James Gunn Sacked for Sick Tweets

The newest tweet-based outrage involves the sick and twisted tweets of movie director James Gunn–best known for the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise–posted way back in 2008-09 or so.

Mr. Gunn’s defense:

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

2. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over. — James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018

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

5. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all. — James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018

Here’s a sampling of some of Mr. Gunn’s harmless, erm, “jokes”:

Gunn Tweets

“RT @peteralton I like it when little boys touch me in my silly place–shhh!”

“The Expendables was so manly I fucked the shit out of the little pussy boy next to me! The boys ARE back in town!”

“‘Eagle Snatches Kid'” is what I call it when I get lucky.”

“Three Men and a Baby They had Sex With. #unromanticmovies”

“I’m doing a big Hollywood film adaptation of The Giving Tree with a happy ending – the tree grows back and gives the kid a blowjob.”

“RT @blackehart ‘I remember my first NAMBLA meeting. It was the first time I felt OK being who I am. Some of those guys are still my BFFs.”

Good Lord.

Gunn posted these incredibly sick, vile, and disgusting tweets about a decade ago, when he was just starting out as a filmmaker. He says that he was deliberately acting out as a provocateur, going for the obviously outrageous. In other words, he did what most people insecure in their own talents and abilities do when they feel so strongly that the rest of the world isn’t giving them their due: they scream out for attention like a spoiled little child.

People can certainly give him the benefit of the doubt that that’s all he was doing–vying for attention to jump start a career. It’s ironic that Gunn appeared to have torn a page right out of Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal. If you really want the attention of the media, Trump recommends in his seminal work that you very publicly state something as shocking and outrageous as possible, and then you will certainly get what you wish for. For all of his heated criticism of Trump, Gunn appears to share his outlook in at least this one respect.

I see no reason to believe that Gunn is an actual, practicing pedophile–one should take his denial at his word in the absence of evidence–but the material which Gunn chose for shock value certainly demonstrates some pretty severe callousness. And the fact that he left those tweets up for years, even after striking success in Hollywood, reveals not only something about Gunn’s own casual attitudes toward the abuse of children, it likely says something about much of the film industry’s culture as well: Gunn probably never felt compelled to delete the offensive tweets because his own experience informed him that his colleagues and co-workers wouldn’t much care. Millions of other people, however, who do not inhabit the Hollywood universe, see it differently. They would most likely stop associating with anyone who saw nothing wrong with posting child-rape jokes on social media.

So there’s an obvious question to be asked here: Did anyone at Disney/Marvel find out about Gunn’s sick joke-tweets at anytime during the preceding decade that they were out there, but simply dismiss them out of hand?

What did Disney and Marvel know, and when did they know it?

UPDATE: I had not caught this before, but one of the people most outspoken against Disney severing all ties with Gunn has been none other than conservative pundit Ben Shapiro. Interesting and ironic, considering that Shapiro had just recently been tangling with Gunn on Twitter.

Says Shapiro,

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 4.36.21 PMInteresting.

Let’s recap what Gunn found so funny in an “outrageous” and “provocative” way: Sexually assaulting children.

“There is no limiting principle to the outrage mob”????

He made jokes about raping children. 

What an odd thing for a conservative pundit to say when a major corporation–who’s bread and butter has long been children’s entertainment–sacks someone for posting jokes about raping children on social media, and then leaves them up for an entire decade.

Maybe there’s no limiting principle to Shapiro’s tolerance, or perhaps it’s more accurate to observe that there’s no consistently defining principle to what Shapiro finds tolerable or intolerable.

What a confused little man.

UPDATE #2: Good Lord, a veritable mine of Hollywood pedo-joke tweets appears to have been discovered following the James Gunn childrapejokegate. What is the deal with these people? This is getting disturbing.

Just as a side note before I proceed, no, it doesn’t really matter that it’s mainly right-wing outlets like Breitbart who are highlighting all of these disgusting tweets from left-wing celebrities joking about molesting children. The tweets speak for themselves, no matter who is shining a spotlight on them. And it’s just mind-boggling that these people left this stuff up for years, apparently without a single thought ever entering their heads at any point in time that, gee, somebody might be a little disturbed by child-rape humor, such as, say, the millions of people who take their kids to their movies. As I stated in my initial post, that’s likely because the people they work with in their industry, including those responsible for the hiring and firing, have absolutely no problem with it, either. The sensibilities of all the bourgeois rubes who pack the movie theaters for the latest blockbuster are to be acknowledged only for mockery and ridicule.

Speaking of Breitbart, they’ve recently published a couple of columns by John Nolte that get to the root of why this is something to give at least a half a damn about:

First,

“As I have expressed countless times, nothing would make me happier than to live in a world where dumb jokes, stupid comments, tasteless humor, moments of weakness, and legitimate mistakes, both big and small, could be forgiven for those expressing true remorse. I believe in second chances, most especially for myself, and despise our current culture that allows social media mobs to dismantle lives and careers over bad words.

