Section 31...

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by 2 of 10, Oct 21, 2008.

  1. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    What you presented is a straw-man.
    Sci wrote pretty much the same thing in his previous post.

    Why is it a straw-man?
    Because the federation, other races/other countries do NOT act with blatant aggressivity to reduce the founders/your country to slavery. And it is quite unlikely that they will act so.
    Meaning, genocide-level response is not necessary in order to guarantee your freedoms/the lives of billions of your citizens. Consequently, such a response is utterly unjustified; as such, utterly immoral.

    In the case of DS9 (the situation you distorted with your straw-man comparison):
    The dominion/founders most definitely acted blatantly aggressively to reduce the gamma and alpha quadrants to slavery - and genocide was one of their standard methods of operation in achieving this goal.
    Further, 10000 years of dominion history showed that the chance of the founders stopping from this endeavor is practically zero - as long as they exist.
    Meaning, in order to stop the founders - the great link, the de jure/de facto head of the dominion meat grinding machine - killing most of the shapeshifting race is necessary; there is no other option for stopping them with a significant chance of succeeding.
    There is the small chance that the founders will change their ways by some other means, but, as said, winning the lottery is more probable; and if you are idiotic enough to base your acts on faith in such improbabilities, your civilization and all it achieved will disappear, and very soon - the universe is not forgiving to suicidal fools.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  2. RPJOB

    RPJOB Commander Red Shirt

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    It was the sabotage caused by Damar that led to the Founder ordering the attacks on Cardassia. She wasn't mad with grief over the disease, she was PO'd about the betrayal by the Cardassians. If the Federation fleet had arrived and Odo made the offer of the cure before Damar could act it's possible that the Dominion would have surrendered without killing all those Cardassians.
     
  3. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Correction, the Federation's security, and safeguard the Federation.

    And yet in spite of your contention, S31 never "genocided" the Romulans or the Klingons, the Klingons especially were a long time treat and opponent of the Federation. The 22nd century verison of S31 took steps to stabilize the Klingon Empire.

    When the Federation was fighting a protracted boarder war with the Cardassians, S31 never "genocided" the Cardassians. There is no canon evidence that S31 goes around haphazardly killing people.

    But only if that foreign aggressor is actually going to be (or currently is) killing the nation's people, enslaving them, or is physically destroying the nation itself. Only if that foreign aggressor has credibly the mean to be that level of threat.

    If a foreign nation of a hundred million, has a core group of say a thousand people, whose actions and decisions are actively killing your nations people, yes you should (as a nation) be able to genocide that core group of a thousand people, to safeguard your own nation's people.

    :)
     
  4. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Section 31 was portrayed as having extraordinary powers so that its methods could be portrayed as being a genuine choice between life and death. Section 31 means life while ideals mean dying for them. The very possibility that living morally is a means to a fuller, happier and longer life is foreclosed as unimaginable. This says more about the writers as people than it does about the human condition.

    The retorts above emphasizing the awesome power of the Dominion and the essential identity of all Founders as a single (im)moral agent, the Great Link, merely replicate the same kind of distortion. It would have helped if Star Trek had a greater emphasis on science. Being soft SF, Trek could conceive such absurdities as space war, interstellar empires, programmed loyalty in intelligent beings and so forth. The existential threat posed by the Dominion is Nonsense Taken Seriously. Perhaps getting all solemn and pompous adds to the entertainment value? Hard to imagine but tastes do vary.

    But even if so, such foolish premises make the storyline irrelevant as a commentary on the human condition. There is no eternal empire, no monolithic ruling class, no military threat so grave that genocide is both justified and possible. By the way, the importance and relevance of simple physical possibility is sadly underrated. In practice, any storyline playing with genocide is bascially arguing that there is some dreadful enemy in real life against whom "we" must exercise merciless violence, in self defense of course. All the absurd powers imputed to the SF versions are mere expressions of hysteria about the RL foes.

    Off hand, the only possible exception I can think of is the extermination of the Ori in Stargate SG-1. Although that series was very pro-military, the extermination of real "gods" also functions as a call for extremely practical atheism!:lol:
     
  5. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Why did a super-secret covert organisation have a uniform - one that lasted for over two hundreds years? Nobody noticed that in lots of hot political situations, people in the same uniforms kept turning up?
     
  6. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I agree.

    In DS9, the genocide on the founders is heavily justified - so much so that the arguments to the contrary are easily nullified.
    That's because the entire situation was painted in such cartoonish black/white colors - uncompromising absolutes.

    I can think of another similar situation - in nuBSG, genocide by biological weapon on the cylons is, again, heavily justified, for the same reason. The cylons/colonial situation is portrayed in such stark black/white colors.

