Editor’s note: The release of the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens reignited prior debates about the general nature of the goodness of the Jedi and the villainy of the Empire. We reached out to the author of the definitive piece making the case for the Empire, Jonathan Last, to offer reasons that the Jedi are actually the bad guys.
Oh, you thought you could totally be down with the Force if you just reached out with your feelings and did-or-did-not? You thought the Force would be with you if you appreciated the worth of all living things?
Umm, no. If you aren’t related to someone who’s genetically predisposed to a high midi-chlorian count in his or her blood, you’re a prole like everyone else. The Force is something you’re born into. Like being a Bush, or a Clinton.
2. Jedi Believe They’re the Center of the Universe
The Jedi aren’t a civilian-controlled military force. They’re not even a semi-autonomous palace guard pledged to defend the Republic. They’re…something else? As Mace Windu puts it in “Attack of the Clones,” “We’re keepers of the peace, not soldiers.”
Boy, howdy, are they arrogant peacekeepers. In “Phantom Menace,” Obi-Wan—who’s one of the better Jedi!—refers to Jar-Jar Binks as a “pathetic life form.”
Truth is an affirmative defense, but Jedi are supposed to see the worth in all living things. Don’t take my word for it; here’s Yoda in “Revenge of the Sith”:
Obi-Wan: But he still has much to learn, Master. His abilities have made him…well, arrogant.
Yoda: Yes. Yes. A flaw more and more common among Jedi. Too sure of themselves they are. Even the older, more experienced ones.
3. They Lack Transparency
The Jedi aren’t transparent in dealing with the Republic they claim to be protecting. Remember in “Attack of the Clones” when the Jedi sensed an enormous danger to the Republic then went and warned the elected officials of the democracy they claim to love so much?
Yoda: Blind we are, of creation of this clone army we could not see.
Mace Windu: I think it is time we inform the senate that our ability to use the force has diminished.
Yoda: Only a Dark Lord of the Sith knows of our weakness. If informed the senate is, multiply our adversaries will.
4. They’re Totally Willing to Stage Their Own Coup
In “Revenge of the Sith,” the Jedi council contemplates how to deal with a duly elected Palpatine exercising his legislatively granted powers. Their first thought isn’t to start leaking to the Coruscant Times so as to change public opinion.
Ki-Adi-Mundi: If he does not give up his emergency powers after the destruction of Grievous, then he must be forcibly removed from office.
Mace Windu: It will be tricky. The Jedi Council will have to take control of the Senate to ensure a peaceful transition to a new government and a new leadership for the Republic.
5. Are You Down with Extralegal Executions?
Good deal. The Jedi are, too. After they’ve subdued Palpatine in “Revenge of the Sith,” here’s what happens:
Mace Windu: I’m going to put an end to this, once and for all!
Anakin Skywalker: You can’t. He must stand trial.
Mace Windu: He has control of the senate and all the courts. He is too dangerous to be left alive!
Due process is for suckers not born with high enough midi-chlorian counts.
6. The Jedi Are Wrong about Pretty Much Everything
In the very beginning of “The Phantom Menace,” Qui-Gon Jin warns the Jedi Council of Darth Maul, telling them that horn-face must be a Sith Lord. The council’s reaction:
Qui-Gon Jinn: He had all the lightsaber fighting capabilities and the moves of the Jedi, only faster and more aggressive. My only conclusion… is that it was a Sith lord.
Ki-Adi-Mundi: Impossible! The Sith are extinct! They have been for nearly a millennium.
Mace Windu: I agree. The Sith would not have returned without us sensing it.
Yoda: Hard to see, the dark side is. We must investigate further before drawing a conclusion to the identity of your adversary.
Or how about that planet Kamino? In “Attack of the Clones,” it was sort of important that Obi-Wan find Kamino. The fate of the Republic kind of hinged on it. But the Jedi didn’t have any records of Kamino in their archives. So instead of hitting the books and trying to figure out where the place was hidden, they just insisted that it didn’t exist.
Or how about that time when the Jedi intentionally put the two most dangerous men in the galaxy together, just to see what happens? In “Revenge of the Sith,” the Jedi Council decides to assign Anakin to attend Palpatine, even though they acknowledge, “It’s very dangerous, putting them together.” And the upside for rolling the dice in this way was…? Whatever. They do it anyway, and this decision literally causes the fall of the Republic and the near-extinction of the Jedi order.