“But guess who disagrees with me?

“That would be James Gunn himself, who called for Roseanne Barr to be fired over a single terrible tweet.

“He has since deleted the tweet (Gee, I wonder why?), but on May 29, Gunn wrote, ‘I wish some of these so-called defenders of liberty would start to understand what freedom of speech is AND isn’t. Roseanne is allowed to say whatever she wants. It doesn’t mean @ABCNetwork needs to continue funding her TV show if her words are considered abhorrent.’”

“And…

“On March 29, and only because she called someone a ‘whiner,’ Gunn publicly called for the destruction of Laura Ingraham’s career via a boycott.

“’I hope @hulu stops advertising …  on the Laura Ingraham show, so I can watch [‘The Handmaid’s Tale’]. Online bullying & shaming of teenagers should not be supported by Hulu. Let them know,’ he tweeted to his half-million followers.”

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 10.38.05 AM.png“Gunn might have stopped joking about raping children, stopped joking about ass-raping his friends, about Mexicans, the Holocaust, AIDS, and how kiddie porn gives him an orgasm, but he only set aside those words in order to use the new words that built the petard he just hoisted himself with.” [Emphasis mine.]

Exactly.

Next,

What the hell is up with this fetish for joking about sexually assaulting children???

“Hollywood might be all kinds of ‘woke’ and hyper-sensitive and crippled by a censorious political correctness that declares countless topics and left-wing sacred cows verboten, but ‘joking’ about raping children is totally cool.”

……….

“[W]hat we have on our hands is an entertainment industry that will ex-communicate you for being ‘insensitive’ (toward anyone other than a conservative), that will blacklist you for voting in an ‘unapproved’ way, that will publicly humiliate and ‘re-educate’ you for telling ‘inappropriate’ jokes, but has absolutely no problem with you telling countless jokes about raping a child, even a baby.”

A smattering of the sick jokes highlighted by Nolte:

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 10.56.34 AM

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 11.00.45 AM

These…”comedians”…seem so desperate for material that they have to dig into the gutter for jokes about molesting kids. And when they’re called out for their tastelessness, all they can do is sputter, “oh, I said that years ago,” or whatever ad hoc rationalization that enters their heads.

That’s the thing about self-appointed arbiters of public morals and taste, especially those who dwell atop the loftiest of castle towers. They’re entitled to form a social media mob and ruin other people’s careers for merely uttering or typing words, but when they’re called out on their own violations of public morality and taste, they simply brush it off with a wave of the hand. In their minds, they alone fashion the rules, and those rules always convict those with whom they differ in politics and worldviews, while at the same time everyone’s to just assume that they’re to be automatically exonerated.

If there are people who can’t see the obvious self-serving, double-standard hypocrisy at work here, then this country just may be at a point where it’s best for the conflicting factions to simply each go their own way. I suspect that we’ll be seeing such a development in the years to come.

The Universe According to Thanos

If you’re a fan of the superhero comic book genre of cinema, then you should run as fast as you can, not merely walk, to the latest installment of the Marvel Comics franchise, The Avengers: Infinity War. If these loud, action-packed movies are not your cup of tea, then you should probably take a pass. But if you don’t care what the film snobs think and you enjoy them immensely, then go for it. You’ll be glad you did. The directing brothers Anthony and Joseph Russo have pulled off no small feat here. While the movie is not without its flaws, they successfully juggled a long parade of characters and intertwining plot lines to pull off one highly entertaining thrill ride of a flick.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

At the center of this movie–it is in fact, his story, told mostly from his perspective–is its formidable villain, Thanos. Thanos is a “titan,” or he’s from Titan–I forget which. He is a mighty big badass, but he fancies himself a thinking badass. He has reached the conclusion that the universe is out of balance, which is to say it’s becoming much too populous. He’s certain that he sees the future, and that future consists of many worlds becoming so crowded that their inhabitants are on the verge of overconsuming precious scarce resources, causing much famine, suffering, and misery. He seeks out the complete set of magical “infinity stones” that, once collected in full by his big fisted metal gauntlet, will grant him immense power to do whatever the hell he wants–so he wants to  wipe out half the population of the universe in order to avoid all that suffering and death and misery. It’s kind of funny, though–in the peculiar sense, anyways–that he doesn’t think to use those magic rocks to create a superabundance of resources on all the worlds whose populations he seeks to halve, so that the halving wouldn’t be so necessary. Thanos seems a bit too eager to employ genocide as a solution.

Thanos’ zero-sum theory of humanity isn’t just a comic book trope, however. It is widely shared by people who actually have some influence on public policy, as frightening as that sounds.

