Thoughts on ‘Iron Man’

Well, with Avengers: Endgame on its way, it seems there will never be a better time to do a re-watch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (actually, if anything, I’m getting a rather late start on this, considering I have over twenty films to get through!).

Just so that it’s clear where I’m coming from, I have seen all the MCU films at least once prior to this, but for the most part am only familiar with the original comics by what I know from other sources, such as other media, summaries, and the like.

Also, I’m putting out a general principle that this series will involve spoilers for each film, so be warned. I am writing assuming the reader has seen the movies. With that out of the way, let us begin.

It all seemed like just another superhero film; a second-string Marvel hero little known outside of comic book fandom, like so many other such characters that got their own films in the 2000s, when people were already starting to make noise about whether comic book movies were on their way out.

The story is that Tony Stark is a genius inventor playboy celebrity: a modern-day Howard Hughes without the psychiatric issues (well, for the most part). He revolutionizes military technology with his engineering genius, as well as lighting up the tabloids with his carefree jet-set lifestyle. That is, until one day he’s ambushed during a weapons demonstration in Afghanistan and finds himself the captive of a ruthless terrorist organization called the Ten Rings Group (a nice shout-out to the Mandarin, though…we will get to that). In captivity, he’s forced to come to terms with what his life has actually amounted to, while at the same time turning his technical know-how towards a plan of escape, which will ultimately lead to his being reborn as Iron Man.

So, what to say about Iron Man after all this time?

One thing that stood out to me this time was how well the film establishes Tony Stark’s character. When we first meet him, he’s chatting with some soldiers in the back of a Humvee: he’s cocksure and arrogant, but not unkind. Seeing that they’re intimidated by his celebrity status, he tries to put them at their ease by joking and inviting them to talk. I especially liked the touch that, surprised to learn the driver is a woman, he smoothly covers by humorously talking about her excellent bone structure, playing on his reputation with women (established in the same scene) to make them relax.

This is important because, after the ambush, the next few minutes are pretty much all about establishing what a jerk Tony is. If those scenes had taken place before the scene in the jeep, we the audience would most likely have been indifferent to his fate. Instead, the film cannily lets us see Stark in a comparatively good light before showing us his flaws. This is smoothly accomplished with an award ceremony, where Stark is set to be honored and thus a slideshow of his life and career is naturally presented. Only, Stark isn’t there; he’s blown off the ceremony to go gambling, showing both that he thinks nothing of embarrassing his friends in pursuit of his own amusement and that he thinks so much of himself (and has received so many accolades) that he’s completely indifferent to being honored by anyone (when he gets the award, he hands it off to a casino worker on his way out).

This is followed by a scene of him casually seducing an earnest reporter, who then wakes up alone in his Malibu mansion while Tony works in the basement until his assistant, Pepper Potts, can send the girl on her way. This whole sequence not only efficiently establishes Tony, but also his friends Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, business partner Obadiah Stane, and Pepper (as well as Tony’s house AI, Jarvis), and their relationships to him, in particular the complicated one between Tony and Pepper: he selfishly makes her deal with his ‘conquests’, but also is hinted to have genuine feelings for her. When she tells him that she has plans that evening, he says, “I don’t like it when you have plans.” But it’s clear that he doesn’t take his life seriously enough to really pursue her, while she knows exactly what he’s like and is too mature and self-possessed to allow them to be other than friends. Meanwhile, all this takes place while he’s letting Rhodey wait on a tarmac for three-hours, more or less just because he can (prompting Rhodey to comment that he is “constitutionally incapable of being responsible”).

All this lets us see that Tony is extremely selfish without making him seem malicious or completely unlikeable, as would be the case if they had simply had him, say, tossing out random insults at people. Even though he’s a jerk, you don’t wonder that anyone puts up with him, since he’s a very charming jerk, as well a very talented one.

It’s also appreciated that, even at his most callous, Tony at least has a theory that he’s doing good. He lays out several very good arguments why he doesn’t think his weapons dealing is immoral, and as shown in the scene with the soldiers, he does legitimately care about the people he thinks he’s protecting.

