RSA's Oh-So-Important "Canon Policy"

What happens when a sci-fi fan becomes so arrogant that he thinks he can unilaterally decide not only how to interpret evidence, but what evidence is admissible at all, as if he's the judge in a court of law? And what happens when this fan is so convinced of his "canon policy" that he decides he can overrule the people who actually own Star Wars and Star Trek? This happens:

"None of the books are canon. That's 100% true."
Paula Block (head of Star Trek licensing at Paramount) to RSA.

"Let go of your rambling diatribes and face the truth."
David Mack (writer of the DS9 episodes "Starship Down" and "It's Only A Paper Moon") to RSA.

"The quote you provide makes it sound like the EU is separate from George's vision of the Star Wars universe. It is not."
Leland Chee, maintainer of Lucasfilm's Star Wars Holocron, to someone quoting RSA.

"All contradictions are dealt with case-by-case ... Does LucasFilm Ltd. itself actually have a Canon Policy? No."
Leland Chee, refuting RSA's notion that there is some absolute correct "Canon Policy" at Lucasfilm.

Would it surprise you to hear that when Leland Chee at Lucasfilm and Paula Block at Paramount told him he was wrong about Star Wars and Star Trek continuity, he rejected their authority to answer his questions? Apparently, he will accept correction from no less than George Lucas himself or the ghost of Gene Roddenberry, as if either of them would have cared enough about sci-fi debates to even bother.

There has long been some question as to whether RSA is simply lying, or whether he is really so delusional that he has lost the ability to distinguish between reality and the world he has created for himself. In RSA's alternate reality, his oh-so-important "Canon Policy" is some sort of bedrock against which all other facts can be evaluated. Facts stand or fall based on their compliance with the oh-so-important "Canon Policy". RSA's "Canon Policy", in his mind, is the Rosetta Stone, the Magna Carta, and the Constitution, all rolled into one. Luckily, we need wonder whether he is lying or delusional no longer. Thanks to a series of posts on the TrekBBS discussion forums, we now know that he is not lying; he actually thinks that his "Canon Policy" is all he claims it to be. He truly does not understand his place in Star Trek, nor does he understand the place of his precious "Canon Policy".

"If one is going to discuss the canon policy and make claims about its contents, then we've gone beyond the subjectivity of personal canon and into a discussion of objective fact." - RSA posting on TrekBBS on November 23, 2005, explaining why he knows more about Paramount's Star Trek licensing policy than Paramount's employees.

Think, for a moment, about what he just said. RSA believes that his "canon policy" is a matter of "objective fact"!

To call such a statement "preposterous" would be a tour de force in understatement. When people speak of "objective facts" (as opposed to "objective journalism", which has to do with impartiality), they are speaking of facts which exist independently of people and their opinions. For example, in a court of law, physical evidence is objective fact, but eyewitness testimony is not. Or, as Merriam-Webster puts it, an objective fact is that which is "independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind".

But a "canon policy" is simply a policy set by the people who own the copyright on Star Trek. It is not set in stone, it is not independent of human thought or individual perspective, and it is whatever they say it is at any given time. It can literally change at the whim of whichever executive is in control of the franchise. The "powers that be" at Paramount could change their minds and decide to license a canon Star Trek comic book series tomorrow, and nobody could do a damned thing about it. Does this sound like a subject which can be debated over with "objective facts"? Does it sound like something where you can actually argue with Paramount about what is or isn't canon? Does it sound like something where you could hit them with "evidence" and force them to admit that you're right and they're wrong?

Of course not. But in RSA's mind, it is. His idea of "objective facts" is a carefully assembled collection of quotes taken from various people in the organization over the years, even though each and every one of those quotes is subject to human error and the limits of its author's authority, not to mention the rather obvious fact that company policies can change over time. His overblown "analysis" of these quotes is based on the assumption that none of these limitations exist, and it was resoundingly rejected by none other than Paula Block herself, who is in charge of Star Trek licensing at Paramount. Similarly, on the official Star Wars forums, he tried peddling his notion of an "objective" Lucasfilm canon policy there and was told in no uncertain terms that there is no such thing (thus instantly nullifying his entire collection of quotes and arguments pertaining to precisely what this canon policy is).

Of course, he still insists he's right, and he even created a website to explain why he is right and the people in charge of Star Trek and Star Wars licensing at Paramount and Lucasfilm are wrong. And guess what it's called: he called his new website "Canon Wars", with the domain name! Please, take a moment to gather your breath and stop laughing, and you'll see that it's no wonder he brags on his TrekBBS signature line that he is the "Author of Google's #1 ranked page on "Star Trek canon"; he really does think this "canon policy" is something he can argue to death with his usual long-winded exercises in rhetoric, rather than something which is simply handed down by the people who own Star Trek (or Star Wars).

There are, as RSA acknowledges, two kinds of policy on what is or isn't "true" Star Wars or Star Trek: the kind of policy that people use for their own personal purposes, and the kind that can be said to have "official" sanction, ie- that which is handed down from Paramount or Lucasfilm. What makes RSA unique is that he thinks he knows the official policies of Paramount and Lucasfilm better than the people who work there. Just ask him; he has a collection of quotes he's just dying to show you.

RSA vs Star Trek Writers

RSA vs Paramount

RSA vs Lucasfilm

So ... what the hell did all that mean?

Imagine that you're working at a company. Your boss says that you must follow certain policies, so you do. Then someone comes in who has never worked for the company, but he has "analyzed" your company from a distance, followed it in the news, pored over every interview ever given by any officer of the company for hidden meaning and double entendre, and written a web page explaining why he knows the company's policies better than you or your boss. How would you react? Shock? Incredulity? Laughter? An attempt to have this person committed to a mental institution?

In Darkstar's mind, "Canon" is a matter of deep philosophical thought (he even has a section on his "Canon Wars" website called "The Epistemology of Epistemology", if you can believe it). But for Lucasfilm and Paramount, "Canon" only means "What do we tell our product licensees to stay consistent with?" Darkstar rejects the ability of licensed writers and product licensing people to explain the "canon policy", but in fact, they are the most highly qualified people to do so, because it is part of their daily working environment. Once more, Paramount and Lucasfilm see "canon policy" as nothing more than a merchandising consistency issue. That's it. Nothing more grandiose or philosophical than that, no matter how many pages of "rambling diatribes" (to quote DS9 writer David Mack) that RSA may write to the contrary.

Of course, this is not to say that you can't argue with an employee of Lucasfilm or Paramount about any subject. For many years, fans argued with Lucasfilm that the Executor was at least ten times the length of a regular Star Destroyer, not five (just watch The Empire Strikes Back and decide for yourself; it's pretty obvious). But that wasn't a matter of what's canon or non-canon; that was a matter of trying to show that a simple mistake in measurement had been made. To continue the religious analogy, theologians have heated arguments over Biblical interpretation all the time, but they all agree to use the same Bible. You don't see someone saying "I have a quote from an early church father which proves that half the books in the New Testament should be totally ignored". The question of whether something is canon is a simple matter of what is sanctioned by the appropriate governing body, whether it be the church or Lucasfilm or Paramount. Despite what RSA may claim in his voluminous writings on the subject, it is really not subject to debate.

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