I met Mike Cernovich a few years ago when I was making a documentary based on Angela Nagle’s book, Kill All Normies. Back then I had the same impression of him that you likely did, and that you probably still do: I thought he was a Trump-loving, men’s rights-touting, right wing troll.
But after chatting with him, I liked him anyway. Mike was thoughtful, honest, candid, reasonable, self-disparaging, and fair-minded. I’d read the New Yorker profile of him. I’d seen the tweets and heard the slander. I’d even interviewed Zoë Quinn, Mike’s Gamergate nemesis, (I liked her, too), who’d told me exactly what she thought of Mike Cernovich (she despises him). Liking this guy was not what I’d expected.
I could have easily made the decision then to tell everyone who’d listen that I’d met Mike Cernovich and he was exactly the piece of human garbage you’ve been told he was. My milieux back then was pretty conventionally left-wing, so that would have been the easiest thing to do. (I did in fact say basically that about Lucian Wintrich, who I also interviewed for the same film, because that’s exactly how he came across to me.) I probably could’ve even gotten VICE to run it.
But that would have been a lie. And even worse, it would have cost me the opportunity to get to know someone who came from a completely different political tribe than I did — an enemy tribe, no less — to learn what values he actually holds and why he holds them. It would have cost me the chance to learn, for the hundredth time, that the cartoon characters the media writes about rarely measure up to the actual human beings they’re meant to describe (Wintrich being the exception to that rule).
Over the years, Mike and I DM’d quite a bit on Twitter and became friends. We shared some important things in common, such as a deep moral concern for the welfare of industrially exploited animals, and a reflexive distrust of the elite, whether they’re dressed up in right wing or left wing garb.
As it turned out, by the end of the Trump presidency, we came to share another thing in common: a deep contempt for Trump.
Mike went to the mat for Trump in 2016, and among liberals, he’s still regarded as a Trumpist. But Mike has in fact come to loathe the man, for reasons we go into in this podcast.
Mike didn’t benefit politically from his turn against the former President. It certainly didn’t do anything to soften his image in the liberal media (nor did he try to capitalize on it by selling himself as a Lincoln Project-style turncoat to the MSNBC crowd), and it earned him plenty of enemies among his own erstwhile fans. But along with the rest of us, he had watched this undeniably buffoonish administration embarrass itself, and instead of making excuses, he was honest about it.
Whenever I discuss my fondness for Mike publicly, somebody trots out a bunch of his old tweets and demands that I answer for them. It’ll probably happen this time, too. But I don’t take the bait, not only because it’s a boring subject but also because I don’t demand of others that they justify everything that their friends and associates have ever said, so I don’t acknowledge that as a legitimate expectation of myself. Mike has a big megaphone to speak for himself, anyway. He doesn’t need my defense, and I don’t feel obligated to defend myself.
Regardless, I’ll probably lose a few followers and subscribers for “platforming” Mike Cernovich (whose own platform dwarfs my tiny little perch in the first place). But if Mike is comfortable losing some friends by being honest about what a pathetic little worm of a man Trump is, then I guess I can follow his example and lose a few by being honest about what a smart and decent guy I believe Mike to be.
If you’re skeptical about that, then just go ahead and listen to the episode. If, after hearing him for yourself, you remain unconvinced, then fair enough. I make a point of not letting political disagreements get in the way of personal relationships, which is the entire reason I became friends with Mike Cernovich in the first place. But I think you’ll change your mind, even if only a little bit, about Mike.
P.S. I’ve already released the next episode of the podcast, with Catherine Liu, to paid subscribers only. I eventually make every episode fully public, but if you’d like to hear them a few days in advance, here’s the button: