A fight between a prominent alt-right personality and an internet comedian took a dangerous turn this weekend, when a far-right figurehead baselessly accused another political rival of pedophilia, echoing the nastier aspects of the Pizzagate witch hunt—but focused on one person.
Humorist Vic Berger has become the target of threats and harassment incited by alt-right Twitter ringleader and pick up artist Mike Cernovich, who repeatedly accused the comedian of pedophilia and threatened to call child protective services after some of Berger’s fans directed insults at Cernovich on Twitter. Cernovich could provide no evidence that Berger is a pedophile.
Berger is a producer and humorist at Super Deluxe whose absurdist election videos earned him profiles in Wired and The New Yorker over the past several months. Weeks ago, Berger posted a video of Cernovich into which he’d inserted requisite funny sound effects. In the weeks following the video’s release, Cernovich and Berger insulted each other on Twitter without real-world consequence.
Last week, Cernovich, who recently posted a photo of himself with his newborn daughter, received messages on Twitter from two accounts who made what he calls “pedophilia jokes” directed at his baby.
Realizing the two Twitter users that had sent him the messages were two of Berger’s 33,200 followers—and that he had interacted with them briefly on Twitter a few times in the past—Cernovich made the leap that Berger was potentially at the center of massive online pedophile ring, posting three videos implying it should be investigated, and tweeting multiple times about Berger’s “pedophile friends.”
"Wow. The guy who pals around on Twitter with pedos allegedly has kids. If true I may have to call Child Protection Services,” said Cernovich.
The posts are startlingly similar to the “Pizzagate” accusations that Cernovich helped push, where political rivals of the alt-right were accused of a wide scale pedophile operation involving tunnels, a Washington D.C. pizza shop, and far-fetched secret code words where common words for pizza were viewed as stand-ins for child sex trafficking terminology.
The posts have resulted in Berger being sent numerous threats, with some saying he’s going to get what he deserves.
“I know that many threats are just assholes online, but after Pizzagate—which Mike pushes, of course—and the guy shooting inside the pizza place last week, I'm nervous to not take anything seriously,” Berger told The Daily Beast.
Two weeks ago, Edgar M. Welch entered Washington D.C.’s Comet Pizza with a gun, demanding to see the child sex tunnels in the basement of the pizzeria that did not exist, claiming he wanted to save “the lives of a few for the lives of many.” Cernovich has bragged about his part in the spread of the Pizzagate conspiracy, including a November 21 tweet saying “#Pizzagate is worldwide” after the term trended on Twitter.
Berger said Cernovich tweeted “at least twenty times about me on Wednesday night and Thursday morning” before deleting many of the posts.
“I reported some of the tweets before he deleted them and Twitter only responded once saying it didn't violate their terms of service. He started tweeting at (comedian) Michael Ian Black, too, about me, and some other people,” said Beger. “(He was) just really trying to smear me.”
Berger said the account that direct-messaged Cernovich is a fan—and no one he knows or has met, he said.
“Cernovich shows like 5 tweets of me responding to this guy over the years as if that's proof he is my best friend. Oh, and on the Periscope, he said my followers call themselves ‘Vic's Boys’ or something like that. Like that's what the name of my child sex ring is,” said Berger.
Cernovich has a different view of the situation.
“For weeks Vic told his followers to message me, and some of his followers sent me the most revolting pictures. He has to take ownership of what his followers do when he tells them to message me,” he said via direct message.
“Vic misrepresented what I said. I never said he was a pedophile. I said he's palling around with and associating with them. He pals around with pedophiles - his own followers. You can see he has interacted with them on Twitter. Why does Vic associate with that? Why didn't Vic apologize when the very same people he told to message me sent me that stuff?”
Berger disputes the charge that Cernovich didn't call him a pedophile and said he plans to sue.
"He knew exactly what he was doing. I saw that he backtracked last night and said he 'was very careful not to call me a pedophile. He never called me a pedophile.' True! He called me the leader of a pedophile ring," said Berger. That's even worse. And he encouraged his followers to come after me."
When asked if he thought he should also be held responsible for everything his own nearly 200,000 followers do, Cernovich—who helped propagate the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which led an armed man to enter a Washington D.C. pizza shop and begin firing two weeks ago—said his followers are smarter.
“They would not jump to wrong conclusions,” he said. “That’s why I am careful with my words.”
Reading through the responses to Berger’s recent tweets, it’s not hard to see that they are doing exactly that.
Cernovich tweeted this at his followers last month:
“Life tip, @VicBergerIV, When you have to tell people you're not a child molestor, you've gone wrong in life. Please get help.”
Cernovich said he reached out to Berger and tried to get the whole thing to end, but he did not respond. Berger told The Daily Beast that Cernovich emailed him with follow up questions on his fictional child sex ring as he’s investigating it.
“Of course I trolled him months ago now and then with stuff that was funny, and he even says (on) Periscope it didn't bother him,” Berger told me. “So then why the hell would he do this? This is on another level.”
Many of the tweets posted by Cernovich and his videos have been taken down, but in a video compilation of Cernovich’s accusations created by Berger, Cernovich’s intent is clear.
“;I am not a child molester’ - @VicBergerIV,” Cernovich tweeted. “The viner doth protest too much, methinks.”
When asked if he believes it’s fair to accuse any critic of pedophilia because of off-color jokes and insults made by his fans, Cernovich denied any wrongdoing.
“I emailed Vic asking him if he regretted what his followers sent,” he said. “He did not reply to me, apologize, or ever disavow what his followers said. He is in the wrong here and I look forward to talking to the police about this.”
Berger, however, believes he is just one of many people whose real lives have been affected by Cernovich's baseless pedophilia accusation campaigns on Twitter.
"I want people to know he has a very long history of smearing and people as pedophiles, constantly libeling people. He creates a fake controversy and pretends to be outraged and offended by it—and then uses that to smear someone he doesn't like. His false outrage is used to manipulate and rally his followers online to attack that person," said Berger.
"He has some weird hangup with pedophilia. Why does he always resort to calling people pedophiles?"
Berger said he's reported Cernovich, who has an account that's been manually verified by Twitter, to the social network, but was informed that the harassment campaign does not violate its terms of service.
"Twitter needs to ban this guy and stop giving him a platform to smear people he doesn't like because there can be real world co sequences," said Berger. "Why won't they act?"