The Three Stooges in Orbit

April 30, 2008

Actually, make that 24 stooges:

Now a fixture at Department of Homeland Security science and technology conferences, SIGMA is a loosely affiliated group of science fiction writers who are offering pro bono advice to anyone in government who want their thoughts on how to protect the nation.

The group has the ear of Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Jay Cohen, head of the science and technology directorate, who has said he likes their unconventional thinking. Members of the group recently offered a rambling, sometimes strident string of ideas at a panel discussion promoting the group at the DHS science and technology conference.

Among the group’s approximately 24 members is Larry Niven, the bestselling and award-winning author of such books as “Ringworld” and “Lucifer’s Hammer,” which he co-wrote with SIGMA member Jerry Pournelle.

Niven said a good way to help hospitals stem financial losses is to spread rumors in Spanish within the Latino community that emergency rooms are killing patients in order to harvest their organs for transplants.

“The problem [of hospitals going broke] is hugely exaggerated by illegal aliens who aren’t going to pay for anything anyway,” Niven said.

“Do you know how politically incorrect you are?” Pournelle asked.

“I know it may not be possible to use this solution, but it does work,” Niven replied.

It’s no secret that Niven and Pournelle, like a great many SF writers, are politically to the right of Franco and Pinochet. In the days before cable TV and talk radio turned the airwaves into an aviary of wingnut parrots, it was actually kind of adorable to read Inferno and see them rewrite Dante so that anti-nuclear activists went to hell, or watch them turn Footfall into a 500-page brief for the Strategic Defense Initiative. (The Eighties would have been a whole lot more entertaining if old Reagan had lip-read his way through Footfall and announced that the SDI was the only way to keep Earth from being attacked by triple-trunked talking elephants from outer space. Hell, it’s not like the arguments he did use made any more sense.)

But to listen to these clowns now . . . oh wow. “Do you know how politically incorrect you are?” The applicable term here, Jerry, is not “politically incorrect.” It’s “crazy as a shithouse rat.” Niven’s a wealthy man — let him buy a radio station and appoint Hal Turner as his general manager. 

If there’s any better evidence of the shabby political vaudeville theater masquerading as the Department of Homeland Security, it’s the spectacle of paid government employees sitting around listening to the author of World of Ptaavs and The Integral Trees babble about ingenious ways to scare Latinos away from hospitals.   

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