“A man may be judged by his standard of entertainment as easily as by the standard of his work,” preached arch-conservative commentator Ben Shapiro in his book Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting Our Future. In 2018, it’s hard to believe those words were written by Shapiro, who hurried last week to the defense of far-left Guardians of the Galaxy writer and director James Gunn, under fire for salacious commentary promoting pedophilia.
Gunn didn’t just make an off-color joke years ago that one could expect from a Hollywood insider, or engage in some dirty twenty-first century locker-room talk. Gunn’s tweets, of which he has deleted over 10,000, were evil. So evil that Disney fired Gunn even faster than ABC fired Roseanne Barr for slamming Valerie Jarrett. But what horrified Disney apparently does not horrify Ben Shapiro.
What else does Disney have on Gunn? Late Thursday night, Mike Cernovich, a social writer-activist and child advocate, who has aligned himself with right-wing political movements over the past two years, began sharing Gunn’s horrendous tweets. Less than 12 hours after Cernovich — who was amplified by One America News’ Jack Posobiec and a Twitter account set up to promote the film An Open Secret, which documents the systemic sexual child abuse found throughout Hollywood — began sharing this evidence with the public, Disney fired Gunn from the upcoming third installment of the Guardians franchise.
Gunn tweeted these comments in his forties. He is reportedly worth $100 million and is the writer-director of a teen film series. These aren’t tweets from a college kid trying to get attention, or a rising stand-up comedian trying to bombast his way into the public spotlight. This wasn’t a careless retweet, or a foolishly shared comic. They are seriously concerning … except, apparently, to Shapiro, who happens to identify as being on the far-right of social conservatism.
Strange, isn’t it? Well, maybe not. Shapiro grew up and still lives in Hollywood. I’m told that his mother is a power-player within the industry and his cousins are actors Mara Wilson and Daniel Ben Wilson. Shapiro takes every opportunity to contrast himself with Cernovich, falsely labelling the centrist as “far-right” in an attempt to corroborate with media; That same Shapiro who publicly and privately worked to de-platform Milo Yiannopoulos after old controversial comments resurfaced; That same Shapiro who believed “ABC was right to dump Roseanne [Barr]” from the hit show, Roseanne, after comments that were labeled racial. (They totally weren’t racist, by the way)
Memed by corporate media into the intellectual of the conservative millennial generation, this controversy exposed a glaring hypocrisy that even his allies aren’t willing to defend. In more than a decade of politics, I can’t recall two situations with so few variables. This is where Shapiro’s “facts don’t care about your feelings” axiom appears to be more of a disarming debate tactic than a tenet he holds true in his own life. Both Barr and Gunn made comments using the Twitter platform. Disney is the parent corporation for both productions in question. Shapiro claimed he used a free market standard to reason away Barr’s firing and now we know that not to be the case.
Gunn agreed with Shapiro, Roseanne was bad news. Shapiro wrote “that firing [Gunn] for vile old joke tweets is bad precedent and a mistake,” and that “[t]here is no limiting principle to the outrage mob.” This is like a circus ringleader denouncing the Ringling Bros.
Gunn appears to have authored hundreds of anecdotes and jokes, spread across several years as an aged adult, on his blog and Twitter accounts (which were subsequently scrubbed). Gunn’s apology, like Shapiro’s purposefully bland extended defense of Gunn, was telling. Neither mentioned what Gunn was actually excused of, instead both reduced Gunn’s comments to “jokes.”
Consumers, especially parents, were rightly outraged. Are we, citizens and consumers Shapiro labeled the “outrage mob,” not participants in the supposed free market? Does Gunn’s pedophilistic speech, championed by Shapiro, nullify our criticism of that speech? None of Gunn’s opponents are arguing that he go to jail or the government be used against him. Rather, a suspected pedophile should not be directing children’s movies.
Undoubtedly, Shapiro has earned a position as a thought leader in the American commentariat. Shapiro’s views may not represent original thought or philosophy, but he is a grounding anchor for the extreme right on issues of social, fiscal, and hawkish policies. In my own philosophical lessons, I’ve encouraged my students and listeners to go to war with the cult of expertise not expertise itself.
