It’s been an impressive few days for Mike Cernovich, the alt-right personality you may last remember tarring one of his online enemies as a child molester, despite a complete lack of evidence. Sunday, Cernovich broke the news that Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice had requested the so-called “unmasking” of the names of Donald Trump–campaign and transition figures who were swept up in the surveillance of foreign targets. Since then, that story has metastasized in alt- and far-right corners into what looks like a Benghazi-lite. Despite the fact that experts agree there was very little shadiness to what Rice did, a furious cohort of online alt-righters are now convinced Cernovich has uncovered a Watergate-level web of crime and corruption, proving that Obama used the power of the State to attack Trump and those close to him.
Along the way, Cernovich has picked up some kudos from high-ranking people close to Trump:
As many people have pointed out, it’s strange, given Cernovich’s history, that such high-profile figures would want to be associated with him at all, let alone to praise him so publicly. There’s a short and solid rundown of some of his most inflammatory material here, but among other things, Cernovich has said that “date rape does not exist”; has presented all sorts of interesting theories about the potency of some men’s semen; has spread made-up rumors about Hillary Clinton’s health; and once claimed that “There is no oppression” of Syrian refugees, and that “The media lied” about their plight — based on the fact that he saw a group of them playing soccer in Budapest. And he is deeply, deeply conspiracy-addled:
But in the broader context of (call it) the White House’s media-reorientation project, boosting Cernovich makes perfect sense. Given how hostile things are between Trump and the entire mainstream media, and how much damage the mainstream media have done to Trump, the administration has shown a strong desire to marginalize traditional outlets and raise up far- and alt-right ones, no matter how gonzo they are. Take, for example, the administration’s decision to grant press credentials to Gateway Pundit, a site that serves as a key node for all manner of far-right innuendo and rumor. Or its ties to Chuck Johnson, the crusading far-right journalist-vigilante-troll who infamously misidentified the anonymous subject of Sabrina Erdely’s collapsed Rolling Stone story about rape at the University of Virginia.
By the normal standards of journalism and fact-checking and so on, all of these outlets and figures have repeatedly shown that they shouldn’t be trusted with a story about a stranded kitten. But that doesn’t matter, given the current level of rancor and media Balkanization. From the point of view of the many, many people who inhabit this corner of the internet, the liberal-media establishment has failed so spectacularly, is so corrupted, is so infested by liars and demagogues and shills, that there’s no comparison: Even if Cernovich messes up from time to time, of course he’s got more integrity than, say, ABC News.
These are the sentiments the White House is hoping to stoke. Conway and Trump Jr., and everyone else in their orbit, want to fuzz things up as much as possible — to further close the gap, in the mind of news consumers, between the ABC Newses and Mike Cernoviches of the world. And, of course, the gonzo outlets themselves take an active role in said fuzzing. Take, for example, Cernovich’s claim that the New York Times and Bloomberg News were sitting on the Rice story, but refused to report it, and that he was leaked the story by a supposedly extensive network of IT-worker spies in the nation’s mainstream newsrooms. “I’m showing you the politics of ‘real journalism,’” he said in a recent video. “‘Real journalism’ is that Bloomberg had it, and the New York Times had it, but they wouldn’t run it because they don’t want to run any stories that would make Obama look bad, or that will vindicate Trump. They only want to run stories that make Trump look bad, so that’s why they sat on it.”
The claim that mainstream outlets won’t run stories that hit at Dems is of course demonstrably false, as is Cernovich’s claim that the Rice story “vindicates Trump’s claim that he had been spied upon.” But, of course, these specifics don’t matter — what matters is how aggressively Cernovich is tickling an overactive part of the far-right id, one that is obsessed with the idea that mainstream journalism is an utterly corrupt enterprise. If you believe this, then you can forgive the occasional weirdness with regard to date rape, or the occasional burning of the wrong witch, or a complete lack of understanding of policy details here and there. What matters is, these guys are on the right side, and they’re set to overtake those corrupt dinosaurs who have controlled the flow of information for far too long.