The Altered Deal
In “…And Another Thing: Those Jedi Children Were a Threat,” Gene Healy refers to the Weekly Standard review of Attack of the Clones, with its famous defense of the Empire.
Make no mistake, as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator–but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet. It’s a dictatorship people can do business with. They collect taxes and patrol the skies. They try to stop organized crime (in the form of the smuggling rings run by the Hutts). The Empire has virtually no effect on the daily life of the average, law-abiding citizen.
But we only see three instances of business being done in the movies. The first is Ben Kenobi hiring Han Solo. Even after Kenobi’s death, the Rebel Alliance makes good on his contract. Makes good on a contract that no court would ever enforce–to smuggle military secrets and wanted fugitives past a government blockade? Another is the Empire hiring bounty hunters. (Even there, the Empire may be playing favorites with Fett.) But the Standard betrays their disregard for law, and their lust for order by choosing to ignore what happens to Lando Calrissian. As Vader tells him,
I have altered the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.
That’s not a dictatorship people can do business with, its the abuse of raw power in pursuit of goals that Vader thinks are worthwhile. The Dark Side may be looking to restore order, but its an order that it, in Darth Sideous, has destroyed. And with it, they would destroy families, friendships, and liberty.
If you think this is a critique of the Bush administration, you’re wrong. A few lines of wooden dialog don’t make for a critique. Lucas didn’t add claims of weapons of mass destruction or harboring terrorists to Palpatine’s speeches. The storyline, which was written thirty years ago, is (amongst other things) a critique of the lust for power, and an homage to Acton’s dictum that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
If that happens to skewer some of your favorite sacred cows…well, I have bbq sauce right here.