Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Will Mitt Romney Take Battlefield Earth to the White House?

Presidential candidates often get asked trick questions designed to give us greater insight into their personalities. But when Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney revealed that his favorite novel was Battlefield Earth, written by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, many were puzzled. Few understood why he would pick this science-fiction pulp novel over a more respectable American classic. It seems unlikely that his campaign had not anticipated this question and that he had actually answered spontaneously. Clearly, he was sending supporters a coded message. But what was it? Was his answer a calculated bid for lucrative Scientology funding? Was he trying to appeal to conservative bloggers who are overwhelmingly made up of single white male science-fiction fans who live in their parents basements? Was he signaling a break with President Bush, who prefers slim intellectual volumes like Albert Camus' The Stranger, by citing a 1,000-page low-brow bestseller?

"I have no problem with Governor Romney's religion," said Hugh Hewitt who has written a laudatory book about Romney called A Mormon in the White House? "I do have a serious problem with his "favorite novel" -- L. Ron Hubbard's Battleship Earth. Say it ain't so, Mitt." David Weigel speculated that Romney was sending this coded message by citing a tome written by the founder of Scientology: "So, you think Mormonism is weird?" One blogger even decided that he could not vote for Romney based on his answer and Ann Althouse found the book "childish," though she hasn't read it. Others just pointed out that it is a bad book. Virtually no one defended his choice.

I have not actually read Battlefield Earth, but I did manage to stay awake through part of the movie, which starred John Travolta, and I have skimmed a summary of the plot. From what I was able to learn about the book, however, it's easy to why it might appeal to someone like Romney and the insights I have gained from this choice reassures me that he would make a great President. Romney is the first serious Mormon candidate for President, unless you count his father, George, who bowed out of a presidential run after saying that he had been brainwashed about the Vietnam War. Mormons believe that God lives on a planet near a star called Kolob, which might explain why Romney takes science fiction seriously. In fact, the creator of the original Battlestar Galactica based some of that sci-fi series on Mormon theology, calling the home planet in the series Kobol.

L. Ron Hubbard's novel is about a alien race called the Psychlos who have come to Earth searching for gold and have some trouble with the violent natives, which sounds a lot like the story of our pioneers in the American West. Among those pioneers were Mormons who fled persecution to set up their own government in Utah, which they ruthlessly defended by fighting Indians and other pioneers. One unfortunate wagon train from Arkansas learned just how far the Mormons would go to defend their territory when they made the mistake of trying to cross through Utah on the way to California. Under orders of Brigham Young, Mormons slaughtered 120 settlers at the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, sparing 17 children under the age of 10, who were then raised as Mormons. Like the Psychlos, the Mormons were prepared to do whatever was necessary to protect their new settlement.

I'm sure that Romney must have had great sympathy for these misunderstood aliens who were trying to fit in to their new homeworld while at the same time defending their values by any means necessary. It's not easy being accepted when you're a furry nine-foot-tall, 1,000-pound alien with talons instead of fingernails. Being the governor of a blue state, Romney must have felt a bit like an alien himself. On the one hand, he couldn't get elected by opposing gay rights or abortion and on the other hand he risked being excommunicated if he seemed too liberal. More than most religions, the LDS church does not tolerate dissent and often excommunicates members who intellectually stray from Mormon doctrine. So the only way he could get elected was by appearing to be pro-choice and pro-gay. Now that he is seeking the Republican nomination he not only has to prove that he is anti-abortion and anti-gay but also that he loves guns and is a life-long hunter.

One of the points a recent PBS documentary made about Mormonism, also known the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was that there has always been a tension in Mormon history between the desire to assimilate into American culture and at the same time remain distinct. Mormons have reluctantly conformed to American culture by giving up polygamy and child brides in 1890 so that Utah could become a state and in 1978 reversing their belief that black people were the spawn of Satan and could not get into heaven, which I'm sure many black people really appreciated. If Romney were to be elected President it would go a long way toward legitimizing the LDS Church and making its members feel that they were no longer alienated from American society.

