FAR-RIGHT’S FALLEN STAR

The ex­tra­or­di­nary down­fall of Milo Yiannopou­los

The New European - - Agenda - BY JAMES BALL

When the far-right fall out, they have a habit of do­ing it in pub­lic – and it’s rarely pretty.

The lat­est spat to ex­plode into pub­lic is a war of words be­tween Milo Yiannopou­los – a pur­veyor of hate­ful non­sense across three con­ti­nents – and the would-be pro­mot­ers of his 2018 Aus­tralia tour.

After Yiannopou­los pub­lished snatches of con­ver­sa­tion be­tween him­self and his pro­mot­ers, in­clud­ing unredacted emails and other con­tact de­tails, they re­tal­i­ated in turn by pub­lish­ing swathes of cor­re­spon­dence, in­clud­ing doc­u­ments ap­pear­ing to show Yiannopou­los has amassed around $2 mil­lion in debts to his own com­pany, sup­pli­ers, his writ­ers, and even the venue of his wed­ding.

The pro­mot­ers also claimed to have launched le­gal pro­ceed­ings to re­coup the six-fig­ure sums they had given him in ad­vance of the now-can­celled tour.

Given a rep­u­ta­tion which could surely be de­scribed by even his most kind­ly­hearted of ad­mir­ers as “un­re­li­able bor­der­ing on er­ratic”, such debts could eas­ily prove to be well beyond what Yiannopou­los could ever hope to re­pay.

For most of us, that might mark a mo­ment of hor­ror, a re­al­i­sa­tion we’d made a se­ries of ter­ri­ble mis­takes, and likely even con­tem­pla­tion about the ef­fect of our ac­tions on those around us – es­pe­cially those who you’d em­ployed to work for you.

For Yiannopou­los, it al­most cer­tainly won’t – be­cause if he does in­deed pub­licly fail thanks to this row and the debts it has re­vealed, it will not be the first, nor sec­ond, nor even third or fourth time he has pub­licly, dis­as­trously failed.

The rea­sons are usu­ally fi­nan­cial, of­ten re­lat­ing to his own bulls**t, and usu­ally leave oth­ers with a mess. This might be the big­gest in fi­nan­cial scale, but Yiannopou­los’s story is hardly one of a dan­ger­ous ide­o­logue.

In­stead, it’s that of a se­rial and er­ratic at­ten­tion-seeker, whose in­abil­ity to hold any­thing to­gether most re­li­ably harms him­self and any­one silly enough to be­lieve in him. Here, then, is a short his­tory of the many fail­ures of Milo Yiannopou­los.

His first pro­fes­sional fail­ure was as a con­ven­tional-enough ju­nior staffer at a na­tional news­pa­per, though even his early ca­reer was marked with by a flex­i­ble at­ti­tude to­wards re­al­ity. Yiannopou­los – born Han­ra­han, then pre­sent­ing for a short time as Milo An­dreas Wag­ner, be­fore set­tling on Yiannopou­los (and – his old edi­tor’s pro­file on Wikipedia sug­gested – an ap­par­ent false claim to have been born in Athens, rather than Kent) – was em­ployed by then-tele­graph jour­nal­ist Damian Thomp­son to help with a book he was writ­ing, and briefly as an as­sis­tant to the lib­eral ac­tivist Bianca Jag­ger (which ended ac­ri­mo­niously).

This ex­pe­ri­ence was par­layed into a blog­ging role for Thomp­son’s Tele­graph com­ment sec­tion, which was soon on rocky foot­ing after Yiannopou­los’s al­ready in­flam­ma­tory style went beyond what the pub­li­ca­tion was com­fort­able with.

His foot­ing in the right-wing pub­li­ca­tion al­ready shaky, the fi­nal straw came when Yiannopou­los promised to launch a tech awards cer­e­mony for the Tele­graph – which de­scended into chaos, as promised spon­sors never ma­te­ri­alised (leav­ing the Tele­graph to fund the cost for the event), and a last-minute swap of the win­ner, with­out the knowl­edge of any of the judges who’d picked it.

