Monday, February 27, 2017

WEEP NOT FOR MILO

“Glibness and superficial charm. Manipulation of others. A grandiose sense of self. Pathological lying. A lack of remorse, shame or guilt. Shallow emotions. An incapacity to feel genuine love. A need for stimulation. Frequent verbal outbursts. Poor behavioural controls. These are just some of the things that social media are encouraging in all of us. They’re also a pretty comprehensive diagnostic checklist for sociopathy – in fact, that’s where I got the list.”
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Under protest and against my better judgment, I suppose I should write a few words about Milo Yiannopolous and his catastrophic disaster of a week. Under protest, because the full Milo saga is so twisted and byzantine it defies attempts at chronological narrative presentation. Against my better judgment, because as a non-invested observer who thinks Milo and his antics are a pox on our culture--not a serious pox like smallpox mind you, more like chickenpox: irritating, ugly, and in rare cases dangerous--I'm probably not the best person to be writing his story. 

I'm also not too keen on having to deal with Milo's fans trying to White Knight for him by exercising their l33t trolling skills against me and my paltry little hobby blog, the way I've seen them do to others, especially on Youtube, where defending Milo has become a sort of click-bait cottage industry. Anyway, hesitation aside, I guess I do have a couple things I want to say about this controversy that I haven't seen anyone else say yet, so there's nothing I can do but press on.

First things first, for you lucky few who have yet to run across Milo in your online meanderings, USA Today has a decent bio, whereas a more in-depth (and judgmental) primer can be found in James Kirchick’s excellent overview for Tablet Magazine, titled “Donald Trump’s Little Boy is a Gay Half-Jew with Jungle Fever”.  Published in June of 2016, the first two paragraphs provide an accurate and fairly definitive snapshot of Milo's carefully groomed public persona, as well as some insight into his political leanings, insofar as these bear assessing:
Milo Yiannopoulos is a fervent supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Referring to Trump as “Daddy,” the ostentatiously gay British media personality provides a camp component to the presumptive Republican nominee’s fan base. What seems to excite Yiannopoulos about Trump is what seems to excite most of the tycoon’s voters: a brash, take-no-prisoners attitude. When I recently asked Yiannopoulos to name the Trump policies he favors, he replied with a very revealing answer. Trump supporters don’t care about the man’s policies, he said. “They want to burn everything down.” Suddenly Yiannopoulos’ Twitter handle, @Nero (followed by more than 200,000 Twitter users), made all the more sense. 
Simultaneously vacuous and sinister, equal parts nihilist and narcissist, Yiannopoulos is the model Trump advocate. And as Trump comes under increasing scrutiny, Yiannopoulos, who writes for Breitbart.com, has gone to great lengths defending the worst elements of his campaign. Shortly after our encounter, which took place this March over brunch in Washington, Yiannopoulos published a long article championing the “alt right,” the largely Internet-based, populist movement that has surged to prominence on the heels of Trump’s success. Among its various constituencies, the alt right is comprised of mens’ rights advocates, pseudo-intellectual “race realists,” technocratic authoritarians... and outright neo-Nazis. Speaking of the movement’s “intellectuals,” the bulk of whom write for avowedly racist and anti-Semitic publications like VDARE and American Renaissance, Yiannopoulos and his co-author described them as “dangerously bright.”
At this point, just over half a year after this article was published, some updates are required. First, and most famously, Milo had his Twitter account permanently revoked after starting an online fight with Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the much-maligned all-female Ghostbusters reboot. Secondly, he no longer works at Breitbart. 

Which is where things get complicated.

You see, the reason for Milo's very bad week is because of some things he said during two lengthy online interviews: a Joe Rogan Podcast from July of 2016, and a Drunken Peasants Livestream from roughly the same time period. 

During both appearances, sandwiched between his boilerplate "fabulous supervillain" shtick--including rampant misogyny, belittling of rape, anti-trans rhetoric, gay self-loathing, elitist classism, anti-Muslim bigotry, racist fetishization of the Black male body, evangelical Catholicism (yes, really), Trump apologetics, and countless other grotesqueries--he slipped in a defense of sex between grown men and young adolescent boys, saying it was no big deal, and that it could even have a salutary effect on the youth.

Barely anyone noticed. Even fewer cared. Months passed without incident.

Then, on Thursday, February 17, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which first reported the news, Milo was announced as the keynote speaker for 2017's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), perhaps the most important "marquee" cultural event in the entire American conservative social calendar. His address was going to focus on his "experiences in America battling feminists, Black Lives Matter, the media, professors and the entertainment industry."

