Archive for Guest Editorials

What the New Republic Should Have Learned From the Old Republic


Any good government should learn from the mistakes and the successes of its forebears: in this case, after the defeat of the Empire, the New Republic should have copied the successes of the Old Republic without copying the mistakes that allowed Palpatine to take control so easily. The Old Republic, mired in controversy and stalemates, was easily manipulatable and powerless to stop its own corrosion, even though it was easily seen by every party involved.  When all of the supplementary material for The Force Awakens was launched, I was shocked to see that the story of the New Republic was closely mirroring the story of the Old Republic. Stuck in a stalemate, the New Republic couldn’t decide how to move forward in terms of dealing with a shadowy organization that posed a pretty clear threat to it. I was afraid that we were seeing that the New Republic hadn’t learned the lessons it should have from the Old Republic and might prove itself to be in just as bad a place as the Old Republic. Bloodline seemed to explore the New Republic more critically, from Leia’s point of view, asking: what can a stagnant governing body do? For Leia, the answer was rebel against her own government…again. Which lessons did the New Republic not learn, and fail to learn so disastrously that Leia had to leave that which she helped create? And did their failure to learn these lessons make the New Republic worse from the start?

It may not come as a shock, but the biggest issue to address in the New Republic is its view of the military: what should the role of the military be in the new government? Should it be as large as it was under the Republic? An idealistic Mon Mothma begins demilitarization efforts on Chandrila only a few months after the Battle of Endor! I don’t think that this type of thinking can save the galaxy. Eventually, the fighting must stop and some sort of treaty has to be formed—you can’t kill an ideology just by killing a lot of people (something Leia has learned by 34 ABY). It is my opinion, though, that the New Republic reduced their military far too soon. Remember: this effort started before the Galactic Concordance was signed, so the Imperial Army and Navy was still intact! Between Endor and Jakku, you’ve got at least the four invasions of Naboo, the heavy blockade of the Anoat sector and Kashyyyk, and the continued plight of Ryloth. With these as just a few examples of Imperial aggression, it’s hard to figure out what made Mothma confident in de-escalating the war so early. » Read more..

Torn Apart: The Predictable Downfall of Ben Solo


“Darth Vader is your grandfather.”

There’s no easy way to tell someone that they’re related to one of the most evil men in history, no pleasant way to share information that will shake them to the core. The best thing to do is be upfront, be honest and be willing to talk about it, but Han and Leia did none of these things with their son, Ben Solo. Leia waited for years hoping that the opportunity to tell Ben of his lineage would present itself, undoubtedly keeping it a secret to protect him from the pain it would cause. Unfortunately there’s no such thing as the right time to tell someone their grandfather slaughtered little children and became a monster.

However, Leia’s efforts to find the perfect moment were taken away when her political opponents publicly exposed her relationship to Darth Vader in an effort to ruin her chances of overseeing the New Republic. While they succeeded in preventing her from taking power, what they could not predict was the side effect the news would have on her son. This revelation was potentially the moment that started Ben down the path to fill the void left by Vader’s death.

To understand why Ben was willing to join Snoke we need to look back at a few factors of his life prior to The Force Awakens, some which have been revealed and others we need to deduce from common human behavior. The first thing to examine is Ben’s relationship with the Force. Pablo Hidalgo states in The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary that there is something about Ben that makes Snoke believe he is “the ideal embodiment of the Force, a focal point of both light and dark side ability”. This is not some sort of prophecy like with Anakin Skywalker, but the natural way Ben is connected to the Force. Snoke was able to feel this power in Ben from a very young age and as a result started to pull him towards the dark side early on.
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Star Wars and the Myth of Redemptive Violence: Continuing Thoughts


“Don’t read the comments”—that’s what people are always telling you about the internet, right? That being the case, I have to say that I’m enormously proud of the comments we get here at Eleven-ThirtyEight; even when there are disagreements, they tend to resolve amicably, and input from our audience often results in a deeper understanding and appreciation of the topic in question for all involved.

A couple weeks back, we published a guest piece from Andrew Berg called Star Wars and the Myth of Redemptive Violence, which considered, put simply, whether Star Wars as a franchise was contributing to (or in opposition to) the Western cultural obsession with violence as a just solution. As the days after the piece went on, a discussion continued between Andrew and two longtime ETE commenters—Eric Brown, an occasional guest writer himself, and John Maurer. I find this topic fascinating my own self, and so robust and interesting was their exchange that I eventually sought, and was given, their approval to republish the whole thing as a new piece in its own right.

This piece will also function as a special extension of the conversation if anyone else wants to weigh in further; due to an issue we used to have with spambots, I had to disable comments on pieces older than two weeks, meaning that the original is now closed for good. Here’s to continuing this excellent line of discourse. – Mike, EIC » Read more..

Star Wars and the Myth of Redemptive Violence


Stories have power—and the narratives our societies choose to focus on will, for better or worse, begin to define our reality. The concept of Manifest Destiny helped usher in an age of colonization and imperialism that resulted in millions of deaths and the enslavement of millions more. The narrative of the “American Dream” fostered economic growth and productivity on a scale never seen before, though often at the cost of work-life balances and to the exclusion of those denied equal access to economic institutions. The 1980s conception of the “Welfare Queen” embedded itself into American consciousness and to this day inhibits anti-poverty efforts while encouraging racial animus.

Stories have power—and because of that, we must make sure we are not focusing on a narrative that may ultimately cause harm to others.  With that thought in mind, I worry: Does Star Wars promote the myth of redemptive violence (defined simply as “the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace, and that might makes right”)?

Recently Roy Scranton, an American veteran of the second Iraq war, argued in the New York Times that in Star Wars, “the violence of war has a power that unifies and enlightens…It’s a story about how violence makes us good.” In essence, Scranton argued that Star Wars is simply another piece of America’s cultural myth of redemptive violence. This myth, he argues, is emblematic of the US addiction to war and ultimately helps prop up the same powers that even now wreak violence around the globe.

If his critique is true, then every fan of Star Wars is part and parcel of systemic evil that the myth of redemptive violence has brought upon the world. As a fan, the possibility that this critique might be true frightens me. But is it? » Read more..

“That’s Not True! That’s Impossible!” – Confirmation Bias in Star Wars Fandom


A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest. – Paul Simon

Anyone following along with the current state of American politics, the #Brexit, or the European Football championship probably knows what I mean when I say “confirmation bias”. It’s pretty universally understood that any strong adherent to one faction or the next is almost certain to seek out the news and information sources that hold and proclaim their point of view. And many of those who are most heavily involved in one side of an issue wonder how it’s possible for the other side to see things the way they do.

News sources themselves tend towards catering to one side of an issue or another. This is, of course, completely deliberate: those who are consumers of news trend toward viewership of the network whose broadcasts come closest to professing their own point of view. Savvy media outlets tailor their content to the audience that they know is tuning in lest a valuable audience member become displeased with the news of the day and dare to change the channel. With this kind of editorial manipulation going on behind the scenes, the differences in coverage of a single event across several networks can be jarring.

With the proliferation of the internet, the rise of the blogosphere, and the advent of the genre known as “infotainment”, it has in recent years become all the more effortless an undertaking to constrain ourselves to channels that reinforce an already-held position. People like to be right. People like to feel justified in their worldview. People also appreciate community. This is a large part of why we, as people, congregate and tend to self-segregate along political, social, class, and religious lines. » Read more..

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