All this, of course, is a set up for his time of reckoning in the cave, where he discovers that the weapons he made to protect Americans are being used against them, and that his legacy, at this point, is nothing but a lot of very dangerous weapons in the hands of very dangerous people.

This point is nicely symbolized by the pile of shrapnel from one of his own bombs that ends up inside of Tony’s chest, eating its way to his heart: he is literally being killed by his own weapons trying to get at his heart. And to save himself, he essentially has to replace his ‘heart.’ Rather, his fellow prison, Yinsen (a doctor from a small Afghan town) installs an electromagnet to keep the shrapnel away, initially powered by a car battery (a wince-inducing concept) until Tony replaces it with a prototype ‘arc reactor.’ So, Tony almost literally has a ‘change of heart.’

This symbolic motif carries through the whole film, by the way, with the glowing arc reactor, like a burning heart, indicating his new resolve and more generous outlook. Pepper helps him to change his ‘heart’ at one point, then has the original made into a momento reading ‘Proof that Tony Stark has a Heart.’ Obadiah later rips Tony’s heart out while promising to turn his legacy back to one of blood and horror, while Tony is saved by the fact that he previously showed himself to have a heart. It’s all remarkably well-done; a fine example of using symbolic props to tell a story.

Of course, using his new arc reactor, Tony builds a prototype iron suit and escapes (Yinsen dies to give him the chance, begging him not to waste his second chance), then resolves to use an upgraded model to track down and destroy the weapons he built that have ended up in the hands of terrorists. A good deal of the middle act of the film is occupied just with him working on the suit, running tests, and perfecting the design. This includes a thrilling test flight where he puts the newly made suit through its paces and immediately tries to break the altitude record, with amusingly unfortunate results.

(Though one of the film’s more glaring mistakes shows up about here; did no one notice the giant hole through the roof that Tony makes? It’s never brought up, though he flies out of it later. I’m guessing that was a cut scene, but it still feels odd).

The acting in this film is uniformly excellent, especially Robert Downy Jr. I love the scene where he calls a press conference upon returning from captivity (only after getting a cheeseburger); it really feels like he’s adlibbing, just taking time to savor the moment and reflect even as he’s addressing the press. One of the first things he does is comment on how he never got to say good-bye to his father, wondering what he would have thought of what his company had become (Tony’s complicated relationship with his father will be with us for the rest of the series).

I also really like Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, who is one of the few backstabbing friends I can recall who legitimately seems like a friend at first. He and Tony have an easy, familiar way with each other, trading quips back and forth and making casual references to shared memories, while Obadiah honestly seems delighted when Tony comes home (at the start of the aforementioned press conference, Tony pats him on the shoulder and says that it’s good to see him). Even going in knowing that he’s a bad guy (the trailers made no secret of it), it’s still something of a shock when his true colors are revealed.

Though again, the film does a very good job of setting the stage even from the opening scene, where we learn that Obadiah had run the company as a kind of regency before Tony came of age, implying potential friction between them. Obadiah’s betrayal is jarring, but it doesn’t come out of nowhere.

The one semi-weak-spot in the cast is Terrence Howard as Rhodey. He isn’t bad, but he doesn’t convey the impression of a tough Air Force Officer; he comes across as too gentle and too much of a lightweight. He has a lot of good moments, like the suppressed emotion when he rescues Tony in the desert, but the actor simply doesn’t fit the role.

On the other hand, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts makes for an excellent love interest, all the more so because the film doesn’t end with her and Tony getting together. It’s smart enough to know that the situation is too complicated for things to go that fast. When Tony sweeps her into a romantic dance and an intimate moment on a balcony, Pepper is both thrilled…and keenly aware of how inappropriate the moment is. As she points out to him, he’s her boss, and everyone knows what he’s like with women, so him making a move on her, however sincerely, is highly embarrassing for her (this is foreshadowed in the opening scene where Tony’s one-night-stand takes a swipe at her relationship with him).

