Cernovich in August 2018
November 17, 1977
|Residence||Orange County, California|
|Alma mater||University of Illinois|
Pepperdine University School of Law
Michael Cernovich (born November 17, 1977) is an American social media personality, writer, and conspiracy theorist. He has been labelled as alt-right, but does not identify as such. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified him as a male supremacist.
Raised in a poor family in Kewanee, Illinois, Cernovich graduated from the University of Illinois system and got a law degree at the Pepperdine University School of Law. He became a blogger in the 2000s, focusing on anti-feminist themes, and gained notice within the manosphere. He created a website, Danger and Play, in 2012; it was first known for his men's rights advocacy. During the 2016 US presidential election campaign, he gradually posted more in favor of the Donald Trump campaign and against Hillary Clinton as a political blog.
Cernovich promotes fake news, conspiracy theories, and smear campaigns. He pushed Pizzagate, the false story that John Podesta and other high-ranking Democratic Party officials were involved in a child-sex ring.
Cernovich serves as a regular host of The Alex Jones Show on InfoWars, a show known for promoting fake news and conspiracy theories. Cernovich has on many occasions falsely accused various journalists and anti-Trump figures of being pedophiles or being supportive of pedophilia.
Early life and career
Cernovich was born on November 17, 1977. He grew up in a devout Christian family in the farming town of Kewanee, Illinois. The family was poor, and his mother suffered from mental illness and spent time in an institution. He graduated from the University of Illinois system and later from the Pepperdine University School of Law.
In his early writings Cernovich focused on antifeminism, men's empowerment, and how to meet women. The title of Danger and Play came from a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, "The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything." In 2014, Cernovich promoted Gamergate, a controversy during which several women in the video game industry were targeted by Internet trolls, goading opponents with tweets such as "Who cares about breast cancer and rape? Not me."
In 2015, Cernovich wrote a self-published self-help book, Gorilla Mindset. In 2016, he tweeted, "Women love aggressive men, but only if they are alpha males." According to The New York Times in April 2017, Cernovich has long been criticized for arguing that date rape is a "harmful concept for men and women."
Cernovich, in early 2006, published an article deriding Trump on Crime & Federalism. The piece referred to the billionaire as a "media whore" who "casts his image to the world on demand and recasts it constantly to suit everchanging ratings and marketing schemes," and advised to "never trust a man who combs his hair so as to cover his shiny dome, and then flaunts a wife young enough to be his daughter."
Cernovich became influential on social media, initially as part of the manosphere movement, and later helped to shape far-right narratives in the United States. He falsely claimed during the 2016 United States presidential election that Hillary Clinton had a "seizure disorder" and Parkinson's disease. By September his #HillarysHealth hashtag had gotten 240,000 page views and had become a national trending topic on Twitter. During the month of September, Cernovich's tweets were seen more than 100 million times. By this time, he saw Donald Trump as a kindred spirit.
Cernovich frequently calls his adversaries "cucks", a variant of the alt-right slang word cuckservative, a pejorative term for conservatives who supposedly betray conservative social values. In reference to this he has written, "To beat a person, you lower his or her social status. Logic is pointless." Cernovich admits to sometimes using trolling tactics, which he says he uses to build his brand rather than for his own amusement.
Cernovich helped to raise the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory through his blog posts and believes that child sex rings run rampant in Washington, D.C. He has accused his opponents of being pedophiles on multiple occasions, and in a YouTube video maintained that most people employed by the news media and "every A-list actor" in Hollywood were also pedophiles.
In October 2016 Cernovich said:
The left likes to talk about power structures, right? Well, the media still thinks of itself as speaking truth to power. What they don't realize is that someone like me is perceived as the new Fourth Estate. Maybe they should check their structural privilege." The "paternalistic" media, he said, was giving way to a more democratic one. "It makes journalists crazy, because they used to be in control. They can't control people anymore. Everyone has a voice now."