Bridges res­o­lutely burned, Yiannopou­los swiftly tried again – this time out­side the main­stream, and with­out the has­sle of bosses or ed­i­tors. He launched a small-tech news start-up, The

Ker­nel, and courted a

ros­ter of new writ­ers, even ton­ing down for a short time his usual vit­riol.

But even here he had over-promised and un­der-de­liv­ered: in 2012, ow­ing writ­ers thou­sands of pounds in un­paid wages and fees, The Ker­nel col­lapsed ac­ri­mo­niously. While writ­ers even­tu­ally re­ceived some com­pen­sa­tion, Yiannopou­los’s wrath against those who’d dared to speak out had been sub­stan­tial.

“You’ve al­ready made your­self per­ma­nently un­em­ploy­able in Lon­don with your hys­ter­i­cal, brain­less tweet­ing, by be­hav­ing like a com­mon pros­ti­tute and after start­ing a war with me,” he wrote to one young fe­male writer, whom he also threat­ened to ruin by shar­ing com­pro­mis­ing pho­to­graphs.

By now, Yiannopou­los’s fi­nan­cial messes were al­ready a mat­ter of doc­u­mented fact for any­one who would look for them: The Ker­nel was the third UK com­pany launched by Yiannopou­los – the first two never even re­ported any rev­enues to au­thor­i­ties be­fore be­ing wound out for fail­ing to file nec­es­sary pa­per­work.

And just as a court had ruled The Ker­nel owed com­pen­sa­tion to its writ­ers, UK courts have ruled against Yiannopou­los – usu­ally in his ab­sence – for per­sonal un­paid bills, on at least seven oc­ca­sions, for rel­a­tively triv­ial amounts: £403, £75, £225, £660, £1,935, £2,165 and £535, be­tween 2012 and 2016.

In the UK, Yiannopou­los had failed as both a main­stream and al­ter­na­tive jour­nal­ist, and his tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances as a con­tro­ver­sial­ist – an anti-gay mar­riage gay man, for ex­am­ple – were all but dry­ing up. But he was soon to find an es­cape to a sec­ond con­ti­nent, and a po­ten­tially much larger pay­day.

What­ever ap­petite for loud­mouths the UK has – and it is size­able – the USA’S is far larger, far more an­i­mated, and seems fond to hear from cer­tain UK peo­ple just as

Brits get com­pletely tired of the sight of them.

Nat­u­rally, Yiannopou­los fit­ted right into this ecosys­tem, first tap­ping into the sub-com­mu­nity of sex­ist gamers who made up part of the so-called Gamer­gate move­ment, which slowly mor­phed into the so-called ‘alt-right’ and left Yiannopou­los in prime po­si­tion to be­come one of its stars.

Dis­card­ing a sup­pos­edly com­plete book on Gamer­gate – an­other Yiannopou­los project that never quite made it – he threw him­self into Bre­it­bart, the far-right web­site, and be­com­ing a use­ful pro-trump voice. Yiannopou­los was never quite let into the real ac­tion, but his po­si­tion­ing as a gay, Jewish Trump sup­porter (Yiannopou­los had pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied as Catholic, and wasn’t raised in the Jewish faith, though has Jewish her­itage) proved use­ful cover.

This was the near­est Yiannopou­los came to re­ally mak­ing it: he was of­fered a speak­ing slot at CPAC – one of the Con­ser­va­tive US right’s big­gest events – and a $250,000 book deal by Si­mon & Schus­ter. And then a video in which Yiannopou­los ap­peared to at least par­tially de­fend or ex­cuse pae­dophilia emerged, and he was quickly and thor­oughly aban­doned: he lost his Bre­it­bart job, speak­ing slot, and book deal in short or­der.

