In the dark utopia of the Star Trek universe, one law overrides all others. Before they can live long and prosper, or even boldly go, starship captains must swear an oath to uphold the Prime Directive – the principle that other cultures must be allowed to develop naturally, without the help or hindrance of Federation interference.
“The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules; it is a philosophy... and a very correct one,” explains Captain Jean-Luc Picard after withholding Starfleet technology from a developing culture. “History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.”
Somebody who obviously doesn’t agree with Starfleet is conservative blogger Matt Walsh. That’s not exactly surprising – Walsh would oppose many aspects of life in the institutionally feminist, anti-capitalist, and gender-fluid Federation. But when a Christian missionary provoked outrage with his ill-fated attempt to contact one of the most isolated tribes on the planet last month, Walsh instead took to Twitter to explain how, in his eyes, the real crime was that nobody had done it sooner.
“The whole "uncontacted tribe" thing is bizarre,” Walsh wrote in a pair of thoroughly-ratioed tweets. “Governments are basically preserving human beings like museum exhibits. Don't these people have a right to know that modern society exists? … By not contacting primitive tribes, we are deciding for them that they're better off without: air conditioning, modern medicine, refrigeration, electricity, telephones, toothpaste, shoes, eyeglasses, etc. Would any of us like to live without those things?”
Now, there’s a few things wrong with this idea. First of all, the Sentinelese people who killed missionary John Allen Chau do know that modern society exists – they just don’t want any part of it.
After decades of suffering at the hands of Westerners, the tribe has been pretty clear that they don’t want to risk any more visitors – as commenters were quick point out.
But kidnappings, slavery, and pervy photos aren’t the only things the Sentinelese have to fear from outsiders. As Twitter users pointed out to Walsh, Chau was recklessly endangering the health of the islanders by approaching them.
But other commenters had a different problem with Walsh’s argument – namely, Walsh’s well-documented domestic politics.
North Sentinel Island is forbidden to outsiders. When he entered the Sentinelese territory, Chau was, quite literally, illegally crossing a border. To Walsh, that’s justification for being tear gassed, at least. So why, people wondered, was he advocating for “modern society” to invade a land that clearly doesn’t want it?
Walsh has also argued against universal healthcare, even twisting the personal tragedies of strangers to suit his agenda. So, naturally, Twitter was interested in his suggestion that the Sentinelese should be provided with “modern medicine”.
More to the point, Walsh’s claim that the Sentinelese are being “preserved” as “museum exhibits” doesn’t exactly stack up – as people pointed out, exhibits are for display. The Sentinelese, kind of famously, are not.
But just in case Walsh wasn’t convinced, a few people had a suggestion for how he could personally help the Westerner-slaying Sentinelese.