On Monday, The Wrap reported that MSNBC would not be renewing its contract with contributor Sam Seder in the wake of an online smear campaign led by a group of well-known far-right trolls and racists. MSNBC chose to side with the racists.
Update: On Thursday morning, The Intercept reported that MSNBC had reversed course and will be offering Seder his job back, with network president Phil Griffin admitting that “sometimes you just get one wrong.” Enjoy this brief moment of sanity while you can, dear reader—we’ll surely be paying for it later.
The person leading the charge against Seder was Pizzagate conspiracist Mike Cernovich. Cernovich, for those who don’t know, first rose to prominence during Gamergate, a rats’ nest of reactionary halfwits who created a ferocious political movement out of a wish to see larger breasts in video games. Cernovich would encourage people to lie to the advertisers at any offending media outlet about what their ads were being associated with, all in hopes that the media outlet would either be irrevocably harmed by lost ad sales or fire its employees in an effort to assuage the angry mob. Because digital media outlets exist atop a skein of anxieties, their sales teams constantly managing the emotions and bafflements of the chief marketing officers for the brands with which they do business, very often these tactics worked, and evidently continue to do so. Cernovich’s current hobbies include publicly accusing people he dislikes of being pedophiles and continuing to target and harass members of the media.
Cernovich and others like him are not trying to create a fairer, more ethical media landscape, despite their constant invocation of idiotic shibboleths about ethical journalism. Ridding outlets of whichever person is currently being targeted will never satisfy them. The only actual goal is the total annihilation of the mainstream media itself — or at least of any claims to authority it might make. They are playing a political game here, even if the purported goals of these efforts is to hold media outlets to their outmoded and ridiculous posture of political neutrality. As Vox wrote in May, “Democrats still largely see themselves as playing the game, bound by the ring fence, subject to common referees (e.g., science and media). That’s how most of the mainstream media sees the situation as well. But the right sees the game itself, its institutions and norms, as the enemy.” Which is exactly why the right has been so effective in weaponizing what it sees as the left’s own tactics against them.
In 2013, Valleywag, the now-defunct Silicon Valley offshoot of the similarly deceased Gawker (where, full disclosure, I used to work), uncovered a collection of racist and homophobic tweets from Pax Dickinson, Business Insider’s then chief technology officer. Among the tweets Valleywag surfaced were: “Who has more dedication, ambition, and drive? Kobe only raped one girl, Lebron raped an entire city. +1 for Lebron.” As well as: ”At least if we end up getting into a nuclear standoff with Russia over gay rights we’ll know this universe is just a satirical simulation.” Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget announced that Dickinson had been fired the very next day.
In recent days, the Dickinson incident has been constantly referenced by the right as both validation for their actions and proof that, while the left can dish it out, they clearly can’t take it.
The difference, of course, is that the motivation for outing Dickinson as a bigot was genuine horror and revulsion at the discriminatory beliefs of a media executive. Dickinson was not satirizing or making jokes at the expense of racists; he was making jokes that directly targeted minorities. And when the hypocrisy of a supposedly progressive media organization employing a proud racist was exposed, Business Insider quickly went to correct it.
In the right’s recent attempts to get members of the media fired, however, there is no great hypocrisy being uncovered. Instead, as in Seder’s case, Cernovich willfully misinterpreted and outright lied about Seder’s words in order to manufacture outrage. Here’s what Seder actually said in his now-deleted tweet from 2009: “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 scene.”
Cernovich’s Medium post on the tweet was titled, complete with misspelling, “MSNBC Contributor Sam Seder Endorses Polanki’s Sex Crimes in Now Deleted Tweet.” In it, he complained that “if a FoxNews contributor had made tasteless jokes, would the media have reported on the story? Yes, they would. I went on FoxNews one time and satirical Tweets of mine were interpreted literally, and all context was removed.” He happily admits his crusade is fueled by a desire to retaliate. And whether or not you find Seder’s tweet to be crude, there’s no question that it’s directly criticizing Polanski’s defenders. A media company so terrified of any accusation of bias that it can’t distinguish between Seder’s tweet and, say, Dickinson’s is a media company totally uninterested in the meaning of things.
And yet here is NBC, lapping up Cernovich’s bad-faith criticism and acting on his implied recommendation — firing someone for excoriating the defenders of a man who raped a 13-year-old. It’s clear that the company values the opinions of Cernovich and his followers and that their suggestions hold a considerable amount of weight as far as the network’s executives are concerned.
So let’s take a look at some more (since-deleted) opinions from the man MSNBC has made its de facto ombudsman. (Fair warning: Many of these tweets include offensive language.) This is the person the network has chosen to believe.
On Black People
On White Genocide
On Jews And The Holocaust
On The Confederacy
On Race War
On Casual Conversation
On White People
Update: We’ve replaced Dickinson’s tweet “In The Passion Of The Christ 2, Jesus gets raped by a pack of niggers. It’s his own fault for dressing like a whore though.” The offensive language was a play on Mel Gibson’s infamous rant, and while Dickinson’s other tweets were monstrous, his target in this instance was apparently Gibson.
Update: Dickinson has provided HuffPost with the following statement:
Hey Trash Journalist,
Are you going to correct your crap article with a proper explanation of my jokes?
I see you finally figured out the Mel Gibson one was at Mel Gibson’s expense, but you unsurprisingly still don’t get the other two.
The LeBron tweet is a joke at the expense of NBA fans, mocking how they were more upset about LeBron changing teams than they were about Kobe Bryant being accused of rape.
The Russia tweet is a absurdity mocking the idea of fighting a nuclear war with Russia over the issue of gay marriage.
Neither of those jokes targets minorities. The NBA joke is actually an anti-rape joke, and I highly doubt even most gays would support nuclear war to expand gay marriage to Russia.
Please let me know when you’ve posted those corrections.
Gawker Delenda Est,