October 27, 2006


Battlestar Galacticons: A close look at the right's scary affinity for sci-fi foreign policy punditry (Brad Reed, 10.27.06, American prospect)

As the midterm elections approach, many conservatives are feeling betrayed by one of their most important allies in the war on terror: Battlestar Galactica. [...]

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, who writes regularly about Galactica’s politics on NRO’s group blog, The Corner, also picked up on parallels between the show and the war on terror. Goldberg took particular glee in attacking Galactica’s anti-war movement, which he said consisted of “radical peaceniks” and “peace-terrorists” who “are clearly a collection of whack jobs, fifth columnists and idiots.” Goldberg also praised several characters for trying to rig a presidential election. “I liked that the good guys wanted to steal the election and, it turns out, they were right to want to,” wrote Goldberg. Stolen elections, evil robots, crazed hippies … what more could a socially inept right-winger want from a show?

But alas, this love affair between Galactica and the right was not to last: in its third season, the show has morphed into a stinging allegorical critique of America’s three-year occupation of Iraq. The trouble started at the end of the second season, when humanity briefly escaped the Cylons and settled down on the tiny planet of New Caprica. The Cylons soon returned and quickly conquered the defenseless humans. But instead of slaughtering everyone, the Cylons decided to take a more enlightened path by “benevolently occupying” the planet and imposing their preferred way of life by gunpoint. The humans were predictably not enthused about their allegedly altruistic rulers, and they immediately launched an insurgency against them using improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers. Needless to say, this did not go over very well in the Galacticon camp.

“The whole suicide bombing thing … made comparisons to Iraq incredibly ham-fisted,” wrote a frustrated Goldberg, who had hoped the struggle against the Cylons would look more like Le Resistance than the Iraqi insurgency. “The French resistance vibe … is part of what makes the Iraq comparison so offensive. It’s a one-step remove from comparing the Iraqi insurgency to the (romanticized) French resistance.”

Fellow Corner writer John Podheretz shared Goldberg’s assessment, and chided conservative fans of the show who were still in denial about its sudden leftward drift. “Message to BSG fans on the Right,” wrote Podheretz sternly. “You cannot … come up with some cockamamie explanation whereby it’s not about how we Americans are the Cylons and the humans are the ‘insurgents’ fighting an ‘imperialist’ power.”

No one holds the sci-fi loving, AV-clubbing, libertarian Right in less esteem than we do, but could even they not figure out that the folks on the show who worship God are the good guys and the pagans the bad?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 27, 2006 11:16 PM

The producers /writers of BSG want us to see the parallels, but any intelligent viewer will also see the differences. The insurgency on New Caprica was the irregular arm of a legally constituted military: the Colonial Fleet. It coordinated it's actions with the Fleet to effect the liberation of the civilian population on NC. It's tactic of suicide bombing to kill legitimate military targets is not a war crime. Japanese Kamikazes weren't commiting a warcrime when they flew into US aircraft carriers.

The Iraqi insurgency on the other hand, is affiliated with no regular military organization. It has no legitimate military goals. It sees targeting civilians as a feature, not a bug.

Posted by: Pete at October 28, 2006 1:37 AM

That was very well put. However Col Tigh was contemplating setting off bombs in the marketplace until Galactica made contact. And that scene where a bomber killed himself and a number of humans who'd joined up as police did make for uncomfortable viewing.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 28, 2006 6:44 AM

Nor was it a war crime when we nuked civilians to get the Japs to surrender or starve North Koreans or deny meds to Iraqis to get at their leaders. Terrorism is a perfectly legitimate tool if your end is just. The Galacticans' isn't. They're essentially the Romans, while the Cylons are the Christian slaves risen to power.

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2006 9:48 AM

OJ may be right, since there isn't much to love or respect about the humans in the show other than their bravery. They are almost all selfish, treacherous pagans whose morals seem to shift with the slightest breeze.

But, Pete's analysis is dead on. The allegorical story is in no way "stinging" since it is the differences between Galactica and Iraq that are most obvious, not the similarities, and many on the right are angry because they thought the writers were smarter than this.

