James Gunn Probably Cost Us Sarah Jeong


Last week I shared my unease with the James Gunn situation:

Gunn's firing was swift, and while his gross comments received little support, intense media discussion ensued about how to respond to and contain right-wing Twitter energy.

Not two weeks later, Sarah Jeong was targeted by a broader coalition for comments that were a) more recent, b) more disgusting, and c) more relevant to her job — but this time the NYT held firm and did not disavow. Comparisons are unavoidable, as is the conclusion that the outcome may have been different had this not come immediately after Gunn.

Roseanne is another proximate comparison, but one undermined by her already being a crazy person on probation with her employer.

Or as someone might say, "I predicted this!"

Outrage at Gunn Was Kinda BS

Mike Cernovich doesn't claim to have started the Gunn story, but he does dramatically take credit for making it a trending one, and ultimately for getting him fired. Crucially, he promoted the idea that Gunn's comments were not merely shock humor, but confessions of actual pedophilia. This became the central lie of a campaign of manufactured outrage, one that found willing participants on the far right.

Those who joke about wood chippers and gas chambers should be mindful of taking shock humor literally.

To follow far right media discussing Gunn, the left, and "pedophilia" was to witness people persuade themselves in real time to go along with a lie, to demonstrate outrage over things they privately probably didn't find that offensive. Show hosts and their audiences are tired of feeling like losers, and tired of "principles". They have come to enjoy the collective experience of performative outrage, and the power the mob brings them, and they indulged it without much consideration.

This is hardly speculation on my part; Supporters had been thinking aloud or publicly commenting variations of these things explicitly:

"The left has been doing this to us for decades. It's time to fight fire with fire."

"The left invented it ["the fake outrage game"], now is the time for schadenfreude."

"It's about time we stopped restraining ourselves with rules they don't confine themselves to."

The result was a passionless, hollow farce. Tweets were dripping with insincerity, comments giving the game away were everywhere, and the left could plainly see all of it. The central involvement of Cernovich contaminated the message from the beginning, as the media was by now well-practiced in calling him out for fake outrage.

This NBC video is typical of the BS-calling reaction.

James Gunn is a gross leftist and such people shouldn't be working in film. But his firing didn't advance the narrative, and was a transparently hollow effort to penalize someone for an unrelated political argument.

The Left Learned Valuable Lessons From the Gunn Firing

Apart from general anger at having taken a blow, the Gunn discourse gave the left several talking points that would feature prominently in their response to Jeong:

When the Voxsplainer articles came, they hardly needed to reword the ones from the weeks before, and it was an easy take to present opposition to Jeong as the continuation of the same hateful, dishonest machine that had come after Gunn. Even the specific dodge of the content in question — "you just didn't get the joke/satire in context" — was one that was recently practiced in the aftermath of Gunn's firing.

It's especially unfortunate because this time, there actually was broad opposition to Jeong's hiring, that went beyond the bitter right wing. The reddit hivemind, which had shrugged its shoulders at Gunn's gross past, this time leaned towards genuine disgust at Jeong's brazen racial hatred, and the seeming indifference of the Times. But it's hard for more centrist voices to be heard when the framing has been established from the beginning as "bad faith alt-right harassment" -- because the last time around, it kind of was bad faith.

The hiring of Sarah Jeong was an escalation for the anti-white media, one that demanded a response to call out her hatefulness and seek her disemployment. It was never a guarantee that this was possible. But the timing and close parallels with the less popular, less credible James Gunn outrage steeled the opposition and handed them a practiced narrative with which to fight back. His ambiguous circumstances and quick dismissal had left the public and the media less enthusiastic about mob justice for past Tweets. In this opportune moment, the Times kept Jeong on board, and she found immediate and coordinated support throughout the media.

If You Defeat Your Enemies, They Win

One consolation narrative to frame this has been to say that we should be glad that she was kept on, to emphasize the media's anti-whiteness and double standards. We will certainly draw attention to this, but it is not the best outcome. The best outcome is to win, and have the opposition satisfy your demand.

Cernovich seems perfectly content for the right to go nowhere so long as his own following stays engaged and buying his scam brain-boosting pills.

It can be hard for people "in the fight" to recognize what progress looks like. One problem is that fighting, trolling, etc, are entertaining and engaging even if you're going in the wrong direction. Another problem is that local influencers have a tension between building up energy among their following, vs working towards the larger goal. Jeong having a louder voice may be good marketing for them even as American cultural power drifts further left.

Engagement, virtue-signaling, and confrontation are needed to exercise cultural power. Every engagement provokes a response, and elevates the threat level of attention for racialist politics. Progress is not made by demanding the disemployment of every liberal for any reason; This quickly gets your voice ingored without advancing your narrative. Getting people to behave the way you want starts with cleanly targeting those who genuinly transgress against your core values, in a way that is morally persuasive and demands compliance.