Posts Tagged ‘Paul Verhoven’

90s Space War SF Programme’s Christmas Message of Peace

January 1, 2022

One of the things I’ve been doing over the Christmas season is watching videos of the old Science Fiction series Space: Above and Beyond on Guy With Beer’s channel on YouTube. Created by X-Files’ writers Glenn Morgan and James Wong, the show followed the adventures of a flight of American space marines fighting a future war between humanity and race of aliens known as the Chigs. Humanity was moving out into the Galaxy and was unaware of intelligent alien life, until the Chigs launched an unprovoked attack on two human colonies. The series heroes were the Wild Cards, whose members included an Asian-American, Paul Wang, a Black female engineer, Damphousse, whose father was the chief engineer in a nuclear power plant; Nathan West, an aspiring colonist for one of the attacked planets. West had been due to go there as a member of a colonising party with his girlfriend, but had lost his place due to an affirmative action programme that gave it instead to a group of in-vitros. These were artificially gestated humans developed to serve as slave labour and an unfree police force. Although now free, they were subject to massive prejudice and widespread discrimination. One of the other members of the Wild Cards, Cooper Hawkes, was one. He had escaped from the In Vitro facility after being told he was due to be killed because his natural born officers regarded him as a failure. He had been arrested by the cops simply for depending himself after a group of natural born humans tried to lynch him simply for getting a job on their building site. The judge at his trial sentenced him to join the marines. Leading the squadron was another woman, ‘Queen’ Vansen. The squadron was based on the space naval vessel, the Saratoga, commanded by Commodore Ross, a Black man, while their immediate commander, Colonel McQueen, was another in vitro. This followed the general pattern of Science Fiction of the time. Like Star Trek, it looked forward to men and women of different races working together in harmony and equality, where they were simply accepted without comment. The issues of racism, prejudice and discrimination was dealt with through the In-Vitros. Behind the scenes was the Aerotech Corporation, the space conglomerate leading the colonisation missions, which may have known far more about the Chigs than they let on. As does a blind American politico aspiring to be chief of the UN. She’s leading a peace initiative to the Chigs and their allies, the AIs, androids created as a police force, who rebelled after someone typed a virus into the computer system governing them with the message, ‘Take a chance’. When she is about to award West with a medal for protecting her against an assassination attempt, he asks if her if the rumours are true and that they knew the Chigs were out there. She says nothing more, but drops the medal on the floor and turns away from him.

The Chigs, a nickname because in their space armour they resemble Chiggers, burrowing tropical flees, remain a mystery until the very end of the series. They remain constantly hidden in their armour. Any attempt to remove it results in them dissolving into a green goo. There are hints of what they look like – the odd clawed, three fingered hand and arm is seen, but their faces are not revealed until the last two programmes when their envoy finally comes aboard the Saratoga to discuss peace terms and finally removes his mask to reveal his true alien features. They’re methane breathers, who come to a moon of their world to incubate their eggs in a special brood chamber. Allied to them are the AIs, who found sanctuary with them after escaping Earth following their defeat by the humans. These run the prisoner of war and forced labour camps, torturing their prisoners and attacking and stealing fuel and vital minerals from mining worldlets in the Oort Cloud. Both the Chigs and the AIs are utterly ruthless, killing without mercy, including the wounded.

The series only lasted for one season of 23 episodes, which seemed to be the lot of the vast majority of SF shows that weren’t Star Trek, although Farscape managed to go for four, plus the three part miniseries, The Peacekeeper Wars, and Babylon Five lasted five seasons. At the time I wondered if it was inspired by the success of the film Starship Troopers directed by Paul Verhoeven. Based on the book by Robert Heinlein, this was about a future war between a militarised humanity and the Bugs, a race of intelligent alien insects. In this future society, only those who had done their military service had the right to vote and enter politics, a view which Heinlein himself held. Verhoeven subverted this by satirically portraying them as Nazis, based on his experience of growing up in the occupied Netherlands. Heinlein also really did believe that war was ennobling experience. But I also wonder if it was partly inspired by Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, about a thousand-year war between humanity and another alien race, the Taureans, which sees one of the recruits, who hasn’t aged thanks to relativistic time dilation, returning to a vastly changed society in which he has no place. It was SF’s treatment of the alienation and maltreatment by the armed forces many squaddies experienced in Vietnam. Space: Above and Beyond, by contrast had no explicit message about war either pro or contra. Rather it was about about a people doing their best to defend their country and planet against a ruthless, genocidal enemy. During this they see their friends die. Paul Wang, initially very religious, loses his faith due to what he has seen and done. There is the constant danger of hospitalisation and permanent trauma from PTSD. And Wang is tortured into making a propaganda video by the AIs, a tactic used by America’s enemies.

