The cameras snapped with vivid anticipation and in the luminous glare of flash bulbs and hoisted smart phones, the world seemed to bathe the god-man in a purifying light, half obscuring him in celebrity and half forgetting him in legend. As he took to the podium, billions took to the TV. A prophet at his pulpit. The masses at worship.
"Good afternoon. Thank you for coming. I, Thor of Asgard, have called you here today for an important revelation. Many of you know me as the eternal enemy of Surtur, Lord of Thunder, loyal Avenger. I hope that you will continue to remember me for who I am, rather than what my enemies would have you believe. While I've had differences with some over ill-advised laws enacted by the United States, I have forever strove to be a guardian of mankind. And from this position, this responsibility, it is my duty to alert you to an insidious threat in our midst."
The Asgardian paused for a moment. With steel blue eyes he surveyed the crowd of reporters and security. Their eyes turned to him with unfettered faith. Despite the windowless conference room at the Ramada inn, his lightening gold hair trailed behind him on an ethereal breeze. Flanked as he was by square jawed, chiseled young men in neat uniforms, he appeared to them powerful and assured. Heroically confident.
"I speak of the Jews."
Not a low groan escaped them. The wideness of their eyes was eclipsed only by the dropping of their jaws. The bearer of Mjolner had stunned the world once again. Some felt betrayed. Others elated. But most suddenly felt a ravenous hunger for click bait and cheap copy.
"At the nexus of this evil plot lies the Rothschild family..."
For two hours the son of Odin launched into a varied diatribe, at once seemingly academic, with actual history and genealogy mixed in with pseudo anthropological observation and the rankest of Third Reich and medieval propaganda. When he launched a slide show of Hollywood producers and attempted, by various conjectures and suppositions, to determine whether horns and cloven hoofs might be removed by cosmetic procedure, the third estate almost missed as afterthought his conclusion that people of African descent were generally lazy and that Asians couldn't be trusted.
He left the stage without taking questions. He left the world aghast.
Those lucky enough to attend Thor's conference found themselves well behind the crest of the news cycle. His remarks were trending. Digital editors were already haranguing them for the live feed. Incisive think pieces were being crafted. Is Thor An Anti-Semite, Or Does Asgard Have A Culture Of Hate? Our Troubled Worship Of Superheroes. What The Fuck Did That Guy With The Hammer Just Say?
J. Jonah Jameson put a fine point on it with a dramatically titled editorial: Asgard: No Home For Jews:
For the longest time I have, like a poor man's Cassandra, railed against the threat of masked men with exceptional powers running around the world with a personal agenda. These men and women have the backing of our governments. They have giant flying ships. They float their mystical worlds over our heartland. They mutiny and they murder at the slightest attempt at control. Yet time and again we are asked to bow to them and their righteousness. Their defense of all that is good.
Like any old newspaperman, it is both to my chagrin and schadenfreude to see once again my efforts have been in vain. No one has taken my warnings with any heed. With words like Kree or Skrull they have robbed us of our skepticism, our civic duty to speak truth to power, screaming Ultron or Thanos or whatever other demonic abracadabra to silence our minds and disappear their critics. And like fools we have accepted this hand waving, because it is far easier to believe that a grown up in latex saving the world is more effective than police forces and public decency.
Yet yesterday that lie was unmasked, by no other than a member of that fraternal order of cape wearing kooks. And it is with a heavy heart (heavy with joy) that I say to you all: I told you so.
The internet was unleashed with it's full power. Stormfront changed their logo. Twitter unveiled dueling hashtags. Astute eyes noted the thunderbolts on the shoulder pads of Thor's entourage and memeified them on to Cristiano Ronaldo gifs. Left Nazi was born from a man's twitch of an itchy nose. Vociferous slap fights were held on many forums, making their way increasingly to the front page of the internet. Suddenly, everyone has an opinion.
"Cap. Cap! What do you think of Thor's comments?"
The man in blue with a shield for all America engaged the question with high minded idealism.
"I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion and their voice of it. While I don't agree with Thor, I have known him to be a brave and honest man. I think we should remember what he has done for us before condemning him so quickly."
Captain America Endorses Racist Comments.
"Mr. Stark, Mr. Stark--any comments on Thor?"
"I think we you tell a man he's a god, he's bound to give his wacky opinions more weight than they deserve. But when I try to reign him in, I become the villain. I become the traitor. Maybe the forces of freedom should ask just what, exactly, they want their members to be free to do. People died for this shit."
Iron Man Still Grinding The Hammer With Thor.
The Israeli Ambassador condemned the comments. Asgardian visits to Tel Aviv were denied visas. Thor appeared with former Iranian President Ahmadinejad to discuss whether or not the Holocaust figures were accurate. /b/ posted a picture of the two men in conference with the words:
have we found our new hero, internet?
Families were divided. People saved by Thor suddenly had to defend themselves, forestalling any accusation of discrimination by appearing, when possible, flanked with a rainbow panel of humanity to condemn his comments. Black Panther refused under any hypothetical circumstance to join forces with him. Captain America hired a publicist to remind the press that he was the first to stand up against Red Skull. Thor's enemies were given plenty of time in the spotlight.
"I tried to put a stop to their credo of hate," Norman Osborn mused, "But everyone got so hung up on the 'Dark' thing. Like, at least we don't discriminate."
There was hand wringing and navel gazing as the world wondered, at what cost do we suffer our heroes? Washington and Jefferson held slaves. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. FDR may have turned away a boat or two, but he ended the depression. Lindbergh did set some pretty impressive flight records. And don't we still kinda-sorta like Mel Gibson movies?
The conspiracy subreddit was an insufferable mess of self-congratulation and rabid glee.
As the scandal moved into its later phases, Thor retreating into a self-induced whatever coma in his magic land until the news cycle moved on, Peter Parker sat down in front of his computer and put together a tortured blog post that would forever encapsulate the trauma the world suffered.
In the end, I fear that we are our heroes. We share their triumphs. We share their despair. And when we celebrate their accomplishments we must also acknowledge their flaws. Worse, we must take responsibility for their hates. If the man who keeps the street safe from crime becomes inseparable from the man who directs violence against a specific race, then our very society has lost the distinction between criminal and criminalized minority. We have seen where an ethos centered on the bigoted portrayals of inherent cunning, guile, and natural evil of a people leads us. Where a world goes from the occasional Bad Jew to all Jews are bad. Sadly, this is a lesson we must continue to teach, must forever struggle to learn. Hate, like love, isn't simply an ideology. It is an aspect of ourselves, A vice we must cope with, avoid, and counsel against.
In front of the cameras, Thor lost sight of that. He put his powers above his person. He believed that if he was right about some threats, he was an authority on all threats. Even the gods are fallible. We discovered this when Davis died. We remembered when he condemned a faith and a tribe to the tired stereotypes of liars and madmen. Maybe this time we'll learn.
The first comment, published six seconds after the post went live by a previously unused account, going by the screen name @d3adp00l, wondered:
"Wasn't this better when it was about the chimichangas?"