Milo Yiannopoulos has done enough over the last few years for anyone to question whether he’s an actual conservative or just a calculated cultural troll. His remarks this week, in which he endorsed the shooting of journalists, proved that whatever the answer to that question is, no one should claim the label of conservative and still support the former Breitbart writer and editor.
According to reports that the author and provocateur doesn’t deny, Yiannopoulos had responded to a journalist from the New York Observer by saying that “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.”
The response had been made privately via text message and as part of a request for comment “in response to a longer feature in development about an Upper East Side restaurant he is said to frequent.”
However, Yiannopoulos has refused to apologize for his remarks after they were re-examined in the wake of a shooting at an Annapolis, Maryland newsroom that left four journalists and one staff member dead.
“You’re about to see a raft of news stories claiming that I am responsible for inspiring the deaths of journalists,” Yiannopoulos wrote, according to the U.K. Independent. “The bodies are barely cold and left-wing journalists are already exploiting these deaths to score political points against me. It’s disgusting. I regret nothing I said, though of course like any normal person I am saddened to hear of needless death.
“The truth, as always, is the opposite of what the media tells you. I sent a troll about ‘vigilante death squads’ as a *private* response to a few hostile journalists who were asking me for comment, basically as a way of saying, ‘f*** off.'”
While linking his text to the Maryland shooting is indeed poor journalism, his remarks were still a stomach-churning, prima facie threat — and certainly not “a way of saying, ‘f*** off.’” There’s no other way to describe telling someone you “can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight” than as a threat, at least when the someone you’re telling it to is a journalist. Milo also didn’t help himself out by offering only the boilerplate statement that “of course like any normal person I am saddened to hear of needless death” by way of apology.
Then again, Milo has never been one to help himself out when these sorts of self-inflicted controversies arise. And that seems to be the whole point.
What, exactly, has Milo contributed to our national discussion in terms of politics? He’s openly admitted that the intricacies of actual public policy — jobs, taxes, legal freedom — mostly bores him. What doesn’t bore him is treating his political platform like an obscene, unsupervised 14-year-old treats Xbox Live. Over the past few years, he has become progressively less bored.
His one overarching point is that Western society is too politically correct. This is indeed true, but how he proposes to change this via thoughtless one-liners involving the deaths of journalists, the literal metastatic malignancy of feminism and how pedophilia really isn’t all that bad has not (and cannot) be properly explicated. At the beginning, too many conservatives excused these statements as provocative wit thrown in as an appetizer to his other points about our political discourse. Over time, they’ve become the only item on Yiannopoulos’ menu, and he’s ceased offering anything else of substantive value.
When Yiannopoulos has waded into actual politics — and not just his “lol can’t you take a joke?” schtick — the results have been appallingly bad. During the 2016 election cycle, he co-wrote (or at least farmed out) “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” for Breitbart. That apologia admitted that the “media empire of the modern-day alternative right coalesced around Richard Spencer” when Spencer wasn’t so well-known as a fascist-coiffed waste of carbon molecules. (Video later emerged of Milo singing “America the Beautiful” to Spencer and a group of fellow degenerates at a Dallas karaoke bar in April of 2016 as they gave him a Nazi salute. Yiannopoulos has claimed his “severe myopia” prevented him from seeing the salutes. Even if you believe that Mr. Yiannopoulos has somehow been unable to avail himself of contact lenses in either this country or his native England, how it prevented him from seeing Spencer himself is anyone’s guess.)
The quasi-manifesto also enthusiastically quoted tribalist nutter Jack Donovan when it came to economics: “It’s tragic to think that heroic man’s great destiny is to become economic man, that men will be reduced to craven creatures who crawl across the globe competing for money, who spend their nights dreaming up new ways to swindle each other. That’s the path we’re on now.”
In other words, the article didn’t read like conservatism, but instead a Vox writer’s crude stereotype of it. On most issues, it was appallingly liberal in its collectivist, identitarian bent. As it turns out, Yiannapoulos didn’t even come up with this slice of idiocy on his own — which somehow managed to make it worse. A leak of his emails obtained by BuzzFeed revealed that much of the article had been, as I previously mentioned, farmed out to a cadre of fringe figures. Among those consulted included the man (I use that term in the loosest sense) behind the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer and another alt-right “philosopher” who believes “that Enlightenment democracy has failed and that a return to feudalism and authoritarian rule is in order,” betwixt other intellectual heavyweights.
Yiannopoulos has passed the article off as simply a journalist’s objective “guide” to the alt-right movement. His self-justification may have flown in March of 2016, when the article was published. That excuse now has all the airworthiness of a lead balloon.
If Yiannopoulos wanted to be a spokesman for the conservative movement, he was certainly charismatic and intelligent enough to become one. That’s not what he wanted. What he wanted, like the liberals who so enthusiastically ravaged property wherever he spoke, was to throw firebombs into our political discourse, offering incendiary rhetoric in place of thoughtful analysis. Now, he feels himself free to offer this without any substance whatsoever — a kind of hyperviolent cultural candy bar without nutritive value.
Whether this was originally his plan or whether his ego, arrogance and personal sickness corrupted him is irrelevant. He has proved himself too lazy to attempt anything else. There’s no way anyone can consider him a legitimate voice for the right when he doesn’t care about anything but “breaking taboos and laughing at things that people tell me are forbidden to joke about,” as he put it to BuzzFeed.
The true tragedy for Milo’s career may be that he chose to cloak this all this sick piffle in the guise of conservatism. If he had gone with liberalism, they could have very well put him into office. Indeed, his most recent comments are nothing more than a more mephitic, less-civilized version of what Maxine Waters was proposing to do to the Trump administration just last weekend — and she admitted she was perfectly serious about it.
Instead, Milo joins a dust-heap of demagogues driven from anywhere near the vicinity the conservative movement. He’s revealed himself as little more than Morton Downey Jr. for the social media era, a shock artist who has discovered that an addiction to breaking taboos, without any moral or philosophical underpinnings behind that taboo-breaking, requires greater and greater doses of obscenity to sate the beast.
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