THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING MILO
Leftist snowflakes can’t land a glove on this gay, Jewish immigrant with a black husband
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. — Sun Tzu
This well-worn piece of military advice from The Art of War, dating back more than 2500 years, may explain why Milo Yiannopoulos is notching up victories in the cultural war. Indeed, the provocateur and free speech activist knows his enemies so well he’s also following this suggestion from the Chinese general: if your opponent is of choleric temper, irritate him.
To say that Milo (like Beyonce, the surname is superfluous) infuriates his enemies is like saying most of the US mainstream media is gunning for Donald Trump.
If you want to read the usual barbs about Milo and the controversial career hiccups, check out The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald and so on. Banned from Twitter, censured by Facebook for offensive words. Resigned from Breitbart and cut loose by publisher Simon & Schuster after he spoke about sexual experiences that gay teenagers have with older men. It’s all there.
Milo apologised, explaining he wasn’t condoning pedophilia, as critics claim, but talking about his own experiences. If you’re curious about why Milo matters despite, or in some cases because of, these media storms, read on.
In March last year, as a senior editor for Breitbart, Milo teamed up with Breitbart reporter Allum Bokhari to write “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right”. Rather than pointing the finger at, or applying labels to, the emerging and amorphous altright movement, Bokhari and Milo sought out members, writing that “for decades, the concerns of those who cherish Western culture have been openly ridiculed and dismissed as racist. The altright is the inevitable result.
“No matter how silly, irrational, tribal or even hateful the establishment may think the alt-right’s concerns are, they can’t be ignored, because they aren’t going anywhere. In other words, the left can’t language-police and name-call them away, which have for the last 20 years been the only progressive responses to dissent, and the right can’t snobbishly dissociate itself from them and hope they go away either.”
Last month, the excitable BuzzFeed site claimed it had an explosive cache of documents to show how Breitbart and Milo courted the “insurgent, racist, right-wing movement that helped sweep Donald Trump to power”. In truth, BuzzFeed’s report simply revealed how the left-liberal press has recast the term alt-right so sassy millennials keen to stick it to authority and older folk concerned about the decline of Western culture are all lumped in with racists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Speaking to Inquirer this week, Milo laughs off the allegations for another reason: “BuzzFeed is trying to suggest that you should never get in touch with their subjects but instead should just throw rocks from a distance. Well, that’s what the left does, but it’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to find out about them and what they be- lieve.” The resulting 5000-word report is a riveting read, and Milo’s book Dangerous hit Amazon’s bestseller list for pre-orders before publication in July. The author is heading to Australia later this month.
Women’s activist Clementine Ford has sneered about Milo’s “saggy ticket sales” but she couldn’t be more wrong. His show in Ford’s home city, Melbourne, is sold out. So is his Sydney show, leading to new shows in those cities, along with scheduled ones in Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast. Ford, like so many of his enraged opponents, may never understand that Milo represents younger conservatives who are, in his words, “utterly sick of the hand-wringing, schoolmarmish political correctness, of people telling us what jokes we’re allowed to tell, what’s sexist, what’s racist, what’s homophobic, the implication being that somebody in a newsroom, on a desk or in a studio knows what’s in the hearts of millions of Americans and is able to loftily condemn perfectly innocent things”.
Add millions of Australians to the list of those fed up with the censorious orthodoxy and growing illiberalism of those who call themselves “progressives”. And if the new puritans stopped namecalling long enough to listen, they might come to understand the importance of being Milo.
“I am a response to that; a reaction to political correctness,” he tells Inquirer. More than that, the provocateur exposes the growing intolerance now so frequent on the left side of politics.
His February speech at the University of California, Berkeley, was cancelled after protesters made it impossible for the event to continue. Student activists and black-clad demonstrators set off fireworks, threw smoke bombs and damaged property. When he spoke at a southern Californian college last week, one of his supporters was punched by a screaming protester who brought her baby along to the melee. A week earlier, violent threats caused Milo to drop out of a free speech symposium in Arizona.
