Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon is no longer on Twitter after an offensive, 10-year-old sketch resurfaced online, catching the attention of 4chan, far-right bloggers and The_Donald subreddit.
A statement provided to Polygon late Monday night from Harmon apologized for the video, but didn’t address his Twitter departure. Harmon said, “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.”
It’s hard to ignore the timing of Harmon’s departure right as a graphic sketch he starred in, “Daryl,” resurfaces. “Daryl” is a two-part spoof on Showtime’s popular series Dexter that aired in 2009 during a monthly comedy sketch festival called Channel 101. The first part of the sketch, and the scene that people have most called out, stars Harmon. Throughout, his character is seen breaking into an apartment, pulling down his pants and simulating sex with a plastic baby doll. The title card that plays overtop says, “Showtime presents, Daryl.”
The video, as Vulture reported in 2012, was removed without reason, but Vulture noted:
Unfortunately, Daryl has been taken offline for unknown reasons. I’m going to assume that it was a move by Harmon to keep unsuspecting NBC execs who hold Community’s fate in their hands from seeing the second episode, which may or may not have contained man-on-cat rape.
It’s an offensive sketch, but those who were aware of Harmon’s comedy and Channel 101, which often showcases risqué content, understood the humor. This was the same festival that helped other boundary-pushing comedy groups like Tim and Eric, The Lonely Island, Derrick Comedy and Human Giant break into the industry.
Although Harmon reportedly took “Daryl” down, the sketch had time to gain viewers beforehand. But since 2012, people have mostly forgotten about it, with the exception of discussions on Reddit or in comment sections on Harmon stories published by miscellaneous websites. Like other older, now-controversial tweets that belonged to a different Twitter era, many viewed Harmon’s Channel 101 sketches as internet comedy from a bygone era.
That is, until a thread in the tendentious 4chan community brought it back up.
How “Daryl” spread
A thread titled “Dan Harmon Pedo Exposed” was published on 4chan’s popular /pol/ forum on July 22, followed by a second thread called “Dan Harmon Pedo Exposed Prt 2.” The threads have disappeared, but a third thread called “Dan Harmon is a pedophile” led to a discussion among users of 4chan’s /pol/ forum over the video. Other 4chan forums, like the popular TV hub, also started talking about the rediscovered Harmon video, which was hosted on the self-described anti-internet censorship platform BitChute.
“If they get to take scalps for someone making racist jokes, we get to take scalps for them making pedophilia jokes,” one 4chan user wrote.
What happens on 4chan doesn’t stay on 4chan, however, and the thread on Harmon’s “Daryl” sketch quickly found its way to The_Donald. The_Donald is a popular subreddit with more than 630,000 members. A post appeared on the subreddit on July 22, called “Dan Harmon is a pedo scum,” which referenced 4chan’s findings. Subreddit members even went so far as to congratulate 4chan in the comments.
It’s clear why The_Donald would take particular joy out of catching Harmon in a terrible spot. The writer-director is an outspoken critic of President Trump. He famously said the following at one event last year:
The president has a difficult time, and he has no repercussions to fear really, except for some Nazis not voting for him…he couldn’t bring himself to do it, and that’s as close as you’re going to get from a coward to saying, ‘I’m a Nazi.’
His vocal displeasure with the president wasn’t ignored in the 4chan thread either, which included people comparing creatives like Harmon and Roseanne Barr (co-creator of Roseanne). Barr was fired from ABC after she tweeted a racist joke this past May.
But not all of the people participating in exposing Harmon are as incensed by it. Some members of 4chan’s /pol/ board and The_Donald have pointed out that, despite the joke being offensive, it’s clearly and contextually an over-the-top spoof.
“It wasn’t funny but it also obviously wasn’t intended to promote pedophilia,” one member of The_Donald wrote. “It’s a dated parody of how Dexter normalized twisted crimes. We should point out hypocrisy where it exists and move on. Stooping to their level and trying to get people fired for bad comedy is a leftist move and we are above that.”
The consensus that “Daryl” was indicative of Harmon’s poor taste went wider, however. The most popular post on The_Donald, which has more than 1,200 comments and sits on the subreddit’s front page, includes this comment that highlights how many feel: “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?”
Publications like Breitbart soon picked up the story, and now the story is all over the far-right Twitter circle. That includes Mike Cernovich, the blogger who first dug up the tweets that led Disney to fire Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn late last week; and Ethan Ralph of the Ralph Retort, a publication that rose up during Gamergate — a reactionary, hateful campaign that targeted women and marginalized people in the games industry and manufactured a cover of being interested in “ethics in games journalism.”
Cernovich’s tactics at work
Cernovich is already in full-on attack mode, having tweeted multiple times about Harmon and the “Daryl” sketch quite a few times since 4chan dug it up.
The more aggressive Cernovich’s Twitter campaign, the more real it seems to fringe believers — who then go on the attack. Comedian Michael Ian Black was another person on the receiving end of Cernovich’s tactics recently. Cernovich tweeted a number of Black’s old, controversial joke tweets this weekend, suggesting Black was “another Hollywood pedophile.”
“It’s a little bit scary when it goes so far as people are contacting Child Protection Services or the FBI,” Black told The Observer. “The coordinated nature of it… He tweets something and then within an hour or two, there’s hundreds or thousands of people picking up his accusation and then slamming my timeline with it. It’s kind of fascinating to watch it unfold in real time.”
Cernovich also spoke to The Observer, and said that his more than 430,000 Twitter followers are “an undistributed network” of people he relies on for stories. He tweets out a story, retweets people as they tweet back, and creates a tornado that tears across the internet.
“People tip me off to stuff and then if I check it out, and it’s compelling, I share the stuff,” Cernovich said.
Cernovich’s tactics — akin to a search-and-destroy strategy— are well-documented, but a report from The Huffington Post explains them best. The Huffington Post refers to Cernovich as the “ringleader” for an alt-lite group, a term the Anti-Defamation League refers to as “loosely connected movement of right-wing activists who reject the overtly white supremacist ideology of the alt right, but whose hateful impact is more significant than their ‘lite’ name suggests,” and documents how Cernovich uses Twitter to share his ideologies.
The alt-lite’s fake news ecosystem sprouted from the far-right fever swamp created by Fox News and a tireless effort by movement conservatives to demonize the media. But the new breed of alt-lite ratfucker is feral, with an ability to directly sway gullible minds through social media. Twitter and other social media platforms have abetted the rise of frauds, racists and fascists who spread lies and can easily form cybermobs. This is a worrisome development for the truth business.
Those same tactics may have driven Harmon away from Twitter, as more people begin to tweet about — and even try to tweet at — him.
Update: An Adult Swim representative issued this statement regarding Harmon, and his “Daryl” sketch from 2009.
“At Adult Swim, we seek out and encourage creative freedom and look to push the envelope in many ways, particularly around comedy,” the representative said. “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.”
Dan Harmon also issued a statement. We’ve update the story to address these changes. His full statement can be read below.
“In 2009, I made a “pilot” which strove to parody the series Dexter and only succeeded in offending,” Harmon said in a statement to Polygon. “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.”