June 10, 2014

The continuing misunderstanding of Heinlein's Starship Troopers

Over at io9 there's a discussion about how the noted scifi author made the transformation from socialist to "right-wing" libertarian. That in itself is worthy of the read (it's based on a recent New Republic piece); however, since arguably Starship Troopers is Heinlein's most popular work, I see some of the same, tired objections to the story have arisen. Take NR author Jeet Heer from the start:

Heinlein was equally beloved in military circles, especially for his book Starship Troopers (1959), a gung-ho shout-out for organized belligerence as the key to human survival. A thoroughly authoritarian book, it included an ode to flogging (a practice the American Navy banned in 1861) and the execution of mentally disturbed criminals, yet Heinlein became a hero to libertarians ...

"Organized belligerence as the key ...?" Yeesh. It never ceases to amaze me the utter myopia exhibited by leftists when critiquing this book. This statement makes it seem as though the Terran Federation was actively seeking out conflicts with [alien] races to make humanity "safe." Poppycock. The novel clearly notes that the Federation has allies (the "Skinnies" who needed a bit of "persuading," courtesy of the Mobile Infantry, to turn away from a head-scratching alliance with the Bugs), and that the Bug War exists because 1) each side wants the same thing, and 2) absolutely no communication and discussion with each other has been thus far possible.

And "thoroughly authoritarian" is also complete nonsense. Statements like this make it seem like either Heer has either never read the book, and/or is solely relying on the film and correlated print stories. Through the numerous political discussions in the story, humanity enjoys every right currently afforded (in the US): freedom of speech, religion, press, etc.

But what about the franchise? A commenter ridiculously writes "Starship Troopers is not in favour of democracy since it advocates restricting voting rights to the 'worthy.'" But Heinlein addresses that very "concern" in the book, noting the franchise has always been restricted in some manner. In the US, you have to be at least 18 years old and a citizen to cast a vote, to which Heinlein had the iconic Colonel DuBois point out: What sense does it make to allow an adult moron to vote, but not a teenage genius? The only restriction to voting in ST is that one must have served a term of (mostly military) service. This commenter summarizes it quite adequately.

Just about every anti-Troopers narrative I've seen is that way because its author is simply anti-military. That being the case, examine why the system in ST was established in the first place. (Veterans Administration scandal, anyone?)

Much more from yours truly regarding Troopers here, from eight and a half years ago.

Posted by Hube at June 10, 2014 06:56 PM | TrackBack

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