7. They Can’t Tell Where Tolerance Becomes Intolerance
Like all good social-justice warriors, the Jedi fetishize tolerance to the point of intolerance. In “Revenge of the Sith,” Obi-Wan lectures Anakin that “only the Sith deal in absolutes.” But this is “tell,” not “show.” And the evidence suggests this characterization is exactly wrong. Here, for instance, is Obi-Wan’s philosophical disquisition on why the Sith are problematic: “Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil! The Sith are evil. The Dark Side of the Force is an evil presence.”
And here’s Palpatine making his conversion pitch to young Skywalker:
Supreme Chancellor: Remember back to your early teachings. ‘All who gain power are afraid to lose it.’ Even the Jedi.
Anakin Skywalker: The Jedi use their power for good.
Supreme Chancellor: Good is a point of view, Anakin. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power.
Anakin Skywalker: The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inward, only about themselves.
Supreme Chancellor: And the Jedi don’t?
Anakin Skywalker: The Jedi are selfless…they only care about others.
Supreme Chancellor: [looking a little frustrated] Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis ‘the wise’?
Anakin Skywalker: No.
Supreme Chancellor: I thought not. It’s not a story the Jedi would tell you. It’s a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith who lived many years ago. He was so powerful and so wise that he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life… He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.
Anakin Skywalker: He could do that? He could actually save people from death?
Supreme Chancellor: The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.
Anakin Skywalker: What happened to him?
Supreme Chancellor: He became so powerful…the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power, which eventually, of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, and then one night, his apprentice killed him in his sleep. It’s ironic that he could save others from death, but not himself.
You tell me which side sounds like they’re the absolutist ideologues.
The Jedi were really exposed in the prequels, but if you paid attention in the original trilogy, the writing was on the wall. For example:
8. They’re Militarily Self-Centered
The Jedi primarily prosecute private wars and are only weakly invested in the political and military struggle against the Empire.
First, Obi-Wan Kenobi, despite being a veteran flag officer with ample combat experience who could have stood the rebellion in good stead, goes AWOL for decades of rebellion. Kenobi was so valuable that he possessed key insider knowledge of the psyche and history of one of the enemy’s foremost combat commanders—and neglected to share it with rebel high command. (Could this be the result of species-ism? We know Kenobi is prejudiced against Gungans. Perhaps he carries a similar distaste for the Mon Calamari?)
When Kenobi finally does re-engage in the struggle against the Empire, it has nothing to do with the Empire’s acquisition of a planet-destroying super-weapon and everything to do with parochial Jedi interests. Finally, despite a demonstrated ability to affect a wide range of persons with his Force powers, Kenobi was perfectly happy to let the majority of the rebel assault wave against the Death Star die in flames—before whispering last-minute assistance to his preferred Jedi ward.
In short: Kenobi lied, Porkins died.
9. The Jedi Are Terrible Comrades
Once that ward (Luke Skywalker) became a Jedi himself, he developed the famous Jedi contempt for the common man. Like his mentor, as Skywalker became more of a Jedi, he became increasingly disloyal to the cause and comrades he once served.
This was most vividly illustrated when he jeopardized the operational security of the rebel raiding party on Endor, giving himself up and risking the entire mission—not to mention the lives of hundreds and the freedom of the galaxy—so he could pursue Jedi business. Ultimately, he found himself locked in a completely irrelevant battle within the Emperor’s throne room aboard the second Death Star. Whether he won or lost had no strategic significance to the battle, or the war. There was a gigantic fleet action underway, on which depended the freedom of every sentient being across a hundred million systems.
And, like a typical Jedi, Skywalker chose this moment to go AWOL from the most consequential struggle of his time. He had Jedi business to attend.
To fully understand the unreliable and narcissistic nature of the Jedi, imagine being at D-Day, and your battle buddy is the worst sort of self-centered millennial. At the moment of decision, you hit the beach in the greatest invasion in the history of mankind—but when you look over to find him, he’s gone. Later, you are reunited at the victory celebration and you ask him where he was, at that instant when absolutely everything good and true was on the line.
He shrugs. “Saw my dad.”