“Alt-right” social media personality Mike Cernovich used “pizzagate”-like tactics to attack video editor and satirist Vic Berger, who was subjected to online harassment and threats after he mocked Cernovich. In spite of his repeated harassment of other Twitter users, the social media network has taken no action against Cernovich, who became a verified user in August.
Cernovich operates the website Danger & Play, which publishes numerous articles, essays, and audio recordings that attack feminists and “SJWs” (social justice warriors) and dispute the validity of date rape claims. On his Twitter accounts, Cernovich has dismissed the possibility of date rape, writing, “The hotter the sex, the more closely it resembles rape” and “The only rape culture is Muslim rape culture” and asking, “Why should I care when women are raped?”
Cernovich was one of many “alt-right” figures who weaponized fake news articles to push “pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory that baselessly alleged Hillary Clinton’s inner circle was orchestrating a child sex-trafficking ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. Cernovich and his fellow “alt-right” figures’ promotion of the story on social media resulted in “abusive social media comments” for the named pizzeria owners and inspired a man to enter the business with a gun and fire shots while attempting to “self-investigate” the claims.
Retired general Michael Flynn, whom President-elect Donald Trump has selected as his national security adviser, has frequently interacted with Cernovich on Twitter and praised Cernovich’s “terrific book” Gorilla Mindset: How to Control Your Thoughts and Emotions, Improve Your Health and Fitness, Make More Money, and Live Life on Your Terms.
Cernovich used the same method of attack that made “pizzagate” dangerous for the Washington pizzeria owners to attack Berger, urging his followers to “monitor” Berger and his Twitter followers to “find out what is going on, who these people are, what their connections are” because “they might be harming children.” By spreading the false rumor that Berger and his Twitter followers may be involved in a child sex ring, Cernovich inspired his Twitter followers -- who have already been hearing for months that Democrats are pedophiles -- to lash out at Berger and several of his Twitter followers, including some who have never spoken to Berger but merely follow his Twitter account.
Berger starting satirizing Cernovich in November, mocking him with video supercuts, asking him to investigate a made-up conspiracy theory that Trump has rabies, and replying to Cernovich’s most disgusting tweets, which talked about “going to the gym” with “period juice all over you” and suggested that “date rape does not exist.” After Cernovich blocked Berger from following him, Berger asked his followers to write Cernovich and tell him to unblock him because “1st Amendment is very important,” apparently mocking Cernovich’s self-proclamation that he is a “free speech activist.”
Cernovich responded to Berger by alleging in an article on his site, Danger and Play, that one of Berger’s Twitter followers sent him a direct message that included a photo of a newborn baby and the word “cum” after Cernovich posted a photo of himself with his newborn daughter. Cernovich cited a screenshot that “has been deleted as it was sickening,” but is not included on any archived pages.
Cernovich’s “pizzagate” tactics have resulted in a flood of online harassment and death threats aimed at Berger from “alt-right” Twitter users. Berger tweeted on December 18 that he was abandoning his Twitter profile until the harassment “is settled” because he needed to “protect [his] family.” And that’s worrying because, as UW-Madison public affairs professor Don Moynihan pointed out, after “pizzagate” it is “reasonable to worry that lies will end in violence.” Journalist Dave Weigel also noted mockingly that this tactic of baselessly calling your opponent a pedophile and mobilizing people to take action “worked so well with Pizzagate.”
During “pizzagate,” Cernovich repeatedly pushed fake news validating the conspiracy, accused the mainstream media of “covering up” for alleged pedophiles, implied Vice President Joe Biden was a pedophile, and alleged that there was “zero evidence” connecting an armed man who entered the Washington, D.C, pizzeria to “pizzagate” in the incident’s immediate aftermath.
Cernovich activated a hotbed of Twitter users to threaten Berger using the same smear tactics the “alt-right” used to promote harassment over “pizzagate”: Publishing a smear in a news-style article format and distributing it to an eager fan base.