When events in the real world challenge our preconceived beliefs, most of us experience a sense of cognitive dissonance; the intellectually honest amongst us ultimately adjust our beliefs to account for these inconvenient truths. Others respond by inventing their own realities in which these truths are deemed falsehoods.
Adjusting your beliefs to fit reality can be a challenging task. But those who reinvent reality to fit their preconceptions face their own set of cognitive challenges — particularly when the inconvenient truths keep coming.
Even if you’re a world-class fabulist like Mike Cernovich, who has built his own personal fake news empire pandering, first to Gamergaters and then to Trump fans, by feeding them elaborate falsehoods that reinforced their beliefs. Remember the “Sick Hillary” myth that helped to contribute to her defeat? Cernovich was the primary promoter of that bit of nonsense, and has stuck with it even as an obviously not-on-the-verge-of-death Hillary has reappeared on the political scene.
But pimping fake reality ain’t always easy. Consider the mental gymnastics Cernovich has gone through this week in attempting to explain away events in Syria.
He began his mental gymnastics routine after news broke that Syrian dictator Assad had launched a gas attack on his own people. Cerno started by retweeting several “skeptics” who insinuated that the attacks were “fishy” if not an outright “hoax.”
He then picked up the “hoax” charge himself, blaming the attack on “deep state agents” possibly in league with ISIS, and energetically promoting the #SyriaHoax hashtage that had originated in Russia.
One of the sources of Cerno’s new belief?
Noted geopolitical analyst Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams.
Cerno faced his next instance of cognitive dissonance when his beloved Donald Trump launched a real airstrike in response to the allegedly fake attack. Cerno could only conclude that the otherwise darn near perfect president has a “soft spot” for children — ignoring Trump’s unwillingness to allow Syrian refugees, including children, to enter the US.
How exactly anyone other than Assad could have used an airfield controlled by Assad’s forces to launch this “fake” attack is not exactly clear.
When people began raising questions about possible Russian involvement in the gas attacks — hardly an outrageous line of inquiry given that Russia is allied with Assad — Cerno cried “false flag.”
While many on the Alt-Right have abandoned Trump in the wake of the Syria attack, Cerno remains a supporter, apparently convinced that Trump is a well-meaning dupe of ISIS and the “deep space” whose only crime is his excessive love of children, even Syrian ones.
Or maybe it’s all the fault of United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and her, ahem, “globalist” pals?
Damn those “globalists” forcing him to appoint Haley!
Cerno somehow managed to also blame “babies and betas” for, well, I’m not exactly sure what.
Meanwhile he continued to absolve Assad for his crimes.
He demanded answers from his critics:
But when his critics tried to challenge his bizarre assertions with facts, he simply refused to listen. (Cerno is in blue in the exchange below.)
Meanwhile, he continued to hope that Trump had some incredibly complicated secret plan that would make the Syria strike a brilliant strategic move rather than a “mistake.”
In a post on Medium, Cerno laid out the most persuasive defense he could come up with for his “hoax” claim — and it turned out to be a formally recognized logical fallacy, the “argument from incredulity.”
In what world does Assad, who is 51, make the most catastrophic mistake of his life by bombing children with poison gas? Even in prison, those who murder children are killed. Harming children isn’t merely the act of a maniac. It’s a level of deprativity even violent criminals will not countenance.
Consider the following meeting occurs. Assad is at his table, surrounded by his generals and most trusted advisers. He has finally defeated ISIS. Syria is stable. The U.S. is considering a major aid package. As he smiles with pride, a general speaks up… “Imma let you finish, but first I have to say that we need to gas children with poison gas.”
If you’re laughing, good. You should. It’s absurd to believe Assad would gas children.
Never mind that Assad is fighting a civil war (or rather a number of civil wars) against an assortment of enemies on Syrian soil, so that any civilian killed in attacks by his troops will by definition be “his own people.” Never mind that Assad has been using chemical weapons and committing other atrocities for years.
And never mind that there does indeed seem to be a “grim logic” to his seemingly inexplicable targeting of civilians, as the New York Times has explained:
For years, at least since it began shelling neighborhoods with artillery in 2012, then bombing them from helicopters and later from jets, the Syrian government has adopted a policy of seeking total victory by making life as miserable as possible for anyone living in areas outside its control.
Government forces have been herding defeated opponents from across the country into Idlib Province, where the chemical attack occurred. Starved and bombed out of their enclaves, they are bused under lopsided surrender deals to the province, where Qaeda-linked groups maintain a presence the Syrian military uses as an excuse to bomb without regard for the safety of civilians. …
Dr. Monzer Khalil, Idlib Province’s health director, said such extreme tactics aimed to demonstrate the government’s impunity and to demoralize its foes.
“It makes us feel that we are defeated,” said Dr. Khalil, whose gums bled after he was exposed to scores of chemical victims on Tuesday.
Cernovich wonders what kind of depraved monster would do this to his own people? The answer is simple: A depraved monster like Assad, who has been doing just this for years.
Cernovich, of course, refuses to even consider such inconvenient truths, which he could have discovered with a single Google search for “assad bomb civilians.” But why would he? His fame and influence is built on his ability to deny reality, selling convenient falsehoods to those who care more about pushing a compelling narrative than they do about telling the truth.