But, at the same time, the film shows, without putting it in so many words, that they are indeed in love with each other. After she helps him change out his reactor (in a hilarious gross-out moment), she insists that she will never do that again, to which he lets slip “I don’t have anyone else,” words that she repeats back to him when she discovers his plans with the Iron Man suit. More to the point, when she learns this, she refuses to have anything to do with it, not because she thinks he’s doing the wrong thing, but because she’s terrified he’s going to get himself killed. This dynamic, of Tony being torn between Pepper and ‘the mission,’ between what his heart wants and what it knows to be right, will be with us throughout (with the deliciously tragic irony that, had he been mature enough to pursue her earlier, they might already be together; implying that, though he’s been given a second chance, some things may simply be gone forever).

Meanwhile, there’s also Paul Bettany as JARVIS, Tony’s AI assistant, who runs his house and computer systems (and later his suit) while tossing off very proper quips at his master’s expense. Tony also has his two robotic arms, whom he gleefully criticizes and abuses throughout the film (and one of which gets an unexpectedly heartfelt payoff). This is an interesting touch in light of the rest of Tony’s character; it’s as if he’s more comfortable with his machines and with making his own ‘friends’ whom he can call up and shut down at will, whom he can always override, and who will never get fed up and leave him. Though Tony isn’t a Howard Hughes-like eccentric, he very clearly isn’t emotionally well-balanced even before his traumatic experience. Pepper is almost as much a nurse as she is an assistant (when he jokes about firing her, she comments that he couldn’t function for a week without her): keeping him focused, on task, and dealing with the responsibilities that he can’t or won’t handle.

Basically, Tony does not ‘play well with others;’ he thinks best in terms of machines, of things that work efficiently and predictably, that don’t ask anything of him, and that can be adjusted or put aside when they bother him (this is in contrast to Rhodey, who rejects the idea that any machine could equal a human pilot’s judgment). When it comes to people, he deliberately keeps them at a distance and expects them to act according to his whims, and though he improves upon returning, he still doesn’t quite get what is and is not appropriate behavior (as when he dances with Pepper or when he teases Rhodey in front of his trainees). He is heroic and determined to do the right thing now, but he hasn’t simply become a different person altogether, and his natural flaws and emotional baggage remain.

In sum, there’s a reason why Tony Stark has become such a beloved and respected character and has rocketed to the forefront of the Marvel lineup, and it’s mostly due to this film’s excellent writing and Downey’s inimitable performance.

Meanwhile, the film delivers plenty of audience-pleasing set-pieces, including Tony’s immensely satisfying escape from captivity, his thrilling test flight (which makes good on his preceding summation, “Yeah. I can fly”), and a fantastically cathartic scene where Tony sees a report of atrocities being committed by the Ten Rings group (against the same villain Yinsen came from), straps on his suit, and singlehandedly puts a stop to it. It’s a great moment in-universe, as it sees Tony taking revenge on the men who imprisoned and tortured him and honoring Yinsen’s memory by protecting his home. But, from an audience point of view, it appeals to the sense of frustration and helplessness that (I believe) many of us feel when we see this kind of story on the news: we want to be able to do something about it, but for most of us there’s really nothing we can do. Iron Man gives us an image of someone who can and does do something about it, by slamming down into the middle of the village and punting terrorists around like beach balls before leaving the leader for his would-be-victims to deal with. It’s a perfectly conceived moment of righteous satisfaction (though I do have to wonder at the logistics of Iron Man flying half-way around the world in his suit).

The village scene is followed by a sequence of Iron Man being pursued by two jets, and him risking his life to save one of the pilots when he accidentally crashes into him. The jet sequence, together with an earlier encounter with a tank, sets the important precedence that Iron Man, for all his power, is not invincible, and that sufficiently heavy weapons can damage his suit, so that when the climax happens, we’ll know that Tony is in legitimate danger.

