Here’s a fun little secret about Politics Twitter, a very narrow, very coastal, very annoying corner of the Internet of which I am regrettably a part: Every time news about the Star Wars franchise has flared up over the past few years, Politics Twitter takes the opportunity to debate whether or not the Galactic Empire is evil.
I am being serious. This is how we journalists spend our time, usually during work hours.
Cue William Kristol, neoconservative potentate.
“Needless to say, I was rooting for the Empire from the first moment,” the Weekly Standard editor tweeted Tuesday. “It was a benevolent liberal empire, after all…[There is] no objective evidence [the] Empire was ‘evil.’ A liberal regime [with] meritocracy, upward mobility. Neocon/reformicon in spirit.”
Right-leaning journalists and writers chimed in accordingly. “I've been rooting for the Empire since 1983,” Washington Free Beacon editor Matthew Continetti concurred.
Little explanation is needed for why pro-Empire views are contrarian. “Darth Vader” has for decades been shorthand for tyranny and grand-scale evildoing. (See: the Dick Cheney meme.) In their war with Luke Skywalker and his rebel friends, the democracy-dismantling Empire carried out numerous atrocities and at least one act of of genocide—the Death Star’s famous obliteration of Alderaan. So the pro-Empire position rests on the assumption that (fictional!) mass murder and imperialism are somehow laudable.
(Weird that neoconservatives would be drawn to this school of thought, really.)
Of course, this is mostly just straight trolling. But there is some history to it. In 2002, The Weekly Standard (Kristol’s publication) ran their “Case for the Empire,” pegged to the release of Attack of the Clones. In it, writer Jonathan Last took the cheeky position that the Empire represented stability and meritocracy, whereas the Rebel Alliance would bring chaos and revolutionary failure.
“Make no mistake, as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator—but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet,” Last wrote. “It's a dictatorship people can do business with…In all of the time we spend observing the Rebel Alliance, we never hear of their governing strategy or their plans for a post-Imperial universe. All we see are plots and fighting. Their victory over the Empire doesn't liberate the galaxy—it turns the galaxy into Somalia writ large: dominated by local warlords who are answerable to no one.”
Ever since then, it’s been a fun game conservative-journo Twitter has played where they periodically tweet about how cool the Empire is, and see how many liberals they can bait into pointless discourse on the morality of make-believe space genocide.
Makes you think. Now click here if you’d like to read more about how the new Star Wars trailer indicates that the rebels had some piss-poor postwar planning.