Unfortunately, Battlefield Earth does not end with a Psychlo being elected President. In fact, the Earthlings never make them feel welcome at all. Instead, they become terrorists. Here the parallels between the book and our current situation are uncanny. The Psychlos want to fight the terrorists on Earth so that they don't have to fight them at home. And they are not above using enhanced interrogation techniques to stop them. The terrorists, however, plan to send radioactive dirty bombs to the Psychlos' home world. Can the Psychlos defeat the terrorists on Earth before they follow the Psychlos home? Or will traitorous Psychlos give up and declare the war is lost like Harry Reid, who also happens to be a Mormon, though for some reason he has not been excommunicated yet. I'm afraid I couldn't tell you what happens at the very end of Battlefield Earth because I couldn't make it through the movie or the summary.

Of course, Battlefield Earth is just a "fun book," as Romney called it, so I don't want to make too much of it. But I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't get a few pointers from the Psychlos about how to run America if he is elected President. Like a lot of members of the Christian Right, I was a bit nervous about Romney, afraid that he might want to take the oath of office on the Book of Mormon or that he might try to pass a law forcing everyone to wear magic underwear, but now that he has revealed Battlefield Earth is his favorite novel (and that the Bible and not the Book of Mormon is his favorite book) I'm reassured that he is just the kind of man we need to fight the terrorists. Isn't it great that we are finally learning something important about the candidates?

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Unknown said...

as long as they don't put john travolta in black face, i don't see the problem.

Anonymous said...

I bet the Near President dreams of serving Near Beer to the Near Majority who provides him a Near Primary Victory.

It'll be as Near Adequate as his famous traffic tunnel, which he enjoyed Nearly as much as Battleship Earth which was Nearly watchable.

goherbal said...

Battlefield Earth was actually a good book. The movie version was ferociously bad, but this has happened with good books before. (Witness "Dune" etc.)

Incidentally, Battlefield Earth does not have any relation with Scientology, and does not express - directly or subliminally - any of Scientology dogma. I'm saying this sincerely, I'm a Scientologist and I actually looked for the philosophic subtext while reading the book, did not find it.

Scientologist and proud of it

Bukko Boomeranger said...

Brilliant inclusiveness! Capturing the hearts of constituencies one by one, the way Democrats do with special interest groups. Mitt's got the Mormon demographic sewed up and now the Scientologists too. That's what, 5 million primary votes? I next expect to see him in orange robes asking for campaign contributions at the airport, as he handles live rattlesnakes. Just don't drink the Kool-Aid he offers you (for that all-important People's Temple "base".)

Anonymous said...

No surprise that Mormonism is becoming mainstream. Mormons are anti-black, anti-gay, anti-women and anti-Jewish. Mitt Romney's favorite book is a thinly disguised nazi fantasy about whites taking back the planet from a race of huge, lazy, stupid, sadistic, dark-skinned, bad-smelling, oversexed, dreadlocked monsters with huge, pendulous noses. This is how the author perceived blacks, Jews and psychologists. The books' author stole ideas from a nazi think-tank stooge named Nordenholz, who was looking for ways to suppress human emotion that would conflict with exterminating the Jews. What is Romney's favorite book? L. RON HUBBARD'S "BATTLEFIELD EARTH".

Anonymous said...

Better “Battlefield Earth” than “Playboy” that some may have taken to the White House (ahem!)

Anonymous said...

Better “Battlefield Earth” than “Playboy” that some may have taken to the White House (ahem!)

Indeed, far better that our world leaders start inter-galactic wars than jack-off in the bathroom.

OutOfContext said...

I wish someone would symbolic bury "ahem" for the internets. It's redundant; we can tell you're a pompous asshole without it. It's the written equivalent of pulling your glasses down your nose and looking over them at me.
Plus it forces me to be uncivil and I hate that.

Anonymous said...


Here is the emoticon for pulling one's spectacles down the nose and looking over them disapprovingly. I realize the nose dot is off-center, but people who do this typically have their snoots out of joint. I certainly do. Hmph!

Anonymous said...

