Lessons from Mordor

I get the impression that our Republican overlords read Lord of the Rings from a slightly skewed perspective — they seem to think that Mordor was the ideal fantasy state. I would just like to offer a few correctives.

  • You are entirely correct that you will deter immigration by earning a reputation as a domain of unparalleled evil. It is an effective strategy for warding off elves and dwarves who might want to settle on your plains. But what’s wrong with elves and dwarves?

  • Turning your plains into “a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust, the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume” will also dissuade immigration, so I can sort of see the logic of Scott Pruitt. I think, though, that you’ve forgotten the health and happiness of your residents.

  • Putting up walls is rather redundant. You’ve got your natural barriers, your Mountains of Shadow, what’s the point of building a Morannon or Cirith Ungol? No one wants to get in, anyway, and they just turn into convenient nesting grounds for unspeakable horrors.

  • You want orcs? Because this is how you get orcs.

  • It’s not even going to stop immigration. You’ll still get sneaky hobbitses coming in, only it won’t be to till a nice farm or build a homey little inn for weary travelers — they’ll be coming in with the intent of toppling your citadel of evil.

  • This part should chill you the most: when they succeed, the world won’t look on them as terrorists, but as brave heroes who saved the world. They’ll write books about them and make movies and cosplayers will dress up as them, and Mordor will be reviled as the cruel, foul land that was righteously overthrown. And they won’t be wrong.

Pointing out these comparisons won’t change anything. Unfortunately, Stephen Miller is quite enjoying being the Mouth of Sauron, and they’ve got a line of sadists eager to be transformed into Ringwraiths. Besides, they’re really into pissing off those smug, snooty elves.


  1. marcoli says

    Kind of a random idea here: A novel about characters of Mordor from their perspective. You know, in kind of a sympathetic light.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    just about every novel I can think of, the GOP seems to be taking the villain role, and using the novel as their manual.
    Most recently was reminded of Sophie’s Choice which the admin seems to be using as operating manual for immigration “enforcement” [scare quotes deliberately].

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @5:
    I would put Barack Obama in the role of Isildur who had the Ring chopped from his finger by “45”. Bernie is Gandalf, dot dot dot
    let me say I’d like Joseph Kennedy III as the next Frodo, to retrieve the Ring and become Aragorn to reestablish a just system of governance.
    thank you for reading
    carry on

  4. raven says

    just about every novel I can think of, the GOP seems to be taking the villain role, and using the novel as their manual.

    The GOP and especially their fundie xian base, have always been huge fans of Orwell’s 1984.
    They use it as their instruction manual.

  5. raven says

    The Trumpists are also huge fans of Goebbels, the Nazi Sarah Huckabee, and his Big Lie tactic.

    Goebbels: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    (It seems Goebbels never said exactly this.
    But Hitler and Goebbels said similar things and this is actually what they did.)

    Trump quite literally lies every day and has done so since before he was elected.

  6. Sean Boyd says

    slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) @8,

    The role of Frodo (or any of the Hobbits, for that matter) would pretty much have to be someone unknown to the greater world at large. I’d place the Kennedys in the role of Dúnedain…descendents of the peoples of Númenór, well past their ascendancy. Which is actually kind of fitting, I think. Any solution to our current situation is going to have to come from common people standing up and saying ¨No more. What can I do to help?¨

  7. DLC says

    The town folk of Bree, and the folk of the Shire never really knew what was going on. Or didn’t want to know. Tom Bombadil said he could do nothing, yet he did much. So, will you ride with the Eorlingas when the horn is blown and the signal fires lighted ?
    Or will you sit in your comfy hole and dream troubled dreams ?

  8. whheydt says

    Not only that … once your Ring has gone to the Fire, and you have become a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky., enormous you will rear above the world, and stretch out toward the victors a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent, for even as you lean over them, a great wind will take you, and you will all be blown away, and a great hush will fall.

    [I will not quote the Homeric simile about the death of the ant-queen, though it’s a great one; check _RotK_ “The Field of Cormallen.”]

    And sometime after that, the Ephel Duath will break and let in the Great Sea to cleanse every trace of your existence, and there will be nothing left of you except a footnote in the Red Book.

    — djheydt, Mrs. whheydt

  9. says

    I’ve always thought Tolkien’s description of “The Mouth of Sauron” the perfect-pen picture of the Internet edgelord calling their opponents’ intellects and motives into question but shrieking about infringement of their FREEZE PEACH when offered the least amount of pushback:

    And thereupon the door of the Black Gate was thrown open with a great clang, and out of it there came an embassy from the Dark Tower.

    At its head there rode a tall and evil shape, mounted upon a black horse, if horse it was; for it was huge and hideous, and its face was a frightful mask, more like a skull than a living head, and in the sockets of its eyes and in its nostrils there burned a flame. The rider was robed all in black, and black was his lofty helm; yet this was no Ringwraith but a living man. The Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr he was, and his name is remembered in no tale; for he himself had forgotten it, and he said: ‘I am the Mouth of Sauron.’ But it is told that he was a renegade, who came of the race of those that are named the Black Númenoreans; for they established their dwellings in Middle Earth during the years of Sauron’s domination, and they worshipped him, being enamoured of evil knowledge. And he entered the service of the Dark Tower when it first rose again, and because of his cunning he grew ever higher in the Lord’s favour; and he learned great sorcery, and knew much of the mind of Sauron; and he was more cruel than any orc.

