The decision by MSNBC this week to cut loose a contributor over a bad-faith misinterpretation of an eight-year-old tweet represents a new escalation of the culture wars, inspired by the same alt-right troll who advanced the conspiracy theory known as âPizzagate.â
On Monday, The Wrap reported that MSNBC had cut ties with Sam Seder, a left-wing podcast host who also served as a contributor to the networkâs opinion programming. The decision appeared to be a response to a coordinated attack on Seder touched off by the internet provocateur Mike Cernovich, who had unearthed a 2009 tweet by Seder about film director Roman Polanski.
Polanski has been a fugitive since 1978, when he fled the country while facing rape charges over what he said was a consensual relationship with a 13-year-old girl. In response to a campaign by Polanski apologists who were pushing for the charges to be dropped, Seder, who has also worked as a satirist, tweeted: âDont 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 scene.â
While crass, the joke was clearly aimed at Polanskiâs supporters, who included many prominent figures in the entertainment world. In a Medium post, Cernovich twisted its meaning to suggest Seder was âendorsing Polanskiâs sex crimesâ and that the media was covering it up. As Cernovichâs followers began deluging MSNBC with complaints, Seder deleted the tweet, which he later said he regretted, citing other messages that made his views clear.
Seder said he had a relationship with MSNBC for more than a decade and had been a paid contributor for the last two years.
Previously, Cernovichâs main claim to fame was spreading the preposterous conspiracy theory known as âPizzagate,â the belief that a Washington, D. C., pizzeria was the front for a pedophilia ring that included Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Coincidentally, the announcement that MSNBC had ties with Seder came on the one-year anniversary of an attack on the Comet Ping PongÂ pizzeria and restaurant by a North Carolina man, who fired a rifle inside (no one was hit) on a self-appointed mission to investigate the child trafficking he believed was taking place there.
In one of his other journalistic coups, Cernovich claimed to have proven that former Obama official Susan Rice was part of a conspiracy to spy on the Trump campaign by âunmaskingâ the identities of anonymous figures mentioned in intelligence reports. Donald Trump Jr. suggested he deserved a Pulitzer Prize for that reporting.
In an interview the Washington Post, Cernovich defended his work. About Sederâs tweet, he said, âDonât use your own daughter being raped as a subject of satire.â
Cernovich, who describes himself as an author, journalist and documentarian, is one of the most popular alt-right personalities online. He was profiled on â60 Minutesâ and was the subject of a New Yorker article that laid out his path to notoriety in which he said âI use trolling tactics to build my brand.â
Cernovichâs âtrollingâ has manifested itself in a variety of ways. He was an early figure in Gamergate, which targeted feminists in the video-game industry. He has likened diversity to âwhite genocide,â stated that date rape isnât a real thing and said the Black Lives Matter movement â? **)
Following the news of Sederâs relationship with MSNBC ending, Cernovich celebrated in an online video. âThank you to everybody who emailed MSNBC,â Cernovich said in a video he posted on Twitter. âThank you to all of you. Youâre heroes. Youâre heroes because you emailed MSNBC and you let them know about the tweet. You let them know the people will be heard.â Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and GOP Senate candidate David Duke retweeted the news and added âAnd another ONE.â
Seder wasnât the first target of Cernovich and his nearly 400, 000 Twitter followers. Last year he sicced his followers on humorist and video editor Vic Berger, accusing him â? with zero evidence â? of leading a pedophilia ring. (Cernovich is quick to tie his various opponents to pedophilia. ) In March, Cernovich willfully misconstrued a dog pun from New York Times culture reporter Sopan Deb. Deb retweeted a post from the rapper Lil Bow Wow which demeaned Trump and suggested he might âpimp his wife,â first lady Melania Trump. Deb didnât approve of the message in any way but added the joke, âThe outrage from @BreitbarkNews news is going to be through the woof. â? (âBreitbark Newsâ is a parody account that posts jokes about dogs in the style of pro-Trump news site Breitbart. ) Cernovich twisted the canine pun to say that Deb was endorsing human trafficking and sex slavery, unleashing his followers on the Times.
Deb maintained his job but the incident was written up in a column by the paperâs then-public editor Liz Spayd, who admitted that at least part of the campaign was in bad faith but that it warranted an explanation anyway.
The tactics echo those used in the GamerGate controversy, which attempted to target a number of reporters and outlets with matched up campaigns urging their advertisers to get funding.
Seder told the California Post that he thought MSNBC was initially âafraidâ of those on the right which will filed complaints. A network someone did not respond when asked by simply Yahoo News if they felt there seemed to be legitimacy to the argument that they were being taken advantage of by a group acting not in good faith.
Cernovich said that MSNBCâs selection has emboldened him and that he has started going through the tweets connected with other MSNBC employees.
âThe left isnât going to stop going through our tweets so we arenât going to stop going through theirs,â claimed Cernovich in an interview with CNN. âI wish we would get over people trying to find someone saying a naughty thing. Iâve been saying that for years. And nobody wants to listen. So fine, we will play by the same rules.â
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