Mike Cernovich’s HOAXED exposes mainstream media’s relentless BIAS – but deploys same partisan tricks it says it hates
Michael McCaffrey is a writer and cultural critic who lives in Los Angeles. His work can be read at RT, Counterpunch and at his website mpmacting.com/blog. He is also the host of the popular cinema podcast Looking California and Feeling Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter @MPMActingCo
Hoaxed, the movie about the fake news phenomena in the mainstream media, produced by right-wing firebrand Mike Cernovich, has not generated much heat since it was released nearly a year and a half ago in January of 2019.
The establishment press, the target of the film’s ire, has not responded with the usual tactics of belittling or obliterating the film with scathing reviews…in fact, they haven’t reviewed it at all.
Cernovich believes that the media ignored Hoaxed, directed by Scooter Downey and Jon du Toit, because it is “high art.” I personally would assign more malevolent motives to the media’s maneuvers, because I can assure you that Hoaxed may be a lot of things, but high art is not one of them.
If Hoaxed weren't high art, every media outlet in the country would have done those pieces calling it CRINGE.There's a reason there's no coverage of Hoaxed, no even hate pieces "dunking on it." https://t.co/0Py0IvaUjw— Essential Cernovich (@Cernovich) May 25, 2020
Sadly Hoaxed, despite its compelling theory regarding the corporate media’s nefariousness and disregard for the truth, stumbles in its execution. It’s a rather uneven and scattered polemic, dramatically weakened by its lack of thematic focus.
As a cinematic exercise, the movie is not quite slick enough to generate gravitas, but a little too slick to take seriously.
Hoaxed makes the case that the mainstream media are not meant to inform the masses, but to keep them uninformed and in conflict. As someone who writes often about media manipulation and propaganda, I wholly concur with the film’s thesis.
The problem though is that the movie cannot maintain its focus on that premise alone and ends up wasting too much time wandering down side streets and alleyways, wallowing in its own partisan and ideological bias.
In this way, Hoaxed, which boasts a who’s who of media outsiders such as Jordan Peterson, Alex Jones, Luke Rudkowski and James O’Keefe, often feels like fan service for those already in Cernovich’s camp, which is a shame, as the movie’s message about the mendacity of the media needs to be heard across the political spectrum.
That said, the film definitely has some insightful sequences, most notably those featuring feminist director Cassie Jaye, and Hank Newsom, a Black Lives Matter activist who does not fit easily into stereotypes.
The Newsom sequence comes in the last 20 minutes and makes the extremely compelling case that the corporate media do not care about black lives or white lives, just about “the show” and generating ratings through manufactured conflict.
Other notable sections deal with both the media’s flexible ethics when deciding to use photographs of dead children as propaganda tools, the perils of Antifa and the imperative of free speech, topics I have written about at length.
These sequences are factually damning, and due to their simplicity, elegant in their execution, which should have been the blueprint for the entire film.
Unfortunately, the movie does not stick to that approach, as evidenced by the awkward “Pizzagate” section, which is irritatingly incoherent.
Another stumble comes in the form of a rambling case against communism by Stefan Molyneux. The validity of his arguments aside, conjuring the boogeyman of communism has nothing to do with the topic at the heart of Hoaxed, and thus distracts and dilutes the narrative.
The biggest negative is the conflating of the actions of the mainstream media just with Democrats, instead of simply with the depraved elite of both parties.
At times the film is at cross-purposes with itself, such as when it highlights the media complicity in deceiving the public to support both of the Republican-led Iraq Wars, a fact which flies in the face of the film’s common refrain that the media solely push a liberal/Democratic agenda. I think it would have been wiser, and more accurate, if the film stated that the media are not just cheerleaders for the Democratic agenda, but for the establishment agenda.
Prior to watching Hoaxed I knew little about Cernovich, having never read or watched his work. I believe my ignorance on the controversies surrounding Cernovich was actually an asset as it helped me to simply review Hoaxed, as opposed to reviewing Cernovich.
All I knew going in was Cernovich was considered an alt-right firebrand and provocateur. The film taught me that Cernovich has disavowed that alt-right label, and rejects any white supremacy and neo-Nazism supposedly associated with it, but also that he really is a firebrand and provocateur, and relishes the role.
In my opinion Cernovich’s provocative and self-promoting nature, an example of which is his being both producer and de facto star of Hoaxed, does diminish the film and its thesis to a great degree, even as it elevates him…a problem common to performative and participatory style documentaries.
Ultimately, like the corporate media it rightfully despises, Hoaxed all too often trades fidelity to truth for the glory of its own ego and the familiarity of the partisan swamp, much to its detriment and to my disappointment.
If you really want to break the chains of your mind and exit the cave of media manipulation and propaganda, I recommend you skip Hoaxed, which is just another set of illusory shadows dancing on the wall, in favor of reading Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s seminal work on the subject.
Manufacturing Consent will arm you with intellectual tools that will empower you to crack the code of the corporate media, unlike Hoaxed, which does little more than mimic the media’s dishonest framing and distortions of the truth for its own purposes.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.