Milo Yiannopolous is a clown, and will be the first to gleefully admit it. As the enfant terrible of the anti-political correctness movement sweeping the right wing of American politics, the conservative commentator has attracted both condemnation and admiration for his heavily protested speeches to university campuses as part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour, where he rapturously dismisses the objections of offended students and effusively praises Donald Trump, who he calls “Daddy”, to standing ovations.
His highly publicised banning from the Twitter sphere, after he compelled his supporters to attack Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones on her online social media, has reinvigorated debate regarding free speech, and whether or not social media personalities hold responsibility over the conduct of their followers, regardless of their anonymity.
His association with the fringe “Alt-Right” – an internet-forum based political movement centred on nativism, western chauvinism and stalwart support of the 2016 Trump campaign, has met bitter opposition from both sides of American politics. The internet-based movement has raised concerns that it shields white supremacists under the guise of free speech, trivialises anti-Islam and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and has formed a cult of worship around Donald Trump that fails to recognise the Republican candidates personal foibles, in favour of supporting the spirit of national renewal that Trump has repeatedly promised to deliver.
This analysis will highlight the incensed opposition that has met Milo Yiannopolous from both sides of American politics, showcased through the articles No, Donald Trump Isn’t Your “Daddy”. Grow Up and Trump Just Burned Down Conservatism. The Time To Rebuild Begins Now., by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, and How Out Magazine’s Milo Yiannopoulos Story Missed The Whole Story & Betrayed Readers. The latter is a reactionary piece by the Huffington Post in response to Send In the Clown: Internet Supervillain Milo Doesn’t Care That You Hate Him, a feature profile by prominent LGBTQ magazine Out. The analysis of these articles will not only focus on Yiannopolous, but the Alt-Right movement that he is associated with, although professing to not consider himself a member.
To his opponents, the combination of his outspoken conservatism and overt camp demeanour renders Milo Yiannopolous a baffling figure. Although this would be rarely admitted on public record, the LGBT community is expected by pundits to support and vote for liberal political movements, especially in light of the progressive marriage equality reforms that have swept the global north.
A profile on Yiannopolous run by prominent LGBTQ magazine Out sparked controversy from its dedicated community, when it was accused of being a “puff piece” that ignored the dangerous and divisive aspects of his activism. Labelled in a Huffington Post article as “giddily reverent”, the profile focuses on Yiannopolous’s individual uniqueness, rather than the effect his rhetoric has upon his supporters. While noting that the article featured a figure definitely worth discussing, the author David Michael Conner opined that the sprawling, almost 5,000 word profile called Yiannopolous a “professional mischief maker and provocateur” in an act of “hyperbolic genuflecting” and “saccharine pandering”.
The author argues that Out has completely misread its audience, and has used the fact that Yiannopolous is a queer personality as the only qualifier to publicise the opinions of an otherwise damaging figure to the LGBTQ community. This is in light of allegedly transphobic comments made by Yiannopolous in the past, as well as his outspoken opposition to marriage equality. The author does not attack the article for being incorrect, but incomplete. For example, Conner notes that Out fails to mention the commentator’s own struggles with his homosexuality, such as when he once told Joe Rogan’s podcast “If I could choose, I wouldn’t be homosexual. That doesn’t make me self-loathing”. Conner then uses this train of thought to form an ad hominem argument against Yiannopolous, by inferring that he exaggerates his camp demeanour as an act, writing: “he claims to be gay. In fact, he flaunts it — believably so, as, at the risk of offending readers with stereotyping, Yiannopoulos’s facial expressions, bodily movements and words are saturated in gayness; unless he’s an incredible actor”.
For such a unique readership, the author asserts that the article should have challenged Yiannopolous on this assertion, as Rogan did on the original podcast to open a conversation. To Conner, the article further omits the provocateur’s argument that college rape and violence culture is a myth, labelling this “inexcusable” given the disproportionate violence faced by transgender students on American college campuses.
The author argues that Yiannopolous has made racist comments, but does not city any examples. The author uses an assertion by Yiannopolous that there is no true “rape culture” on American college campuses to then state that he must support decriminalisation of sexual assault. Conner then uses the argument that because Yiannopolous once plagiarised poetry from Tori Amos, a survivor of sexual assault, that he has no grounds on which to discredit the movement for law reform on college campuses. The author’s outrage at the Out profile is well founded, as indeed it does read as a harmless series of interviews with a political oddity, rather than a serious critique of right-wing extremism in American politics. However, the above arguments that Conner uses in an attempt to discredit Yiannopolous are tenuous and uncited at best, and bizarre at worst, exhibited by the Tori Amos example.
