This Is MSNBC’s De Facto Ombudsman


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.

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 of any offending media outlets about what their ads were being associated with, all in hopes that the media outlets 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 deeply racist and homophobic tweets from Pax Dickinson, Business Insider’s then chief technology officer. Among the tweets Valleywag surfaced were: “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.” 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.

You mean the technique you used on Pax Dickinson?

Sucks when the other team fights back, huh?

– Saradin (@Saradin1337) December 5, 2017

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.

Congrats to @Cernovich for breaking the #SusanRice story. In a long gone time of unbiased journalism he’d win the Pulitzer, but not today!

– Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 4, 2017

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 Conservatives

On The Confederacy

On Language

On Casual Conversation

On White People