James Gunn, riding off the success of Avengers: Infinity War was incredibly hot currency in Hollywood. He brought the Guardians of the Galaxy to the silver screen with great directing and witty writing in 2014 but his advances into the limelight appear to have been abruptly ended this week by a far-right witchhunt into his tweets, specifically those made making light of pedophilia and rape between 2008 and 2012. This story isn’t all that it seems to be and at its heart, James Gunn’s firing is another win for a growing right-wing conspiracy online.
First of all, Gunn would probably be the first to say that his firing made absolute sense – in fact he did:
“Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself” – James Gunn
From a business perspective, such humor would be inconsistent with Disney’s family-friendly image. Although, Gunn did hint that his wild sense of humour was probably what caught the eye of Disney’s subsidiary, Marvel Studios in the first place:
1. Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
Guardian’s fans, like myself, will be upset that Gunn will no longer be at the helm of the project which he really made his own but we have to acknowledge that Disney did what was best for its public image when this issue came to public attention.
But wait, how did it come to public attention? James Gunn had already apologised for some of the things he’d said as early as 2012, why is he being fired now, almost a decade after most of the comments were made?
Meet the orchestrator of this scandal, Mike Cernovich. He’s the far-right crusader that has turned the liberal outrage machine against itself and you really should know about him.
It’s no understatement that this man is one of the most dangerous individuals on the internet right now, having a role to play in most of the recent and pernicious right-wing online conspiracies such as pizzagate, gamergate, and the coming ‘white genocide’. His role in Gunn’s firing was using his big network of alt-right cronies and bots to hijack the various algorithms of the social media sites and trick them into showing Gunn’s old tweets everywhere. The reason why this story should have all of us ‘free speech’ buffs on the left and the right shaken up is that it reveals how easily outrage can be weaponised. We all have skeletons in our closet and, if all it takes for us to have our lives irreparably altered is that our objectionable comments in the past take public prominence, then we all have something to worry about.
In itself, this kind of attack constitutes a gaping hole in the sanctity of free speech in public discourse and will silence satire, comedy and even political thought.
I don’t think that Disney should have let Gunn go. By doing so, rather than protecting its young audience, Disney has actually told them that they cannot make mistakes; every word that they have uttered will hang over them as a lasting indictment on their character for as long as they live.
4. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
Gunn is not Harvey Weinstein nor is he Donald Trump (whom Gunn maligned on Twitter, ironically making him a target for altright attack) and shouldn’t have been treated as some kind of parasite to Disney’s property for what were just really terrible jokes mad by his past self.
Tell me what you guys think? Should we be held accountable for the jokes we make in bad taste, especially when made in the past?