To Gaily Go Where Moore Has Not Yet Gone

Thus, a few years ago, spake Ron Moore – at that time best known as a former writer for, and then a vocal critic of, the Star Trek tv franchise, but today best known as the chief writer for Battlestar Galactica:

Ron Moore Tell me why there are no gay characters in Star Trek. … There is no answer for it other than people in charge don’t want gay characters in Star Trek, period. … Just think about what it would say to have a gay Starfleet captain. It would mean something in Star Trek. It would mean something in science fiction. It would mean something in television. Why isn’t Star Trek leading the way anymore, in the social, political front?

This, um, raises an obvious question ….


The Plain of Ono

David Boaz David Boaz defends the libertarian movement, and Brian Doherty’s book thereon (previously blogged about here), against a review by David Leonhardt.

While I mostly agree with Boaz’s criticisms of Leonhardt, I have to say that the picture illustrating Leonhardt’s review was brilliantly chosen to match his thesis. “Not built,” indeed.


Secret Agent Man

Oh, and about that other show I follow – Prison Break, which had its season finale tonight: you think Agent Kellerman is dead? Really?

Paul Adelstein as Agent Kellerman Sure, we saw someone firing into the back of the prison van – but we sure didn’t see a body. The guy in the mask could have been shooting at the guard instead. And all Kellerman’s lines and facial expressions while in the van, lines and facial expressions we were supposed to think meant “here’s their evil plan going into effect, now I’m going to get shot,” were just as much consistent with his thinking “here’s my evil plan going into effect, now you guys are going to get shot.” Kellerman’s sardonic smile would go equally well with triumph or doom. And in any case, even if he was expecting death rather than rescue (or extraction anyway), that doesn’t mean that’s what he got.

Never forget Princess Irulan’s advice: “Do not count a human dead until you’ve seen his body. And even then you can make a mistake.”


Earth Angel

If you’re a Galactica fan who for some strange reason hasn’t yet seen the third-season finale, then stop reading now, because there’s SPOILAGE AHEAD.

The Final Five Okay, judging from the finale it looks as though my earlier guess (see here and here) that Ron Moore is intending to reprise the original Starbuck’s intended character arc from the 1979-80 show, including his eventual metamorphosis into an angel-being who returns to help the Colonial fleet, was right on the money. In that case, speculation about where season 4 is headed might well be guided by further reflection on the angel-beings from the original series.

If you’re not familiar with the original series, you might want to check out the following angel-related clips on YouTube so we can all be on the same page. In this clip a supernatural being calling himself Count Iblis visits Baltar in his prison cell and alternately threatens and reassures him in a manner interestingly similar to Six’s M.O. on the new series (well, mutatis some important mutandis). Iblis also reveals a thousand-year-old connection to the Cylons, his voice having served as the template for the Imperious Leader’s voice – thus anticipating the new show’s implied connection between Cylon and human mythologies. (Feel free to quit watching this clip midway through, around 5.52 when Iblis vanishes from Baltar’s cell; the second half isn’t especially relevant.) In this clip we learn that Iblis is identical with the Satan figure of Colonial mythology (no surprise, since “Iblis” is the Arabic name for Satan), and that he is in some sort of conflict with the angel-beings. In this clip we discover that the angel-beings are interdimensional travelers who were once as the Colonials are but have progressed to a higher level of being, that the Colonials may one day be raised to this same level, and that Iblis is a renegade angel-being. The angel-beings also raise Apollo from apparent death (explaining to the Colonials, as the Colonials in another episode – I forget which – would explain to a group of less advanced humans, that death is technology-relative), and offer to help the Colonials find Earth. Finally, in this clip we see Starbuck, given up for dead by the Colonial fleet, being judged worthy by one of the angel-beings, subtly named Angela. (In the unfilmed episode The Wheel of Fire we would have found out what Starbuck is being judged worthy of – namely to be raised to angelhood himself.)

Count Iblis Now I don’t expect Moore to follow any of this very closely. In particular, I don’t think we’re likely to see a Satan figure like Iblis; Moore is clearly more interested in conflicts among various sorts of flawed characters than in conflicts between pure good and pure evil. But Moore has followed the Starbuck part closely enough that it’s worth considering what further clues the original show’s angel-being arc might contain.

The similarity between the old show’s Baltar-Iblis interaction and the new show’s Baltar-Six interaction, together with Six-in-the-head’s claim to be an “angel,” invites speculation that Six-in-the-head is an angel-being (or whatever the new show’s equivalent is), and not a Cylon after all. And just as Baltar has a Six that nobody else can see, so Starbuck in “Maelstrom” had a Leoben that nobody else could see – and that Leoben admitted to not really being Leoben, and seemed to be an angel-being also.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Six-in-the-head and Leoben-in-the-head are on the same side; they might represent different factions of angel-beings, and indeed the conflict between Cylon and Colonial religion may reflect some war among the angels (though probably representing a more complicated conflict than the original show’s analogous one). (Which side Caprica Six’s Baltar-in-the-head is on I couldn’t say.)

