Reverse Racism ('Into the Dalek' 2)

(11 comments)

The Doctor learns that he is bigoted because he refused to accept the idea that a Dalek could be good.  Indeed, he hates Daleks so much that the one time he is prepared to even countenance the idea of a good Dalek is when he meets a Dalek which says all Daleks are evil and should die.  So he hates genocidal racists so much that the only member of that race he can think of as good is the one who says that it would be a good idea to exterminate an entire race.  But, of course, that isn't good.  That's bad.  That makes you as bad as a Dalek.  Indeed, that's Dalek-thinking.

Ironic, fairly interesting, and doubtless intentional.

But there's another interesting irony here, which probably wasn't intended.

As has been frequently pointed out, SF often falls into the trap of a race essentialism.  Alien races in SF all have the same characteristics.  The same sort of thing is true in Fantasy, and in other forms of storytelling featuring sapient non-humans.  All Vulcans are logical, all Sontarans are militaristic, all House Elves are servile, all Orc are psychopaths, etc.  The problems with this are obvious.  It rests upon a reductionist view of race, society and sentience... not to mention a set of assumptions directly related to biological racism.  But that's all obvious, and well covered elsewhere.

Back to the unintended little irony in 'Into the Dalek'... which, to be fair, is more an irony about the Daleks themselves.  No, not the irony of creatures which metaphorically express the evil of racism themselves being based on race essentialism.  I'm not really talking about race here.  I'm talking about politics.

Because, as is also well understood, the Daleks are metaphors for the Nazis.  Actually they hardly even bother being metaphors.

So we wind up in a peculiar situation politcally when we question the idea that there is something wrong with assuming that all Daleks are evil (an assumption that 'Into the Dalek' more or less explicitly questions).  We wind up essentialy questioning the idea that all Nazis, all fascists, are bad.  But you see... they are.  By definition.  The DWM review of Timewyrm: Exodus said that Hermann Goering was the closest thing to a nice Nazi (a pretty startling remark if you know anything about the man).  But you can't have nice Nazis.  You can't even approach that.  It's like talking about dry water - if it's dry, it ain't water.

We have bumped up against a standard misunderstanding about discrimination.  It isn't something that can happen to anyone or everyone.  There's no such thing as 'reverse racism', or 'misandry' (at least as the term is meant by the crybabies who object to feminism on the basis of their bruised manfeels).  There certainly isn't any such thing as unfair discrimination against fascists.   That's why they shouldn't be allowed on Question Time, no matter how many people vote for them.  You can't have democratic fascists.  Obviously, therefore, you can't extend them the boons of democracy.  I'm not in favour of banning fascist parties or imprisoning fascists - because it would be counter-productive - but it isn't an unreasonable idea in itself.

(Similarly, I don't think its an unreasonable idea in itself for capitalist democracy to lock me away too, since I've repeatedly voiced my desire to see it destroyed... though it makes considerably less sense than locking fascists away, since my dissatisfaction with capitalist democracy is based on a rejection of its own rhetoric about democracy, and a demand for more democracy, whereas the fascist objection to capitalist democracy is based on a desire for less democracy.)

My saying that it is right to discriminate against fascists certainly doesn't make me as bad as a fascist.  That's wishy-washy, purblind piffle.  That idea rests on a false equivalency, like many liberal cul-de-sacs.  The eternal phantasm of the level playing field, the balanced middle-ground; the idea of the centre as the rational point between irrational extremes, and fairness as the equidistant zone between claims.  All that childish, politcally-illiterate shit.

You don't become a fascist when you discriminate against fascists; you become an anti-fascist... just as you don't become a sexist when you challenge patriarchy, or a reverse racist when you challenge white privilege.

Of course, it might be objected that you can label everyone who ascribes to a political philosophy 'bad' without accepting that it would be a good thing if they were all killed... and you'd have a point.  But it's still interesting that, even today, we are more comfortable playing around (albeit questioningly) with the reading of the Daleks which is based on race essentialism than on the reading which is based on political philosophy... even when they openly represent a political philosophy that 'we' supposedly all despise.

Comments

Matthew Celestis 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes, the persistence of the BBC in offering interviews to Nick Griffin was appalling. Racist voices should not be heard on our televisions.

If Nigel Farage continues to talk about defending the 'white working class,' and stirring up hatred about immigration, he needs to be banned from radio and television as well.

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Anonymous 2 years, 11 months ago

Blah blah blah, justifying discrimination.

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Anonymous 2 years, 11 months ago

The problem with silencing fascists isn't that there's anything inherently wrong with wanting to stop people using their words to ultimately hurt others, it's that it's very difficult, if not impossible to build a silencing mechanism which only silences fascists, and far easier to build a silencing mechanism which silences all sorts of dissent, but looks like it's only silencing fascists to a sufficient number of people to be accepted as doing such. So in practice, you'll always get the latter.