Following an August 2016 appearance on Fox News's Red Eye, the show's producers felt compelled afterwards to say that they had made a mistake in booking him when later learning of Cernovich's history of online disputes.
Cernovich has accused the Democratic Party of attempting to assassinate him.[dubious ] In 2016, Cernovich criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for speaking at a gender-segregated mosque.
In August 2017, the Anti-Defamation League accused Cernovich of commissioning and publishing a "blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon" by Ben Garrison as part of a campaign against President Donald Trump's national security adviser.
On sexual harassment
In August 2012 Cernovich wrote that date rape "does not exist". In October 2016 he wrote, "Lying about being in love to sleep with someone isn't rape. Getting played isn't rape. Regret isn't rape. Thinking, 'I might have been date raped,' means you weren't raped." In mid-November 2017, Cernovich offered $10,000 for information about congressional sexual harassment settlements. The next week, he sent documents concerning a case settled by John Conyers to BuzzFeed, which vetted them and reported on them. Cernovich encouraged all victims of sexual assault by congressmen to speak up and offered to cover their legal expenses.
In December 2017, Cernovich hosted an "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit. The AMA, regarded as a failure by several media outlets, was dominated by users mocking him and asking questions about the rape allegations against him, his advice to men to nonconsensually expose their genitalia and masturbate in front of women who are unwilling to engage in sexual acts, and a supposed sexual encounter with a male-to-female transgender individual in Thailand (which Cernovich denied). A few days later, he announced his intention to retire from social media, but reversed the decision within hours.
In July 2018, he publicized historical tweets in which director James Gunn, a critic of Trump, had joked about rape and pedophilia; Gunn was fired by Disney as a result. (Gunn was reinstated by the company in March 2019.) Cernovich has made a number of tweets about rape, including comments that "date rape does not exist" and that "A whore will let her friend ruin your life with a false rape case. So why should I care when women are raped?"
Relationship with Trump administration
According to Politico website, during the 2016 campaign and early period of the Trump administration, Cernovich was an "indefatigable Trump cheerleader", hoping that he and kindred activists would have a major influence on the Republican Party. However, by 2018, he had become "increasingly critical" of Trump, and turning away from politics toward his "Gorilla Mindset" lifestyle-coaching practice. In September 2018, he tweeted, "There's no Wall. She's not locked up. But Flynn got fired and sent to wolves. And Sauadi [sic] Arabia sold weapons of murder. I give zero f-cks about Republicans losing the House." Cernovich complimented democratic socialist (and Trump critic) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on her primary election upset of New York Congressman Joe Crowley: "She just slaughtered fucking Crowley, just slaughtered the machine, and now she's like the 'it' girl, ... I like to watch peak human achievement."
Following the 2018 missile strikes against Syria – which were criticized by Cernovich and split Trump's political base – he announced that he would pivot to "philosophy" and more esoteric content. Cernovich claimed that he had felt a "cosmic" "shift in energy" which only "high-consciousness people" were able to experience. He also elaborated on his past use of mind-altering drugs and referred to reality as a "simulation" several times.
Conflict with Sam Seder
I am confident that other tweets from that time will reflect my disgust in a less satirical tone.
—Sam Seder in an email to MSNBC Senior VP of Communications Errol Cockfield Jr., defending the tweet.
On November 28, 2017, Cernovich published a post on Medium which resurfaced a deleted 2009 tweet made by progressive talk radio host and MSNBC political commentator Sam Seder, in which he joked about convicted child rapist and fugitive film director Roman Polanski. The tweet read, "Don't care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/ a great sense of mise en scène." Cernovich insisted the tweet proved Seder tacitly endorsed Polanski's pedophilia. He then approached multiple journalists and news outlets, including MSNBC, to break the story.
