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The Ferengi Phenomenon

Fictional futures illustrate the values promoted by television media today. Those who don't watch Star Trek may be startled by my observations but you can observe for yourself or ask one of the many "trekkies" who are familiar with the series.

In Star Trek, the Next Generation (the new series) there are two alien races still around from the original series: the klingons (fierce but honorable) and the romulans (like the klingons but sneaky). The klingons have signed a peace treaty and one even serves on our side. The romulans are still an enemy but their goals of empire aren't much different from ours and they are also (sometimes) honorable. In the original Star Trek there were no absolutely bad alien races. When aliens did bad things it was for some good reason, often discovered in the ending scene.

The new series has introduced some new and unpleasant aliens but they generally have latent virtues. The cardasians appear mean but have been brutalized by prolonged warfare. The borg appear robotic but are becoming more human with each encounter.

Toward the end of the first season the ferengi were introduced. They had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. They were rat like and hateful in every way. They always whined or sneered. They were ugly with protruding foreheads, giant ears, and pointed teeth (in their first appearance their image on the screen was enlarged to amplify their ugliness). They took visible pleasure in being dishonest and dishonorable and were usually on a mission of theft or treachery (an exception is discussed below). What sets them apart from the humans, klingons, romulans, cardasians, and borg? They care about money. A rare exception was a ferengi scientist who was obsessed with getting credit for his discovery. He was described as very unusual for his race and was killed early in the episode.

Another illustration of the new Star Trek's attitude toward money is an episode dealing with terrorists. The crew was evacuated from the Enterprise while it was docked for a maintenance procedure. The captain returned briefly and encountered robbers stealing the ship's atomic fuel. At first he deliberately avoids killing and explains that this is his morality. Later he kills them without remorse. What changed? He learned that the robbers were planning to sell the atomic fuel for money. This justified killing them.

The spin off series Deep Space Nine is just as bad. A ferengi is in charge of the space station's casino and bar. Again and again his dishonesty and greed endanger everyone. A plague is spread when he uses the only functional food equipment on the station to get refreshments for his customers. He arranges an auction of artifacts one of which almost destroys the station. He cheats some alien gamblers at the casino and the game they play in retaliation uses humans as pieces. The embedded message is clear; all money making is cheating, all money makers are cheats.