• Star Trek brought heat to the Cold War

    From Ubiquitous@21:1/5 to All on Mon Mar 28 05:26:37 2016
    XPost: alt.politics.usa, alt.tv.star-trek.tos, rec.arts.sf.tv
    XPost: rec.arts.tv

    To vastly over-simplify a decades-long conflict involving dozens or
    more countries and myriad shifting allegiances, the Cold War was
    fundamentally about two warring ideologies: capitalism and
    communism. And while most wars have their ideological components
    (even if those components don’t extend beyond “we want that land”
    vs. “no”), the nature of this particular struggle meant that the
    power of ideas took center stage. For many Americans in the ’50s and
    ’60s, communism wasn’t just a different way of thinking, but a
    conceptual virus threatening to corrupt anyone foolish enough to
    listen. It’s a rigid perspective that treats the open discussion of
    ideas as an invitation to collapse—a position that sits directly
    opposed to the humanist philosophy at the heart of the original Star

    One part of the greatness of that series, which aired around the
    time the Vietnam War was starting to really pull in public notice,
    was its freedom to explore allegory in a pulpy, sci-fi setting. The
    original Trek was never consistent; to modern eyes, its frequently
    ham-fisted writing, sexism, sluggish pacing, and lack of continuity
    between episodes can take some adjustments to accept. But at the
    show’s peak, those flaws could never obscure the raw energy that
    drove the adventures of Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise, nor the way that energy so often coalesced behind a
    fundamentally optimistic view of the universe.

    Take “The Corbomite Maneuver” from season one. While gallivanting
    through space one fine afternoon, the Enterprise enters into a
    conflict with a larger, more powerful ship. Kirk saves the day by
    bluffing his way through the encounter, only to learn that the
    captain of this unknown ship is a lonely alien no larger than a
    human child. In facing each other down, both sides made decisions
    based on their fears of what the other was capable of, and it was
    only in putting aside that fear that Kirk and the others are able to
    make contact and form a lasting peace. [Umm, that's not what I
    recall happening at all!]

    Again and again on the series, we see that communication is the
    solution to problems, and that understanding your enemy (if they
    even are an enemy) is the only way to resolve a dangerous situation.
    It’s a concept that seems to belie every piece of Cold War doctrine
    foisted on the American public. The Red Menace was a danger so
    insidious, so malignant, that even trying to understand its beliefs
    and systems meant a form of surrender. This wasn’t just a physical
    force, but a kind of philosophical brain snatcher whose tendrils, if
    left unchecked, would lay waste to the free world.

    That kind of paranoid faith in the untouchable—the assumption that
    some beliefs must be walled away in silence and fear—was something
    that Star Trek stood against in stark opposition. But that
    opposition didn’t presume that such openness would be easy. In “A
    Taste Of Armageddon,” another episode from the show’s first season,
    Kirk and the rest beam down to a planet engaged in a centuries-long
    conflict with an enemy they’ve never seen. Their “war” is done by
    computer; variables are counted up, death tolls are assigned, and
    each side is held responsible for killing off the assigned number of
    its own citizens.

    It’s a chilling, if somewhat implausible, view of a society that
    gives over everything, even war, to the machines. But underneath the
    science fiction is a chilling end game view of the American/Russian
    conflict. As each side becomes further entrenched in its own
    philosophies, and further determined to protect those philosophies
    from even the slightest whiff of outside perspective, the appeal of
    a “hand’s free” war becomes increasingly apparent. In “Armageddon,”
    Kirk is told that the computer systems were designed to prevent the
    destructive cost of conflict, the attrition to society and culture
    of long-term battle, but it might just as well have been a way to
    keep either side from talking to one another. Read the printouts,
    warm up the disintegrator booths, and make sure no one ever picks up
    a phone; that’s how you keep the balance of power in check.

    Kirk, of course, is having none of this, but his solution—destroying
    the booths and the computers—doesn’t offer immediate peace. In fact,
    his goal (as he explains in a speech that borders on gloating) is to
    force the locals to get up close and personal with the ugliness of
    real war, to make them get their hands dirty and realize the actual
    horror of the experience. It’s a speech that rings slightly hollow
    in context, but carries considerable weight outside of the episode.
    Americans were getting their first real taste of what actual war was
    like in footage shipped home from Vietnam, and here was Kirk,
    preaching the gospel of in-your-face carnage. But even then, the
    core message remains consistent: If people of “Armageddon” had to
    deal with an actual fight, they might finally have to reach out to
    their enemy and talk things through.

    Yet even with its faith in the power of communication, Star Trek was
    never less than clear about which side of the conversation would
    ultimately win out. If a number of episodes revolved around the
    importance of treating with an opponent on common ground, just as
    many featured Kirk waltzing into some society, deciding he didn’t
    like how things were done, and wrecking up the place with his good
    old fashioned (American) values.

    “A Taste Of Armageddon” is one example, albeit one where it’s hard
    to argue against Kirk’s ultimate decision. Things are a little more
    unclear in “The Apple,” a second season episode that has our heroes
    landing on a planet where a group of childlike adults live their
    lives at the behest and beneficence of a computer in a cave. The
    adults have no concept of sex or violence, and live in a state of
    Eden-like innocence. So Kirk, for reasons that nearly make sense,
    decides to destroy the computer and introduce the nice people to
    what it’s like to be a real human being.

    The way this decision (with some minor pushback from McCoy) is
    presented as a triumph for everyone involved betrays a certain lack
    of objectivity on the part of the writers, the assumption that,
    while we’re open to discussion, let’s not kid ourselves as to what
    the real, best way of life actually is. Perhaps that was why the
    show was able to get away with its subversive optimism. At its
    heart, that optimism was founded on an unwavering belief in the
    righteousness of its own assumptions. Hard to get more American than

    On this horrific day of terrorism when 9 Americans were wounded,
    Pres Obama took-in a baseball game and had a great time.
    Take THAT, ISIS!!

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)