The man who calls his college talks The Dangerous Faggot Tour admits that he says provocative and outrageous things to demonstrate that his opponents are more interested in virtue-signalling and policing language than exploring the truth.
Challenge feminist sacred cows such as gender pay gaps and campus rape culture, expect to be called a sexist. Raise questions about the Black Lives Matter movement, you’re a racist. Ask about the consequences of mass Muslim immigration, you’re an Islamophobe. Make jokes, and the vitriol explodes because only the left-wing comedians can be lauded for telling offensive jokes about their political opponents. When Milo does it, he’s taken literally by humourless hit squads on the left.
On the phone from his home in Miami, the conservative who was born in Kent, England, tells Inquirer the other reason he’s having so much fun irritating those prone to choleric temperaments: “I am the living, breathing refutation of identity politics. I’m a gay, Jewish immigrant with a black husband, and I really like the Bible and guns and free speech. They just don’t know how to deal with this, that’s why they splutter and go crazy and smash up places when I give college talks.
“Long may it continue,” he adds, explaining that the violence and hysteria shows that protesters have little of substance to offer in debates. “They know they can’t win on the merits, they realise that identity politics isn’t going to work on me, they realise that they can’t scare or intimidate me, so their only remaining response is violence. And that, for me, is a massive victory.”
His take on identity politics is simple: “Identity politics is the great cancer of American public life. This idea that just because you’re a woman, or gay or black, or whatever, you have to believe a certain thing, follow a certain set of political principles … This is so counterfactual, so anti-intellectual and so incredibly downright bloody patronising to people, the idea that they have no free will, that their political views should be dictated by their skin colour, it’s so offensive and stupid.”
One of the purposes of his Australian Troll Academy Tour is to suggest how we can avoid going down this US path of entrenched identity politics. Start by understanding the enemy, he says, and how they use feelings-based legislation (think section 18C of our Racial Discrimination Act) as ideological weaponry to excise from public life people they don’t like, using imaginary hurt feelings. “This is a recipe for abuse,” Milo says. He will find a receptive audience given how 18C has been used against conservatives and free thinkers, from Andrew Bolt and The Australian’s cartoonist Bill Leak to students at Queensland University of Technology.
Next, understand why the cultural left has become so illiberal. “It’s a mark of complacency in ruling elites,” he explains. “Liberals (US parlance for those on the left side of politics) run Hollywood, the media, the academy at universities. Liberals have run everything for a really, really long time. They have become reliant on authoritarianism and bullying and intimidation, instead of having to persuade people.”
As the cultural underdogs, he says, conservatives and libertarians have to persuade people that this status quo is wrong and “they’re sharpening their tool kit, they’re honing their skills, their rhetoric and reasons and logic”.
Part of the tool kit of persuasion is to call out the “cry-bullies”, those who whinge about hurt feelings only to lob offensive accusations at opponents. Perhaps he’s describing the Yes activists in the same-sex marriage debate who have howled down all opponents as bigots.
And finally, Milo says we should understand what he has come to know. “These people only really have the power you give them. If you turn around and stick a little finger up at them … not very much bad happens. So every time someone says, ‘You can’t say that,’ ask them why, and who died?”
Milo adheres to the dictum of Andrew Breitbart, the eponymous website’s founder who died in 2012, that politics is downstream from culture, hence culture is the most important battlefield.
Asked what success will look like on the cultural battlefront, Milo says it’s more a case of what it will sound like. “When we start to laugh … when we see people poking fun at the people who really rule over us, journalists and university professors and Hollywood actors and actresses, these ludicrous, pontificating lightweights who think they can dictate to the rest of us how we should think, and what we should say. When we have belly-laughs on mainstream TV at their expense — the cultural authoritarians hate humour and being laughed at — when that happens then we will know we are winning.”
On that score, Milo is surely one of the green shoots of success.
Milo at Berkeley