Guardians of the Galaxy's James Gunn

Why James Gunn's 'Guardians' Return After That Troll Campaign Is a Big Deal

Video satirist Vic Berger writes about his experience with Mike Cernovich, who helped get Gunn fired

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We are Groot. Mike Cernovich called me a pedophile, and people believed him. He did the same thing to James Gunn. What far-right smear merchants like Mike Cernovich do every day to people is something we should all want to put a stop to. Harassment campaigns based on unfounded allegations in the digital age can target anyone and lead to physical harm in the real world.

The Guardians of the Galaxy movies were a personal project to director and writer James Gunn. He’s noted that he sees the films’ story to be about “adults who were abused as children starting to heal, uneasily and in fits and starts, by building relationships with other adults who were abused as children.” The movies are beloved by fans, and by all accounts, the actors and crew involved love working for James Gunn. When Mike Cernovich contributed to Gunn getting fired from the third film in the series last July, fans were rightfully upset
I had initially written Cernovich off as just another forgettable grifter clown on the internet until a 29-year-old “Pizzagate” follower of his shot up a pizza restaurant while investigating it for evidence of child trafficking. Pizzagate is a bizarre conspiracy theory he obsessively pushed during the 2016 campaign, claiming the Clintons were running a pedophile ring out of a D.C. pizza restaurant basement, despite the pizza joint having no basement. Thankfully, no one was killed, and the shooter was sentenced to four years in prison. However, the owner and his employees still receive threats, and the restaurant was a victim of arson earlier this year.

The Pizzagate shooting ultimately empowered Cernovich. He realized he could hide behind “free speech” and whip up his half a million Twitter followers to do his dirty work, while escaping accountability. After the December 2016 shooting, he read from the Pizzagate playbook and smeared me as a pedophile because I had previously made fun of him and his constant vitriol, as well as his homemade “Gorilla Mind” stimulant pills (not approved by the FDA). In dozens of videos and tweets, Cernovich’s followers learned that I was the leader of a massive secret pedophile ring being run on Twitter. Because, of course, when you want to run a child sex-trafficking operation, there’s nowhere more discreet than on an open social media platform. They ate it up, though.
The harassment campaign ramped up, and Cernovich and his followers made me fear that one of them was going to show up at my home with a gun.
For the next few weeks, I experienced some of what the owner and employees of that D.C. pizza restaurant had been going through in the time leading up to the shooting. The harassment campaign ramped up, and Cernovich and his followers made me fear that one of them was going to show up at my home with a gun. And Cernovich presumably knew this.

Almost exactly one year after the Pizzagate shooting, Cernovich suffered a massive blow to his ego after failing to get comedian Sam Seder of The Majority Report fired from his job as an MSNBC contributor over, you guessed it, an old tweet that Cernovich spun to make Seder out to be in support of pedophilia. MSNBC initially fell for Cernovich’s schtick and fired Seder, but then quickly realized their mistake and reinstated him. Angry and hungry for blood, Cernovich needed a “win” badly. His followers tipped him off to an article quoting James Gunn being critical of Donald Trump, and immediately sought retribution the only way he knew how: another pedophile smear campaign.
As the third Guardians of the Galaxy film was set to go into production last year, Cernovich set his drone followers in motion as they scoured Gunn’s years-old tweets. They came across jokes from a decade ago that were offensive for the sake of being offensive. Cernovich purposely misinterpreted the jokes to paint Gunn as a proponent of pedophilia. (Cernovich himself was arrested for rape in 2013, later pleading the charge down to battery and doing community service.)

These same joke tweets had previously come to light in 2012 before he was hired to direct the first Guardians film, and Gunn sincerely apologized at the time. He explained how he had grown up a lot since then and that he was a better person now. Cernovich didn’t care. He was able to simulate Guardians of the Galaxy fan outrage by urging his followers to contact Disney about these old, out-of-context jokes. The mob falsely claimed in relentless phone calls and floods of emails to Disney that Gunn had over “10,000 pedophile tweets,” whatever that means, and told them they would boycott the third installment of Guardians of the Galaxy should Gunn remain the director.

It worked. Disney caved to the false-outrage mob and refused to stand by their talent. When Cernovich caught word of Gunn’s removal, he celebrated with an unhinged whiskey and Gorilla pill-fueled Periscope session declaring victory, bragging of taking down a prominent member of the Hollywood elite. He couldn’t have been happier.

But just as James Gunn was able to learn from his mistakes in the past, Disney took a months-long deep breath and eventually came to the correct conclusion that, yes, there had indeed been a bad-faith smear campaign run by Mike Cernovich. They reversed their decision, and it was announced this week that they've brought Gunn back. I look forward to seeing what Gunn delivers in his third installment. 

I think this is a lesson for society that everyone can grow and become better human beings. Even someone like Mike Cernovich, who is just a person who has some long and serious work to do to better himself. I’m rooting for you to become a better person, Mike. We all are.

Vic Berger is an absurdist video editor from Bethlehem, Pa. Check out his work on his YouTube channel

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