Thanos’ rather stark and brutal perspective is somewhat reminiscent of the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, the 18th century English economist. While the majority of middle-class Europeans rejoiced at the terrific gains being made at the time by the proliferation of new technology that brought on the Industrial Revolution, Malthus preferred to rain all over their prosperity parade with a lot of gloom-and-doom predictions. He claimed that all that newly created wealth was merely subsidizing the increased reproduction of the poor, who would eventually become so numerous that they would be confronted with famine and disease, what has since become known in the popular usage as a “Malthusian trap.” Such crises would inevitably kill off a great many people, thus regressing society back to the preceding economic state.

“It is an evident truth that, whatever may be the rate of increase in the means of subsistence, the increase of population must be limited by it, at least after the food has once been divided into the smallest shares that will support life,” wrote the rather grim and pessimistic Malthus in his Essay on the Principle of Population. “All the children born, beyond what would be required to keep up the population to this level, must necessarily perish, unless room be made for them by the deaths of grown persons.”

Malthus supplied absolutely no evidence for his stark thesis; he simply stated it as a given fact. But his theory was spectacularly wrong. Contrary to what it implied, the food supply at any given time isn’t fixed. The more people come into existence, the more people do continue, thank goodness, to develop methods for increasing the available sustenance as the population grows. The entire population of Europe was approximately 127 million in 1700. It steadily increased to 224 million by 1820 when Malthus was in his mid-fifties, and then eventually reached 498 million by 1913. And yet the massive crises of starvation and want that Malthus predicted never came to pass. Europe’s biggest disasters occurred during the first half of the 20th century, and they were caused not by overpopulation, but by blundering statesmen who condemned the continent to two horrific wars that slaughtered millions.

Indeed, paleoanthropologists estimate that there was all of 10,000-30,000 homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago, and everything we know about human life in that period indicates that it was pretty nasty, brutish, and short. The “Toba catastrophe,” a massive volcanic eruption that occurred in Indonesia about 70,000 years ago, is believed to have caused a “population bottleneck,” that is, a sudden and sharp reduction in the human population to as few as 1,000 -10,000 people. Today, there are billions of people walking the planet. By Malthus’ logic, we should never have become so numerous and prosperous at the same time. Living standards and quality of life today are not worse than they were during the paleolithic era, but far, far better. Malthus had it exactly backwards.

His skewed theory that a growing population inevitably meant greater scarcity of food and resources led him and those who believed in his expertise on the matter to some deeply flawed preferences in public policy. He was intensely supportive of England’s Corn Laws, for example, which imposed steep tariffs on imported grain. His reasoning was that this would incentivize greater self-sufficiency for food in England at a time when other countries taxed their own grain exports whenever they experienced economic hardship. But the increased food prices caused by the Corn Laws simply ended up increasing the wealth of England’s landowners at the expense of everyone else. The higher food prices imposed on the general population reduced their ability to purchase manufactured goods, thus hampering the country’s industry. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to understand how much the increased prices of food and other goods, along with the reduction in employment opportunities, arrested the living standards of anyone who wasn’t an aristocrat.

But the Malthusian delusion persists–among highly learned scholars, no less–no matter how many times it’s discredited by both logic and experience.

The American biologist Paul Ehrlich provides one example of the stubborn persistence of this thesis. In his 1968 book, The Population Bomb, Ehrlich predicted that due to the growing population, the 1970s would be a decade of mass starvation, misery, and death…hundreds of millions would perish as the result of food shortages, stated Ehrlich.

Obviously, this had not come to pass. (At one point in 1980, Ehrlich even predicted that England would cease to exist by the year 2000.) Some famines had occurred subsequent to Ehrlich’s predictions, such as Ethiopia’s catastrophic famine of the early 1980s, but they were the result of deeply misguided government policies that prevented the populations of those countries from accessing food supplies when they needed them most, not global overpopulation.

Of course, that’s not to say that there’s an eternally guaranteed progression of advancing technology and growing prosperity. If one were to chart the evolution of man’s quality of life throughout the ages on a graph, the line would look like more like a zig-zag, sometimes inclining upwards, at other times declining downwards, and then back up again, down yet again, and so forth.

It’s knowledge and what man does with it that is the real determining factor of progress or regression, not population growth. It’s certainly true that it’s not necessarily a given that human knowledge will always advance to the overall improvement of living conditions indefinitely, but it’s been pretty much on a roll for quite awhile now.

Incredibly, Ehrlich’s erroneous prophecies of mass starvation hasn’t kept academia and policy makers from falling into the Malthusian trap any more than Malthus’ own errors have. The British journalist Brendan O’Neill has been tracking this trend among the world’s intelligentsia for some years now. In this 2012 piece he reports that at that year’s UN Rio+20 Earth summit, over a hundred venerable institutions, including England’s own Royal Society, chillingly urged those in power throughout the world to look past “ethical sensitivities” and “confront rising global population.”

I’m not quite sure what they meant by that, but something tells me that the rest of us should make sure they don’t get their hands on any infinity stones.