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Reply #64: Robert A. Heinlein was not a fascist [View All]

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Squeech Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-25-06 08:30 AM
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64. Robert A. Heinlein was not a fascist
He wasn't even a militarist. He was a proud alumnus of the military, specifically the Navy, and he was pissed when they wouldn't let him re-enlist to help fight World War 2. (Is the desire to defeat Nazi Germany a common characteristic of fascists in your experience?)

Nor was the government in the novel a fascist government. Yes, the vote was limited to citizens who'd served a hitch in the military or some equivalent federal service. This was justified in the novel both by the pragmatic reason that it was stable (anybody aggressive enough to enlist in a revolution has already enlisted in the ruling class and can vote) and because they have a putatively advanced system of behavioral psych, called History and Moral Philosophy, that deals with the mutual obligations of society and its citizens, and teaches that only those who are willing to put their asses on the line for the community have demonstrated the empathy to make good decisions. This may strike you as fascist, but there's no Fuhrerprinzip in it, so I don't think it qualifies. Having read most of Heinlein's published work, It's obvious to me that he very strongly values independence of thought-- as opposed to the fascist ideal, where everybody is supposed to agree with Dear Leader.

There were a couple issues Heinlein was dealing with in the book. Explicitly, he was trying to tell his readers (American adolescent males) what he thought was appealing about military life. And the really cool part was, he was trying to keep it on a fairly elevated moral plane-- we kill because we must, because superior officers we trust think it necessary to defend ourselves, not because we get our jollies doing it. Implicitly, he was also trying to think through what kept the military (or at least his version of it) free of the sort of psychopaths we commonly see in banana republics, where congenital thugs enlist so they *can* get their jollies taking potshots at peasants. Heinlein's idea of a mandatory high school course in his invented science is part of his plan to weed out the bullies and monsters before we give them either arms or authority. (Note that this privileges the first clause of the Second Amendment. Does that sound fascist to you?)

There's a short story by Heinlein, I'm forgetting the title now, where there is a military coup-- an ambitious officer attempts to seize a nuclear arsenal in satellite orbit and use it to cource the various governments of earth. He is thwarted only by one of his techs, who gets in and disables all the bombs, exposing himself to fatal doses of radiation in the process. He's the hero of the story-- and in fact he reappears in another Heinlein military adventure yarn, Space Cadet, as one of four iconic heroes the cadets are taught to revere, in an attempt to inculcate a tradition of respect for civilian authority and the rule of law. Does this sound fascist to you?

All the movie took from the book was the names of the characters and the plot outline of the war on the bugs. All the philosophy and aesthetics of the movie are in (admittedly) distinct opposition to the book. As a result, Heinlein is now spinning in his grave with a rotational velocity sufficient to power 250 average American homes, if we could only hook him up to a generator.
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