Still, Shapiro is a dishonest player. In an attempt to brand himself and monetize his commentary, he’s adopted traits that simply are not true. The 34-year old commentator claims to come in the name of logic, but is first to discredit his opponents in a reductionist definition debate. He is said to be a champion of free speech and association, yet has worked, both publicly and privately, against college campuses hosting Yiannopoulos, radio stations from affiliating with Alex Jones’ InfoWars, and even sought to police Candace Owens and Kanye West from appearing on the program that reaches up to six million listeners and hosted Donald Trump, the President of the United States. This clearly has a chilling effect and discourages millions from the public square. Shapiro’s “facts don’t care about your feelings,” meme is an attempt for the legalist to grant himself the moral high ground and objectivity. But, curious are his actual policy positions. Sure, they seem well-argued and logical, but against one another, there’s clearly no philosophy, no standard.
Cult of personality
Shapiro is anti-Donald Trump, anti-Mike Cernovich, and anti-Milo Yiannopoulos. As a thought experiment, let’s assume this is a standard by which Shapiro is making positive or negative conclusions on any given topic where one of these subjects plays a role. If we applied this hypothetical standard to negotiations with North Korea, Trump’s unique rift on détente with Russia, the mislabeling of Cernovich’s politics or dismissing his journalistic research on Harvey Weinstein or Gunn, the no-platforming of Yiannopoulos, it’d be the exact same positions Shapiro has actually publicly proclaimed. The standard seems to be twofold: who does Ben Shapiro know? Who does Ben Shapiro like?
There’s no Burkean conservatism defense for Gunn or his tweets—and that’s even if they were just limited to jokes. There is no Reagan, full spectrum conservatism defense that explains Shapiro’s opposition to Trump’s remarkable execution of peace-through-strength foreign policy. Shapiro is using favoritism instead of logic to form conclusions and making the case after he’s satisfied his personal impulse. He employs statements in the form of linguistic linear logic formulas and readers confuse this for ideology.
However, readers are starting to take notice. Shapiro’s own social media and graphic design consultants, two gentlemen running the anti-Trump doxing account, Reagan Battalion, have unanswered allegations of child pornography pending against them. If we took Shapiro at his word, that he’s a conservative ideologue, and used two of his books, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV and Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting Our Future, there’s no excuse for Gunn’s comments.
Did Shapiro write his own books? If not, who wrote, “[w]hen a generation becomes desensitized to the ramifications of the culture around them, it’s natural to seek out any sort of feeling, even angst”? Why would these comments not be applied to Gunn? Take Shapiro at his word, which he has been presented and ignored evidence to the contrary, that this was all a joke. He preached, “[h]ypocrisy as humor pushes destruction of standards.”
My position is opposed to Shapiro’s but I’m at a loss for anyone who contends with this glaring and blatant hypocrisy. The evidence offered here requires no interpretation and does require malice, but a working brain and allegiance to the truth before personality.
Gunn’s comments are disgusting—both his jokes and the acts people are now saying he might have performed. But against ten thousand tweets and thousands of words on a personal blog, how else are we supposed to react? Is Shapiro seriously asking us to suspend context? What prevailing standard should we apply and why doesn’t Shapiro offer an alternative?
Why did Shapiro adopt Gunn’s defense that this was all simply a joke? Where is the healthy skepticism represented in conservative ideology? Favoritism and hometown networking seems to be the lens by which explain how we even got here. The serendipitous origin of this story further exposes The Daily Wire’s Editor-in-Chief. Last week, Shapiro was praised by a Hollywood leftist who was subsequently put in a high-tech pillory. Actor and film producer Mark Duplass encouraged fellow liberals to follow Shapiro’s work to get a sense of what conservatives believe or, as this Gunn-Shapiro love affair reveals, don’t believe when something conflicts with the bottom line. Duplass faced an avalanche of progressive and media blowback. Many critics pointed to Shapiro’s blanket statements about Arabs and cultural norms within the black community. Gunn jumped to defend Duplass praising Shapiro.
Gunn defended Duplass after the left’s own outrage mob forced Duplass to retract his praise of Shapiro saying, “Not everyone can be right all the time about everything, and, if you think that’s possible, then eventually you’re going to be standing by yourself.”
How does any of this make sense? It doesn’t. And my guess is that we may never really know. But people should start asking what these three are up to while they’re hanging out in L.A. But the fact remains, Shapiro owed Gunn, who resents Cernovich, his nemesis for exposing the now more than 10,000 deleted tweets connected to pedophilia and child pornography.
More than jokes
In one scrubbed blog post, Gunn celebrated a monkey masturbating on a child. Crude and maybe, in isolation, a strange tale, but against the bulk of 10,000-plus tweets, the pleasure in which Gunn relished the graphic details is a tall order to simply turn a blind-eye to as Shapiro chose to do.