Fur­ther hu­mil­i­a­tion fol­lowed. In a pos­si­ble bid to save face – or at least re­coup some money – Yiannopou­los launched le­gal pro­ceed­ings against Si­mon & Schus­ter. The pro­ceed­ings were chaotic, as Yiannopou­los ditched his lawyers (who records sug­gest he owes around $150,000) and tried to pur­sue the claim him­self, with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

How­ever, the suit – which was even­tu­ally set­tled on a ‘walk away’ ba­sis, mean­ing Yiannopou­los dropped the ac­tion – re­vealed an early draft of his work, com­plete with scathing edits ex­ten­sively crit­i­cis­ing the book, its ar­gu­ments, its writ­ing, and more. “Un­clear, un­funny, delete,” ended one typ­i­cal edi­tor’s note.

And so to con­ti­nent three. Just as the USA has proven will­ing to give a stage to Brits after the UK has tired of them, Aus­tralia has, on oc­ca­sion, pro­vided a will­ing plat­form to them after the USA has had enough.

Trad­ing at the helm of a new and even more self-ag­gran­dis­ing start-up – MILO INC – Yiannopou­los at­tempted to cre­ate a new alt-right me­dia out­let in his own im­age, and fund it through tours, in­clud­ing a rel­a­tively suc­cess­ful 2017 visit to Aus­tralia.

Pre­dictably – Yiannopou­los is noth­ing if not bor­ingly pre­dictable – this quickly fol­lowed his usual pat­tern: spend­ing and boasts vastly out­weighed rev­enue. MILO INC was soon in­sol­vent and the com­pany all but col­lapsed, leav­ing Yiannopou­los look­ing to pay off debts and in need of an­other tour, which it­self all but col­lapsed.

If the doc­u­ments re­cently leaked on­line are to be be­lieved, the sums in­volved this time could spell much big­ger trou­ble for Yiannopou­los than be­fore. The doc­u­ments ap­pear to show him around $1.6 mil­lion in debt to his own com­pany – which ad­min­is­tra­tors and tax au­thor­i­ties alike would ex­am­ine quite closely, if the re­ports are con­firmed.

Other debts in­clude thou­sands of dol­lars to writ­ers, venues, lawyers and even around $15,000 to a com­pany of­fer­ing cus­tomised em­broi­dery. As any­one with un­paid le­gal fees knows, lawyers do not tend to be re­laxed about get­ting their pay che­ques.

The as­ton­ish­ing thing about Yiannopou­los’s string of se­rial fail­ures – which span the globe and some of the world’s big­gest stages – is just how repet­i­tive a story it is.

Yiannopou­los is a man with one trick – to gull peo­ple into con­fus­ing of­fen­sive­ness with wit, and wit with any form of pol­i­tics – and numer­ous flaws, none of which seem to have taught him any­thing.

Fail­ure is meant to be ed­u­ca­tional: get some­thing wrong badly enough, and most of us won’t make that mis­take again. Yiannopou­los, now in his mid-30s, makes ex­actly the same mis­takes he made in his early 20s, leav­ing him a man-child, in­ca­pable of grow­ing or chang­ing, and un­able to take any mean­ing from the wreck­age he has left be­hind.

That’s a story that might move us to pity – ex­cept for the sheer de­struc­tive­ness and vin­dic­tive­ness of the per­for­mances that got Yiannopou­los the plat­forms he squan­dered. Yiannopou­los – whether sin­cerely be­liev­ing his crap or not – glo­ri­fied him­self by hurl­ing per­sonal abuse at oth­ers, launch­ing racist, ho­mo­pho­bic, sex­ist, and trans­pho­bic at­tacks.

Yiannopou­los is a man be­neath pity. He may even be a man be­neath con­tempt. Doubt­less, some fool will give him a 10th chance at some point in the next few months. In a decade he’ll be look­ing for his 27th, or worse, chance.

Yiannopou­los might not be able to learn from his mis­takes, but we should learn from ours – he’s never been worth our at­ten­tion. Can we learn to look away?

Photo: Getty Im­ages

PUR­VEYOR OF HATE: Milo Yiannopou­los hold­ing up signs to a crowd of sup­port­ers on the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley cam­pus on Septem­ber 24, 2017

Photo: Don Arnold/ Wireim­age

SE­RIAL FAIL­URES: The alt-right’s Milo Yiannopou­los is fac­ing huge debts

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