Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Orson Scott Card, Unoriginal Fantasist

So, I see exploding all over the internet the news that science-fiction author Orson Scott Card has waxed lyrical (at nearly 3000 words) about a "silly thought experiment" in which President Obama--who is a vicious and contemptuous tyrant at heart--uses his backroom Machiavellian flunkies to destroy Hillary Clinton's incipient candidacy for the 2016 Democratic nomination by pinning the Benghazi on her, after which he orchestrates Michelle Obama's election to the presidency, effectively allowing him to maintain power behind the scenes. So far, so typical, insofar as far right-wing fantasies go. But Card (who I will still defend as having once been one of the greatest science-fiction short-story writers of all time) isn't stupid. He knows that if he wants his "game of Unlikely Events" to actually have the sort of rhetorical legs he obviously wishes it to, then he's got to do more:

As a student of history, allow me to spin a plausible scenario about how, like Augustus Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler, and Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama could become lifetime dictator without any serious internal opposition...Obama needs to have a source of military power that is under his direct control. Like Hitler, he needs a powerful domestic army to terrify any opposition that might arise....He needs Brown Shirts -- thugs who will do his bidding without any reference to law. So, Obama will claim we need a national police force in order to fight terrorism and crime. The Boston bombing is a useful start, especially when combined with random shootings by crazy people. Where will he get his "national police"? The NaPo will be recruited from "young out-of-work urban men" and it will be hailed as a cure for the economic malaise of the inner cities. In other words, Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama's enemies.

This is the passage everyone is--rightly--focusing on, because this is where the crazy gets serious. And that's all fine and good; no doubt Glenn Beck is kicking himself for not having latched onto this little bit of anti-Obama fictionalizing already. But while everyone rolls their eyeballs (or, I suppose, gobbles it all up as The Honest Truth), no one seems to have pointed out that someone has already told this exact same story. That, in short, Card, once a tremendous fantasist, is trotting out some fairly lame and well-worn paranoia here. How well-worn? Well, how about the fact that this plot twist was the climax to a popular British television program, also a story of a chief executive's grasp of completely power, twenty years ago? Behold:

So, this is what I think. Card, stewing about the collapse of Western civilization and American power and traditional marriage from his home in North Carolina as he is apparently somewhat want to do, was playing around on Netflix, and stumbled on to To Play the King. "Oh my gosh," he thinks to himself, "this is it! Obama is actually Francis Urquhart! I've got to get this in print--no one has imagined this parallel before!!" And so off he goes, spinning out his tale. The problem, of course, is that every minimally literate Tea Partier, whether or not they ever watch the BBC (and I guess, why would they? it's socialist, after all!), has long since imagined this and numerous other lurid scenarios, the stories which lay out such political fantasies having been long since absorbed into the popular imagination. Which, in the end, is my only real beef here. Look, if you're the sort of person who believes that an unfortunately moderate-progressive liberal president who is manifestly friendly to Wall Street and the corporate powers that be is actually a charming, faux-patriotic secret fascist who is plotting the overthrow of the United States of America--or at least the sort of person who enjoys entertaining such notions to keep you fired up during the day--more power to you. But if you're Orson Scott Card, professional writer, couldn't you at least come up with something a little more original? I mean, honestly.


Doug said...

"But if you're Orson Scott Card, professional writer, couldn't you at least come up with something a little more original?"

Judging by the books in the Shadow series, in which it was apparent he thought that 300 (or however many) years from now people would still be outraged about what Bill Clinton did with his penis, the answer is "No, no he can't."

Ricketson said...

"...president who is manifestly friendly to Wall Street and the corporate powers..."

So how does that distinguish him from Hitler and Putin?

I think the bigger problem is the idea that a downtrodden minority group can form the foundation for a dictatorship. It's much more effective to recruit from a population that fears that it is losing its privileges.