I'm back! Miss me? Baltar’s and Starbuck’s respective Cylons-in-the-head appear to share still further similarities; each keeps telling its host human that he or she has been chosen for a special destiny – almost as though the different angelic factions are grooming different candidates for human messiah. (Does the “Baltar cult” among the Colonials have anything to do with this?) And just as Leoben-in-the-head evidently has something to do with Starbuck’s miraculous recovery from being apparently blown to bits in “Maelstrom,” so Six-in-the-head presumably has something to do with Baltar’s almost-as-miraculous recovery from a nearby nuclear blast in the series pilot. (That’s one reason I don’t think either Baltar or Starbuck is a Cylon. Because they can’t both be ….)

So what’s the relation between the angel-beings and the Cylons? My guess is that the Cylons didn’t make the transition from toasters to skinjobs entirely unaided, that angel-beings were involved. (For what it’s worth, in one of the Galactica comic books it was Count Iblis who originally tricked the Cylons into making the transition in the other direction, from organic to cyborg.) Given that in interviews Ron Moore has told us that the Final Five are “fundamentally different” from the previously revealed seven, could it be that the two groups of skinjobs, the seven and the five, were raised up by the two competing factions of angel-beings? Some squabble among the Lords of Kobol, perhaps? (Though I’m still not sure why the Final Five in D’Anna’s and Roslin’s visions look like angel-beings themselves.)

Does Starbuck know the way to San Jose? Certainly the Final Five seem to have a special affinity for the Lords of Kobol and/or the 13th tribe; witness Tyrol’s ability to sense the location of the Eye of Jupiter, the Five’s connection with both the Temple of Jupiter and the Kobol opera house, and now their self-awareness as Cylons being triggered, apparently, by the fleet’s approach to the location of the next beacon left by the 13th tribe.

I note also that the revelation of Tyrol as one of the Final Five means that there are now two Cylon-human hybrid babies on board the Galactica – but one is a hybrid of a human with one of the seven, while the other is a hybrid of a human with one of the Final Five. (The angel-beings were interested in hybrid babies in Galactica 1980 too – remember Dr. Zee.) Roslin’s dream could be interpreted as implying that Hera, the non-Final-Five hybrid, is in some sort of danger from the Final Five. (A related question: the being on the Cylon baseship also called a “hybrid” presumably isn’t a Cylon-human hybrid; but in that case, of what and what is it a hybrid?)

Among the many further questions these speculations leave unanswered:

Do the Final Five come in multiple versions like the seven, or are they one-offs?

Do the Final Five date from the same period as the seven, or are they somehow earlier (thus explaining Tigh’s service record)? Could they, somehow, even be from Earth?

Who’s the fifth member of the Final Five? Is he or she in the fleet or elsewhere? Did he or she hear the music too?

Are the twelve Cylon models based on the twelve Lords of Kobol, with the division between the five and the seven somehow reflecting an analogous division among the Lords? (Maybe; but don’t try too hard to link up the known Cylons with the traditional Olympian pantheon – only six of the original Olympians were male, and we already have seven male Cylon models. Though of course we don’t know for sure that the Kobol pantheon matches the Greek one exactly, since we don’t know all the names of the former.)

What lies beneath? How did the other Cylons track the Colonial fleet?

What caused the power failure (and Roslin’s reaction) just before they showed up?

How does the real Leoben know about Starbuck’s destiny?

Back when our protagonists were running around on Kobol, it was mentioned that the original Athena had committed suicide. Do angel-beings commit suicide? Was it really suicide?

Anders, Tigh, Tory, and Tyrol were all drawn to a room with a large, prominent bulkhead/hatch on the floor, to which lighting and camera angles blatantly drew our attention. What’s under it?

Both Cylons and angel-beings have told us that “this has all happened before.” Meaning what, exactly?

Is the Earth we see in the final scene our past, our present, or our future? (Given the appearance of the North American coastline it’s presumably no more than a few million years distant from the present.)

Is the version of “All Along the Watchtower” that the Final Five (or four of them anyway) hear really supposed to be a song from Earth, or something else?

Do the song’s lyrics have some special significance? Are the “joker” and the “thief” the same as the “two riders … approaching,” and do they refer to characters on the show? or factions of the angelic war? (If they turn out to be Ron Moore and David Eick, and the closing animations after the credits of each show turn out to be actual parts of the plot, we’ll have to kill them.)


