built a space station designed to blow up planets, probably killing billions in the process, and ‘tested’ it interrogating princess leia, destroying a planet even after being given the desired information. Anyone who can defend genocide is either insane or kidding, I should hope the ladder, though I haven’t read that article.

  19. The Rocketeer says:

    It is in unconscionably poor taste to reply to a thread so long left to lie, but don’t you think this aged post shows its insight and the opening few comments their shortsightedness by how relevant this post has remained with the revelations of things like cap and trade and socialized health care? Or that these things are the brainchildren of a proclaimed moderate? It certainly speaks very, very highly of you, Shamus, that your observations have so far stood the test of time, which by necessity is the only valid measure of opinion.

    And I feel the need to point out that, as a nondescript white person with no financial stake in cultivating a media following, none of this should be construed as an expression of my own opinion nor an endorsement of any political ideology.

  20. Max says:

    Old post, but still valid :) But I, as a European, have to correct you young Americans. What you call liberalism is actual social-democratism (if that exists) or right out of the box socialism (Bush was more fascist (think Mussolini) in his appeal).

    Liberalism, at least as understood in classy old socialist Europe, is still classic liberalism. \snobmodeoff

  21. Bill says:

    That’s a pretty big strawman you got there, Shamus.

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