Director James Gunn has been fired from Guardians of the Galaxy III for some tweets he made about 10 years ago, a few a little sooner. They were dug up by a conservative group who released them as a means to expose the hypocrisy of Hollywood. Then the Internet got involved and dug up many more.
We’ve talked a few times about the “MeToo” movement and this seems like part of it.
My general take on that is mixed. In some cases I feel that real criminals have been uncovered. In other cases I feel that the past has been rubbed in people’s faces and they not given the chance to be changed people today.
Since Gunn’s tweets were from so long ago my first thought was to put them in that category and to say that Gunn has likely grown out of that phase. That he is more mature now. People grow in 10 years time. Why wouldn’t he?
But there was one tweet among the many released that caught my eye particularly and made me feel that this case is different. That what he’s tweeted from isn’t something someone can change from.
Gunn released an official statement that reads:
“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.
“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 then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.”
That all seems quite heart-felt and sincere.
However, the tweet in question, the one that really makes me wonder is this, “I remember my first NAMBLA meeting. It was the first time I felt ok being who I am.” It is difficult for me to see the humor in that. Or to even see it as an effort to be provocative. I admit I could be wrong. He may have been an early version of Milo and trying to push buttons. But that’s one button that just doesn’t get pushed. There are somethings you just don’t joke about. Even people with dark humor have some self-regulation when it comes to joking about children and especially a joke that admits you are a pedophile and were never happy until you met like-minded people – which is exactly what this tweet seems to indicate is the case with Gunn.
I recently watched a video on YouTube about a Tedx Talk that was on this subject.
The talk is given in a very reasoned way and makes the argument that being a pedophile is a sexual orientation like being gay, or bi-sexual, or heterosexual. The talk was awkwardly but well received by the audience but the wider audience of the Internet wasn’t so kind to the speaker who quickly was threatened. The speaker asked for the talk to be taken down from Tedx Talk’s web site. However, I found it on their YouTube channel.
The speaker, Mirjam Heine, claims that it is “an unchangeable sexual orientation” and that those with it, who never act on it, are to be supported. Based on her tone, which I admit is personal interpretation, I believe she feels they are also to be pitied. As I listened to her speak, and lay out her very reasoned argument, several things went through my mind.
I thought – we’ve been here before.
These are the exact same arguments used in the discussion of homosexuality. It can’t be helped. It isn’t a mental illness. These people are born the way they are so we just have to accept it as much as we have to accept that they have brown eyes.
There is a type of logical fallacy known as the “slippery slope”. It lays out how if we do one thing it will lead to another thing and because of this we shouldn’t do the first thing. The reason this is a fallacy is because it attempts to predict the future. Future predicting, as I’ve said so many times, is something humans are terrible at. Oh, we can predict the short-term future, like where a ball will land but to predict what will happen tomorrow or 20 years from now, we fail. This type of logical fallacy also ignores the actual problem in order to focus on the magic results instead. We don’t need to talk about A anymore because B is so terrible that A becomes irrelevant. In that way it is a type of straw man cousin.
And if you paid any attention during all the debates on gay marriage you heard so many times, “If we allow gay people to marry the next thing you know we’ll be allowing…” and they filled in the blanks with an array of things from chairs to dolphins. To which people would quickly point out that one woman in England who did marry a dolphin.
Sometimes though people say an argument is a slippery slope as a means to shut down a legitimate point. When a slippery slope is based on an impeccable degree of logic then it isn’t so much a fallacy. I believe that this is true of the logic around the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage.
The logic took two fronts.
The first was the idea that homosexuals were born that way. This has become accepted. It isn’t true. Well, at least we can say, despite it being commonly believed as true it has not been proved by science to be true. One study or the other is always mentioned. But careful reading of those studies show that the conclusion is made by the hopeful reader and not the research itself. There is no gay gene. There is no gay hormone. There is no gay part of the brain. Not one that we have discovered so far. But people in great numbers said that they were always gay and knew as long as they could remember. No one wanted to tell them that they were wrong. Some because they couldn’t prove they were wrong and others because it was convenient for them to be right. There was no motivation to make them wrong.
The second front was that of freedom. Adults can do what adults want to do. Who was the government to tell anyone that they couldn’t get married? I believe that was the argument that really convinced people.
However, the first argument was necessary to get to that point.
As long as homosexuality was seen as deviant behavior, behavior that society felt that no one had a right to, society wasn’t keen to accept the second bit of logic that they had a right to it. No one has a right to do something terrible. As long as it was seen as an assault on the long-held method of doing things – the very long-held way – it wasn’t worth society taking a risk on.
