Yesterday, Dan Harmon left Twitter following the resurfacing of a nearly decade-old webseries called “Daryl.” In the first episode, which the Community creator introduces as a “controversial new pilot,” Harmon can be seen sexually assaulting a baby doll and, in the second episode, reportedly assaulting a cat. It had been originally made for Channel 101, a monthly event founded by Harmon and Rob Schrab where aspiring creators can debut five-minute comedy pilots. It’s been a hub for alt-comedy in L.A. since the early ‘00s, and is part of the scene that eventually spawned Rick And Morty.
Late last night, Harmon released a statement about the video:
In 2009, I made a ‘pilot’ which strove to parody the series Dexter and only succeeded in offending. I quickly realized the content was way too distasteful and took the video down immediately. Nobody should ever have to see what you saw and for that, I sincerely apologize.
Adult Swim has also issued a condemnatory statement that nevertheless sticks by Harmon, with whom they have a 70-episode contract for Rick And Morty:
At Adult Swim, we seek out and encourage creative freedom and look to push the envelope in many ways, particularly around comedy. The offensive content of Dan’s 2009 video that recently surfaced demonstrates poor judgement and does not reflect the type of content we seek out. Dan recognized his mistake at the time and has apologized. He understands there is no place for this type of content here at Adult Swim.
Offensive though the video may be, nobody is actually offended by it. This is a work of mock outrage, generated from the depths of Reddit and 4chan and shepherded into the mainstream by alt-lite goons like Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec. It is the very same stream of bilious CHUD-thought that successfully railroaded James T. Gunn by digging up old, sardonic tweets from his Troma days and feigning such shock that the director got canned from his Guardians Of The Galaxy series.
As Polygon has adroitly reported, threads on 4chan about Harmon being a supposed “pedo” have been burbling for a few days, eventually making their way over to the pro-Trump subreddit r/The_Donald. There, as synopsized by one comment, the line of thinking went: “They went after us for making jokes a lot less worse than this, we warned them it would backfire on them too, but they don’t listen do they?” From there, the campaign to retaliate against Harmon for the crime of, um, disliking Nazis(?) made its way to Breitbart, then on to Cernovich, an old GamerGate and PizzaGate goon who has now set his sights on the terrible menace of “funny people on Twitter.”
This is by no means a contained event, nor is it over, but rather a sort of terrible extension in our increasingly fervid, stupid culture war. In the hell of late capitalism, we no longer believe in the ability to effect change via traditional means, but only through consumerism—smashing Keurigs to own the libs, fighting oppression via Pizza Hut—or by attacking popular targets within the cultural sphere. Intentionally offensive humor is a newly discovered loophole, exploited successfully at least to the chickenshits at Disney, who fired Gunn after overlooking much more offensive shit from Roseanne Barr before greenlighting her return to television.
In recent days, this same loose cabal of pro-Trump goblins has also gone after Michael Ian Black, by creating montages of old, intentionally offensive tweets and blasting them at his various employers. Black responded in a thread worth reading in its entirety:
Cernovich also repurposed some old Patton Oswalt tweets from a brief riff the comedian did about how Twitter’s lack of threading facilitated tweets being taken out of context. And so Oswalt’s two-tweet joke—
—was stripped of context, with only the second one being bandied around as evidence of his supposed pedophilia. It’s as disingenuous as they come.
Today, Cernovich is gloating over some old Trevor Noah jokes that have been dug up. This will keep going, because—if it needs to be repeated—good comedy and good comedians often prowl the line of offensive thought, and there is a bottomless well of this stuff. Are all of these tweets or jokes funny? No; in fact, a lot of them are pretty bad. But they’re eons away from the sort of earnest conspiracy theorizing and racist fearmongering of someone like Barr, or the long history of rape apologia of Cernovich.
Of course, you couldn’t really throw this back in Cernovich’s face, because he has not done anything and is not attached to anything; he not only stands for nothing, but does nothing. He’s a pure avatar for the nihilistic “right,” and also a sort of pure creation of Twitter itself, where outrage is an easily mined currency. For its part, Twitter appears to be making accounts like his—as well as the like-minded Posobiec, Paul Joseph Watson, and so on—harder to find. But this isn’t enough to make Twitter any less of an irradiated hellscape, one best entered delicately, or not at all.
In short, Harmon’s better off away from it. He’s got 70 cartoons to write, anyway.