Then of course there’s the final show-down with Obadiah or Iron Monger, and it must be said that third act is the film’s weakest part. The fight between the two ultra-powerful metal suits is extremely cool, and there are some great bits that seem to come straight out of a comic panel, but Iron Monger only even shows up for perhaps ten minutes, if that, and there’s also the question of just what Obadiah is trying to accomplish here; given that Pepper’s already given proof of his crimes to the government (discovered in a very nicely staged scene where she hacks his computer, Obadiah comes in, and it’s not clear how much he has and hasn’t seen), and that these are the same people coming to arrest him, it’s not like he’ll be able to keep running the company. I suppose he’s planning to take the suit for replication on the black market, but that could have been made a lot clearer. As it is, he’s kind of just going nuts for the sake of it. And there are some odd bits of continuity, as when Iron Monger bursts out of the pavement to attack Pepper, Iron Man intervenes and saves her, then after a several-minutes long battle, she’s still standing in the exact same spot: wouldn’t she have tried to get to shelter or called for help or something? And where did Agent Coulson go during all that? He was last seen fleeing Iron Monger with his men, then just disappears until he shows up for the post battle summation. Also, why didn’t the blast from the big reactor not kill Tony? We were told that it would, but then it just…doesn’t.

So, after an extremely solid first and second act, the film stumbles a little in its climax, which remains its most notable flaw. It doesn’t break the story, but it does feel like a bit of a let down.

On the other hand, we have our introduction to Agent Coulson of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division: a great, non-obvious set-up in the form of a running gag (“That’s quite a mouthful.” “Yeah, we’re working on it”). Coulson and the now-famous post-credits sequence are the only hints that Iron Man was “part of a larger universe.” Of course, this was before shared universes became standard issue, which of course only happened due to this film and its successors. But, a large part of why this film succeeds so well is that it focuses on telling its own story, not in laying a foundation or getting people excited for the next one. It’s a very strong comic book film, stringing fantasy-fulfillment set-pieces on a core of excellent character writing.

All in all, Iron Man is a great opening act and a good indicator of things to come.


Explaining Traditionalism at ‘The Everyman’

When it comes to society and politics, I call myself a Traditionalist, and today at The Everyman, I got to explain a little of what that means: 

Another point where the Traditionalist would reject Liberalism is on the question of freedom. For the Liberal, freedom is the highest good, and he would define freedom along the lines of, “the right to do whatever you like provided you do not interfere with another person’s rights.”

Of course, this requires a clear set of rights, which in turn require a standard for what is and is not a ‘right.’ Because if we take that definition of liberty to be substantially correct, then paradoxically the more ‘rights’ people have, the less freedom any one individual has (again, as we are daily observing in our own culture: if one man claims a right to not be insulted, then another man’s freedom of speech is proportionately limited).

As far as I am aware, this is a standard that Liberals have never been able to establish: there is no clear and objective way for a Liberal to determine what does and does not qualify as a ‘right.’ In fact, the Liberal principle that freedom is the highest good means that there can be no standard by which to judge of rights or freedoms (what can the highest or most basic of goods be judged against?).

Traditionalists, following classical philosophy, would say that rights, rather than being ‘self-evident’ foundations of freedom, are derived from moral duties and observable facts. That is, where a Liberal would say that natural rights determine moral duties, the Traditionalist would say that rationally discerned moral duties require certain rights. For instance, the fact that a man is a father imposes on him duties to provide for his family. This, in turn, requires the right of private property, since it would only be out of his own property that a man could be said to be providing (otherwise whoever owns that property—e.g. the State—would, in fact, be doing the providing). Now, that is not necessarily the only traditional justification for property, the point is that it is a justification, and one that is entirely logical.

Read the rest.


The Nuances of How Superpowered Characters Are Received at Home

The irreplaceable Caroline Furlong has another insightful essay in her series on writing superpowered characters; this one is on how they should be viewed in their own world. In it, she hits several points of nuance that the vast majority of modern writers (especially those working in Hollywood or in the comics industry) seem incapable of comprehending: such as that maybe, just maybe, ordinary people have reasons apart from unthinking prejudice and bigotry for fearing a man who can destroy a city single-handedly:

The main reason they must not do this is simple: power of any kind will, if used for selfish motives, corrupt the wielder and lead him/her to the Dark Side. The mild illustration of a teenage couple breaking up due to the machinations of jealous peers should make this clear. Let us say that the girl in this relationship hears a false rumor about her boyfriend making fun of her with his friends, while he is lied to and told that she is cheating on him with another boy. In many situations like this, after breaking up, the two do all sorts of petty things to avenge themselves on one another for the “betrayal” they experienced.

