Cernovich in August 2018
November 17, 1977
Kewanee, Illinois, U.S.
|Residence||Orange County, California, U.S.|
|Alma mater||University of Illinois at Springfield (BA)|
Pepperdine University (JD)
Michael Cernovich (born November 17, 1977) is an American social media personality, anti-feminist, men's rights activist, political commentator, and conspiracy theorist. He has been characterized as a part of the alt-right, but does not identify himself as such. Cernovich has been a regular host of The Alex Jones Show on InfoWars.
Raised in Kewanee, Illinois, Cernovich graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield and received a Juris Doctor from Pepperdine University's 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 activism. During the 2016 US presidential election campaign, he shifted his website into a political blog, which advocated in favor of Donald Trump and promoted conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton.
Cernovich is known for his promotion of fake news, conspiracy theories, and smear campaigns. He helped spread Pizzagate, which falsely claimed that John Podesta and other high-ranking Democratic Party officials were involved in a child-sex ring. Cernovich has falsely accused various political opponents of being pedophiles or supporting pedophilia, and he briefly succeeded in getting Sam Seder fired from MSNBC with such an allegation, before it was revealed to be a falsehood.
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 with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield and a Juris Doctor from Pepperdine University's 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." The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified him as a male supremacist.
Cernovich became influential on social media, initially as part of the manosphere movement, and he 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.
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.
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."
He also said: "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."
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 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.
Cernovich helped to raise the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory in 2016 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 many occasions, and in a YouTube video he maintained that most people employed by the news media and "every A-list actor" in Hollywood were also pedophiles. Freelance journalist Jake Offenhartz asserted that Cernovitch and his followers had inappropriately used a photograph at a rally of Columbia University activists in New York City on October 30, 2017 to insinuate that leftist protestors were marching to advocate pedophilia.
In December 2017, Cernovich hosted an "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit. The Reddit event, 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 as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in March 2019. Cernovich has posted multiple tweets about rape, including the comment: "A whore will let her friend ruin your life with a false rape case. So why should I care when women are raped?"
In January 2006, Crime and Federalism published an article by Cernovich about Donald Trump, "Donald Chump?", in which he referred him as a "media whore" who "casts his image to the world on demand and recasts it constantly to suit everchanging ratings and marketing schemes". He 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."
A decade later, by the 2016 presidential election, Cernovich saw Donald Trump as a kindred spirit. 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. Then, by 2018, he had become "increasingly critical" of Trump, and became less politically active, refocussing efforts on 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 –Cernovich 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.
—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.
Cernovich identifies as an "American Nationalist" 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 labeled 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.
Cernovich has advocated for a universal basic income within the United States, claiming that "Conservatism is on the way out". Interviewed on 60 Minutes in March 2017, he also advocated for single-payer healthcare, saying 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.
Following Cernovich's 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 his reputation for online disputes.
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.
Cernovich was charged with and arrested for rape in 2003. The rape charges were dismissed, but he was ordered to perform community service for misdemeanor battery. His record was later expunged.
Cernovich married his first wife as a law student in 2003. Cernovich has said the marriage was "ruined by feminist indoctrination". Cernovich has also admitted to cheating on his first wife and bragged about it, sometimes even going so far as to write articles online where he would offer readers tips on how to cheat on their partners too. His first 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 fifty miles south of Los Angeles, California.
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