Strongish AI might change this situation in the future, but I wouldn't want to bet on it working. Allowing powers to exist unnecessarily is always going to be very dangerous, because the unscrupulous are the ones who will always be most motivated to seize it and to use it ruthlessly.

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Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

'No Platform' (which I believe in) aside, my point wasn't really that we could or should silence fascists in some repressive way, rather that it isn't an unreasonable idea in itself given that fascism is a rejection of, and inimical to, democracy. You don't become a fascist when you oppose them. Etc.

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Ross 2 years, 11 months ago

Also, that the correct response to "Oh yeah? If you're so tolerant, why won't you tolerate my intolerance?" is "Go fuck yourself," optionally backed up with a punch to the nose.

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Anonymous 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes, the persistence of the BBC in offering interviews to Nick Griffin was appalling. Racist voices should not be heard on our televisions.

But wasn't it that Question Time appearance that finally killed the BNP as an electoral force?

Isn't it possible that, had Griffin not been invited on Question Time, the BNP might still be winning councillors and possibly even MEPs?

If Nigel Farage continues to talk about defending the 'white working class,' and stirring up hatred about immigration, he needs to be banned from radio and television as well

I suspect, actually, that the reason the BBC keeps inviting him on is, well, partly because they are in the business of making television and he is good television, but also because they know they destroyed Griffin by handing him the petrol and letting him pour it over himself and then strike the match, and are trying to do the same thing to Farage.

But regardless, they also know that banning doesn't work because they lived through the period of the ban on IRA members speaking on television, and they remember how abjectly that failed.

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Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

I think Dickibegyourpardonnick Griffin is perhaps something of a special case, given what a toweringly ludicrous, shambolic, embarassing, self-satirising pillock he is. Also, the BNP's downfall was at least as much - probably a lot more - to do with anti-fascist activist campaigning on the ground, plus the BNP's own pitiful internal incompetence.

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Anonymous 2 years, 11 months ago

Griffin is perhaps something of a special case, given what a toweringly ludicrous, shambolic, embarassing, self-satirising pillock he is

There you see though you could say the same about Farage, couldn't you?

I'm pretty sure that every BBC producer who books Farage does so at least partly in the secret, or perhaps not-so-secret, hope that this time will be the one where he self-destructs life on air, and so said producer can spend the rest of their life at Islington dinner parties casually mentioning that they were the one who destroyed UKIP.

Also, the BNP's downfall was at least as much - probably a lot more - to do with anti-fascist activist campaigning on the ground, plus the BNP's own pitiful internal incompetence

The BNP's incompetence was prodigious, of course, and perhaps I was scaremongering a little to suggest they might still be a threat now. But I'm pretty sure it was Question Time, and the subsequent media coverage, that brought him down: hardly any of the general population actually notices any 'anti-fascist activist campaigning on the ground', but a good meltdown on camera will provide an image that sticks in the minds of millions.

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Gavin Burrows 2 years, 11 months ago

"I suspect, actually, that the reason the BBC keeps inviting him on is… because they know they destroyed Griffin… and are trying to do the same thing to Farage."

Even assuming someone thought that about Farage back then, it would be something of a hard idea to keep up in your mind right now.

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Jack Graham 2 years, 11 months ago

The anti-fascist activism on the ground is very much noticed by local people in areas where the BNP campaigned for seats.

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Lenoxus 2 years, 11 months ago

I don't disagree about the relative nonexistence of misandry, etc.

One problem with treating Daleks as political rather than racial is in their actual mechanics on the show. People don't become persuaded by Dalek arguments and opt to join them, nor is a Dalek typically ever capable of "quitting". The best example I can think of a sci-fi "race" that really is more of an ideology would be the Nietzscheans from Andromeda, who follow a philosophy of self-interest and distinguish themselves from others through genetic modification.

I did bristle at the way declarations like "Kill all Daleks" were treated as an obvious sign we were dealing with a good one, when lots of other explanations were possible — the simplest being that this particular Dalek had merely taken its worldview one species further than its brethren did. It would have been better for the Dalek to prove its goodness by affirming the value of non-Dalek life in combination with a desire for Daleks to be ended. Especially considering that, in the Dalek's own words, it really did have an epiphany of that nature.

Even then, of course, there should have been suspicion that the Daleks (or at least one of them) had simply figured out not to go around shouting their EXTERMINATION plans all the time. Heck, they'd already shown themselves capable of deceit in "Victory of the Daleks", and fought literal Nazis for the sake of their own master plans.

Ultimately, I think the Daleks work fine as a concept, and that universally identical groups really do have a place in fiction as a tool for interesting ideas. (Indeed, the concept is almost impossible to avoid when you bring in notions like robots, which are literally manufactured identically and under normal circumstances just obey their programming — Daleks are one of many of that sort of being.) The concept just happen to be overused.

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