Even without the addition of extraordinary powers, we can see that the odds of this scenario having a happy finale are not good. But take a step back and ask yourself this, future writers: “What happens if the girl discovers she is a pyrokinetc (a fire manipulator and/or generator)? What happens if the boy realizes he can move things with his mind, hear the thoughts of others, and/or compel them to do something? What does their desire to gain vengeance on one another for these perceived betrayals look like then?”

The probable answers to these inquiries are unpleasant, to say the least. If the girl has pyrokinetic powers, she might decide to use her gift to cause bodily or financial harm to her ex-boyfriend. If the boy is telepathic and telekinetic, then he could force his ex-girlfriend to walk off a bridge downtown as “punishment” for her infidelity. These are horrific uses for paranormal gifts, but they illustrate the temptations that these one or two enhanced characters will face in such a situation.

She then goes on to explore ways different stories have explored that mistrust and uncertainty in clever and creative ways. Definitely read the whole thing! 

For my own part, I would make it a rule to never play the ‘unthinking bigotry’ card, much less the ‘they fear what they don’t understand’ one. For one thing, it doesn’t ring true to me (even the most absurd bigotries have some rational basis), and for another, I think it is a very dangerous mindset to encourage; if people adopt it, it leads them to shut their ears to what others actually have to say and to slap the ‘bigot’ label on anyone who says anything they don’t like. Thus, ironically, this mode of attacking prejudice only encourages it. Far better to give the justification a fair hearing and show why and how it is wrong, or at least how it isn’t the whole story, then to dumb things down to pure, unthinking resentment. Besides, exploring ideas and settling true from false makes for a much better story than just “these people are good and innocent; these are evil and ignorant, and that’s terrible. Be grateful we are not like them.”


Happy St. Valentine’s Day: Some Favorite Couples

And Saint Valentine said [unto the Emperor Claudius]: Certainly Jesu Christ is only very God, and if thou believe in him, verily thy soul shall be saved, thy realm shall multiply, and he shall give to thee alway victory of thine enemies.
The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day 
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
Chaucer, The Parliament of Foules

Happy St. Valentine’s Day, “when every bird chooses himself a mate.” In celebration, I present a sampling of a few of my personal favorite animated couples:

-Robin and Starfire, Teen Titans
Image result for robin and starfire
These two make for a great ‘opposites attract’ couple: super-sweet, innocent, naive Starfire, who is emotionally vulnerable and embraces every new thing she encounters with delight, and brooding, ultra-serious, single-minded Robin, who was raised by Batman and who obsessively focuses on the mission. The two balance each other wonderfully: Starfire brings joy and sunlight into Robin’s dark life, while Robin acts as an emotional anchor whom she can always rely on to guard her and keep her focused. Plus I love the fantasy aspect that he’s an orphan from the circus and she’s a princess from another world.

-Kim and Ron, Kim Possible
Image result for kim and ron hug

Amid all the gadgets and spy antics, the heart of Kim Possible is the relationship between Kim and Ron as it grows from lifelong friendship to romantic love. Again, they are very much an ‘opposites attract’ kind of couple: Kim is an overachiever, straight-A student, and boasts that she “can do anything.” Ron is an underachiever, slacker student, and can’t seem to do anything. But all the while underneath they’re actually much closer than they appear: Ron is shown to be very capable when he needs to be, suggesting that his problem is more a lack of confidence, while Kim is actually very self-conscious about her image and puts up something of a false front to try to maintain her status (there’s a significant episode where they’re both hit by a ray that forces them to tell the truth: Ron’s success soars while Kim’s takes a hit). Again, the two complement and support each other very well, with Kim encouraging Ron to improve himself and Ron preventing Kim from taking herself too seriously.

-Phineas and Isabella, Phineas and Ferb
Image result for phineas and isabella hug
One of the many running gags of Phineas and Ferb is that Isabella, the super-cute leader of the Fireside Girls, is head-over-heels in love with Phineas and not at all subtle about it, but Phineas somehow never notices. He likes Isabella a lot, regarding her as his best friend outside the family, but he really doesn’t get the whole ‘girls’ thing very well (e.g. his idea of a romantic dinner for two involves dumping a huge pile of rose petals onto the table). So, it isn’t that he doesn’t return her feelings, it simply that he doesn’t think about it. Unlike the previous two couples, these two are more of a ‘birds of a feather’ matchup: both are overachievers, eager to make the most of life, with a great love of learning and creating, and they share a wonderfully natural, easy relationship. Isabella isn’t as brilliant, but more attune to normal life and emotions than Phineas, which means that in the rare times when he gets into a funk, she’s usually the one the pull him out of it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Communion Rails

At the moment I attend two different parishes, depending on my schedule. It’s obviously not ideal and I’m working to make it a temporary arrangement, but one thing both parishes have in common is that they both use Communion rails. Having almost exclusively received the Eucharist in this manner for several months now, I’m struck by what a different experience it is from the ‘Communion Line’ method in favor since Vatican II.

For any non-Catholics in the audience, when one goes to receive the Eucharist in the post-conciliar Church, the normal method is to get in line and receive the host standing (often in the hand, which is a whole other kettle of fish and quite frankly should never be acceptable). Before the council, when most church’s had altar rails, the standard method was for the congregation to kneel at the rail all in a row while the priest went up and down placing the Host on each person’s tongue in turn.

It’s hard to express what a difference this makes, and I don’t only mean with regards to the far greater reverence being shown to Our Lord. To kneel at the Communion rail beside your pew neighbor – whom you may or may not know, and who may be just about any kind of person – is to embody one of the chief teachings of the faith: that God is no respecter of persons, and that whatever men are relative to one another pales compared to the fundamental fact that they are creatures of God: children of a common father and servants of a common master.

This does not happen by standing a Communion line. In a line, you look at the back of a person’s head, merely waiting until he passes on so you can have your turn. It is the same atomized, mechanical process that we’re familiar with from stores, banks, and other public service places: just waiting until you get yours and can go.

When you are kneeling side-by-side with someone, however, you are both facing the same direction, shoulder to shoulder, and thus tacitly united for a common purpose. The communion rail requires that the congregation each subject themselves together with his neighbor; committing a common act of humility and reverence before God, and thus highlighting their common nature before Him.

Let me see if I can illustrate this with an anecdote: there is a story of a Methodist church in the South shortly after the Civil War. When communion time came, a dignified Black man stunned the congregation by presenting himself first at the communion rail. The rest of the congregation sat still, no one wanting to kneel beside him. All, that is, except for a stately, white haired gentleman, who rose from his place and joined him. Seeing this man humbly kneeling beside the other led the rest of the congregation to join him. For you see, that white haired gentleman was Robert E. Lee.

Now, had there just been a communion line, that story would not have had the same impact. Because a line, as noted, is atomized: each individual presents himself effectively alone, takes communion, and leaves. But the rail is communal. Men have to kneel side-by-side with one another, placing themselves on equal footing before God, rubbing elbows with whoever happens to be there.

I am not an egalitarian. I don’t believe there ever has been, will be, or ought to be a classless society, and I think there is much to be said in favor of hereditary aristocracy. But I believe there are three places where all men are equal: in the cradle (all men are born in equal innocence and helplessness), in the coffin (all men are equally subject to death), and at the communion rail (all men are equally subject to God).

It is a great shame that we’ve largely done away with one of these.


This is Evil

I’m a little late on this, but in case you’ve missed it:

Amelie Wen Zhao, an immigrant from China, dreamed of being an author her whole life. Then she achieved that dream, selling a three-book YA series to a major publisher. The book, called Blood Heir, was done. It was published. It was slated for release with a strong marketing push, making it one of the ‘most anticipated titles of the year.’ Miss Zhao was ecstatic, sharing her disbelieving joy on her blog:

Three-book deals. Manuscripts going to auction. Offers from the Big 5 Publishers.

These had all seemed like dreams to me. Literally, dreams towards which I could reach yet never even hope to achieve, to cross that yawning abyss in-between. Wishes from the highest star in the skyat which I could only gaze and gaze and gaze.

Until last month.

I don’t think it’s sunk in until this very moment, when I sat down to write this post — that I am going to be a published author.


Then all that was destroyed almost overnight because a few people on social media decided to take exception to her book.

You see, apparently her work is about prejudice and slavery, only in the fantasy world that she describes, prejudice is not based on skin-color, but on some other factor (exactly as it is much of the time in real life). This, coupled with the fact that she, a non-Black person dared write about slavery (because it isn’t like any other peoples in human history have ever been slaves), and that, apparently, one of the characters is described as being Black, but isn’t written ‘properly.’

I reiterate that the book is not even released yet; no one in the general public has read it. Yet they condemn it because the premise and some advanced material seems ‘problematic’ to them. So, based on that, these people attacked a young woman for being ‘racist’ and pressured her into pulling her first book before it was even released, effectively destroying her career and her dream in the process.

Do I have to explain how monstrous this is? A handful of damaged souls protected by the anonymity of social media, swarm around an innocent woman, slander her, browbeat her, and destroy her dream because they don’t like the way bigotry is portrayed in a fictional world in a book they haven’t read! Along with a few other insanely petty reasons.

All this is directed at a lady who, based on excerpts from her blog, substantially agrees with them, but only wanted to express those progressive ideas from her own particular point of view. That is enough for these lunatics to destroy her life.

I have no interested in her book; that isn’t the point. The point is that this kind of behavior is evil. This should not be tolerated, and it certainly should not have any influence.

But why is it tolerated? Because it couches itself in terms of opposing bigotry and prejudice. That, in our world, is the all-sufficient excuse: “I was offended,” or “I feel excluded,” or “this is bigoted.” Invoking those sacred terms permits us to destroy lives at will. Just recently, a group of high schoolers were intimidated, slandered, and had their reputations shattered in front of the whole nation in the name of ‘opposing bigotry,’ and even after video proof that they were the victims and not the instigators, we still have people piling on them, because apparently where anti-bigotry is involved, truth has no place.

‘Anti-bigotry’ has long since become, for many people, nothing but a means to control and humiliate and destroy. This needs to stop.

You see, something that we seem to forget (or more likely are never taught) is that a substantially correct idea can be as pathological as a false one. Someone who opposes racism, but sees it under every rock and desires to destroy anyone who crosses their imaginary boundaries with the ardor of John Brown murdering pro-slavery settlers in Kansas is every bit as damaged and insane and evil as the most fanatical Nazi, and ought to be given as little credence and acceptance. We desperately need to learn this.

In the meantime, shame and curses on the “book community” that is responsible for this outrage. I hope, for their sakes and everyone else’s that not one of them ever finds a willing ear ever again. And I hope that Miss Zhao is somehow still able to achieve her dream in the future.

And to my fellow authors: do not permit this type of person to intimidate or discourage you. They are paper tigers at best. Do not try to appease them: that will only make them feel powerful and demand more. Do not engage with them. Do not give them the least attention. I recommend staying off of Twitter entirely, and only using social media to talk with people you actually know somehow. From all I have ever learned, it is a toxic, brutal, loveless environment that soils the soul and fuddles the mind.

Write what you want to write, tell the stories you want to tell, and don’t feel the need to justify yourself to soulless cretin’s hiding behind the veil of a computer screen.

For another take on this, read the Incomparable Larry Correia’s response to this outrage. As always, language warning: when angered, Mr. Correia let’s loose even more than usual.