The Out profile itself is interesting strictly from the perspective that Yiannopolous is a prominent LGBTQ figure that has played a very public role in the 2016 election, and is therefore a subject that deserves coverage. The LGBTQ community is one of constant evolution, expanding its own acronym in the name of inclusiveness and focusing more heavily on transgender issues in recent years. However, the community has no single fixed agenda, besides the ongoing acceptance of its members within wider society. For this community, the influence Yiannopolous exerts as tech editor of the popular conservative publication Breitbart represents progress, regardless of the individual opinions he vocalises. As Yiannopolous has himself written, gay identity is overt, outspoken and unashamed.
From a technical perspective, the profile refrains from judgement. It documents the backlash that Yiannopolous has faced, but does not vocally support the reactionaries. The article does however lend a voice to figures that he has humiliated, such as civil rights activist Shaun King – who last year was the subject of false rumours, perpetuated by Yiannopolous, that he was Caucasian. “Milo is not a free-speech crusader,” he says in the article. “What he does is consistently ugly. It’s often very bigoted and racist. He almost exclusively attacks people of colo(u)r, people who he somehow has decided are enemies of the things that he believes in. He’s so far removed from the pain that he causes people that he doesn’t even believe that it’s real. He’s just so desperate for attention. It’s like a bad circus act.”
The article includes reservations from Yiannopolous’s own friends, who often regard his activities as excessive and grandstanding. “He is so smart and witty and intelligent,” says Christina Hoff Sommers, a senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. “He could be a model for how to confront the campus puritanical cult—that it’s much more effective to do it with evidence and humour. You don’t need vulgarity and personal assaults. He needs to work on it. If you’re going to be a Joan Rivers, you need to practice. He’s a lovely boy, except he can be deplorable!”
The feature has been met with loud opposition, put by Breitbart to be a “triggered” response – one that would rather supress opinions than confront them. Most of the opposition has come as a result of transphobic comments made by the commentator, such as his opinion that transgender people are “hilarious” and “mentally ill”. The opposition to these comments, besides obvious emotion, stems from the logical basis that the LGBTQ community is largely a united lobby that seeks progress for all its members, and will not tolerate high publicity of one individual at the expense of a portion of itself. The response to the article is representative of the political dimension of the LGBTQ community, where members privilege unity over individual opinions and preferences.
In an email to TheWrap, Out Magazine editor-in-chief Aaron Hicklin said, “Naturally, we anticipated a negative reaction, but I hope readers will recognize that the strength of our profile lies in the diligent way Chadwick Moore interrogates his subject.”
Hicklin continued to say, “In my experience, there is a double standard at play when it comes to LGBT media, since other mainstream outlets such as Bloomberg magazine can write about Milo freely, but LGBT media is too often seen as having an obligation to self-censor subjects/people we don’t like even when they are in the midst of a political movement, as Milo is.”
Opponents of liberalism are often labelled as “old, angry, white, privileged heterosexual men” who draw their conservatism from a misplaced sense of status loss in a cosmopolitan society. To those on the left, the fact that a young, unashamedly gay man of mixed ethnicity should join this monoculture, with its supposedly asinine hatred of minorities, unabashed homophobia and resistance to globalism mixed ethnicity is an affront to pre-conceived assumptions regarding the Right, and can only be desperately read as an example of how easily right-wing extremism can radicalise young men.
The Left occupies its place in politics for its emphasis on plurality, its safe-haven status to embattled minorities and its welcoming stance towards the LGBT community. The fact that Milo Yiannopolous is not tolerated at his conservative speaking engagements, but applauded by “Make America Great Again” hat-wearing steel workers from the rust belt is a direct threat to core leftist sensibilities. He is regarded as something of a supervillain, a mercurial figure who will offer a dignified defence of the Alt-Right on an afternoon CNN timeslot, then bathe naked in pig’s blood at a pro-Trump art show the very same week. He defies categorization within an election cycle that has been divided along stark demographic lines.
For his defence of the Alt-Right, Milo Yiannopolous has attracted opposition from conservative commentators such as Ben Shapiro, who manages The Daily Wire, the most popular conservative website and podcast in America. In his piece entitled No, Donald Trump Isn’t Your “Daddy”. Grow Up, Shapiro labels Yiannopolous as one of the “Trump Children” – a group that has placed a cult of personality around the Republican nominee for the national renewal that he promises to deliver. A blunt speaker who favours an intense adversarial style, Shapiro mocks Yiannopolous’s support for Trump with his argument that the candidate is “closest to a drunken deadbeat father, because like most drunken deadbeat fathers, he cares more about himself than the people who rely on him. … these are the voters who know that Trump lies routinely, that he has a history of betraying promises, that he will likely go off on another policy bender and abandon them for the next political skirt that catches his eye. But like abused children, they long for his loving touch, and they insist with fiery rage that he will come back home eventually”.
