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Battlestar Galactica's Last Days 799

bowman9991 writes "If your country was invaded and occupied by a foreign power, would you blow yourself up to fight back? If someone pointed a gun at your head and threatened to pull the trigger if you refused to sign a document you knew would lead to a hundred deaths (and you signed!), would that make you ultimately responsible? Does superior technology give you the moral right to impose your will on a technologically inferior culture? You wouldn't expect a mainstream television show to tackle such philosophically loaded questions, certainly not a show based on cheesy science fiction from the '70s, but if you've watched Battlestar Galactica since it was re-imagined in 2003, there has been no escape. The final fourth season is nearly over, and when the final episode airs, television will never be the same again. SFFMedia illustrates how Battlestar Galactica exposes the moral dilemmas, outrages, and questionable believes of the present as effectively (but more entertainingly) than any documentary or news program. It's not hard to see parallels in the CIA and US military's use of interrogation techniques in Bush's War on Terror, the effects of labeling one race as 'the enemy,' the crackdown on free speech, or the use of suicide bombers in Iraq."
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Battlestar Galactica's Last Days

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  • not called serenity (Score:2, Informative)

    by deander2 ( 26173 ) * <public AT kered DOT org> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @01:30PM (#26548265) Homepage

    Joss Whedon, creator of the classic science fiction western series Serenity, declared, "it's so passionate, textured, complex, subversive and challenging that it dwarfs everything on TV."

    the series was called firefly [wikipedia.org]. the movie was called serenity.

  • Re:Another dilemma (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @01:32PM (#26548311)

    Imagine you're a resident of a third world country (e.g. Germany or UK)

    or Canada

  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @01:34PM (#26548349)

    In case no one noticed, is the topic post simply forgetting Star Trek. It to "ran past" the issues but it did present them. It should not be neccessary to recite examples but it seems like it is required.

    Hmmm a man who's half black feels he has the moral right to enslave a man who is half white.

    An integrated crew, and even a miscegenating kiss?

    A prime directive that , to rephrase it a lot, basically said other cultural values are equal valid as your own technologically advance society, hung out before the audience every week.

    The futility of doomesday logic?

    Even the trouble with tribbles had a message that Russians and Americans still have common desires and interests.

    On the otherhand this was what early science fiction was about. Long before Andy Warhol and crew got the idea of decontextualization as the means to seeing things as they are, science fiction was mainly about seeing what happens when you transplant a cultural norm into a different society, usually by means of a technological story telling device.

    it was not all techno whiz larry niven (who later on also started contemplative sci fi with the Mote in gods eye) or space opera flash gordon.

    think about flowers for algernon, or the canticle for lebowitz, the lathe of heaven, farenheight 451.... Or for you young kids, Ghost in the shell.

    Star trek was designed to grab the flash gordon audience and show them a short 1 hour play about moral issues under heavy syrup.

    Galactica is in this tradition, not in the tradition of "Buck rogers" or star wars.

  • Re:Another dilemma (Score:3, Informative)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @01:40PM (#26548447) Journal
    What are you talking about? He's using "e.g." perfectly correctly.
  • really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @01:42PM (#26548489) Homepage

    who says sci-fi is too preachy?

    Oh, and Muslim isn't a race, fucktard.

  • Re:Tackle? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @01:45PM (#26548541) Journal
    Exactly. On one hand I am grateful to BSG for showing the general public that science fiction is not just about lightsabers and klingons, on the other hand, I would do the same observation as for the Matrix movie(s) : the questions, the ideas that seem so new to people who discover them on video-screens have been there in SF books for many, many years. BSG is deeper than most SF shows out there but it is still incredibly shallow when compared to the books that inspired its ideas more than 30 years ago.

    SF literature is a field where some philosophical questions are asked that can not be asked in any other context. And compared to recent books, the moral dilemmas of BSG are quite laughably easy to solve.
  • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:34PM (#26549313) Homepage

    The "lesson" is that "uncultured" people probably have as much a right to live as anyone else, and the only "lesson" you teach from the barrel of a gun is that gun-barrels are for teaching lessons.

    And, yet, oddly those whom we "taught a lesson" in WWII at the barrel of a gun have taken it to heart and are now great international citizens.

    I got a bit of a laugh reading the abstract, particularly this:

    If your country was invaded and occupied by a foreign power, would you blow yourself up to fight back?

    Great question! Let me know if that ever happens.

    Seriously. In Iraq, the suicide bombers are largely al Qaeda imports - they're not Iraqis and they're not trying to get their country back. They want to take over and impose their lovely brand of Sharia law on the populace. Look at what they did in Fallujah before being kicked out.

    In Afghanistan, the suicide bombers are Taliban idiots who - wait for it - want the Taliban to regain power so they can impose their lovely brand of Sharia law on the populace. Look at what they did in Afghanistan before being kicked out.