The series’ Christmas show had a rather more positive storyline in keeping with the season. It was clearly inspired by the Christmas truce between Brits and Germans at the start of the First World War, as it showed in contemporary footage in a historical flashback. The Wild Cards are sent out on sortie in one of the space Armoured Personnel Carriers. They are discovered and attacked by a Chig squadron, which abandons them for dead. Their ship is disabled and left drifting in space. The radio is damaged so that they can hear the Saratoga looking for them, but not respond. And to cap it all there’s a comet headed right at them.

They are saved when messages in garbled English started coming in for them in Morse code. These messages tell them how to repair their spacecraft enough so that they can put themselves in orbit around the comet instead of getting smashed by it. They’ve been drifting further into Chig territory, but the comet will take them away from it and back to the human lines. It looks like the person sending these messages was not human, Which means he was a Chig.

The programme ended with a written message from the cast and crew of Space: Above and Beyond wishing everyone peace during the holiday season. I thought the series had a lot of potential and was disappointed when it ended. At the time it had the same figures the X-Files had when it started, and there were rumours that it was cancelled so the X-Files could get Morgan and Wong back, but this was denied. My favourite episode was ‘Who Monitors the Birds?’, telling the story of how Hawkes escaped from the in-vitro facility. He had been marked as a failure because he observed birds flying, and had asked the commanding officer training them to be killers, ‘Who monitors the birds?’ When the officer replies, ‘I( do’, he asks, ‘But who monitors you?’ Hawkes is sent on a highly secret mission to assassinate a senior chig general. This goes wrong and his partner is killed. he therefore has to roam the planet fighting to get to the extraction point. During his journey he runs into a Chig trooper, and is about to shoot him when he sees him watching a flying, bird or bat-like creature. Hawkes pauses long enough for the Chig squaddie to move on. He later runs into the same alien again running away from a Chig patrol. They’re about to shoot each other, but put down their guns momentarily to swap dog tags and go their separate ways. Hawkes nevertheless has to shoot him during their next encounter, which naturally upsets him. Punctuating his adventures is a strange woman, appearing as a corpse with grey skin and the marks of decay. She has designs on his body and tries to thrust her attentions on him. At other times she grabs his head to show him the Chig patrols coming for him. And after he pushes her away, she vanishes into thin air. She’s silent or inaudible throughout, except at her final appearance when she says ‘Till next time then’. She is never explained, and you’re left wondering if she’s an hallucination, another alien or what. At the end of the story, Hawkes rips up the contract he was offered, in which he would gain his freedom on killing the alien general. I think it works as a stand-alone story, and is in its way a classic of SF TV, like many episodes of Dr. Who and Star Trek.

Although it was made well over 20 years ago, the series’ seasonal message still remains relevant at this Christmas season. We need peace now as much as ever, with Iran and Israel seemingly gearing up to attack each others’ nuclear facilities, tensions rising with China and with Russia over Ukraine.

May we look forward to peace this year and an easing of tensions, as programmes like Space: Above and Beyond have wished at this season.

Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin Tells You Not to Vote for Him

April 15, 2019

More internet fun at the expense of another far right, aspiring politico. This time it’s Carl Benjamin, aka the internet ranter known as ‘Sargon of Akkad’, amongst other, less polite epithets.

Sargon’s one of the extreme right-wing internet figures that Gerard Batten has invited into his party in order to restore its flagging membership and electoral viability, like Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson, Mark Meechan, alias Count Dankula, and Tommy Robinson. Dankula’s notorious as the idiot, who was convicted of anti-Semitism after he trained his girlfriend’s pug to make the Nazi salute when he shouted ‘Heil Hitler!’ and ‘Gas the Jews’. He put videos of it on YouTube, and claimed it was all just a joke. The Glaswegian Jewish community thought otherwise, prosecuted, and the judge agreed with them. And Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley Lennon, is the islamophobe who founded the EDL, then was involved with Pegida UK. After having been in the BNP, of course. He’s now Batten’s special adviser on Islam and prisons, because he’s been in a few, and not just for hate speech and contempt of court, but also for other crimes like assault and mortgage fraud. And now UKIP have chosen Sargon to be their candidate for the European elections for the southwest. Which isn’t surprising, as he comes from Swindon.

A few days ago Sargon put up a five minute people announcing his candidacy. Kirsti Winters, an American academic teaching in Germany, who is a feminist and a political scientist, put up this spoof video. It’s another piece of careful editing done to make Sargon look stupid. The video begins with the statement that UKIP is a ‘rational party for rational people’. It then shows Sargon introducing himself, and saying that he doesn’t want to be elected to the European parliament, and pleading with people not to elect him, as he won’t do sh*t. He also claims that he’s a ‘centrist moderate’ but comes from a part of the community, whose voice isn’t being heard. And he is firmly opposed to far-left ideology, which he will expose on the internet if he comes across it.