Posted by: Patrick H at October 28, 2006 9:58 AM

What's the difference between the Galacticans and the Ba'ath?

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2006 10:28 AM

"They're essentially the Romans, while the Cylons are the Christian slaves risen to power."

The analogy doesn't really fit. This current war started after forty years of peace\non-war when the human side had long ago stopped whatever Cylon persecution they might have been guilty of. I don't believe Christian virtue encompasses pre-emptive nuclear genocide against pagans, unless you believe the conquistadore's conquest of South America was perfectly in keeping with Jesus' teachings.

I like the show and the humans in it just fine. There isn't anything else on tv which does as good a job as positively portraying the military and virtues such as duty, perseverance, self-sacrifice and courage.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 28, 2006 10:42 AM

As the Cylons asked Baltar the other night: are you really the kind of people who'd just let bygones be bygones and leave us in peace? The Japanese were no threat when we nuked them, but we wanted to crush them so they'd ever try again. Worked.

Yes, the subjugation of those aboriginals who were reluctant to accept the Word was well justified. The real question is why the Cylons don't just convert the humans. It would be rather easy given the risible nature of their belief system.

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2006 10:51 AM

But they were leaving the Cylons in peace. There wasn't any indication in the first miniseries that they were actively hunting and waylaying Cylons. At that stage they were indeed content to let bygones be bygones.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 28, 2006 10:58 AM

Trying to keep a "Women's right to choose" in the face of extinction and fighting a terrorist war against people who can't be killed? I can't imagine siding with the Colonies.......

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at October 28, 2006 11:04 AM

What was Saddam doing when we waylaid him in '03? We don't leave enemies to fester--why would our counterparts?

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2006 11:12 AM


Call me a specieist, but I'm rooting for the Humans over the Toasters. Just like I root for the Hindu over the Tiger.

The Toaster's talk to their "God" and he/she/it called for the annihilation of the Humans. At that point the Human's religious beliefs don't enter into it.

Posted by: Pete at October 28, 2006 1:48 PM

Not their God, but God.

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2006 1:55 PM

Of course it's "their" God if nobody else worships him, unless you've decided to accept the legitimacy of the Cylon's faith. One we know zero about, except that it called for the destruction of humanity. Is monotheism, of whatever stripe, enough for you?

Posted by: Pete at October 28, 2006 2:04 PM

God exists regardless of who worships Him. In this case the Cylons do and the Gatticans don't. They're the same species though.

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2006 2:11 PM

"What was Saddam doing when we waylaid him in '03? We don't leave enemies to fester--why would our counterparts?"

Being in breach of numerous UN resolutions, actively declaring his intent to develop WMDs, attacking US planes in the no-fly zone, threatening US allies and ignoring ultimatums to abdicate from power?

The situations are hardly analagous. Situations that might be would include Pearl Harbour and 9/11.

"Trying to keep a "Women's right to choose" in the face of extinction and fighting a terrorist war against people who can't be killed?"

They rescinded the right to choose. The terrorism was meant to distract and keep the enemy off-balance, which apparently worked given how the rescue operation succeeded.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 28, 2006 4:23 PM

sure, prior to Pearl we'd imposed an illegal embargo and on 9-11 we had troops in the Muslim Holy Land. That's the point--with humans there's always a legitimate pretext.

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2006 5:15 PM

I have never watched this version of BGS. Once I found out they changed the gender of Starbuck but left the personality traits, I said no thanks. Looks like I was fully right. The original series had the humans as the God worshipers and the clear good guys. Leave it to modern Hollywood to make the robots the good guys.

Posted by: Bob at October 28, 2006 6:40 PM


I wouldn't take OJ's word that the Cylon's are the good guys. They sneak attacked the 12 colonies and murdered billions of humans. The remnants of humanity, less than 40k total, are fleeing for their lives. OJ is gripping because the humans that survived exhibit every vice and virtue that the average human on earth does, but without the benefit of monotheism. Thus, they are the bad guys.

Posted by: Pete at October 28, 2006 7:30 PM



Posted by: oj at October 28, 2006 7:50 PM

I've never seen this show. Is it worth watching?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 29, 2006 11:38 PM