Mike Cernovich: Potemkin Alpha Male

It’s been about a year since I last wrote about Michael C. Cernovich, the part-time lawyer, full-time Internet bum who’s publicly threatened to sue me (that is, when he hasn’t got me confused with Zoe Quinn.) Back then, I smelled a rat – Cernovich claimed to be a successful lawyer, yet he was seemingly no longer was actively practicing law just a year after finally getting his law license; and the address he gave as his law offices turned out to be a rental condominium in a residential neighborhood. Looking at it on Google Street View, there was nothing about the property which suggested it was really a law office, yet it was Cernovich’s address of record to the CA State Bar, and theoretically the place clients sent this big-shot lawyer their checks.

It was one of several details of Cernovich’s life that didn’t add up: why was this high-rolling attorney wasting his time with juicing e-books and blogging? Why did an apparent 2004 Pepperdine Law graduate swinging his credentials around on Twitter seem to have no known record of practicing law? And why did it seemingly take him nine years — until 2013 — to finally be admitted to the California bar? Why pretend his blogging was profitable when his own writings contradicted this statement? Moreover, why was Cernovich so obsessed with projecting an image of wealth, machismo & success on social media, when the facts suggested a far more modest reality?

As a result of my initial post about him, Cernovich threatened to initiate some sort of legal action against me. And I, unwilling to further provoke a guy whom I presumed could litigate on his own behalf for free, decided to put any new Cernovich articles on moratorium.

But in recent weeks I have learned that my fears were unfounded. Cernovich has never sued anyone: although he boasts of having his law blog credited twice in unpublished court decisions, there does not seem to be a single decision from any court in America in which he is credited as acting as counsel — state or federal. He appears to have obtained a law license in 2013 (nine years after graduating law school) yet there is no evidence he did anything with it except posture on the Internet. The closest Cernovich’s ever seems to have gotten to being a practicing lawyer was doing scut legal writing work on contract and blogging about law while being married to a law school classmate. This classmate apparently went on to become an IP attorney with several well-known, hugely successful public tech companies, while Cernovich stayed at home. The financial success Cernovich advertises as his own is almost certainly due to a “seven-figure payday” his ex-wife was forced to give Cernovich from her tech stock awards as part of their divorce settlement. (Michael himself appeared to confirm many of these details in a series of Tweets published and then deleted in the past fortnight.) Yet, in public, Cernovich is more than willing to criticize people who collect alimony.

In fact, much of Cernovich’s personal brand is a deception. Michael advertises his physical fitness as the result of regular workouts, juice diets and “Gorilla Mindset”, but it’s partially the result of testosterone injections. (According to Michael, “the ball shrinkage was 25%, tops.”) His financial success is allegedly the result of his e-book/podcast/men’s websites empire, but it’s likely propped up by the stock windfall Michael took from his ex as part of his divorce settlement. But this money may be dwindling. Nowadays, Cernovich claims to be wandering the globe for “tax purposes”, only briefly visiting the US to promote his self-help books.

Even his diet books are a sham: Cernovich admits on page 1 of “Juice Power!: How to Juice for Healing, Fat Loss, and Lifelong Nutrition” that he juices veg because he dislikes eating them whole, then follows with a lengthy disclaimer indemnifying his recipes.

That said, the recipes in Juice Power! are at least edible, whereas Cernovich’s advice on other topics is either useless or dangerous. Cernovich’s philosophical work ‘Gorilla Mindset’ claims to teach how to control one’s thoughts and emotions to lead a positive life, yet Cernovich routinely loses his temper on Twitter and later deletes the Tweets once he’s calmed down. Assuming the guy who wrote Gorilla Mindset should be the top practitioner of it, you’d expect Cernovich to be a lot less reactive than he is.

But there’s a reason Cernovich goes to pieces so often, seemingly without warning. According to Michael, his mother suffers from bipolar disorder, and Michael himself “had some form of mental illness in [his] late 20s”, which brought him “close to suicide many times”. Though Cernovich claims to have “cured” himself using “N-A-C, proper nutrition, and mindset exercises”, I’m not sure this worked as well as Michael thinks it did. This could explain – in conjunction with his troubles with the law – what appears to be his nine-year, two-bar-exam odyssey to get a license to practice in California.

Michael’s pick-up game is similarly weaksauce. Apart from the aforementioned divorce from a really successful attorney, the “danger and play” dominance technique Cernovich claims women crave may have also gotten him charged with sexual assault. (If you believe Cernovich’s story, he had a devil of a time beating the charges.) Indeed Cernovich’s advice on how to choke your partner during sex sounds like an injury waiting to happen.  Cernovich’s belief that ‘defense soap’ on the D is suitable prophylaxis against STIs is similarly risky quackery; as is his claim that “the best condom a man has is the skin on his dick.” (If Cernovich actually used condoms, he’d know that coconut oil, his favorite type of lubricant, degrades the latex and can cause them to tear.) Cernovich’s loony views on masturbation and “super serum” simply belong in another era. 

Although Michael claims to be a self-made man, he trolls more well-known men, drafting off their fame to get attention. He’s likely not a practicing lawyer, nor is he really a nutritionist, pick-up master or fitness instructor. In reality, Cernovich is a Twitter bug with a resume of Potemkin accomplishments – his financial success is more than likely the result of a divorce settlement, just as his fitness is based in steroid use. His tales of sexual conquest are just that, and Michael’s legal career is a similarly trumped-up story with little to no basis in fact. And considering the numerous misrepresentations Cernovich has already made to burnish his image, it’s hard to trust that anything he says isn’t a bluff.