Despite explaining the tweet to MSNBC Senior VP of Communications Errol Cockfield Jr. via email, on December 4, 2017, TheWrap announced that MSNBC had elected to sever ties with Seder by not renewing his contract (due to expire in February 2018) due to the controversial tweet. Seder defended the tweet by pointing out that, taken in context of the current events around the time he posted it, it was a satiric response to a petition urging Polanski's release from detention in Switzerland. That he was, in fact, mocking Polanski's apologists. After news of the termination broke, Cernovich released a Twitter video celebrating his triumph.[N 1]
By then, Seder noted that advertisers on The Majority Report with Sam Seder podcast were also being contacted and pressured by Cernovich and his team to cut ties with the show over the tweet. In response, Seder launched a GoFundMe campaign to ensure the show is funded if the advertisers decided to bail. In an episode of the podcast titled, "I'm Under Attack By the Nazi Alt-Right", Seder said, "this smear involves the willful misinterpretation of a tweet that I posted in 2009" and that he will "never be ashamed of criticizing those who would excuse the predation of women or girls." Seder also revealed plans to use a portion of the GoFundMe proceeds to produce a three-minute video educating people on Cernovich's tactics. He surmised this was retribution for his frequent criticism of US President Donald Trump as well as Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.[N 2] Further, Seder chided MSNBC's decision to terminate his employment concluding, "I think they're afraid of those people."[N 3]
The news of Seder's dismissal received immediate backlash. Over 12,000 people signed a petition protesting Seder's termination, arguing that Cernovich had acted in malice and was deliberately mischaracterizing the tweet. Multiple news publications pilloried MSNBC.[N 4][N 5] MSNBC primetime anchor Chris Hayes tweeted, "The entire culture and our politics are now dominated by people who have weaponized bad faith and shamelessness." Hayes tweeted several times against the decision by his own network, including: "Also, I reiterate my longstanding position that people shouldn't be fired for a tweet, *particularly* one that is obviously being read in manifestly bad faith." Actress Sarah Silverman also tweeted in support of Seder.[N 6]
There was considerable dissent within MSNBC over the termination. Employees worried firing Seder incentivized other far-right personalities to launch similar campaigns. MSNBC's management itself was unsettled by the celebratory reaction from the far-right. On December 7, 2017, MSNBC decided to reverse their decision to terminate Seder's employment. MSNBC President Phil Griffin said in a statement, "Sometimes you just get one wrong, and that's what happened here. We made our initial decision for the right reasons—because we don't consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about. But we've heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward." In response, Seder issued a statement while accepting his job back:
I appreciate MSNBC's thoughtful reconsideration and willingness to understand the cynical motives of those who intentionally misrepresented my tweet for their own toxic, political purposes ... We are experiencing an important and long overdue moment of empowerment for the victims of sexual assault and of reckoning for their perpetrators. I'm proud that MSNBC and its staff have set a clear example of the need to get it right.
—Sam Seder, on the three-minute video he planned to produce on Cernovich.
The Columbia Journalism Review cited the incident as an example of a broader pattern of far-right media personalities using online smear campaigns to get mainstream journalists fired. Cernovich, for his part, acknowledged that "some are saying Seder was making a joke or being sarcastic." However, he still insisted he didn't misrepresent the tweet. He later admitted that the whole incident was a stunt[N 7] while claiming victory explaining, retroactively, it was meant to bring attention to what he perceived was a double standard and a lack of "diversity of viewpoint" in the media, He also tweeted that he was "thrilled" MSNBC offered Seder his job back while threatening to "bring Sam Seder's Tweet out every time the media goes after someone else for a Tweet."[N 8] On December 9, 2017, having failed to get Seder fired, Cernovich claimed that his wife was being stalked at the behest of the media.
Although describing himself as politically center-right, he supports single-payer healthcare and "some form of universal basic income". Cernovich advocates IQ-testing for all immigrants and ending federal funding of universities. He opposes the two-party system and his support for Trump is not based on public policy. "What are Trump's policies? I don't particularly care". In another post on his website he stated, "If Trump offends you, it's because you live in a cucked world where no one speaks their minds".