The next day, a cadre of anti-Trump conservatives known on Twitter as the Reagan Battalion were made aware of a short Youtube video featuring select portions excerpted from the videos mentioned above, highlighting Milo's questionable comments about how the "notion of consent" is "arbitrary and oppressive", how grown men having sex with 13-year-old boys does NOT count as pedophilia because the latter have fully functioning genitals, and how he's grateful to "Father Mike" for teaching him how to give great head.

The video had already been viewed thousands of times, but when the Reagan Battalion tweeted about it, asking whether it was acceptable for a self-described "conservative" institution like CPAC to be associating themselves with the likes of Milo... all Hell broke loose. 

In short order, Milo was disinvited from CPAC. He took to Facebook to defend himself, claiming that the video had been deceptively edited to put him in a bad light. Then his quarter million dollar book deal with Simon & Schuster fell through. Back at Facebook, Milo's updates took on a tone of barely contained panic. “I do not support pedophilia. Period,” he wrote. “It is a vile and disgusting crime, perhaps the very worst. There are selectively edited videos doing the rounds, as part of a coordinated effort to discredit me from establishment Republicans, that suggest I am soft on the subject.”

Unfortunately for Milo, it was all too easy to check for oneself and discover that his words were not only not "selectively edited", but that they were even worse in context. That's around the time a number of employees at the alt.right propaganda organ Breitbart--where Milo enjoyed celebrity status as the site's Chief Tech Editor, despite his "reporting" mostly consisting of his "Dangerous Faggot College Tour" appearance transcripts--were threatening to quit en masse if he wasn't fired. 

72 hours after the storm began, Milo held a press conference in which he apologized (but not really), tried (and mostly failed) to defend himself against... um... himself, and "resigned" from Breitbart. Kind of like how Michael Flynn "resigned" from the White House. 

While all this was going on--and please forgive this digression--one of the most entertaining sideshows involved watching how this right-wing super-troll and his far right fan-base reacted in real time to his being exposed by conservative activists, leading to his being dis-invited from a right-wing convention and fired from his job at an alt.right website. 

This image sums it up quite succinctly:


Yes! That's right! They blamed it all on that viscerally despised boogeyman, those loony left socialist MSM Democrat beta SJW cuck LIBERALS! 

Even more hilariously unhinged was the sprawling conspiracy theory concocted by goofy, lisping alt.right weirdo (and serial false pedophilia accuser) Mike "Gorilla Mindset" Cernovich, who lays out his insider knowledge of the insidious, multi-million dollar, years-in-the-brewing, anti-Milo plot in this magnificently cringe-inducing Youtube video:


It's sort of amusing, in a way, watching two leading PizzaGate promoters--who based much of their idiot claims of a Satanic child sex-and-ritual-sacrifice trafficking ring on the fact that billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was known to have slept with teenage girls--passionately defend Milo's assertion that adults who are attracted to 13-year-old boys aren't "technically" pedophiles. They truly, literally know no shame.

Okay, fun time is over. Now let's get back to that press conference, which is very much worth watching in its entirety:


It's one for the ages, isn't it? At turns self-pitying, self-loathing, and self-promoting, Milo expresses delusions of grandeur and persecution, all while putting on a clinic of pitiful whining prevarication, as the whole thing soaks in the flop sweat of rank hypocrisy.

I could literally go line by line through his statement and, at each line, point out where Milo was lying, or being hypocritical, or being insufferable. For now, however, I will spare you that tedium. This blog post is already too long. Suffice it to say that the irony of Milo petulantly demanding that his words be given the kind of nuanced, sympathetic parsing, and that he be granted a level of compassion, empathy, and basic human decency that he has continuously proven unwilling to grant to anyone he deems--by dint of ideology, identity, and sometimes just ethnicity--to be somehow lesser than... well, it's rich enough to give an Iron Man Triathlete instant diabetes.

Unfortunately, irony isn’t merely another factor in this debacle; it’s the prevailing paradigm. Because it's ultimately irrelevant whether or not Milo was a victim of predatory pederasts. The same could be said of the vast majority of pedophiles currently stalking playgrounds, or rotting in jail cells. The nature of evil is that it conducts through flesh, down through generations, like electricity through wires. A victim becomes a villain who creates new victims, who in their turn become new villains.

These cycles are difficult to shake. It's why it's important to have compassion. It's also why it's important that our compassion have limits. And it's why Milo’s so-called apology is so obviously bogus. Because it’s totally in keeping with his previous, "shitlord" behavior. There's no contrition there. Shame? A little bit, perhaps discernible in his downcast gaze. Embarrassment? Maybe that's what all that bobbing and weaving was about. Annoyance? Oh yes. A ton. But otherwise, he's got nothing to give but justifications and rationalizations, with a ready-made excuse for everything. 

Consider the bolts in Milo's traditional quiver of rhetoric:

“I can say homosexuals and transexuals are defective, broken perverts because I’m a gay man!”
“I can make up crazy, hateful shit about Black Lives Matter because I love slurping on black dong!”
“I can say Jews are the root cause of civilization’s decay because my mum’s got a Jewish grandmother!”