Shapiro, a friend of Yiannopolous besides their frequent online tête-à-têtes, has knowledge of his difficult and often abusive childhood, incidentally outlined in the profile by Out. Without resorting to cruelty, Shapiro is drawing a parallel between Yiannopolous’s own past and aspects of the Trump campaign to mount an allegorical psychological appeal to emotion.
Following this, Shapiro writes, “there is no political Allfather, as Trump’s supporters are about to discover. There are just liars who play the part, and Children who follow them.” In this excerpt, Shapiro uses the mythological term “Allfather” to mock the Alt-Right, who are known to co-opt symbols from ancient civilisations to support their claims.
Although considering Yiannopolous a personal friend, Shapiro further targets him in Trump Just Burned Down Conservatism. The Time To Rebuild Begins Now for his blanket support of the Alt-Right.
To Shapiro, the Alternative Right is “a mash-up of nationalism without constitutionalism, vileness masquerading as political correctness, and frustration at the status quo misdirected to support a corrupt insider (Donald Trump)”.
Shapiro, an outspoken conservative, champions a purist’s approach to the political ideology, stressing that conservative tenets cannot be ignored in favour of populism, and that extremism must be stamped out even if it aids the conservative agenda. A seasoned debater, Shapiro finds fault with the language policing that has ironically permeated the “Dangerous Faggot” speaking tour, where students with dissenting opinions are dismissed through repeated chants of “cuck!” or ushered out of the auditorium by Yiannopolous’s fans.
A frequent target for anti-Semitism due to his Jewish faith, Shapiro argues also that Yiannopolous prefers to ignore the extreme aspects of the Alt-Right, in favour of allowing them to sow the seeds of dissent during the 2016 Presidential election. Indeed, members of the Alt-Right have been known to share stereotypical images of rapacious Jews and photographs of Nazi memorabilia to opponents such as Shapiro, and have been defended by figures such as Yiannopolous for simply being provocative. Shapiro expands his definition of the group to label them “an ugly agglomeration of intelligent skinheads, white supremacists, morons who conflate everything vile with political incorrectness, and the odd Hitler fan or two.”
Aside from his vested interest to remove anti-Semitism and other religious vilification from political discourse, Shapiro criticises Yiannopolous as he views the Alt-Right as a morally bankrupt body that prizes electoral success over basic values. As a “Never Trump” proponent, Shapiro is voicing the concerns held by other members of the Republican establishment – that Trump is a RINO – a “Republican in Name Only” that is using the party’s ticket to satisfy his own ambitions, rather than upholding any of the core values that define the GOP. To rally the support of his Republican readership, Shapiro favours appeals to patriotism and idealism.
“Yiannopoulos is right about one thing: the Trump movement rejects conservatism. They don’t care about the Constitution – it’s a passé document that must be discarded in favo(u)r of a Dear Leader who can lead America back to Greatness. They don’t care about the Declaration of Independence – they are an interest group, and they want their payoff.”
Shapiro will continue to hold approval among his supporters, as his arguments are grounded in genuine patriotism and a mission to save the embattled cause of American conservatism. The gravitas of Shapiro’s rhetoric, however, pales in comparison to the jingoism sweeping the Right of American politics, with Milo Yiannopolous at the helm of its Internet wing.
An inveterate clown, Yiannopolous’s mission is not to rebuild the Republican Party, to offer serious policy suggestions or to encourage a serious yet civil debate on issues. Rather, the young firebrand relishes in his opportunity to bring fringe voices to the forefront of political discourse, to combat political correctness on college campuses, and to communicate with supporters via Internet references that are almost undecipherable to older generations of the political establishment. His influence during the 2016 election has been one of division despite intellectuality, due to the emotionally charged atmosphere that has permeated all aspects of the race, leading to its frequent label as the most negative election since the Civil War.
Yiannopolous, among other Libertarians and Conservatives, is of the opinion that the subject matter of a debate is immaterial, so long as a debate is taking place. A free speech advocate with every fibre of his “fabulous” being, Yiannopolous represents an ugly yet important evolution of political discussion – one that ironically embraces liberal postmodernist theory to assert that all voices are important, all issues are worthy of debate. A perennial threat to polite liberal sensibilities, Yiannopolous refuses to ever let us see the last of his smug smirk and Gucci clothes.
And his supporters love him for it.
Maximilian Enthoven, z5017395, FinalAss4-Ping12.00