On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League released a guide to leaders of the “alt-right” and “alt-lite,” bigoted conspiratorial movements that have picked up steam in the Trump era. Among those individuals identified were Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, two prominent purveyors of online misinformation.
Unsurprisingly, those named by the ADL immediately attacked the organization. More surprisingly, they received immediate back-up from one of the country’s Jewish political hopefuls, Republican Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel:
Mandel is currently Ohio’s treasurer, and previously ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown in 2012. He is also Jewish, making him an unlikely defender of alt-right adjacent personalities.
Cernovich has a particularly ugly track record. He used his influential social media platform to popularize the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which falsely claimed that Clinton campaign emails contained coded signals coordinating a pedophilia ring in restaurants across the country. (One Cernovich video defending the theory included such gems as “Most people in journalism are pedophiles.”) “Are you going to do nothing while pedophiles are raping children in underground dungeons?” he declared on his YouTube channel, “then you become part of that evil.” These fact-free fulminations ultimately led to a shooting at a Washington, D.C., restaurant by a man convinced of their veracity.
Cernovich also promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that Jewish Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered as part of a Democratic cover-up.
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) August 10, 2016
These claims reached such a fever pitch that Rich’s own parents wrote an editorial in the Washington Post imploring people to respect their son’s memory and stop circulating lies about his death. They labeled the politicization of the murder a “nightmare you can never wake up from,” adding, “We have seen no evidence, by any person at any time, that Seth’s murder had any connection to his job at the Democratic National Committee or his life in politics. Anyone who claims to have such evidence is either concealing it from us or lying.”
Among other hits, Cernovich has also denied that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on civilians, and falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) August 12, 2016
Posobiec, the other commentator backed by Mandel, is one of Twitter’s elite mainliners of political misinformation. His feed is full of cartoonishly false claims and predictions, from purportedly impending wars in Syria and North Korea to sex scandals in the White House:
In response to the ADL’s inclusion of him on its list of alt-lite personalities, Posobiec posted a video likening himself to a Holocaust victim while standing at Auschwitz, using the concentration camp as a political prop:
On Twitter, where Mandel offered his support to these individuals, I asked him about several of the above incidents and whether he stood behind them. He did not respond. As central figures of the online far-right, both Cernovich and Prosobiec have numerous anti-Semitic followers, who immediately came out to defend them. Amusingly, some lobbed anti-Semitic attacks at Mandel’s critics, not realizing that he himself is also Jewish:
Note the echoes around Yair Rosenberg’s name, and ignore him. His only allegiance is to Israel, not America.
— Punished Ebola (@eb0Iamerican) July 20, 2017
Typical jewish supremacist attacking white people who disagree with them and calling them nazis. Despicable behavior.
— StopCensorship 🌐 (@BeanTownBorn) July 20, 2017
Mandel offered no response to those tweets either.