This is why there is no reason anyone should be afraid of Cernovich or his boasts – nor should they really feel sorry for him any longer, as I have at times. Pathetic as Cernovich is, he also makes it his mission to stalk and bully others, either out of a lifetime grudge or because he thinks it will get him attention and clicks.

Cernovich is a Potemkin alpha male whose success in life is as artificially inflated as his testosterone levels. He bullies people more famous than himself in order to obtain what are by his own description modest pageviews and z-grade notoriety, and says extreme things he doesn’t believe so reactionary dregs will consider buying his e-books. And as he presumably whittles away his savings from the proceeds of his ex-wife’s hard-earned IPO windfall, I expect he will only become more desperate for attention and money.

Is the HBB Actually Helping Men, Or Are They Just Helping To Empty Their Pockets?

Honey Badger Brigade: the Most Overpaid Men's Rights Activists in History?

Honey Badger Brigade: For just 90 dollars a month, these women will talk to you on Skype about what a nice guy you are.

It’s no secret that the Honey Badger Brigade (HBB), essentially a ladies’ offshoot of A Voice for Men, has enjoyed more financial success than their parent organization as managed by Paul Elam. Their product, according to the HBB Patreon, is “Radio and Art”, produced by “the voices of several women who don’t blame men.” And evidently, this is worth something, even though you can find tons of videos and broadcasts of antifeminist women ‘not blam[ing] men’ on YouTube for free.

Between the nearly 40,000 dollars raised this spring for a very spurious legal case, the $646 per “radio show” from their Patreon, plus income from their personal Patreon accounts, the HBB has smoked AVFM in terms of cash donations.  They release 23-26 podcasts per month, and request donors “set their monthly max accordingly!” If you multiply the number of shows by the funding they get, it seems the HBB stands to make up to $14,000 per month on the main Patreon; not including each HB’s personal Patreon accounts, or special fundraisers to send the HBs to conventions/ sue conventions they are ejected from.

From there, the money goes into a black box, from which the only result is more Honey Badger podcasts. Unlike most successful crowdfunding efforts, HBB doesn’t make an effort to break down what exactly their costs are. The account is unclear to whom the funds are actually disbursed, or whether anyone is drawing their salary from HBB Radio’s kitty.

Now, I have said the HBB earns “up to” 14k in a month. This is because although the HBB produces a whopping 23-26 podcasts per month, donors have the choice of how many broadcasts they want to pay for. Theoretically, donors could choose to support just a few broadcasts, regardless of how many podcasts the Badgers crank out. Since I’m not privy to their details, I can’t say for certain how many HBB donors are good for the full month, and how many are cheapskates, inflating Patreon’s numbers more than the HBB’s take-home pay. But judging by the HBB’s donor reward scheme, and how many people qualify for these backer rewards, most Patrons support the HBB to at least 25% of the sticker price.

Many of the HBB’s Patron rewards promise contact with the Badgers in some way; but to qualify for these rewards you need to commit to at least 6 shows per month. For example, 7.50$ per show (with a 6-show minimum commitment) earns access to a post-broadcast hangout with lesser Badgers; 15$ per show (x6) earns access to a more exclusive post-broadcast hangout, with the promise that “Karen sightings are very common during these aftershows!” At 25$ per show (x6) fans get a Christmas care package from the Badgers. Pay $50 per show (x6) and you’ll get a present from the Badgers on Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s day. The Honey Badger Milestone Goals are similarly weird and intimate, with promises that “Outtakes of Alison [Tieman] trying to get Karen [Straughan] reading erotica in the voice of Gilbert Gottfrey” or “Karen gets to give Alison a back rub”, along with promises to release increasingly more hours of Honey Badger Radio.

Since each reward stipulates a minimum commitment of six shows per month, these prices are a little deceptive. For instance, if you wanted the chance to talk to Karen Straughan in a post-broadcast hangout (the $15-per-show reward), it would end up costing you a minimum of $90/month for the privilege. And according to the HBB Patreon, six fans have qualified for this reward – which works out to at least $540 a month from those six fans alone. There is at least one guy paying at least $300 per month to the HBB for the Halloween/Christmas/Valentine’s Day present deal, even though it seems like for a minimum of $300 per month, that fan could probably buy themselves a slap-up gift.

In fact, if you tabulate all the fans who have qualified for special rewards (as I have) you’ll notice that the HBB must be pulling in at least $3,000 per month before Patreon takes their cut; assuming every donor who qualified for a reward only covered the minimum 6 podcasts. Judging by how many people qualified for rewards, it seems that most of the 171 fans who donate to the HBB are willing to commit themselves to funding at least six shows (if not more than that) per month.

At the low end, the HBB earns 3,000 per month. But potentially, up to 14k. The fundamental hypocrisy of anti-feminists raising a ton of money on Patreon so they can shit on other women with successful crowdfunding projects isn’t lost on me, especially when your paying fanbase is mostly lonely guys willing to pay $90 per month just to get a chance to talk to Karen Straughan on Skype. More than hypocritical, it’s a little exploitative – and this is from an organization that says they’re “dedicated to bringing awareness to an alternative, science based model of gender dynamics that’s inclusive of both men’s vulnerabilities and women’s agency.”

So which is it, Badgers? Are you trying to help men, or simply empty their pockets while telling them what they want to hear?