The controversy swirling around Warner Bros.’ new standalone DC film “Joker,” which tracks the psychological spiral of a failed comedian (played by Joaquin Phoenix) into a murderous sociopath, took a decidedly more alarming tone this week after reports of the FBI and the U.S. Military issuing warnings about the “credible” threat of a mass shooting by an “incel” extremist at a screening of the film.
In a memo sent on September 18 and confirmed by U.S. Army officials on Tuesday, service members were informed about threats on social media about a mass shooting at a “Joker” screening. While the memo states that at the time there were “no known specific credible threats to the opening of the Joker on 4 October,” a separate memo sent Monday by senior officials of the U.S. Army’s criminal investigation division cited “credible” intelligence of such a threat gathered by Texas law enforcement.
“A separate memo, issued on Monday by senior officials in the U.S. Army’s criminal investigation division, stated that the Army had obtained ‘credible’ intelligence from Texas law enforcement officials pertaining to ‘disturbing and very specific chatter’ on the dark web ‘regarding the targeting of an unknown movie theater during the release,’” Gizmodo reported Tuesday.
An Army spokesperson told Gizmodo that military officials send out similar warnings “routinely because the safety and security of our workforce is paramount.”
“We want our workforce to be prepared and diligent on personal safety both inside the workplace and out,” the spokesperson explained.
“Posts on social media have made reference to involuntary celibate (‘incel’) extremists replicating the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at screenings of the Joker movie at nationwide theaters,” the September 18 memo published by Gizmodo reads. “This presents a potential risk to DOD personnel and family members, though there are no known specific credible threats to the opening of the Joker on 4 October.”
“Incels are individuals who express frustration from perceived disadvantages to starting intimate relationships,” the memo continues. “Incel extremists idolize violent individuals like the Aurora movie theater shooter. They also idolize the Joker character, the violent clown from the Batman series, admiring his depiction as a man who must pretend to be happy, but eventually fights back against his bullies.”
The memo then provides instructions on how to be vigilant at theaters. “When entering theaters, identify two escape routes, remain aware of your surroundings, and remember the phrase ‘run, hide, fight,’” it explains. “Run if you can. If you’re stuck, hide (also referred to as ‘sheltering in place’), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can.”
As The Daily Wire reported this week, backlash against “Joker” has been building ahead of its October 4 release. Two non-profits sent a letter to Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff Tuesday morning expressing concerns about the film’s potential to inspire violence and called on the studio to donate funds to groups that promote gun control and aid victims of gun violence.
Five family members of victims of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado in July 2012 — which took place during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” — signed the letter, including Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, founders of the nonprofit Survivors Empowered.
“We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe,” reads the letter. The Hollywood Reporter notes that the letter “does not seek to halt the release of the film nor to rally gun critics to boycott it.” Instead, the letter asks Warner Bros to “end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform.” It also asks the studio to use its “political clout and leverage in Congress” to “actively lobby for gun reform.”