    Lastly, holy crap, can we get over the immature "Bush's war on terror" shit? Seriously. He's out. The Democrats in office backed him up, and they are sending plenty of signals that nothing's changing on that front. Get over it.

  • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:50PM (#26549607) Homepage Journal

    Without getting into too much of a spoiler - they're at least plausible now. There are a ton of questions left open, but it's at least possible to believe that the questions are answerable. Plus, the characters actually acknowledged some of the questions, so we know that the writers are at least aware of them.

    Without getting into too much detail, we now have an answer as to why they'd be living as humans for as long as they did and why the Cylons weren't aware of their identities. (Then again, how did they know that there were 12 models, again? And the answers given seem to suggest that the five shouldn't count as Cylon models, especially given the model numbers we know.)

    So, yes, quite a few questions left open, but at least it seems plausible that they can be answered.

  • by odinsgrudge ( 945399 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @02:57PM (#26549713)


    Send him out the airlock

  • Re:Tackle? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @03:16PM (#26550083) Homepage Journal

    Don't forget about the projected Japanese death toll in the event of a land invasion.

    Don't forget that the japs had been negotiating a surrender with the Russians for about a year before someone chose to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians to obtain an unconditional surrender to the US.

  • by crmarvin42 ( 652893 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @03:27PM (#26550247)

    I'm fairly sure that dilemma refers to the large-scale perception that Israel is occupying "Palestine". Which has a kernel of truth, as Israel indeed militarily occupies the West Bank, and this is quite immoral.

    AFAIK, Israel invaded Palestine becuase Palestine was about to invade Israel. Pre-emptive invasion of a hostile neighbor, is not the same as invasion of a peacful neighbor that won't do what you want (The reason we went to war with Iraq the first time, to liberate Kuwait).

    However, I do agree with the point your Sig is making. Why should Israel stop bombing Hamas? If Hamas doesn't care that Palestinians are dying because it keeps provoking Israel, why should their enemy? I understand that Israel doesn't want to drive more Palestinians to support Hamas. Then again, If you support those that are the original cause of your suffering as a response to your suffering, you deserve what you get in my opinion.

    I agree that teaching lessons with guns, rarely actually teaches the right lesson, but what else is Israel to do? They've tried negotiating cease fires, bilateral and unilateral withdrawl of military personel, relaxing boarders, etc. AFAIK, every attempt has led to an increase in volence against Israel in the long run, and a return to the status quo.

  • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @03:35PM (#26550391)

    And, yet, oddly those whom we "taught a lesson" in WWII at the barrel of a gun have taken it to heart and are now great international citizens.

    Only to add to my reply to the other poster, I would just offer that the "lesson" the Germans and Japanese took to heart after World War II had a lot more to do with the Marshall Plan than it did with Fat Man, and that the US's aggressive investiment in building up its former enemies against Communism in the 1940s and 50s was the prime mover in bringing these nations back into the fold of peace-loving nation states. If we had taken over Germany and run our sector like the Russians ran their sector, no "lesson" in the sense you mean would have been learned, even though the Russians were using their guns to teach a "lesson" just as effectively, if not more, than we were.

    Violence and military supremacy may have been a necessary aspect of the World War 2 conflict, but it wasn't the essential aspect of the peace, and I find it diffifcult to accept that it's advisable given the myriad other conflicts that we've seen over the past century, their players, forces and outcomes. Germany still lost World War I, it's cultural superiority notwithstanding, and though Israel (or the UK or France) indisputably has a stronger civil society and healthier political culture than that-which-might-be Palestine (or Afghanistan, or Algeria), these "cultural superiors" found themselves in decades-long conflicts that they usually fought to stalemate, or just plain lost.

    In any case the analogy to WW2 is defective, because our actions were clearly not imperial, for the same reasons I stated above.

  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @04:04PM (#26550911) Homepage Journal

    Some human ships are filled with normal humans, others (same training and organization) are filled with bloodthirsty sadists with no regard for the lives of others (Pegasus).

    The Stanford prison experiment [wikipedia.org] was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by Psychology Professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University. Twenty-four undergraduates were selected out of 70 to play the roles of both guards and prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Those selected were chosen for their lack of psychological issues, crime history, and medical disabilities, in order to obtain a representative sample. Roles were assigned based on a coin toss.[1]

    Prisoners and guards rapidly adapted to their roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. One-third of the guards were judged to have exhibited "genuine" sadistic tendencies, while many prisoners were emotionally traumatized and two had to be removed from the experiment early.

  • by maynard ( 3337 ) <j@maynard@gelinas.gmail@com> on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @04:38PM (#26551473) Journal

    Because RUSSIA had just entered the war against Japan. There was absolutely no reason to drop those nuclear bombs, because the last thing the Japanese wanted was Russia occupying the Japanese islands. We can thank General Curtis Lemay for convincing President Truman of the necessity of dropping those bombs. We can also thank him for all that firebombing too.

