Opinion

Conservatives Should Stop Defending James Gunn

REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Scott Greer Contributor

Some prominent conservatives are very disturbed Disney fired “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn over pedophilia jokes.

Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro quickly wrote a whole article lamenting Disney’s decision to cave to the “outrage machine.”

National Review’s David French tweeted it was “wrong” to fire Gunn and that we shouldn’t judge people based on “old tweets.”

Conservative radio host Erick Erickson agreed with French’s opinion that it was wrong to fire Gunn from “Guardians of the Galaxy 3.”

The common sentiment among all three is that it’s wrong to fire people over old tweets and that it sets a bad precedent for free speech. That’s a fair standard, but it is poorly applied in Gunn’s case and shows bad judgment on the part of “respectable” conservatives.

The Hollywood director repeatedly made creepy references to having sex with children — an obsession the vast majority of people would find bizarre at best. Gunn even remarked he had an orgasm over a video sent to him by a friend convicted of child pornography.

There’s something very creepy about Gunn, and he is not someone you want making movies aimed at children. But respectable conservatives are still troubled by this event, even though they fully supported Disney-owned ABC firing Roseanne Barr over her racist tweet toward Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

French wrote in The Washington Post in May how Barr’s speech violated decency and warranted punishment, unlike that of fired Google engineer James Damore and NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Apparently, several disgusting jokes about pedophilia and sex with children do not sufficiently violate the decency standard. Shapiro addressed Roseanne in his Gunn article and argued they were different because Barr’s tweet was more recent and because she played herself on her show. Thus, her firing was justified and Gunn’s was not.

Not a great argument at all, but at least Shapiro was honest enough to address the difference in reaction.

This isn’t the first time respectable conservatives have chosen a dubious free speech hill to die on this year. French and others denounced the NFL’s new rule requiring players to stand for the anthem or remain in the locker room as horrific abuse of the First Amendment — even though none of the players faced unemployment for their protests, and they were still free to express their political views in every other situation.

Several respectable conservatives were also outraged after Fresno State University merely investigated a far-left professor who celebrated the death of Barbara Bush and directed her critics to clog up a suicide prevention hotline. Nothing ever happened to the tenured professor, but a few right-wingers on Twitter supporting her termination was enough to draw out intense ire from the respectable conservative crowd.

If these pundits are concerned about one bad joke or controversial opinion ruining someone’s life, there are plenty of examples from last week alone that should give them concern.

An 18-year-old wrestler lost his college scholarship after he uttered an anti-gay slur at a pro-Trump demonstration. Four cops in Alabama were suspended for making the “okay” hand sign in a photo, a common gesture that leftists somehow believe is associated with racism. Right-wing personality Faith Goldy was banned from PayPal over political views.

All these cases demonstrate how outrage mobs can ruin lives over political disagreements or one poor choice of words. Instead, respectable conservatives chose a creepy Hollywood director as their free speech martyr of the week.

Conservatives are still the primary victims of outrage mobs, and critiquing right-wing mobs regardless of whether they are justified or not will do nothing to protect the sanctity of free speech. Leftists do not care for free speech. They only believe their side should be exempt from the consequences of the anti-speech world they created.

Unlike many fired Trump supporters, Gunn is financially secure and will easily find employment again. In fact, it would not be surprising if he gets the “Guardians of the Galaxy” gig back, considering the tremendous support the director is receiving from the press and Hollywood.

Right-wingers can’t hope for similar treatment after they become victims of outrage mobs.

There is an understandable motivation to want to defend the free speech of opponents when they come under fire. Free expression is a fundamental principle of our country, and it must be open to all, not just those with whom we agree with.

But it’s pretty dumb to vociferously defend a film director who’s obsessed with pedophilia jokes and makes movies for kids. Gunn is no free speech martyr, and his reinstatement will do no favors for the free speech cause. It will only encourage the false notion that the speech of left-wingers comes with greater protection than that of right-wingers.

Liberals are fine with that arrangement, but conservatives shouldn’t be.

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.