Q&A: Psi Cops

I recently saw your Sith Academy post, where you made a reference to the Psi Corp of Babylon 5. Would you say Bester is one of those “True Believer” instructors who uses the enforcement methods he was taught, or as a cop, is it a different situation that applies? Thanks.

Oh, Bester is a “True Believer”. He’s a fanatic. He conspires against members of the Psi Corps because he believes the Shadow Conspiracy is not in the best interest of future telepath domination. He’s a fantastic villain, and he’s doing exactly what he was taught to do then taking a step beyond it. He’s loyal to the Corps, but he chases his own goals. He’s a great character who cloaks himself in righteousness but whose motivations are almost entirely selfish. He breaks the Corps rules all the time to his own benefit, they all do. Now, these are the rules they put into place so the “normals” or mundane humans feel more comfortable. So, those obviously would be the first to go. If every known telepath belongs to the Corp, no human can’t trust them, especially since they never know when the telepath or a Psi Cop has been illegally digging around inside their head.

Bester is a fantastic example of a character is a believer who follows the rules, just not the rules everyone outside the Corp knows. Now, most of the human characters know he doesn’t follow the rules. This is a point of conflict with the Psi Corps throughout the series. They are the Thought Police. Kept separate and segregated out of fear.

The Psi Corps are a great group (far better than the Sith) if you want to look at functionally abusive training methods. Bester’s parents, for example, were activists against the Corp. After the Corp killed them, he was taken them and completely reworked into the fantatic we see in the series proper. The telepaths wearing gloves to mark them in general society and keep them from having physical contact (even with each other) as a means of control. Talia talking about her memories of Abby, who made her feel safe when she first arrived (and psychically manipulated her into it). The camps and the sleepers are the most obvious, but there’s a lot of little touches to the Corp which are reflective of real world organizations who did successfully manipulate and coerce their followers into loyalty. The Psi Cops themselves wear uniforms modeled after the Gestapo. I mean look at this in-universe television spot, it has subliminal messaging hidden inside it. (Obey the Corp.)

We’ve got kids taken from their parents at a young age, re-trained so this is all they know.  The punishments for not joining the Corp include being put on the sleepers (drugs which suppress their telepathic abilities) and/or sent to concentration camps. A telepath can run, but the Psi Cops will hunt them down. The Psi Cops are trained from a pool of the strongest of the telepaths, they are the most fanatic, the most loyal, and rewarded for their loyalty by their ability to exert the greatest control over the others. There are no legal means for a telepath to appeal their status in general human society as the Corps legally has complete domination over them.

It’s a fantastic example of how fear can be used to create a political underclass, who have no rights but are simultaneously terrifying to the general population.

The Psi Cops are great as villains and the Psi Corps itself is a great example of an evil organization if you ever want to create one for yourself. Babylon 5 as a whole is fantastic, especially for setting building.

And, of course, Alfred Bester himself is a reference to the late, great science fiction author Alfred Bester who pioneered the concept of thought police and psychic cops.

-Michi

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