‘Ghost Fleet’ fiasco: Prabowo defends sci-fi novel as ‘scenario writing’, author, politicians & netizens react

L: Gerindra Chairman Prabowo Subianto holding up a copy of Ghost Fleet while speaking at a seminar entitled “Nasionalisme, Sosialisme, Pragmatisme: Pemikiran Ekonomi Politik Sumitro Djojohadikusumo” at the University of Indonesia on Sept. 18, 2017. R: The cover of Ghost Fleet, published by Eamon Dolan/Mariner Books.

Gerindra Chairman Prabowo Subianto, the man widely expected to challenge President Joko Widodo again in 2019, has been haunted by Ghost Fleet this week after it was revealed that the foreign “study” upon which he based a fiery speech about Indonesia potentially breaking up by 2030 was actually a sci-fi techno thriller in the vein of Tom Clancy.

After some media outlets (including Coconuts, hey-o!) made the connection between Prabowo’s apocalyptic speech, uploaded to Gerindra’s social media on Sunday, and earlier talks in which Prabowo had praised the book and mentioned its Indonesia-no-more 2030 prediction, the news blew up and even got the attention of one of Ghost Fleet’s authors, Peter W. Singer, who was kind enough (or weirded out enough) to retweet our story.

This led to a great deal of online criticism and sarcastic comments about Prabowo referring to Ghost Fleet as a study:



And our favorite one:


Yesterday, Prabowo acknowledged that he had based the claim in his speech on the novel but defended it, saying it was based on scientific studies done by the Singer and his co-writer, August Cole, who are both security analysts.

(You can read more about Ghost Fleet, its authors and the book’s predictions about Indonesia in our original article)

“So abroad there is scenario writing, it may be in the form of a novel, but the people who wrote it are strategic intelligence experts,” the Gerindra leader said following a keynote address at a discussion at the Millenium Hotel in Jakarta as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Prabowo said the context for Indonesia’s failed nation-state status in the novel is based upon the country’s resources having been controlled entirely by foreigners, something he warned about in his speech and seemed to preview a platform of economic nationalism upon which he might base his 2019 campaign. 

He went on to say that he felt it was his obligation to warn the country about this potential threat but that it was okay if the public chose not to believe him.

“This is a real phenomenon, so if you do not want to believe me, you do not want to hear that, that’s okay. It’s my obligation as a citizen, I have to speak up when I see danger.”

Besides the derisive online reactions, Ghost Fleet gate has also received a wide variety of comments from politicians. His fellow Gerindra politicians, of course, defended Prabowo’s use of the novel’s prediction and agreed it was an important warning to the country.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla called out the book’s fictive premise but said the the prediction was still theoretically possible and something the country should be concerned about.

“If we do not maintain unity, it could happen like in the Balkans, in Russia, the Soviet Union, that often happens, divisions,” Kalla said as quoted by Tribun.

Much harsher words were spoken by Andreas Hugo Pareira, the chairman of ruling party PDI-P’s central executive board, saying that Prabowo should keep his concerns for the country based in reality.

“Do not get get bogged down in empty visions, false worries and hallucinations that sweep us apart, it is better for us to face challenges with hard work, together,” Andreas said as quoted by Detik.

“It’s a shame the people who are considered leaders bring us down with their wayward imaginations,” he added.

Prabowo, who has already been endorsed as Gerindra’s candidate by many of the party’s factions, is said to be planning to officially announce his candidacy in early April. However, delays in that announcement, as well as the false report by one Gerindra leader that former Indonesian military commander Gatot Nurmantyo has joined the party as a potential candidate (Gatot later denied that, saying he had only been invited to join Gerindra during a meeting with Prabowo) have led some to speculate that Prabowo’s presidential run is less than assured and other options are still being considered.

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