    He it was that now rode out, and with him came only a small company of black-harnessed soldiery, and a single banner, black but bearing on it in red the Evil Eye. Now halting a few paces before the Captains of the West he looked them up and down and laughed.

    ‘Is there anyone in this rout with authority to treat with me?’ he asked. ‘Or indeed with wit to understand me? Not thou at least!’ he mocked, turning to Aragorn with scorn. ‘It needs more to make a king than a piece of elvish glass, or a rabble such as this. Why, any brigand of the hills can show as good a following!’

    Aragorn said naught in answer, but he took the other’s eye and held it, and for a moment they strove thus; but soon, though Aragorn did not stir nor move hand to weapon, the other quailed and gave back as if menaced with a blow. ‘I am a herald and ambassador, and may not be assailed!’ he cried.

    ‘Where such laws hold,’ said Gandalf, ‘it is also the custom for ambassadors to use less insolence. But no one has threatened you. You have naught to fear from us, until your errand is done…’

  10. says

    Or they’ve been reading (?*) John Gardner’s Grendel.

    * more likely watching the animated version Grendel Grendel Grendel

  11. KG says

    Huh. I’m afraid you’ve become a mouthpiece of the paper balrogs of Numenorean revanchism and elvish neo-neo-neo-imperialism!! Long live Comrade Sauron!!! Long live the late Comrade Morgoth!!!!

  12. blf says

    paper balrogs

    A paper balrog would be rapidly consumed by its own flames, not to mention being severely hampered in deep lakes, by snow, and other locales where they are know to be found. They can, however, trivially survive a miles-deep fall. The only danger a paper balrog presents is making one laugh so hard one forgets to shout “You Shall Not Pass!”

  13. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss paper balrogs. Death by a thousand paper balrog cuts is a painful way to go, even for a Wizard.

  14. cartomancer says

    To be fair the tower of Barad-Dur was much more tastefully decorated than its Trumpian analogue in the real world…

  15. cartomancer says

    We might also note that, following the Mordor programme, one tends to end up with the kinds of cruel, tyrannical allies that the Free Peoples of the world rightly despise. Who exactly the Easterlings, Haradrim, Corsairs of Umbar, and Variags of Khand represent in this picture is an exercise left to the reader, but I think we can safely say that Orthanc is the Kremlin, sending out its Wormtongues to disrupt the political procedures of the peoples of Rohan and Gondor.

  16. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    #3 marcoli

    Kind of a random idea here: A novel about characters of Mordor from their perspective.

    I don’t know about being done sympathetically.

    What I found interesting about the character Sauron is that he didn’t see himself as evil. In fact just the opposite. Morgoth enlisted him because of Sauron’s deep seated need for order and perfection. Sauron saw the other Maia, and Ainur, as chaotic and wasteful, thus he sought to impress his version of order on Arda.

    The focus on ‘order’ is something you see over and over again in authoritarian ideology, both in fiction and reality. Tolkien recognized that and used it as a core precept in the development of his antagonists. (And in fact in the development of his protagonists too. Objectively speaking, even if some King like Aragorn was seen as “good” it was simply because his version of order was more acceptable to those fighting against Sauron’s concept of what the order of things should be. Namely, under Sauron’s control and for the greater good of Orcs, goblins, trolls et al, rather than for Humans, elves, Dwarves etc.)

    We look back on history and wonder “Didn’t these people know that they were evil?” and the truth is no, they didn’t think they were. NAZI’s didn’t wake up in the morning thinking “I’m going to be so evil today”. No. At a fundamental level they thought that what they were doing was bringing order to chaos. For things like foreign interventionism, ethnic cleansing, holocausts and all manner of stuff, order is usually the core underpinning principle. (Let me be clear here that understanding their thought process is not condoning it or being sympathetic to it.)

    On the same line of thinking, it’s no wonder that in some religions evil is often portrayed as the force of chaos.
    If we look at the inclination for Christianity to bring Christ to the “savage races”. Or the US’s need to bring “freedom and Democracy” to the Middle East. (And many other places) Or in fact any historical empires idea that they have a duty to impress their idea of order. Whether that’s in fiction, like the literal “Empire” of Star Wars or Sauron’s nation of Mordor. Or whether you’re talking about some real authoritarian regime, either historically or contemporary.

    In this way characters like Sauron or Emperor Palpatine do not see themselves as evil, but as a force for order. From that underlying principle any manner of atrocity can be committed and justified as necessary organizing and controlling.

  17. willj says

    So now cadet bonespurs will ask for billions to build a huge tower on the border, capped with an all-seeing death eye that fries randos with megawatt laser pulses. Because reasons.

  18. npb596 says

    No one wants to get in, anyway, and they just turn into convenient nesting grounds for unspeakable horrors.

    No one wants to get in? There are no Syrian refugees or Mexican immigrants trying to get into the U.S.? Is this analogy still supposed to apply to the U.S. because if it is I think you’ve lost any grounding for it.

  19. blf says

    npb596@23, Please learn to read for comprehension. Learn about irony, exaggeration-for-effect vs lying, and wit. And other rhetorical tools. This isn’t the first time the point has been so completely missed to such an extent the WHOOSH is inaudible — an reference I expect is not understand…

    Oh, and incidentally, Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero — and Perhaps Less. That is from 2012, and obviously the trend might have changed since then. So please also learn about evidence, and how to use / cite it.