I'll say this, though, if you want to start a war make the public believe your opponents are evil.
This is from the site Dividuals.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people use the Star Wars lore as a social-political allegory – an allegory for the war between Good and Evil, between Freedom and Oppression etc. There is nothing inherently childish or nerdy about that: it is a myth, a modern myth, and using mythological metaphors and allegories have a distinguished place in the history of Western thought – they boil down to attempts to point out human psychological universals.
In this article, I will propose to attempt to turn the whole edifice on its head: by introducing two simple and hopefully reasonable changes in the lroe, I will demonstrate to liberal / mainstream readers how almost everything they believe could be wrong, and a radically Reactionary critique of modernity could be right.
Before I go into the revised plot, I would like to give a bit of a framework. Let’s say something happened a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away. But we are not 100% sure why. All George Lucas had is some newspapers drifting over from the galaxy somehow, with mainly text, a few photos, and perhaps a short video clip or two, but certainly not the whole thing. And he decided to write a movie based on that plot. Unfortunately, it is possible that the articles he based the plot on contain a propaganda narrative, not the actual truth. This little fun thought experiment is intended to offer one possible version of an alternative truth.
First of all, let’s conduct a thought experiment of removing religion from politics. I mean, let’s remove the Force religion from the lore of the Star Wars universe. Most importantly, remove the religious dogma that the Sith and the Dark Side are automatically Satanic evil and the Jedi are automatically good guys, unless they fall to the Dark Side. (“No True Scotsman Jedi would…”) Let’s say there is no supernatural way of becoming good or falling to evil at all, or no supernatural ways of determining who is which. And maybe it’s best if in our thought experiment there is no actual supernatural Force in the Star Wars universe at all: all those Force miracles are just unconfirmed myths or urban legends, perpetrated by propaganda or superstition, and the Jedi and the Sith are basically just philosophers, nothing more. What we see in the movies is a narrative made by people who were duped by those miraculous myths and legends.We can assume the movies show the viewpoint of some really credulous guys who think Palpatine can throw lightning bolts for roughly the same reasons some really credulous guys in Ancient Greece believed Zeus can throw lightning bolts. So we will really turn down the religion meter in our thought experiment. This is, I assume, a reasonable change for a liberal / mainstream reader: less religion, less supernaturalism is generally supposed to make things more realistic, right?
But notice how it makes it far harder to determine who is good and who is evil! Now we cannot trust the Force making this judgement obvious. We have to make up our own minds. Perhaps the Sith are good and the Jedi are evil now? Or both evil? Or both good? Or there is no such thing as good or evil at all? Now we have to start thinking a bit harder, don’t you find?
The second simple and reasonable change in our thought experiment is to assume what we see in the movies is not a neutral, objective account of the history of that galaxy. It is a narrative. It is a narrative written by the victors, as history usually is, therefore, by the Republic. Therefore, the Jedi, the Republic present themselves as the good guys and they present the Sith, the Empire as the bad guys. Let’s suppose they distort, filter and reinterpret every fact for that goal as this is how propaganda usually works.
Or maybe another, similar assumption could be that the fight was not entirely over when the movies gave us a snapshot into the Mainstream Jedi Narrative, but you could assume that the media, the narrative is simply dominated by the Republic, the Jedi. After all the Jedi tend to act as general advisors and councilors to people. They are the kind of intellectual, spiritual elite journalists could listen to, like how today they listen to professors, right? I assume the liberal / mainstream reader can accept that it is perfectly possible to screw people over by feeding them a bullshit narrative through the media, just they don’t expect the Official Good Guys to do anything like that – dick moves of this type should be reserved to the Bad Guys, right?
Um. Except we already determined we actually don’t know who the good guys are? So, after all, if the Jedi could be evil, the Jedi Media and Jedi Academia, and the Overall Mainstream Jedi Republican Narrative – the movies – could be lying to us?
So how about a counter-narrative? Let’s say the Republic could not do its one job right: to keep various factions from erupting into civil wars, to keep various planets and star systems from erupting into local wars. In short, they failed at keeping peace and order. Senator Palpatine, seeing how it doesn’t work, and wanting to save the Galaxy from untold suffering, pulled a Julius Caesar move and attempted to restore peace and put an end to the many local pockets of bloodshed through establishing imperial authority and basically undisputed dominance, a Galactic Pax Romana. His motive was noble and one that could be reasonably considered efficient: to have a force of Galactic Peacekeepers, Galactic Police around to keep everybody else from killing each other.
