What if? thoughts on counterfactuals

One of the things the book The World Hitler Never Made points out is that alternate histories are often shaped by the politics of this timeline.
For example, the 1990 TV movie Running Against Time hinges on Robert Hayes’ conviction that if JFK had lived, he wouldn’t have committed ground troops to Vietnam and Hayes’ brother wouldn’t have died there. It’s primarily a time-travel thriller (needless to say, his efforts to stop the assassination don’t work as planned), but it also makes assumptions about sixties politics and the war being a mistake.
Phyliss Eisenstein’s Shadow of Earth presents a world where the Catholic Church crushed its opponents (in this case, the Anglican Church), leaving an oppressive theocracy in place. It’s one of several stories I’ve read that use a similar principle, and, obviously, send a message about religious freedom and church/state separation.
L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach is a heavy-handed polemic showing how if the USA had stuck with the Articles of Confederation we would have More Freedom, an end to slavery and no genocide against the Indian tribes. Smith’s rationale is ludicrously implausible, but it clearly reflects his faith in libertarianism.
Among Nazi counterfactuals, there are also a couple of libertarian ones which argue that if we hadn’t made war on Germany, the Reich and the USSR would have exhausted each other and the world would be better off today. Or that over time, the repressive fascism of the Reich would have faded, just as most revolutionary governments lose their zeal, and the world wouldn’t be that different. Both powerful political statements.
And then there’s the TV movie CSA presents a world where the South won, slavery endures and the modern Confederacy seems interchangeable with current real-world white supremacist movements (virulently anti-Semitic, which wasn’t a particular Confederate trait back in the day).
Even in an alternate timeline it seems, you can’t run away from the world we’re in.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, Politics, Reading

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.