I have over the past couple of months been watching DVDs of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show I missed completely in its run of 1987 to 1994; and I confess myself amazed that so many conservatives are fond of it. Its messages are unabashedly liberal ones of the early post-Cold War era — peace, tolerance, due process, progress….
What an odd thing to say. It’s not uncommon for someone on the left to suggest conservatives find concepts like peace, tolerance, due process, and progress distasteful, but it’s quite rare for a conservative to admit such a thing in print.
But it doesn’t end there. Potemra, hoping to understand why conservatives enjoy a show that embraces wacky concepts like due process, asked some National Review colleagues about it. The answer, apparently, is that the right appreciates the “toughness” of Jean-Luc Picard, portrayed as “a moral hardass,” who offers viewers a “compelling portrait of ethical uprightness.”
But as John Holbo explained, that only makes the larger problem with the analysis worse.
[S]urely the proper conclusion to be drawn, then, is that being an ethically upright and generally virtuous person is, however surprising this result may be, consistent with being tolerant, peace-loving, even with upholding due process. And there is no particular difficulty to the trick of being in favor of progress while being skeptical about human perfectibility. I say this is a semi-serious point because I think, for some conservatives, the main objection to a somewhat vaguely conceived set of liberal values really is a strong sense that they are inconsistent with a certain sort of hardassery in the virtue ethics department. End of story. But then Star Trek TNG ought, by rights, to be the ultimate anti-conservative series. At least for the likes of Potemra.