So it became necessary to convince people that it was normal. You may be reading this and exclaiming “but it IS normal!” That you say this is beside the point being made. You may feel that way now, but you wouldn’t have only a scant couple of decades ago. Those who paid attention to such things saw it coming and started talking about the slippery slope. It was that if we accept that people can have built-in sexual orientations other than heterosexuality then there was no reason they couldn’t have other such orientations. If we could be born with a biological imperative that was contrary to the standard evolutionary model of reproduction in one way, then why not in another way? That some people said this meant children, a thing so taboo to our society, meant that they were seen as extremists and saying that actually worked to bolster the side they were trying to fight against.
But here is where a slippery slope can sometimes not be so far-fetched.
When the logic being used to make the argument for A is entirely valid for B then it is likely that B will eventually come to pass as well. It’s not a guess that A will lead to B so in that sense it’s not a true slippery slope fallacy. Rather it is saying that if we accept the foundation for A that foundation can equally be applied elsewhere. All the things said about A are true of B and we are told to accept A then we should also accept B. There is, of course, one main difference between homosexuality and pedophilia – that of consent. That can be put aside though quite easily by focusing only on the individual and not on the pair. If homosexuality is something someone is born with then it exists singularly. There is no need for someone – according to this expressed logic – to have had sex at all to be a homosexual. Remember, these are people who say they have known all their lives that they were gay. Long before they reached an age of consent they knew they were gay. As the video above argues, there is nothing else required to be a pedophile than to have been born that way. I think what we are seeing is the natural and logical progression of the logic used to justify homosexuality and gay marriage.
All along there was a better way – a way that could have avoided us ever having to have the above discussion.
I will say now that I don’t believe that homosexuals were born that way. As I state above there isn’t anything but anecdotal evidence for that. If someone insists that they were, I don’t feel the need to argue with them about it but I also don’t feel compelled to believe them. I’ve read the scientific literature on the subject. Over the years of discussing this topic I have found that the various studies that people put forth as proof of a gay gene or other biological causation for homosexuality doesn’t actually conclude what the person says it concludes. It is common for scientific papers to be interpreted incorrectly. They get used as an appeal to authority. What I have found is that in this field of study there is a lot of duel conclusions drawn by the papers. The findings may, or may not, mean a certain thing. One side or the other ignores the “may not” in favor of the “may” and suddenly it all becomes, “is”.
The most compelling argument I have ever heard from someone on this subject wasn’t “I am gay because I was born that way” but rather “I want to and that’s all anyone needs to know”. That argument is the smart one in my book.
If homosexuality really does come from a gene then the future of gene therapy will do away with it. A gay cure can easily be found if the cause is biological. If it is hormonal, a cure can also be found for that. It’s only a matter of time. As a counter to the choice argument I have often heard people list a litany of the bad things that homosexuality brings with it and then, “given all that why would I choose to be this way?”
I’m not trying to be “anti-gay” or “homophobic” in this. I’m just trying to be intellectually honest.
If it really isn’t a choice then it’s one of two things, a birth defect or a psychological illness.
As I listened to the above video I simply didn’t believe that what she was saying was true. I can’t take as evidence the story of a man who has a feeling that the feeling represents – not just a feeling – but a biological mode of being.
I’ve spent all this time writing this for two reasons. First, it is a complex chain of logical steps that have been used to move society along a certain path. Secondly, I see that same path being used again, this time for something unimaginable but that we now must imagine because it is being put forth whether we like it or not. I feel we need to be prepared for the coming onslaught and to do that we have to understand how we got here and we have to be willing to say somethings that might make some people unhappy. Things like – I don’t believe you when you say you were born that way. That’s not to say that adults can’t do adult things it’s just to say that using that particular argument is dangerous. I don’t think we can say the slippery slope in this case is a fallacy because we see it unfolding. It’s there. It is – and has been for a long time – getting normalized.
It isn’t just priests and Hollywood-types, if you watch the news you see teachers in ever-increasing numbers acting out on this behavior. James Gunn says he was joking about all this, what amounts to hundreds of tweets about rape and pedophilia. Set aside that it’s not funny I still hold that there is truth in jest. I personally think he was testing the waters to see how people reacted. Not because he wanted to be provocative but because he was hoping that it would be met with acceptance or at least not met with horrifying derision.
It took a decade for anyone to react to it. That disturbs me. I hope that it disturbs you as well.
Source of Inspiration: “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him,” said Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, in a statement.