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Revisting Locke and Demosthenes


In Orson Scott Card’s1 novel Ender’s Game (Amazon UK, Amazon US), the protagonist’s siblings Peter and Valentine bring about political change by brilliantly and persuasively arguing on “the networks”. Back in 1985 the internet was very a science fiction concept. In 2009, this had started to sound a lot like the very mundane act of blogging, and Randell Munro lampooned the idea:

As ever, the real punchline is in the hover text:

Dear Peter Wiggin: This letter is to inform you that you have received enough upvotes on your reddit comments to become president of the world. Please be at the UN tomorrow at 8:00 sharp.

The more I think about the idea, the less ridiculous it actually seems, though. The details are very different, but the evidence would tend to suggest that the Putin administration has done, and continues to do, exactly this. It’s just that instead of a highly articulate two sided debate, the content being to used to sway us are mountains of invective, lies, and fake news. Apparently Scott-Card’s opinion of us was too high.

On that note, it’s probably best to discuss the elephant in the room here: Scott Card’s “politics”. He’s intolerant of same sex marriage, appears to be a climate change denier, and seems to hold a lot of other… interesting view’s I’m not going to try to articulate. Frankly, I don’t want to get into the debate of whether great art can be invalidated by the opinions of its creators. I don’t know the answer, but I do think it can be unhealthy to see the world in such black and white terms.

It’s weird, then, that Ender’s Game is such a strong parable about the futility and meaninglessness of war. Its sequel Speaker for the Dead (Amazon UK, Amazon US) is an incredibly powerful plea for tolerance and understanding. In my opinion it’s also the vastly superior book. Which makes it all the more strange that it was written by someone who holds the opinions Scott Card apparently does.

  1. Hang on. I know what you’re thinking. I’ll get to him later.