By his own admission, Gunn has taken great delight in watching children’s sex acts. Many parents were concerned about one tweet, in particular, which allegedly linked to child porn he hosted on his own website before taking it down Friday morning. Through some investigation, it turns out this link wasn’t to child porn, but a video of young girls singing “I Touch Myself.” Perhaps this was a quip, but I don’t know that this was just a quip. The lyrics, in light of Gunn’s 10,000-plus comments and blog, leaves a swampy feeling.
Case closed—it was just a joke, right? Not exactly. An associate of Gunn’s, Huston Huddleston, seen here together at an afterparty, recently pled guilty on child pornography charges. Recall that video Gunn hosted on his blog entitled, “100 Pubescent Girls Touch Themselves”? Convicted pedophile Huddleston was the one who originally shared it with Gunn. Huddleston told Gunn that he “came all over [his] own face.” Gunn appears to have known. He was literally told! Gunn’s friendship with Huddleston wasn’t a one-off.
In the later summer of 2010, then-16 year old recording artist Justin Bieber performed to a crowd at Madison Square Garden. At least one patron was Lloyd Kaufman, who was instructed, by James Gunn, he alleges, to masturbate to the teen’s performance. Kaufman says he completed the assigned task. Was this a joke?
When Gunn tweeted he joined the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), was he joking or wasn’t he? Shapiro has been very critical of the “militant homosexual agenda,” as he’s labeled it, but why not Gunn’s normalization of this anti-child organization? Was this all just a joke as Shapiro and Gunn contend? Does multimillionaire Gunn really need to be directing kid and teen movies for Disney? Are critics just part of some roaming “outrage mob”? I don’t fucking think so. When confronted with this evidence, Shapiro left all mention of this from his extended defense of Gunn.
Shapiro standards debunked
If free market ideologues, like Shapiro, want to be taken seriously, they need to stop disarming their conservative audiences of the opportunity to engage in boycotts or other organically occurring means by which consumers shape the market. Shapiro appears to hold a position that consumers must buy, sell, or not buy—and shut up. What about parents? Should parents shut up when an advocate for child porn, be it for the purposes of pleasure and/or humor, are directing children films!? This is not conservative—not in any tangential sense of the ideology. It smells an awful like some God-hating anarcho-libertarianism. Fortunately, Texas Senator Ted Cruz isn’t buying Shapiro’s arguments and believes authorities should be looking into Gunn.
Wow. These #JamesGunn tweets are just horrible. Child rape is no laughing matter. As Texas SG, I handled far too many child sexual assaults. Truly evil. I’m glad Disney fired him, but if these tweets are true, he needs to be prosecuted.
When illuminated, Ben Shapiro has no standard, but instead favoritism. Everything requires a qualifying exception or lie. Lie? Yes. Shapiro joins the media in spreading an awful lie. He takes Gunn’s PR-crafted apology at face value. ‘It was all just a joke!’ Telling, the so-called apology speaks nothing to his behavior or actual comments. Shapiro’s evidence that Disney’s decision to fire Gunn was the result of the “outrage mob” is that the corporation “knew about a lot of this when they hired him in the first place; there were news stories about his past years ago, and he apologized for such jokes in 2012.”
Let’s examine Shapiro’s cited evidence. When the past controversy Shapiro references is examined, it was Hollywood and Gunn’s critics objected to the homophobic and misogynistic commentary found on his blog, not the pedophilistic commentary. These past articles exposing some of Gunn’s comments do not object to the exploitation of children as Shapiro alleged to his readers. Did he not expect them to click the link? To read the article? Why does Shapiro present his readers with evidence that isn’t at all how he’s characterized it to be? This is the lie.
Does Shapiro, or either one of his parents, have a relationship with Gunn that’s not being disclosed? Was this all because Gunn defended Duplass’ attempt to market Shapiro and his brand to the left? The evidence found in his piece present glaring holes in Shapiro’s supposed standards—well, lack thereof.
If Yiannopoulos’s offhand comments about his own experiences as the victim of child abuse were worthy of no-platforming, why aren’t James Gunn’s pedophile comments worthy of losing a gig? Why should Roseanne Barr have been fired but not James Gunn? Same parent corporation. Was it because Shapiro opposed Barr, labeling her “crazy”? When and how can consumers and parents register their concerns and wishes with Disney without being labeled an “outrage mob”? Shapiro presents no alternative.
He appears to be playing only for himself, not the ideas his purports to believe. As it turns out, Disney may be considering re-hiring James Gunn with the aid of Shapiro’s commentary. Reached Friday afternoon for comment, Cernovich replied to me with, “[w]e are playing to win.”
Jonathan Lockwood contributed to reporting. Reprinted from Medium, with permission.
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