Now, post #MiloGate, the game has changed somewhat. Originally, he felt fully entitled to gleefully declare: “It’s okay for 13-year-olds to have sex with adults because I had sex with adults when I was 13 years old, and it didn’t do me any harm!” 

Post-scandal, however, he has to declare: “I can say that it’s okay for 13-year-olds to have sex with adults, and also claim that I don’t really mean it, because I’m a victim of pedophilia, and HOW DARE YOU try to police how I navigate my trauma?!”

It gets worse. 

In defending himself and donning the mantle of victimhood, Milo has the temerity to bring up, as a point in his favor, the relentless mass harassment campaign he helped to wage against prominent GamerGate critic Sarah Nyberg. First he mis-genders Nyberg, who is trans, before going on to list her as one of the three “pedophiles” he's “outed” in his “journalistic” career. 

I urge everyone--including those of you who think you know the full story behind all this--to read Nyberg’s account of what Milo and his troll army put her through, just because she voiced an opinion that ran counter to theirs, putting a torch to the delusion that the alt.right has anything whatsoever to do with "free speech". As you read Nyberg's account, keep in mind that, in his "apology", Milo was using this as an example of the good that he's done in the world.

The irony here is that even her fiercest critics tacitly acknowledge Nyberg’s youth was steeped in real trauma, even if only because they use the details of that trauma to viciously troll, humiliate, and harass her. And yet, despite this, every indication points to her worst transgressions being confined to an online fantasy world of role play. Milo's self-confessed antics--which include attending parties where underage “twinks” serviced sugar daddies while he looked on, presumably laughing and snorting fat rails of cocaine all the while--are an order of magnitude worse.

As for the notion that being gay automatically precludes you from being a fascist, a Nazi, or a sympathizer/enabler of those ideologies, that's a dangerous and naive delusion. In this age of #Pizzagate and "OMGIlluminati!!!" panic over every Super Bowl halftime show, it’s easy to forget that there is a long tradition of masculinist gay fascism, and that a sadistic contempt for sexual consent, regardless of gender, has largely been a phenomenon of the political right, to which the endless stream of Republican and conservative Christian sex criminals attests.

There are so many people in this world more deserving of our sympathy, our empathy, and our assistance than Milo Yiannopoulos. If he had shown one ounce of contrition--just a smidgen--I would be far more sympathetic. But he hasn't even begun to atone, to make things right with all the people he's attacked so viciously over the years. 

Milo is going to have to earn his healing. I have a feeling a "fearless moral inventory" lies somewhere in his near future. Will he be up to the task? He's off to an awfully bad start, so personally, I doubt it. Odds are he'll fake his way through and, in time, fool just enough people to win back his crown as the Right's favorite "dangerous faggot" (patpend). 

But who knows? Allow me to be more generous to Milo than he has ever been to any of the targets of his hateful bloodsport rhetoric by admitting there's a tiny, microscopic ghost of a chance that he may end up surprising us all. 

But I won't be holding my breath.

***

At the beginning of this blog post is an unsigned epigram. It is the first paragraph of an essay entitled "The Internet is Turning Us All into Sociopaths", written in 2012... by Milo Yiannopoulos. I leave you now with the last part of that same essay:
"So perhaps what’s needed now is a bolder form of censure after all, because the internet is not a universal human right. If people cannot be trusted to treat one another with respect, dignity and consideration, perhaps they deserve to have their online freedoms curtailed. For sure, the best we could ever hope for is a smattering of unpopular show trials. But if the internet, ubiquitous as it now is, proves too dangerous in the hands of the psychologically fragile, perhaps access to it ought to be restricted. We ban drunks from driving because they’re a danger to others. Isn’t it time we did the same to trolls?"

2 comments:

  1. I've been paying more attention to talk radio (long story; USB malfunction in the car) lately and, as you would probably guess, it's mostly dystopian fantasy where a vaguely conservative Christian segment of the population is under constant attack from evil forces. With Trump, however, they seem to feel they have the upper hand.

    Milo came up the other day and I had to listen to an alleged representative of CPAC whining how difficult his decision was to ban Milo from the conference. It all came down to the pedophilia thing, but the organizers clearly still wanted the mysogyny, fascism, xenophobia, and all those other nasties that Milo carries around with him.

    Anyway, thanks for an excellent comprehensive post. Next Internet stop is Info Wars to see what kind of crap they're manufacturing these days. Toodles!

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    1. HA! Thanks, Anon! I appreciate your kind words and your report on US talk radio. Can you believe it's actually kind of the same in Canada? What is it about the medium of radio and creepy right wing asshats thriving there?

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