Tales From the Anarchist Crypt

Behold, various sorts of anarchist goodness available online:

Haymarket monument 1. When Gustave de Molinari first proposed his vision of a stateless society, his colleagues in the French liberal movement – even those that had veered pretty close to anarchism in their younger days, like Charles Dunoyer – thought he’d gone a bit around the bend. But could Jean-Baptiste Say, the great grand-daddy of French liberalism, have toyed with anarchist ideas himself in some of his unpublished writings? So argues Amadeus Gabriel in Was Jean-Baptiste Say a Market Anarchist? (Conical hat tip to Stephen Carson.)

2. Who the heck is William Henry Van Ornum? Another largely-forgotten 19th-century American anarchist resurrected through the research efforts of Shawn Wilbur, who describes Van Ornum as “one of the anarchist writers willing to go head-to-head, and proposal for proposal, with the state socialists.” Check out Van Ornum’s Why Government At All? (1892) and Co-operation (1894).

3. It turns out that some video clips from the famous 1971 debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault are available on YouTube. (Conical hat tip to Justin Dealy.)


Against Anarchist Apartheid

Consider the following two lists of names:

Group 1 Group 2
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Josiah Warren
Stephen Pearl Andrews
Ezra Heywood
Anselme Bellegarrigue
Lysander Spooner
Benjamin Tucker
Francis D. Tandy
John Henry Mackay
Voltairine de Cleyre (early)
Franz Oppenheimer
Gustave de Molinari
Herbert Spencer (early)
Auberon Herbert
Wordsworth Donisthorpe
Rose Wilder Lane
Robert LeFevre
Murray Rothbard
David Friedman
Randy Barnett
Samuel E. Konkin 3.0
Hans-Hermann Hoppe

It’s obvious what the two lists have in common: all the names on both lists belong to thinkers who have favoured radically free markets and the abolition of the state – hence, one might infer, market anarchists.

But it’s quite common in left-anarchist circles to insist that while the Group 1 thinkers are genuine anarchists, those in Group 2 are not true anarchists at all – on the grounds that true anarchists must oppose not only the state but also capitalism. Group 1, we’re told, is commendably anti-capitalist and so authentically anarchist; but the members of Group 2 exclude themselves from the anarchist ranks by their advocacy of capitalism. (I’m not sure into which group geolibs like Albert J. Nock and Frank Chodorov, or migrating thinkers like Karl Hess, are supposed to fall, so I left their names off.)

I am not a fan, needless to say, of this putative distinction between “true” and “false” market anarchists. I plan to criticise the case for the distinction in fuller detail on a future occasion; for now I’ll limit myself to two major points.

Benjamin R. Tucker First: those who draw this distinction are hardly ever market anarchists themselves. They are more often anarcho-communists or anarcho-collectivists who regard both Group 1 and Group 2 as making unacceptable concessions to economic individualism. (Indeed they often dismiss even their favoured Group 1 – apart from Proudhon, anyway – as “Stirnerites,” even though most of the Group 1 thinkers developed their views independently of Max Stirner; in fact even Tucker, the clearest “Stirnerite” of the lot, was already a committed market anarchist before he’d ever encountered Stirner’s ideas.) When anti-market anarchists propose to decide who is and who isn’t a genuine market anarchist, it’s a bit like Christians demanding the right to adjudicate the dispute between Shi’ites and Sunnis. (One suspects that some of the anti-market folks would really like to purge both groups of market anarchists, but the anarchist credentials of Group 1 are too well-established for that to be a practical solution.)

Rather than inquiring as to the opinions of anti-market anarchists, then, it would seem more relevant to know whether the Group 1 thinkers regarded Group 2 as fellow-anarchists or not. And in fact such Group 2 luminaries as Molinari, Donisthorpe, and the early Spencer were indeed all hailed in the pages of Tucker’s Liberty (the chief American organ of individualist anarchism, which published most of the Group 1 writers) as anarchists – and Herbert as a near-anarchist. (Donisthorpe even wrote both for Liberty and for the journal of the Liberty and Property Defence League – thus bridging a supposedly unbridgeable ideological gulf.) Thus America’s leading Group 1 spokesman, while certainly critical of Group 2 thinkers on various points, apparently had no problem recognising them as fellow-anarchists. (Compare also the largely favourable attitude today of Tuckerite Kevin Carson toward Rothbardians and Konkinites.)

Nor was this because Tucker was especially generous with the term “anarchist.” On the contrary, Tucker withheld the term from anarcho-communists like Johann Most, Pëtr Kropotkin, and the Haymarket martyrs; from Tucker’s point of view, it was they, not the Spencerians, who were “false” anarchists. Needless to say, I don’t advocate following Tucker’s example on this point; one parochialism is no improvement over the other. But the fact that the editor of Liberty – who always called his position “consistent Manchesterism” – felt less close to contemporary anarcho-communists than to the forerunners of “anarcho-capitalism” (for surely Tucker’s views on Molinari and the radical Spencerians seem like the best guide we could have to what his views would most likely have been on Rothbard, Friedman, etc.) tells against the simplistic division of market anarchists into socialistic sheep and capitalistic goats. (Indeed the contributors to Liberty cited Spencer as often as they did Proudhon; while, for that matter, Karl Marx complained that Proudhon himself was more respectful toward quasi-anarchic classical liberals like Charles Dunoyer than toward revolutionary communists like Étienne Cabet.)

