My wife was recently lamenting the demise of the Spielberg-inspired science fiction show, Terra Nova. While it was a fun little escape, I have to admit that I was always a bit uncomfortable with it—from the under-stated “worker’s-paradise” economy, to the obvious military-junta that ruled over everyone. But what was most disturbing was the lack of moral-clarity. The white-hats (Terra Novans) and black-hats (Sixers) behaved much the same. Each had something they thought worth fighting for and used much the same methods of violence and coercion to attain them.

In one episode, the supreme white-hat, Commander Taylor, tortures a citizen of Terra Nova on the suspicion that he is working with the Sixers, who are trying to take down Terra Nova. In another episode, Taylor violates his own order that no one is to leave the colony boundary. When stopped by a junior officer, he and Jim Shannon, the de-facto Sheriff of T.N., laugh—the rules do not apply to the rule-makers. And in a very revealing episode, Dr. Malcolm Wallace, the chief science officer for the Terra Nova colony, is too busy to do Shannon a favor, testing a blood sample. Shannon responds by smashing Wallace’s lab equipment and experiments one by one until Wallace capitulates.

We watch these shows, our younger siblings and children watch these shows, and then we wonder why people grow up to start fights, start wars, become violent rights-violating cops and soldiers, or police and politicians who believe that “the rules are for everyone else, not me“. They have learned the lessons of the entertainment media—that there is no fundamental behavioral difference between the bad-guys and the good-guys. These are merely labels for two groups which are morally equivalent—that is, both violate the Non-Aggression Principle and the Law of Equal Liberty.

These are just a few examples from one silly little sci-fi show. Now look at the plethora of cop shows and legal dramas on television and you will find even more egregious examples.

Popular culture and entertainment influences our real-life interations. And the actions of everyone from presidents and politicians to local beat-cops and teachers—and our response to their behavior—strongly influences popular culture. If it is wrong for a police officer to get away with a crime he would have apprehended a non-officer for, then we must not glorify such behavior in our fiction. If it is wrong to initiate violence, we must not panegyrize it in our fictional “heroes”. Instead, we must steadfastly declare what makes the good-guys the good-guys.

The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.”
— Murray N. Rothbard, “War, Peace, and the State,” The Myth of National Defense

If we want to change this into a more peaceful and free world to live in, we need to start with our culture. Everything begins with ideas. If we can elevate our ideas, educate people about the NAP and LEL, and get them to live it, then we can transform the world.