Various press sources have labelled Cernovich as being part of the alt-right movement; a label that Cernovich has rejected. In his study of the alt-right, the political scientist George Hawley also disputed this characterization, stating that Cernovich "might be properly labelled" as "alt-lite". Similarly, the commentator Angela Nagle described Cernovich as a "major figure in the alt-light milieu".
In a February 2012 blog post, Cernovich argued that men should not "settle for the make out. If possible, at least pull out your dick. If you can get her to touch it, even better" and promoted masturbation in front of women reluctant to engage in sex.
Universal basic income
Cernovich has been supportive of a universal basic income within the United States, claiming that "Conservatism is on the way out" regarding national social programmes. Interviewed on 60 Minutes in March 2017, where he also advocated for single-payer healthcare, he said if "a large swath of the company, or country, are suffering, then I think that we owe it to all Americans to do right by them and to help them out."
Cernovich believes in the white genocide conspiracy theory, saying that "white genocide is real" in relation to South Africa. He has stated that he initially joined the alt-right after realizing that "tolerance only went one way and diversity is code for white genocide". He later deleted several tweets referring to the concept.
Cernovich married his first wife as a law student in 2003. Cernovich has said the marriage was "ruined by feminist indoctrination". His wife became an attorney in Silicon Valley and earned millions of dollars from an initial public offering of stock. She filed for divorce in 2011, and Cernovich received what he has described as a "seven-figure sum" in the settlement. Cernovich met his second wife shortly thereafter, and lives outside of Los Angeles, California.
During an interview with his wife, when referring to his feelings about becoming a father to a baby girl, Cernovich said, "I'll be nice to her, as long as she's not a basic bitch."
Cernovich was charged with and arrested for rape in 2003, but he denied the allegations. The charge related to this incident was later reduced to misdemeanor battery of a woman, for which he performed community service.
- "Thank you to everybody who emailed MSNBC," Cernovich said in a video he posted on Twitter. "Thank you to all of you. You're heroes. You're heroes because you emailed MSNBC and you let them know about the tweet. You let them know the people will be heard."
- Seder explained Cernovich's ploy thusly: "If they succeed in getting me fired or scaring my advertisers away, they will continue until they have silenced anyone who'd criticize Roy Moore, criticize President [Donald] Trump or criticize the conservative movement."
- "According to Seder, he and MSNBC management never had a serious discussion about the tweet, what it meant and whether it posed a problem for MSNBC social-media standards. "If there was any conversation about the tweet," says Seder, "it had nothing to do with substance. It was, 'This is blowing up.'" And from what Seder can tell, his position with the network didn't much concern the company's top managers. "I only spoke to the PR guy and they only fired me after there was an imminent story," says Seder. An MSNBC spokesman responds that the company requested Seder's written defense of his tweet, and then considered that defense in reaching its decision on the contract renewal. Seder's conclusion: "I think they're afraid of those people."
- Mother Jones wrote: "thanks to the demands of a lunatic conservative, they cut off Sam Seder for a single lame joke made on Twitter in 2009."
- Huffington Post chided that Cernovich was now MSNBC's new "De Facto Ombudsman."
- Sarah Silverman's tweet: "Yo @msnbc ur gonna let Mr Pizzagate be ur moral compass?"
- "The left isn't going to stop going through our tweets so we aren't going to stop going through theirs," Cernovich said. "I wish we would get over people trying to find someone saying a naughty thing. I've been saying that for years. And nobody wants to listen. So fine, we will play by the same rules."
- "I'm thrilled MSNBC has made the decision that people shouldn't be fired over satirical tweets," Cernovich said on Twitter. "This rule will surely be applied equally to all sides, and if it's not, we will bring Sam Seder's Tweet out every time the media goes after someone else for a Tweet."
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