Second: it’s thoroughly unclear by what criteria Group 1 and Group 2 are supposed to be distinguished. Defenders of the dichotomy insist that Group 1 is “anti-capitalist” while Group 2 is “pro-capitalist”; but in order for this to be a useful marker it needs to be substantive, not merely terminological. The fact that Group 1 thinkers tend to use “socialism” as a virtue-word and “capitalism” as a vice-word, while Group 2 thinkers tend to do the reverse, by itself means little; because the two groups clearly do not mean the same things by these terms. Most Group 2 thinkers use the term “capitalism” to mean an unregulated free market, and use the term “socialism” to mean government control; most Group 1 thinkers use those terms differently, but agree with their Group 2 counterparts in favouring free markets and opposing government control, by whatever names they may call them. In Thomas Hobbes’s words: “Words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the money of fools.”

Given the enormous variability in the use of the term “capitalism,” then, it will hardly do to base a crucial distinction among antistate thinkers on their attitudes to some undefined abstraction called “capitalism.” We need to know what specific positions are supposed to divide Group 1 and Group 2. But it’s awfully hard to find positions that divide the two groups in the desired way.

Is it their stand on the labour theory of value? Except insofar as that translates into policy differences, what difference does that make?

Sweet Land of Anarchy Is it their stand on the wages system and the exploitation of labour by capital? By that standard, Group 2 thinkers Spencer, Konkin, and Friedman, who favoured abolition of wage labour, all belong in Group 1, while Molinari and Donisthorpe, who favoured reforming the wages system to shift the power balance in workers’ favour, fall somewhere between the two groups.

Is it their stand on land ownership and rent? By that standard Spencer, in rejecting land ownership entirely, is more “socialistic” than Tucker and so belongs in Group 1, while Spooner, in endorsing absentee landlordism, is more “capitalistic” than Tucker and so belongs in Group 2.

Is it their stand on protection agencies and private police as quasi-governmental? By that standard Tucker, Tandy, and Proudhon, who all favoured private police, belong in “pseudo-anarchistic” Group 2, while LeFevre, who rejected all violence even for defensive purposes, would have to be moved to Group 1.

Is it their stand on intellectual property? By that standard, IP fan Spooner would have to be assigned to the “pro-property” Group 2, while most present-day Rothbardians, as IP foes, would need to be shifted to the “anti-property” Group 1.

Is it their stand on the legitimacy of interest? Well, perhaps in the abstract; but both sides tend to predict a drastic fall in the price of loans as the result of free competition in the credit industry; and both deny that it will fall to zero. Group 1 thinkers tend to call this nonzero residuum “cost” while Group 2 thinkers tend to call it “interest”; ho-hum. This seems a weak reed to burden with so weighty a dichotomy.

None of the criteria I’ve most often seen appealed to, then, seem to divide the two groups in the desired manner based on concrete positions. I suspect what actually drives proponents of the purported dichotomy is no specific policy dispute but rather a general feeling that Group 2’s pro-market rhetoric is a cover for a rationalisation of the power relations that prevail in existing corporate capitalism, while Group 1’s likewise pro-market rhetoric – however misguided it may appear in the eyes of the dichotomists – is not. And that perception in turn is based, I suspect, on the fact that Group 2 thinkers are more likely than Group 1 thinkers to fall into what Kevin Carson has labeled “vulgar libertarianism,” that is, the error of treating defenses of the free market as though they served to justify various features of the prevailing not-so-free order.

Now it’s true enough that Group 2 is more liable to this unfortunate tendency than is Group 1. But:

a) few Group 2 thinkers commit the error consistently;

b) some Group 2 thinkers (e.g. Konkin, or 1960s Rothbard – or Hess, if he counts as Group 2) don’t seem to commit it much at all;

c) vulgar-libbin’ seems no worse an error, no stronger a reason to kick somebody out of the anarchist club, than, say, Proudhon’s egregious misogyny and anti-Semitism; and

d) if confusing free markets with corporate capitalism isn’t grounds to disqualify anti-market anarchists (who often seem to commit the same error in the opposite direction), why should it be grounds to disqualify vulgar-libbers?

Hence I see no defensible grounds for accepting any dichotomy between Groups 1 and 2. They are all market anarchists – with various virtues and various flaws, but comrades all.


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