I have not actually read Battlefield Earth

I have. While it's certainly not the Great American Novel by anyone's standards, it's not nearly as bad as the movie. It's pretty typical of the "pulp" style sci-fi popular in Hubbard's youth.

The worst thing about the book is its long-windedness. Hubbard takes 700+ pages to tell a story that could easily have been condensed down to 300 or so.

Doodle Bean said...

Dear Mr. Swift,

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful analysis of Mittens the Adorable Gubernatorial Kitten!

Did you know his real first name adds much dignity to his full name. Yes! It's true! Mitt is his middle name!

With such a great full name - Willard Mitt "Mittens" Romney - and such excellent taste in literature, we have high hopes that Mitt will be as popular in the nation as he has been in Massachusetts!

Chuck Butcher said...

If he had to pick a space opera the least he could have done would be to pick one of Heinlein's older books, Starship Troopers or maybe Glory Road, but those seem to extoll some stuff that passes as actual virtues.

I have to take this at least as seriously as the Honorable Swift

allan ludwig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
allan ludwig said...

Sorry but there is no historical evidence according to the leading experts on the mountain meadows massacre that link Brigham Young giving orders for that to take place. It was a terrible event nonetheless. That PBS Doc was lacking in any real detail. Also sorry Max but Mormons are not anti-black (there where a few early members of Church who were indeed black, not to mention the fact that gladys knight is Mormon), not anti-gay (they just think marriage should be male and female, which is not the same as anti-gay), not anti-women and in no way anti-Jewish.

Doodle Bean said...

Ha! Ha! Nice satire Alan Ludwig!

(if that is indeed your real name)

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Kelly said...

"Under orders of Brigham Young, Mormons slaughtered 120 settlers at the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre..."

This tidbit is not completely accurate.

"No surprise that Mormonism is becoming mainstream. Mormons are anti-black, anti-gay, anti-women and anti-Jewish.."

Anti-black [no], anti-gay [yes], anti-women [no] (they have the largest womens organization in the world.) Anti-jew [no]

These statements come from listening to too much anti-mormon propoganda.

Paul Levinson said...

I'm pretty sure he's a Cylon ...Is Mitt Romney a Cylon?

Anonymous said...

The book was good - I've read it numerous times - the film didn't even follow it.

Don't judge the book by what you see in the film.

Similarly, have you written any bestsellers? Have you really read the book and taken it for what it is?

This is actually quite a plausable futuristic theory. There are millions and millions of planets out there, and who knows how many species there could be - we can't be the only intelligent life out there. And what if a species did find our space probe, which the Americans unwisely sent out with directions to our only home. What would happen if the species that picked this probe up valued gold so highly that they would happily wipe out another species to grab it?

Just because L. Ron. Hubbard went on to found a religion hell bent on subverting the globe doesn't mean that his books have any Scientologist ideals or teachings in them. This is simply a Sci Fi book.

And when you look at some of the drivel that other writers have churned out, then to mock this book is, frankly, sad.

If you don't like this book then don't read any books written by Authors such as Harry Harrison, because you'll class his work as "childish" aswell! His "Stainless Steel Rat series" is very funny, and has many a laugh in it. Although different to Battlefield Earth they are just as engaging, fun and thoughtful as a good Sci Fi/Sci Fantasy book should be.

I hate it when people who either aren't into science fiction &/or science fantasy make comments on books that they most likely haven't read.

John Travolta should have followed the book, then the film would have been great - especially if it had been split into 2 films: Film 1 = Johnnies capture, torture and education. Film 2 = Recruiting the Scots, the mining of the gold, the plans of revenge and the aftermath.

I would seriously recommend this book.

Anonymous said...


Mormons want to take over the country just because one of us likes a scfi book whose author espoused radical political views?

Geez, way to read WAAAAAY too much into yourself there buddy

Also, Battlefield Earth is a tremendous book; having read it 7 times, I can only detect the briefest hint of Hubbard's political ideals therein, although they ARE there....

The movie also sucked, one of the greatest scifi injustices in recent memory.

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