Saturday, 23 April 2016

Plausible Politics

In The Star Fox, Poul Anderson presents plausible political turmoil in the World Federation Parliament when the French delegate unexpectedly backs a space privateer who is at that moment departing the Solar System. In Prince Of Sparta, Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling describe extraordinary procedures in the Spartan Senate. It is known that the Leader of a small opposition party is up to his neck in terrorism - he has even been seen to socialize with a terrorist commander - although he carefully avoids allowing any legal proof to be found.

His legal rights are removed by the declaration of martial law, he is physically restrained, the sf device of an infallible lie detector is used to extract the truth and he disappears from the narrative. The atrocities that this man has ordered are so sickening that many readers probably enjoy reading about the measures taken against him. While agreeing that, in such circumstances, the measures would be necessary, I nevertheless found the account distasteful, anti-climactic and somewhat implausible. I would expect less unanimity in a political assembly. There would be oppositionists who were not involved with terrorism. Of those, some would back the emergency measures while others would not. Senators would, with equal confidence and appeals to evidence, argue for flatly contradictory versions of the facts in the case. Politics is like that: complicated and uncertain. In emergencies, it is necessary to cut through a great deal of confusion but the confusion would exist in the first place.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Now that you pointed it out, I agree the Spartan Senate showed a little too much unanimity a little too quickly once the crisis point of having to make a decision NOW came on them. There would indeed have been some Senators who would have supported the terrorists political front man no matter what, from either fanaticism or unwillingness to accept hard facts. In other words, confusion.

It's been a long time since I read either GO TELL THE SPARTANS or PRINCE OF SPARTA, but I did not think the lie detector machine being used that implausible. If my memory is correct, it seemed simply a more accurate version of the polygraph machines we have now (which also measures how one's body reacts to answering questions falsely or truthfully). It's my understanding that even our current polygraph devices are very accurate when skillfully used by experts.