    But in real life? I cannot think of any situation along the same lines.
    The best known example would be Hirohima/Nagasaki, and the moral justification for their atomic bombing is lacking:
    - the inhabitants of the 2 cities has little influence or military might themselves; they had little responsibility for the previous events of the war;
    - the war would have ended in a few months without the atom bomb use (a fact allied commanders were aware of);
    - the allies could make an atom bomb every ~3 months; as such, they could afford to at least start with a military target, demonstrating their new power;
    - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debate_over_the_atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

    As for other real life genocides and their "justifications" - well, let's just say they make the Hiroshima and Nagasaki excuses look extremely well by comparison.
     
  7. bullethead

    bullethead Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I would think that generic black leather would be a good choice for an S31 "uniform" because it's so generic that it can't be used to help build evidence against them. Is the Federation going to arrest everyone with a black leather-ish outfit on suspicion of being an S31 agent? Everyone in the galaxy might have a set of black leather things in their closets.
     
  8. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But they are the same cut and even have the same ribbed collars - 200 years about - I have a leather jacket and it doesn't make me look like a cowboy.
     
  9. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Perhaps. But at least in that case, the attacks were openly carried out by the military, with authorization from the President. The chain of command was followed. It wasn't a clandestine operation done by a secret organization answerable to no one. Unlike, of course, Section 31.

    I'm sure the Federation has had times when it had to order Starfleet to carry out military missions that might be questionable. But in all of those cases, the chain of command was followed, there was debate on it, and there was oversight. I don't care if Section 31 even saved one life - the mere fact that they don't answer to anyone, makes them automatically worthless and extremely dangerous.
     
  10. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Irrelevant.
    Such acts are not inherently more moral just because they have the blessing of some president (or anyone else, for that matter).

    Throughout history, most truly great thinkers and revolutionaries did not answer to the state, but followed their ideals and ideas to build a better world, acting in utter illegality, indeed opposed, persecuted or hunted by the state/church/legal authority.

    'automatically worthless'? Look around you and then read about the human condition (for the overwhelming majority of the population) no more than 2-300 years ago. Then you will realize how wrong you are.
     
  11. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    Section 31 is a vigilante organization, then, like the Justice League. They're powerful and not responsible to anyone in power. ;) Yet S31 is evil but the JL is "good". Is being unanswerable really so terrible even if lives are saved by their actions?

    And is it possible to commit genocide against the Founders? If they're in the Great Link, aren't they just one individual? Genocide can't be committed against one person. Though I suppose they could be considered the last of their kind, and killing them would be causing their extinction.
     
  12. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yes, it is. There must always be accountability, and oversight, and the chain of command. There must be order. Without that, there is chaos.

    If they were, then they couldn't even separate in the first place.

    It seems clear that the Founders are indeed a race of separate beings, who can temporarily combine into one for the purposes of the Link. But the fact remains that they are still a species.
     
  13. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But the president at least has to deal with any potential consequences of it. Who the hell deals with the consequences in Section 31's case? What's to stop them from abusing their power? Becuase all I'm getting is unprovable crap about how they would never ever do that for some reason or other.
     
  14. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    Well, not to get too far off topic, but the Justice League has similar standing with its government(s) as S31. No authorization for its existence, no chain of command related to government authority, and no responsibility to the populace or the government. But they're "good guys" and S31 isn't? Is it the lack of government-backed legitimacy that is bad, or is it the actions taken that are bad?

    Batman's a vigilante like Sloan. What's the real difference between them? Their actions.
     
  15. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    the "justification" used for Batman's vigilantism is that he has his rule of "no killing," or else Commissioner Gordon and others would view him more like the Punisher, I guess. (leaving aside the absurdity of a Human vigilante who doesn't use guns and fights criminals who DO, somehow always being able to defeat his opponents without ever killing them, even accidentally.)
     
  16. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Actually I think the Justice League has some standing with the government as they usually have some liaison they work with.

    And on the Batman thing he needs the trust of the police to be as effective as he is, if he ever steps out of line and loses that well he loses that effectiveness because he has to dodge the cops while still trying to fight crime.

    Plus Batman is around becuase of how ineffective the usual cops are Section 31 doesn't have the justification becuase nothing they do couldn't be done by Starfleet or Starfleet Intelligence. Hell most of the time 31 needs Starfleet personal to do things so their really superfluous.

    Of course ultimately I think the difference is that Star Trek is meant to be more realistic than a comic book world (hint hint Trek lit writers and editors)
     
  17. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I'm sorry to hear that you think attempted genocide is an appropriate response to attempted genocide.

    But there are. After all, we know that the Founders sent out the "Hundred" -- one hundred infants of their own kind, without knowledge of their origins or of the great link. Odo was one of that hundred.

    So there are very clearly civilian Founders -- innocent child Founders -- who would be killed in such a genocide attempt. Not even the Founders are a monolithic enemy all deserving of death.

    I tend to assume that Section 31 has either mostly been inactive or mostly been based outside of Federation space in its history. To assume it has been active within Federation territory for most of its history is, I agree, to stretch an implausibility to absurd extremes.

    No, the final episodes make it clear that she's mad with grief and come unhinged. "It's not my death, it's my people's." Damar's resistance movement would not have inspired that level of reprisal were the Female Shapeshifter in her normal mental state.

    So they say. I for one see no reason to take Section 31's statements about their purported loyalties at face value, and don't know why you trust them to be honest.

    But either way -- irrelevant. The idea that national security means you are justified in doing whatever you do is just authoritarian claptrap.

    So you're saying that Great Britain would have been morally justified in killing every single German during World War II?

    Side note: When you look at the canon, Section 31 actually isn't portrayed as possessing particularly extraordinary powers.

    We know of seven canonical operations Section 31 has undertaken:

    - Kidnapping and torturing Julian Bashir in 2374 in order to determine whether or not he is sufficiently "loyal" to the Federation to warrant recruiting him ("Inquisition")

    - Using Bashir in 2375 to manipulate Romulan Senator Cretak into discrediting herself to the Romulan Continuing Committee, leading to the ascension to said committee of Section 31 mole and Tal Shiar Chairman Koval ("Inter Arma Enim...")

    - Infecting Odo with a contagious Founder disease while he was on Earth in 2372 in the hopes that he would spread the illness to the rest of the Founders -- a pre-emptive genocide attempt ("Extreme Measures")

    - Spying on the administration of Federation President Jaresh-Inyo through an agent in the Cabinet in the 2370s ("Extreme Measures")

    - Operations of an unestablished nature on Qo'noS in the 2370s ("Extreme Measures")

    - Facilitating the Klingon Empire's abduction of Dr. Phlox from Earth by Rigellian intermediaries in order to compel his assistance in stopping the spread of the Augment Virus in 2154 ("Affliction/Divergence")

    - Providing intelligence to the crew of Enterprise NX-01 in thwarting the terrorist organization Terra Prime's hijacking of the Verteron Array on Mars in 2155 ("Terra Prime")

    Of these operations, none are particularly magnificent demonstrations of power -- nor particularly competent, when one stops to think about it.

    Recruiting agents through abduction, sleep deprivation, and psychological torture? I can't imagine that's an effective recruiting strategy. Unless they're targeting people who are not themselves particularly mentally healthy in the first place. It certainly backfired with Bashir.

    Manipulating the downfall of Cretak and the ascension of Koval? Clever, but not particularly effective in the long run. Koval must not have been a very good mole, since he failed to prevent the rise of Shinzon four years later, and Shinzon damn near used a thalaron weapon against Earth itself. (Incidentally, this entire operation is essentially a variation on the plot of John le Carré's novel The Spy Who Came In from the Cold.)

    The pre-emptive genocide attempt? Backfired spectacularly; it failed to prevent the Dominion War, and it led the Female Shapeshifter to become so mad with grief as to order the extermination of the Cardassian species and a Pyrrhic victory for the Allies at the Battle of Cardassia; only Odo's decision to thwart their operation by offering a cure saved thousands of Federation lives at that final battle.

    Section 31 operations on Qo'noS in the 24th Century? Must not have been particularly effective, given that they failed to uncover the role of the House of Duras as Romulan puppets, to prevent the Klingon Civil War, or to uncover the Founder posing as then-General Martok who pushed Chancellor Gowron to go to war with the Federation.

    The assisted abduction of Phlox? Very nearly led to the destruction of both of United Earth's NX-class ships, in spite of Klingon promises to the contrary, due to the treachery of Klingon Fleet Admiral Krell.

    Of these known canonical operations, only two aren't known to have failed in some way. So far as we know, Section 31 successfully spied on the inner workings of the Jaresh-Inyo administration for so long as their agent was a member of the Cabinet -- though we don't know what his position was, nor how long he was in the Cabinet, nor is there any indication they did anything other than spy on the Cabinet. And the mission to stop Terra Prime in 2155 was obviously a success -- a success that is mostly notable because Section 31 didn't actually do anything.

    Bottom line? Section 31 talks a good talk about how they're so useful and so powerful and how they use their power in the service of Federation security... but I don't see their actual operations as being particularly successful, or as being indicative of great power.

    An excellent point -- this does fall into the tribalist trap of treating a foreign culture as one great, homogenous entity instead of a collection of unique individuals that people so often fall into. "The Other" as "they're all the same; they don't value life like we do." That kind of mindset is a function of great xenophobia and prejudice, of nationalism.

    Though given that all of the "hero" characters were unambiguously opposed to the attempted genocide of the Founders, I suspect the writers didn't realize they had done this and that it was inadvertent. Particularly given that they had earlier established the presence of child Founders.

    Exactly!

    Except that Beam's point was not that a given individual action is more or less moral. His point is in reference to the right of Section 31 to exist and to act at all as an institution in the first place.

    To make a comparison: The massacre at Kent State University in 1970 was immoral and unjustified, but no one questions the right of the Ohio Army National Guard to exist. There is a difference between the legitimacy of the action and the legitimacy of the institution. Beam's argument goes to the legitimacy of the institution.

    And yet those same great thinkers, like Dr. King, recognized that their civil disobedience required them to submit to the legal consequences of their actions, in order to create so much political tension as to force democratic reform. Dr. King in fact argued that such civil disobedience was itself showing a far greater respect for the rule of law than obedience to oppressive laws.

    And while it's all well and good to talk about individual thinkers and revolutionaries, Section 31 is none of that. It is an institution that tries to seize the authorities that legitimately only belong to the state, yet does so without submitting to democratic control or to the legitimate government.

    Dr. King may not have always obeyed the law, but he didn't try to claim the authorities of the state as his own, either.

    Actually, the Justice League takes orders from the U.S. government. ;)

    Yes. Because why should I trust them not to move against us next?

    Nope.

    More to the point, they must answer to the people, as all other institutions must. No institution has the right to operate without answering to the legitimately-elected democratic government, and, through it, to the people.

    Exactly!

    Most comics and TV stories depict the Justice League as submitting to the government in general (with the occasional defiance of the government when it is, for instance, taken over by Lex Luthor).

    A better comparison would be to Batman -- but the difference there is that Batman operates within the context of a society where the state has utterly failed, where the government has become so corrupt and unaccountable to the people that it is no longer itself a real democracy and no longer legitimate. Batman only operates because of the illegitimacy of the government of the City of Gotham. Further, the Batman narrative acknowledges that tension -- Bruce's actions aren't depicted as being unambiguously good. It's a morally questionable thing.

    (In the modern versions, of course. Back in the Silver Age, Batman was a deputized officer of the Gotham City Police Department!)
     
  18. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    SCI your post has some errors, a couple of strawmen and a lot of good points. Way too much stuff to cover, so I'll just respond to two points:

    One: Child Founders, and that Section 31 essentially tried to destroy the Founders *Before* the war had even properly started. It's not my fault that writers didn't emphasize this and it's left to us (mostly you) to fanwank this. I'm using fanwank as a positive term here. The writers just had the characters do a bunch of handwaving and didn't even give one line of dialogue to what I just said. Just a bunch of shoehorned rhetoric essentially saying "Your Federation isn't so goody-two shoes is it??"

    *again* referring to Julians quote in "Extreme Measures", Bashir is pretty GD amazed. That it took 76 people from a lot of different fields to create the virus.

    Overall notes:

    I'm not excusing Section 31. Or painting them as heroes or even justifying their existance. I'm saying the situation the writers gave us doesn't justify the moral hand-wringing over "OMGGENOCIDE". What's the diff between a virus and a fleet? The Founders are not so much a race as they are 'the head of the Dominion'....and war has never had any problem with trying to wipe out the head of the organization you are fighting.

    Again, just give us one line of dialogue about the other 98 kid founders...say there's a minority section of The Founders who want nothing to do with the AQ...say The Founders are all that's keeping the GQ from the Borg...anything, and I think it helps paint a more interesting picture

    edit: But I appreciate this discussion, it's very interesting..
     
  19. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    There's no evidence that all 76 people supposedly involved in the Founders' disease development were all S31. Research into Odo's abilities and nature could've been corrupted into a bio weapon.

    If research into white mice's genome or proteome were corrupted into a weapon to eradicate them, that doesn't make destruction the original aim of the research. We know S31 can pull people into its activities despite their wishes, like Bashir was. Just because he was involved in a successful S31 operation doesn't make him an operative, even if Sloan considered him one. How many of those 76 were willing participants, or even knowledgeable about the purpose of the research and S31's goal?
     
  20. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    You're right. But I think the more interesting choice is to make all 76, or most, complicit. It makes the conspiracy wider and shows how desperate they were....if we forget that Odo was infected before things got really desperate. I for one think this is a plot hole since no one said anything about it.

    Edit: The fun thing about threads like this is one finds oneself saying, "I haven't seen "EPISODE X" in quite awhile."...after just watching "Inquisition", I was amused to find "In the Pale Moonlight" is the very next episode.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013

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