Milo and POTUS

The Saturday Paper - - Letters & Editorial -

It was al­ways a ques­tion of when. That is the way with a poseur: the act can never be sus­tained, not for­ever.

The in­evitable col­lapse of Milo Yiannopou­los’s ca­reer is the be­gin­ning, it can be hoped, of a larger col­lapse in the ill-formed move­ment of which he was a fig­ure­head. His pub­lic dis­in­te­gra­tion stems from the truth that binds him to the alt-right: that he is fun­da­men­tally un­se­ri­ous, and so are they.

Yiannopou­los lost a $250,000 book con­tract and his job as an edi­tor at the ex­trem­ist web­site Bre­it­bart af­ter a live-streamed con­ver­sa­tion from last year sur­faced this week, show­ing him con­don­ing pae­dophilia. He de­scribed sex with mi­nors as “com­ing-of-age re­la­tion­ship … in which those older men help those younger boys dis­cover who they are.”

He later apol­o­gised in a self-ag­gran­dis­ing press con­fer­ence. “I’ve never apol­o­gised for any­thing else be­fore,” he said. “I don’t an­tic­i­pate do­ing it again.”

Yiannopou­los is the cross­over star from the in­ter­net’s ugly fringe. The South­ern Poverty Law Cen­tre called him “the per­son who pro­pelled the alt-right move­ment into the main­stream”.

Yiannopou­los came to promi­nence in an in­ter­net move­ment that tar­geted and ha­rassed women in­volved in on­line gam­ing. His are the pol­i­tics of op­por­tunism. He took the lessons of “gamer­gate” and teased them into a per­sona of vi­cious cun­ning.

But there was never any real sub­stance to him. Like the alt-right he rep­re­sented, there was no next: there was only the de­sire to de­stroy the now. He could re­cant his views be­cause they had no depth, no un­der­pin­ning. The same is true of Don­ald Trump.

The Bri­tish writer Lau­rie Penny of­fered this de­scrip­tion, af­ter at­tend­ing a party with Yiannopou­los at the Re­pub­li­can con­ven­tion: “It’s the game of turn­ing raw rage into po­lit­i­cal cur­rency, the un­scrupu­lous whore­bag­gery of the troll gone pro. These are peo­ple who cashed in their lim­ited prin­ci­ples to cheat at poker. Milo is the best player here.”

Po­lit­i­cal move­ments re­quire philoso­phies. Their lead­ers earn that dis­tinc­tion by the think­ing they have done. The alt-right has no such lead­ers. In­stead, they had Yiannopou­los – a mes­sage board char­la­tan, bleached the colour of In­sta­gram and dressed in his Aunt Pam’s pearls.

Yiannopou­los is a bigot, a hate­ful clown. His one skill is pub­lic­ity, which his sup­port­ers mis­take for in­sight. Even as he at­tempted con­tri­tion this week, he could not help but men­tion “the level of in­ter­est, the sheer num­ber of peo­ple who love me”.

Van­ity is a marker of the fig­ures who have bub­bled to the sur­face of the alt-right. Their in­ter­est is them­selves, not the peo­ple they pur­port to rep­re­sent. Trump is Yiannopou­los with a dif­fer­ent num­ber hair dye.

The alt-right is not a po­lit­i­cal move­ment in any con­ven­tional sense. It is an ex­pres­sion of con­fused anger, a cry that now heard will fade.

That anger will have to be ad­dressed. Pol­i­tics has be­fore it an enor­mous task. But it will not be ad­dressed by the huck­sters and spivs who in the mean­time seek to profit from its an­guish.

This is not the end of Yiannopou­los, just as Trump will not end with his pres­i­dency. But it is the break­ing apart of an in­choate ex­pe­di­ency that plays with the

• world like a chil­dren’s toy.

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