Except that some guys didn’t like it at all. And some of the guys who didn’t like that could be called positively evil. Former Senators who enjoyed the power gained by participating in the murky, inefficient chaos of the politics of the Republic. Planetary bigwigs who wanted to wage war on the next planet. Consider Leia’s dad, who was a Senator and Prince / Viceroy. Maybe the old ruling class didn’t like their power reduced? It could interfere with their schemes like waging a local war or supporting a power-hungry Senate faction, right? The Republic had a huge ruling class of senators, local monarchs, bureaucrats and the suchlike, all kinds of intermediate level of strongmen who didn’t like the new Emperor bossing them around and reducing their power. So they engineered a Rebellion. And another group who engineered that Rebellion were a cabal of top Jedis. They used to have immense informal power in the murky chaos of Republican politics: the power of the advisor. The power and influence of the intellectual, opinion leader, who does not rule directy: he does not have to. He simply tells other people who actually rule what to think, be that the kings of monarchical planets or the voters of democratic planets. His rule is not of the iron fist but the glib tongue, the power of “free speech”, persuasion, manipulation, seductive half-truths wrapped into a lingo of sugary, bleeding-heart idealism – can you say Jedi Mind Tricks? And they too did not like losing their influence much. So these two group of highly influential and highly unethical people engineered the Rebellion.
Of course they did not tell most Rebels what it is really about. Most Rebels are in fact good guys, good guys in the sense of foolish idealists. Pure hearts, if not much in the way of brains. So they lapped up the whole sugary idealistic bullshit about freedom, democracy and ending oppression. I mean, just look at their heroes! The Jedi – Senatorial cabal choose precisely those heroes who really cannot tell cool sounding propaganda from actual truth. An adopted farm boy from Tatooine. A reclusive Jedi living as a hermit, not really following what is going on in galactic politics. A random criminal and his furry friend. And Senator Prince Organa’s little silver-spoon adopted princess, although in her case it is harder to say whether it was really about being duped by propaganda or was it just the general power lust both in her Senatorial genes and Senatorial upbringing.
Meanwhile, the Emperor had a tough job. The Rebels were infecting everybody who is nice and stupid – and most people are – with idealistic propaganda, presenting themselves as those who fight for truth, freedom and justice, while the Emperor is an evil tyrant. On the other side, the Emperor had a simple and honest agenda, too simple and too honest for people to actually believe it: to keep the galaxy from erupting into violent chaos by basic simple military-police type repression. His agenda was just the basic civilized one: if you don’t want hooligans at a British football match to start fighting each other, you just send a lot of policemen to the match and make it clear everybody who starts trouble will get into one. Of course the hoodlums consider that oppressive. From the civilized angle, they should. So basically he just had the basic Pax Romana type of motive and plan. At any rate, the Emperor could not recruit the idealistic type of folks as they were almost all duped and fighting for the other side. He had to recruit the kind of folks he could, not necessarily the folks he wanted – and if you have to fight against shiny-eyed, pure-hearted idealists – duped by an evil cabal with silver tongues and Jedi Mind Tricks – the kind of folks you can recruit against them are not going to be particularly wholesome characters. Grand Moff Tarkin was indeed kind of a prick. And Vader, that ironclad neckbeard with the emotional intelligence of a rock, who simply could not relate to people as people, he could just issue orders and punishments, in his mind his organization was just a machine made of humans. Of course, Jedi media propaganda magnified their character failings into making them look like the embodiments of Pure Evil too.
Is this alternative narrative entirely implausible? If not…try to unlock the metaphors for the real world. The Senators and the Princesses will be fairly easy to unlock. The Jedi, the silver-tongue ruling class whose power is not of the iron fist but of the Mind Tricks, are going to be a bit harder to unlock, but doable. Remember this helpful hint from the lore (video games) : the Jedi are supposed to have an Academia. And those poor, clumsy folks of the “Dark Side” who somehow never seem to be able to say the right things. The policeman types who just want to keep peace and order. Vader, poor old autist with his lack of emotional intelligence and mechanical mindset. All these folks who are so easy to unfairly portray as utterly evil, are probably unlockable too. But the Emperor – well, him you cannot unlock. There is not even a candidate.
Finally, I anticipate one kind of an objection: maybe the Jedi and the Republic aren’t good guys either, but claiming that Emperor Palpatine isn’t evil would basically require throwing away all of the movie plots and thus I am not even talking about the same plot. So what does this even intend to demonstrate? I mean, someone blew up the Alderaan, right? And that someone had to be evil? My answer would that we are playing now with the idea that what if only a few newspaper articles, text with some photos, and a short movie clip or two, drifted over from that galaxy and Lucas based the movie on those. What if those articles are from the Jedi Pravda or The New Republic Times? What if they are shameless propaganda? What if the Imperial Navy received intelligence that civilians were evacuated from the Alderaan, it was turned into a pure military base and thus a valid target? What if Vader, bless his lack of emotional intelligence, figured that as long as no masses of civilians are killed, destroying the whole real estate with its forests and animals and whatnot is not an unacceptable utilitarian price to pay for destroying the Rebel base? What if the Emperor got briefed about it only later on, and he was upset about his insensitivity to the destruction of all the cute nerf and thranta animals, all the grass paintings and other high culture, but could not do much about it anymore?