    I don't accept that mass civilian casualties are the norm of warfare. It is WRONG.

  • by Mark_in_Brazil ( 537925 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @05:34PM (#26552297)

    I always love to see people with an axe to grind against the United States so eager to so utterly trivialize the Japanese. They are not a people to be trifled with, especially in war. All of this historical revisionist nonsense about how they were all ready to give in is so disrespectful to them individually and as a separate and independent culture and nation.

    The Germans didn't give in so easily. They were fighting street to street all the way to Berlin even when all that was left were old men and boys. Why should we expect any less of the Japanese?

    You're like some fundie that selectively chooses what part of scripture they will acknowledge.

    Funny you should say that about the selective quotation of scripture. Your "analysis" ignores the United States Army Air Forces' own Strategic Bombing Survey [wikipedia.org] on the atomic attacks, which produced a report [archive.org] that stated, among other things, the following (boldface emphasis mine):

    Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion (of Japan) had been planned or contemplated.

    Further, it is clear that leaders in the US had signs of this before the Strategic Bombing Survey was completed. Japanese codes had been cracked, and messages were being intercepted. The Allies knew that the Japanese ambassador in Moscow had been ordered to work on peace negotiations with the Allies. Japanese leaders had been talking about surrendering a year before that, and the Emperor himself had started suggesting in June of 1945 that alternatives to fighting to the end should be considered.
    Interesting fact: the Russians had agreed to declare war on Japan 90 days after the end of the European war. The actual date of the end of the European war meant that the Russians were due to declare war on Japan on the 8th of August of 1945.

  • by crmarvin42 ( 652893 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @05:57PM (#26552613)
    People have the luxury of being moral. Governments who's civilians are under threat of hostile military action do not.

    Israel does not want to be wasting it's money and reputation firing rockets and bullets into Palestinian territory. Nor does it want the blood of all the non-combatants and their own military personnel on their hands. Unfortunately, certain groups within Palestine insist on provoking them, and those who would accept peace with Israel do nothing to stop it.

    I think it says alot about members of Hamas, that they care less about their people than Israel does (as evidenced by repeated unilateral withdrawls by Israel). It takes only one side to start a battle, but it takes both sides to stop one.
  • Re:Loss of Habeas? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Psychopath ( 18031 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @07:45PM (#26554031) Homepage

    I think you have been getting some bad information.

    There is no such provision in the Geneva Convention.

    Here, in fact, is what it says about the treatment of persons not in uniform (emphasis added):

    "Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.

    In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be. "

    So no, we aren't permitted to just shoot people who aren't in uniform.

  • Re:Tackle? (Score:3, Informative)

    by earlymon ( 1116185 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @09:20PM (#26554949) Homepage Journal

    Tokyo was pretty bleak at the time the two big ones were dropped - it had been the target of incendiary bombing, and according to recently re-broadcast news clips, the death toll of that raid was 100k dead and a million families displaced.

    The second bombing underscores the need for diplomatic communications. After Hiroshima, the Japanese sent us a message that was taken as a resolute stand to continue the fighting - later analysts questioned its poetic language and concluded that it might have been the overture hoped for to prevent further violence. We will never know.

    There was a strong debate over the principle target - Hiroshima - and one option was as you said, an area where population loss would be minimal. AFAIR, the debate shied from that option because, incredibly, the Japanese would have had to have been warned in advance of the drop to ensure that they observed the effects and the option was discarded because it would have backfired if the US had warned them to look for something big and the first one turned out to be a dud.

    Here's a collection of interesting background on the targetings and a few other things:
    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/index.htm [gwu.edu]

  • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @10:43PM (#26555583)

    Serbia's a great example, my point really has nothing to do with the intentions of the minor party. If the Human's somehow provoked the Cylons intentionally into a war the point still stands. Besides, I think it's still pretty debatable how high the plot went. I though the whole thing was run by Dragutin DimitrijeviÄ, and that no one has conclusively proved that it went any higher.

    And the worse thing is that assassin is celebrated in Serbia even today - there are streets and schools named after him. (Trust me, I live in Serbia.)

    That the Assassination in Sarajevo and Vidovdan happen on the same day probably doesn't help matters...

    Ok, problems between Austro-Hungary and Serbia started long before, but during that period AH did not do anything even remotely savage to Serbian state, although there was a trade war.

    I'm specifically referring to the post-assassination period, when Austria-Hungary clearly had 'teaching a lesson" on its mind when it demanded nothing less than Serbia's sovereign rights. I'm aware. entire prewar period was very messy. Austria-Hungary didn't just want the murderer tried or extradited, as would be normal; they wanted a War, and they drafted a set of demands on Serbia that were designed to be unacceptable.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban