TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by JD, Oct 21, 2010.

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How would you rate Zero Sum Game?

  1. Outstanding

    41 vote(s)
    22.9%
  2. Above Average

    82 vote(s)
    45.8%
  3. Average

    46 vote(s)
    25.7%
  4. Below Average

    8 vote(s)
    4.5%
  5. Poor

    2 vote(s)
    1.1%
  1. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Well, to be really nit-picky, Zero Sum Game established that something called the Federation Security Agency is the Federation's civilian intelligence agency, making FSA the CIA equivalent. Starfleet Intelligence would be the equivalent of, say, the Defense Intelligence Agency or some other intelligence agency that operates within the Department of Defense.

    But I'm digressing from your point, which is completely valid.
     
  2. rahullak

    rahullak Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    ^

    I thought the FSA was the Federation equivalent of the FBI. Since that does not appear to be the case, is there an equivalent to the FBI within the UFP governing structure?
     
  3. flandry84

    flandry84 Captain Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Why people view Section31 as Treks answer to "the dark side of the force"is something I don't understand.
    These guys(S31)don't view themselves as corrupt,they see themselves as the torchbearers/gatekeepers,protecting the Federation.
    To say that they are all moustache twirling villains,relishing their own scumminess is simply missing the point.
     
  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Well, there was something called Federation Security in Star Trek III. No word if that's the same organization or not. And the FBI does handle domestic counter-intelligence; they were the ones who caught Robert Hanssen, for instance.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    No, to confuse their perception of themselves with reality is missing the point. They operate outside the law. No one gave them permission or authority to do what they do. And, most frighteningly, they are answerable to no one. That's what makes them irredeemably dangerous. Power that is not subject to checks and balances ALWAYS becomes corrupt. History is replete with examples. Institutions with power need other institutions with power to keep them in check, or they will inevitably become about protecting their own interests rather than serving their nominal causes.

    If Section 31 truly believed in the principles they claim to espouse, they would recognize this fundamental fact and would choose to work within a system that placed limits on their own power, that made them answerable to someone. But they don't. They operate outside the law. They place their own secrecy, their own immunity to others' control, above all other priorities. They coopt, manipulate, and even eliminate legitimate authority figures in order to promote their own agendas, their own secrecy. They place themselves above the law, above the authority of the state, above the wishes of the people.

    And that last is crucial. The people have a fundamental right to know what is being done in the name of their safety, and to protest if it goes too far and undermines the values they believe in. When that principle is ignored, you get Guantanamo Bay. You get waterboarding. You get vile and immoral acts allegedly being committed in the name of people who wouldn't want them committed at all. Without answerability, there is no morality. That is fundamental. At least government intelligence agencies, however secret their actions are kept, are answerable to the people's elected representatives, who are in turn answerable to the voters. There is some accountability, some mechanism to rein in excesses. Section 31 has no such accountability. And if you think they can be trusted to be absolutely moral when they consider themselves exempt from sanction or control by any legitimate authority, then you're profoundly misunderstanding human nature.
     
  6. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    And yet President Bacco has information that Admiral Ross was involved in the resignation of President Zife if not his disappearance and assassination and she simply allows him to resign? What does Bacco know and when did she know it? Isn't allowing Ross to resign without telling all he knows about Zife's resignation and disapperance giving approval without doing so publicly? Is the chief of Starfleet Intelligence keeping information from her? Imagine if Nixon had simply disappeared the day after his resignation. You don't think that questions would be asked? People would come forward? The Federation is rotting from the inside out and people are simply ignoring it.
     
  7. flandry84

    flandry84 Captain Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Christopher,I never said that Section31 could be trusted to be moral or anything like that.
    I was merely saying that by their own lights,everything they do is done to protect the Federation.That,granted is hubris in the extreme.
    Never did I condone or back Section31,all I was saying is that by using the phrase "corrupting Bashir",people were making S31 out to be pantomime,almost supernatural villains.
    They are not,their brand of evil is a more mundane,insidious type altogether.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Huh????? :confused: Your reasoning here bewilders me. Corruption is generally a very mundane and insidious process. There's nothing pantomime or supernatural (huh?) about it. Corrupting someone simply means persuading them to compromise their principles or the rules they operate under. Like persuading a politician to take a bribe, or a construction engineer to take dangerous shortcuts to save effort or money.

    Heck, it's the subtle, insidious nature of corruption that makes it so dangerous, because it begins when people convince themselves it won't be so bad to take one step down the slippery slope, and then the next step, and then the next. Corruption always starts small. So I don't understand what you're talking about here.
     
  9. flandry84

    flandry84 Captain Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Look, I've had enough...
    It's not too difficult to understand.
    The whole modus operandi of an outfit like S31 is to present the intended candidate with it's version of the truth(however skewed).They then work on the candidate but ultimately the candidate generally comes to accept the teachings and doctrines of the group(S31).It is less of a corruptive process than a re-education or indoctrination.

    Monosyllabic enough for you?
     
  10. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Or, in Bashier's case, you can just get the woman he lusts after to sleep with him. He'll even slaughter unarmed civilians that way.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I'm sure they like to think of it that way, but that doesn't mean it isn't corruption. Seriously, what do you think the definition of that word is? "Corrupt" means tainted, dishonest, lacking in integrity or legality. If their goals are dishonest or illegal, then "indoctrinating" someone to believe in those goals is corruption by definition.


    That's completely uncalled for.
     
  12. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I think what flandry84 is trying to get at is that Section 31 is interested in recruiting agents that believe in its cause (however corrupt and immoral it might seem to others), not in employing agents that are participating against their will or because they are being driven by passion or some other motivation that conflicts with their sense of ethics.

    They are more interested in convincing than corrupting. They would want Bashir to adjust his sense of what is ethical, not do things that he believes are unethical because his will to stay true to his own ethical views has been shaken. That, I believe, is the point flandry84 is making, and, while the verb "corrupt" might plausibly be applied to either scenario I do think there is a clear distinction here (of the non-semantic variety).

    For example, when Sloan originally contacted Bashir, in Inquisition, he didn't try to blackmail the good doctor, or seduce him, but rather he set up an elaborate test of his loyalty to the Federation.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    But what's happening in ZSG is more clearly a process of corruption -- playing on Bashir's desires in order to persuade him to compromise his principles.

    And I don't agree that there has to be a conscious intent to corrupt in order for a thing to be corruption. What makes corruption so insidious is that the people who succumb to it consider it to be harmless, or even for the greater good. For instance, "Yeah, I know it's against the law to embezzle from the company, but they're all a bunch of filthy-rich elitists who can absorb the loss, and I can use the money to give my family a better life." Just because you rationalize something as good or justifiable doesn't mean you aren't becoming corrupt. If everyone who became corrupt thought of it as corruption, they probably wouldn't do it in the first place. So it's simply a nonstarter to try to define corruption on the basis of intent, because people can rationalize all sorts of nasty things as being well-meant or justifiable. That's why they say "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." It's the actual results and consequences that determine the morality of an act, not the intentions behind it.
     
  14. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Yes, which was flandry84's original point: Section 31 would not be interested in recruiting an agent who could easily be persuaded and corrupted in this manner (seduced, rather than convinced).

    I'm not sure that I necessarily agree, but I see why he is making that distinction.

    I don't think either of the above points are in contention. The issue being addressed is not the morality of Section 31's activities or their intent to corrupt: the issue is the type of individual that Section 31 would be interested in recruiting (or corrupting).

    According to flandry84, they would probably not be interested in recruiting someone who could be as easily swayed by romantic involvement as Bashir appears to be in ZSG. They would be interested in recruiting (or corrupting) an individual who would be swayed by the argument that Section 31's activities are necessary to secure the safety of the Federation and be fiercely loyal to that cause, rather than someone who would be swayed by romantic involvement.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I think S31 would be interested in recruiting anyone they think can serve their agendas. Whatever delusions S31's members may have about themselves, the simple fact is that they are criminals who don't know the difference between morality and immorality because they define morality purely in terms of "what serves our desires." They're too corrupt in themselves to even understand the concept of an incorruptible person. People tend to assume that other people's minds work the same way as their own. Good people look for the good in everyone. Ideologues assume everyone's an ideologue. Selfish people assume everyone's fundamentally selfish. And corrupt people assume everyone's corruptible.
     
  16. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    And in Bashier's case, they were right. They just needed the right bait. Originally they were going after his head appealing to his sense of duty. They finally succeeded once they lowered the target by about three feet.
     
  17. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Certainly Section 31 would plausibly be ready to use and manipulate pretty much anyone in any way they saw fit to achieve their ends, but as far as recruiting someone into their actual organisation, they would need to put a priority on loyalty to their cause.

    We can assert this without accepting that their cause is moral. And of course, this process of indoctrination can be understood as a form of corruption. It is distinct, however, from other types of corruption. For example, it's safe it say that Section might hire mercenaries, but wouldn't normally induct them into their organisation, especially if they continued their mercenary activities, because they wouldn't be loyal to the cause: their loyalites could be bought, thus compromising Section 31. Similarly, they probably wouldn't be too interested in recruiting a Starfleet officer whose ethics and loyalties change according to his current choice of girlfriend, because such an individual wouldn't likely be fiercely loyal to Section 31's cause. Just as a practical issue, it would be stupid to recruit a lot of agents whose loyalties vacillate all the time. Since Section 31 has survived for a long time without being compromised, it stands to reason that they must be pretty careful as far as recruitment is concerned.

    What flandry84 is getting at, as I understand it, is that Section 31's manipulation of Bashir seems to make him less appealing as an actual agent (whereas Section 31 has been very interested in recruiting him in the past, in part because of his loyalty to the Federation and the strength of his ethical convictions).

    I don't have a strong opinion on this personally, since I'm not especially familiar with how Section 31 has been portrayed in the Trek novel-verse, but I can see why flandry84 might point this out on the basis of how Section 31 was portrayed in the original DS9 tv series.

    For example, in Inquisition, Sloan puts Bashir through a sort of intense stress test to see if he is willing to consider betraying the Federation. It's only after Bashir passes this test that Sloan extends the offer to join Section 31. Similarly, I could imagine another Section 31 virtual reality test involving a femme fatale attempting to seduce the potential candidate into compromising his loyalties.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2011
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    But corruption doesn't automatically mean a loss of loyalty. It depends on what kind of loyalty you're talking about. Is it loyalty to one's nation or loyalty to one's values? It's very easy to corrupt the latter in the name of the former. Look at the corruption we've seen in the US government in recent decades. The people behind Iran-Contra and Guantanamo Bay no doubt believed they were acting out of loyalty to the US and its survival, but they were willing to employ corrupt methods in service to that loyalty. They believed that the ends justified immoral means.

    So I'm not talking about lack of loyalty at all here. I'm talking about the compromise of principles. Corrupting Bashir doesn't mean making him stop caring about the Federation. It means making him change his mind about how far he'll go to defend the Federation -- making him willing to use his patriotism as an excuse for compromising his other principles.
     
  19. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Or what type of corruption. This was the source of the original disagreement. It did not seem to me that Flandry84 was arguing that Section 31's indoctrination (as seen in, for example, Inquisition) could not be construed as a form of corruption, but rather that it is distinct from the type of corruption on display in ZSG.

    "Make him love you and then we will have him." is a long way from Sloan's argument that Section 31's activities are necessary to protect the Federation and therefore compatible with Bashir's loyalties.

    That's probably fine as a creative choice as far as I'm concerned, but it suggests that Section 31 has given up on trying to convince Bashir to join their cause wholeheartedly and begun to simply attempt to erode his ability to stand up for his own ethical convictions. To destroy him, rather than convert him. That is perhaps another way of looking at it. To use him as a tool rather than recruit him as an agent. That was already the case in Inter Arma to a great extent, so as I say, I'm not objecting, simply pointing out what I see as a substantive point that flandry84 was making.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2011
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I don't see the incompatibility. Bashir didn't accept that argument from Sloan, but he could accept the same argument if it came from someone he loved and respected, because then he'd have a greater incentive to take it seriously. The love is the means to get past his resistance to the other idea.

    And that's what we actually saw in ZSG. He loved Sarina, so when she expressed ideas he would normally have found reprehensible, he found a way to rationalize things and convince himself that she had good reason for making the choices she did. And that opened the door to him making some of the same choices.
     

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