I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2017
But the most devoted members of the Trump-supporting Internet were less surprised. Because at 3:29 p.m., Mike Cernovich tweeted this:
In a Periscope broadcast from a local mall, Cernovich took credit for scooping the mainstream media on the story. “Yet again, my journalism is confirmed,” he said. “How many more big stories do I gotta break before they quit throwing shade at Mike Cernovich?”
But Cernovich has previously gotten a high-profile scoop from a White House-connected source. In April, he first reported that former national security adviser Susan E. Rice had requested information on Americans connected to the Trump campaign who were mentioned in foreign surveillance intelligence reports, news that many conservatives and Trump supporters treated as a huge “smoking gun” story (a characterization that, my colleagues explained, isn’t quite right). In any case, that story prompted one of Trump’s sons to say that Cernovich should win a Pulitzer:
Whenever a Trump Internet personality like Cernovich appears to scoop the mainstream press, there’s an immediate, jarring juxtaposition that follows. Yes, Cernovich accurately tweeted that Priebus was out just before it was officially announced, and ahead of any mainstream reports about that particular development. He has also helped publicize the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which has absolutely no basis in actual facts. This matters a great deal to understanding Cernovich’s world, but it doesn’t really hurt Cernovich with his core followers: Cernovich regularly inverts any mainstream questions about his reliability into proof for his primary audience that he must be on to something. If mainstream reporters are trying to question his credibility, the logic goes, it must be because they’re scared of the competition.
And that’s exactly what Alex Jones said in a Facebook video posted shortly after Trump’s announcement. Infowars is also claiming a partial scoop on the Preibus exit, something they were writing about days ago:
“Imagine how pissed the fake media is … that Infowars has our direct lines right into the White House,” Jones said in the Facebook video. Jones, along with Cernovich, also appears to agree with the new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who accused Priebus of being the primary White House leaker to the mainstream press in a vulgar interview with the New Yorker earlier this week. So for them, the Priebus news is a double victory, because they believe the mainstream media has also lost a source, and they haven’t.
It doesn’t matter to their audience whether that’s true or not: humiliating the mainstream media is now basically a right-wing meme; pro-Trump journalism is often as much about the actual subject being reported as it is why they believe the mainstream media is wrong or lying about it. Any perceived win against mainstream outlets is cause for celebration.
As we’ve written before, people like to talk about the Trump Internet as if it’s playing six-dimensional chess against the entire establishment, but the thing that works for them in moments like this is likely a lot simpler: Jones and Cernovich are particularly good at volume. They are constantly producing content — on YouTube, on Twitter, on Periscope, or on their own websites.
Many of their prophecies don’t come true. When something turns out to be right, as it did Friday, it helps them to tell the story of victory that they are constantly in the pursuit of constructing, for themselves and for the movement that they believe Trump has come to represent.