Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Apparently, some blood is more valuable than other.
Journalist and author Mike Cernovich has called on CNN to donate the profits earned from advertisements during coverage of the Parkland school shooting to charity.
“I don’t like what CNN is doing to these children. I think CNN should donate all advertising from the shooting to charity,” Cernovich declared in a live Periscope video Wednesday. “Let’s turn a negative into a positive. I call on everyone here to challenge CNN to donate all advertising revenue generated this week to charity. Will you join me in this?”
“Join me in calling on CNN to donate all advertising revenue received this week, because they should not profit from blood,” he continued. “CNN should not take blood money and take the deaths of these children and turn them into dollar bills. They shouldn’t do it. It’s wrong, it’s unethical.”
Among other things, a man who, two years ago, tried making his own money off the Pulse nightclub massacre, also in Florida. Politico had a recent backgrounder:
A former lawyer, Cernovich began blogging about gender dynamics, among other topics, in 2004. A year earlier, he had been charged with raping a woman he knew, but the charge was dropped and a judge instead sentenced him to community service for battery. Ever since, Cernovich, now 39, has preached the gospel of masculinity, teaching readers how to become “a dominant man” through mindset adjustments and bodybuilding. He once tweeted “date rape does not exist” and advised readers, in a blog post about household finance, that “Hot girls are better to rent than buy.”
He advocates IQ-testing all immigrants and ending federal funding of universities, and describes himself as an economic nationalist primarily concerned with the welfare of average Americans. He has some economic ideas that veer toward the wonky—he said he would like median GDP to replace GDP growth as the lodestar of economic policy, for instance. As machines displace a greater share of labor, he is intrigued by the possibility of introducing a universal basic income, an idea supported by Martin Luther King Jr., conservative economist Milton Friedman and Bill Clinton’s labor secretary, Robert Reich. Cernovich is also an avid consumer and progenitor of conspiracy theories, such as his claim that there was more than one shooter at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and that the government is covering this up to avoid panic.
Those predilections made him an early Trump supporter, and over the course of the election he shot to internet notoriety by his monomaniacal focus on Hillary Clinton’s allegedly failing health and his online feuds with Trump detractors. He has become huge in the world of pro-Trump Twitter, known as #MAGA Twitter, for Make America Great Again. In October, a Finnish publishing house specializing in science fiction and fantasy released his latest book, MAGA Mindset: Making YOU and America Great Again.
His new plan is to take his brand of self-help from the home to the House by running the “Big Brother” of congressional bids, renting out a five-bedroom campaign pad, living in it with his staff and streaming the whole thing 24/7 on YouTube. There are other plans for the campaign—flash mobs, loyal readers with Go-Pros confronting and humiliating his opponents live on Periscope. “The savagery that I would bring to a campaign would be like nothing anyone had ever seen in a congressional election,” said Cernovich, the day before the birth of his first child, a girl.
That vision is contingent on Cernovich’s congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, vacating his seat to, say, join the Trump administration. If that does not happen, Cernovich still plans to recruit acolytes from across the country to deploy those tactics next year in primary challenges to establishment Republicans, a scheme he has dubbed #Revolution2018. If he can pick off just a handful of incumbents next year, Cernovich believes the entire Republican conference will come to fear, and heed, his movement. “That’s what you learn from—” he said, before catching himself. “I’m going to choose my words carefully, because I don’t want to call it ‘terrorism.’”
For a man who until recently was best known for hawking his self-published books and intentionally offending people on the internet, these are grand designs. And Cernovich acknowledges they’ll require some maturation. To that end, Cernovich has condemned Richard Spencer and disassociated himself from the “alt-right” label, even though he believes the Nazi saluters at his conference were leftist plants sent to make the alt-right look bad. (Spencer himself, it should be noted, rejects this conspiracy theory, as well as Cernovich’s claim that the CIA may be propping him up. “He needs to calm down,” Spencer told me.) The hard-core alt-right, in response, has turned on Cernovich and begun calling him “Cuck-ovich,” a play on the movement’s dreaded “cuckservative” insult.
Cernovich now uses the label “new right” to describe himself. To refute those who lump him in with white nationalists, he pointed to his second wife, Shauna, a secular Muslim of Persian descent, who lounged behind us on a couch and jumped in and out of our conversation. (The non-European partner, for what it’s worth, has become a frequent defense among the more moderate alt-righters: Charles Johnson points to his Asian wife to counter charges of racism; Gavin McInnes points to his Native American wife; Yiannopoulos says he prefers to date black men.) Cernovich’s newborn daughter is named Cyra, after the Persian emperor Cyrus (a stocking with her name on it already hung over the fireplace). When a question arose about the birthplace of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ sidekick Paul Joseph Watson, Cernovich told his wife “Google it.” Then he backtracked. “Will you please Google it? I don’t just bark orders at you.” (“Northern Britain,” she chimed in later.)
Cernovich does not view himself as a “troll” per se, because he views trolling as amoral, but instead refers to himself as a “rhetorician”—a provocateur who doesn’t literally mean what he says. Whatever he calls it, the rhetoric clearly has real-world consequences. He was a chief pusher of the #pizzagate hashtag on Twitter, the wacky conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was part of a child sex trafficking ring being run out of the back of a Washington restaurant called Comet Ping Pong. The scandal began as a rumor on Twitter, jumped to message boards like 4Chan, was pushed by Cernovich and other much higher-profile agitators, and came to be taken quite seriously by some of the internet’s more impressionable users, including the North Carolina man who drove to Washington and fired shots with a real assault rifle at the real pizza joint in a misguided attempt to free the nonexistent sex slaves.
“Right now we’re going from the underdog to the overdog,” Cernovich said. “So I’m still fighting like the underdog. But when I say things, I need to be more careful.”
When we sat down in California, it was a day after the incident, and Cernovich conceded that he had learned some lessons from the fiasco. For example, although he does believe there is an active pedophile ring in Washington that needs to be investigated, he never believed it was based out of Comet. He also claimed he did not know “Pizzagate” implied that specifically. “Right now we’re going from the underdog to the overdog,” he said. “So I’m still fighting like the underdog. But when I say things, I need to be more careful. When I say things like ‘Pizzagate,’ I need to be more clear.”
In the midst of our discussion about Pizzagate, Cernovich’s phone rang, and when he picked it up, the voice on the other end belonged to Mike Flynn Jr., the son of Trump’s pick for national security adviser. Flynn Jr., who had a transition email address and at one point was up for a national security clearance as part of the presidential transition, was also a Pizzagate conpiracy theorist, explicitly endorsing the idea that Comet could plausibly be the center of a Clinton-connected child sex-trafficking operation. Taking the call from Flynn, Cernovich hurried out onto his back patio, shut the sliding door to the living room and paced around for several minutes out back.
The Flynns, father and son, are also big on #MAGA Twitter, and have become fans of Cernovich’s work there. The elder Flynn, who like his son regularly tweets out links to fake news stories, tweeted an endorsement of Cernovich’s Gorilla Mindset book; he has also called Yiannopoulos “one of the most brave people that I’ve ever met.” Cernovich declined to comment on his relationship with the Flynns, or with almost anyone else. He said he avoids knowing the names of people he communicates with, and tries to forget their names if they tell him, in case he is ever subpoenaed. He consciously models his approach to media and politics on “fourth-generation warfare”—that is, insurgency and counterinsurgency, which includes the use of fluid, ad hoc alliances. “Chuck Johnson doesn’t tell me what to do. Milo doesn’t tell me what to do,” he said. “But we talk, and we’re loosely aligned.” He has become more inclined to believe in conspiracies, he told me, now that he is part of one himself.