Well, Sargon is many things, but he most definitely isn’t a ‘centrist moderate’. For some bizarre reason he sees, or claims to see himself as ‘centre left’, but that’s only by the standards of the mid-19th century. He also describes himself as a ‘classical liberal’, which means that he stands for absolute free trade, the total privatisation of the economy and the destruction of the welfare state. As for being a member of a section of the community whose voice is being stifled, I have heard that Sargon’s Jewish and has a Black grandfather. But those aren’t the ethnic groups he means. Sargon’s a member of the manosphere, that section of the internet that believes feminism has gone far too far, and is a seething mass of resentment about how White men are under attack from aggressive feminism, anti-racism, ‘social justice warriors’ and other extreme left-wing ideologies. He has several channels in which he finds the most extreme or ridiculous feminists, Black or other ethnic minority activists or campaigners for gay and trans rights, criticises them and tries to claim that they are somehow representative of all feminists, Blacks, gays and transgender people.

I mentioned him a few days ago in a piece I put up about UKIP’s choice of Count Dankula as one of their candidates for the European elections. Zelo Street put up another piece on the pair at the same time, which gave a few more details of Sargon’s unpleasant opinions. Like the tweet he sent to Jess Philips, when she was talking about the vile misogynist messages she had been sent, including rape threats. Sargon’s tweeted ‘I wouldn’t even rape you.’ He also told a group of other extreme rightists on a livestream, in which he was taking part, that they were ‘behaving like a bunch of n****ers’ and ‘White n****ers’ when they started to fall out among themselves. Sargon isn’t, as far as I know, actually a member of the Alt Right. He defines himself as a civic, rather than ethnonationalist, which means that he believes that anyone born in a country is a citizen, regardless of their colour or ethnicity, rather than that only Whites have citizenship. On the other hand, he does hold many of their views, so that one of the leaders of the Alt Right has said that he’s a gateway into them. He’s certainly said that an Alt Right government would be less of a threat to him and his family than an ‘SJW’ (Social Justice Warrior) one.

As for the slogan underneath the spoof UKIP banner at the start of the video, ‘Service guarantees citizenship’, SF fans will spot that as the motto in Robert Heinlein’s highly militaristic novel, Starship Troopers, filmed in the 1990s by Paul Verhoven, the man who gave us Robocop and Total Recall. In the film and the novel, only those who have served in the military qualify as citizens with the right to vote. Heinlein started out as a socialist before moving to the extreme right, and he really believed this. So, apparently, do many UKIP officials and politicos, as they’ve also repeated it. Whether they really believe it, or even know where it comes from, is debatable. It may be they’re only using it to draw in extreme right-wing SF fanboys. But it’s there, nonetheless.

As for ‘a rational party for rational people’, Sargon’s party of the internet sceptic community, but it seems that this has increasingly given up promoting atheism or attacking ‘unscientific’ beliefs, and become dominated instead by self-proclaimed right-wing intellectuals attacking anything to the left of them. So much so that it’s fair to say that parts of it do resemble the League of Gentlemen’s Royston Vesey and its bizarre, twisted, deeply insular inhabitants. Like Tubbs and Edward and their ‘local shop, for local people’.

The best thing genuine liberals, moderates and leftists can do is take Sargon’s advice, and not vote for him or UKIP, if they don’t want this country run by a horde of deeply xenophobic, misogynist gammon. Some of whom may well have Tubbs and Edward’s snub noses.

Coalition Enters Weird World of Anarcho-Capitalism: Tories to Privatise the Courts

July 27, 2013

There is another important piece posted by my brother, Mike Sivier, over at his Vox Political blog. In ‘Court Privatisation – What Happened to the Lord Chief Justice’s Objections’ he discusses and critiques the latest Tory wheeze. This time they want to sell off the courts. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Igor Judge, had previously criticised the suggestion on the grounds that it contracted the injunction in the Magna Carta against selling justice. It now seems he supports the move.

Mike’s article on it can be read here: http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/court-privatisation-what-happened-to-the-lord-chief-justices-objections/#comments

A week or so ago I wrote a blog piece noting that the Tories seemed to have lifted an awful lot of their policies, like private police forces, from Rothbard and the American Libertarians. I asked, somewhat rhetorically at the time, whether even they would be so mad as to privatise the courts, as suggested by the great Anarcho-Capitalist. I thought that even they wouldn’t be so greedy and bonkers as to sell off the core function of the state. I was wrong.

We are rapidly entering the kind of dystopian world portrayed in 1980s SF films. (I’m thinking in particular of one directed by Paul Verhoven).

A world where crime is rampant. Where Big Business owns the police and the city they serve and protect. Where the cops are under siege, gunned down by savage gangs.

And where corruption goes all the way to the boardroom.

Only one man can protect us from this urban nightmare.

robocop