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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Most Illogical

Earlier today Stephen directed me to this image of Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith offering the Vulcan salute in (of course) Vulcan, Alberta while on the campaign trail. "Please blog about everything wrong in this picture and caption of Danielle Smith in Vulcan," he pleaded.

Where to begin? Well, first things first: while the photo's caption claims "Danielle Smith shows she can give a Vulcan salute," she has, in fact, messed up; her thumb should be extended, not scrunched up along the blade of her hand. Other politicians are perfectly capable of giving the salute; see US President Obama saluting Spock-style just a few days ago

Of course no Federation citizen would hold this gaffe against Ms. Smith; that would be illogical. It's the gesture and the sentiment that are important: peace and long life, live long and prosper.

But Wildrose political philosophy runs counter to Star Trek's humanist ideals, making one wonder why Smith would associate herself, however briefly, with the show. In the world of Star Trek, we're presented with a society that is either slowly leaving capitalism behind or has already done so, depending on which of the various Trek TV series you're watching. There are no national borders on Earth, and people work not for money, but to pursue personal growth. Greed and the pursuit of money are seen as distasteful and outmoded, and universal human rights are fiercely defended. Health care is universal and fully accessible to all, based on need, not affluence. Science is held in high esteem.

Contrast that with Smith and her party, who continue to claim - for political reasons - that the science of climate change hasn't yet been proven. They believe in so-called "conscience rights" that would allow marriage commissioners to refuse to marry homosexual couples or health care professionals to refuse to give out birth control pills. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Picard and the others would be bewildered by these philosophies, though they would certainly be tolerant of Smith's beliefs...if perhaps privately worried about the prospect of socially conservative economic libertarians being put in charge of one of Earth's most advanced jurisdictions.

In other words, what we have here is a simple case of cognitive dissonance. It's not that right-wingers shouldn't like Star Trek; it's that it's hard to imagine why they possibly would. One of these things is not like the other.

In truth, I have no idea whether or not Ms. Smith is a Star Trek fan; it's quite likely that she was simply acknowledging that the town of Vulcan is best known for the connection it's fostered with the show. Any politician stopping in Vulcan would be pretty much obliged to mug for the camera flashing that salute. But it remains ironic that the leader of a libertarian, socially conservative party would so willingly associate herself, however obliquely, with popular culture's most enduring vision of a social-democratic utopia.


Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

Wow, great work! I was most annoyed at the captioner claiming she was in front of the 'Enterprise'... LOOK AT THE REGISTRATION NUMBER NEWSMAN

Andrea said...

Good post Earl. Personally, I'm most annoyed by her pointing out the fact that she is saluting. "Look at me! Check out my Vulcan salute! I'm so cool in a geeky sort of way!"

She's not cool, in any sort of way.

Earl J. Woods said...

Ha ha, yes, I missed the registration number. Journalists these days - no fact checking whatsoever.

"Where Jeff Has Lease" said...

I can't say yea or nay about the philosophical differences between the made-up Start Trek universe and our all-to-real (yet no less improbable) political reality. I think that our social mores won't ever lend themselves towards the shared sensibilities of the Federation, partly because of the shaky foundation of a society based on utopianism, partly because details of the Star Trek system were made up either by cheap screenwriters or legions of their rabid fans.

What I can say definitely that is wrong with this picture is how Danielle Smith is dead. Or at least she soon will be. This is not a threat, just a fact.

In Star Trek, if you want to live, don't ever be caught around the ship wearing red! Yes! According to, 59 out of 430 crew members died during the Kirk-commanded Enterprise mission, and 43 of those people wore red (73%).

Ms. Smith takes matters farther into the red danger zone by being outisde the ship. Fatalities for red-garbed crew break down to 42.5% dying on board ship, while the remaining 57.5% of deaths occuring while participating in shore parties (see picture link in Earl's post).

The one saving grace for Ms. Smith is that she is a woman. points out that redshirt fatalities decrease from a chance of 1 in roughly every two episodes to 1 in roughly every ten episodes if Kirk becomes "involved" with a woman (which happens 24 times during his mission). Ms. Smith gets Kirk to take off his space boots, then she'll probably live. If not, then prepare for a by-election after she gets extirpated by a mugatu.

As for the Vulcan salute, placing the thumb inward is indicative of the Jewish hand blessing that Leonard Nimoy imitated when he created the hand sign for Spock. Vulcans observe their difference by extending the thumb.