For anyone struggling to grasp the emergence of the “Alt-Right” movement and the anti-progressive sub-culture there are few more confusing figures than Milo Yiannopoulos. For a demographic dominated by less educated heterosexual white males wishing for a return to the glory days of the 1950’s, the manner in which they have chosen to rally behind a flamboyantly gay English man with a propensity to communicate using big words seems a little odd. This is, after all, one of the reasons we are talking about him.
Milo articulates the repressed anger of a generation of white men that feel disempowered by western liberalism, however unlike a Trump or Steve Bannon, Milo affords the cause an air of legitimacy by providing a valuable rare example of the cause being championed by anyone other than a fat disgruntled old white guy.
But the very reasons that make Milo so valuable to the Alt-Right cause will eventually be the very reason he will find himself left behind by them. To remain relevant to this cause Milo must, as a rule, be self-contradicting. He opposes Same Sex Marriage yet is in a Same Sex Marriage. He attacks Islam as an institution for its treatment of homosexuals yet champions the Catholic Church and even makes light of his own alleged abuse at the hands of a Priest. He panders to masculinity by attacking feminism yet can’t hide his own natural femininity, which includes calling Trump “Daddy”.
The sad reality for Milo is that his position is ultimately untenable. He is required to be self-hating, even leading him to make statements like he wished he wasn’t gay. Whilst he perhaps correctly asserts that Western society protects him as a gay man he fails to acknowledge that it’s the progressive left that attained him this protection, and continue to do so. The Alt-Right have unashamedly repeatedly supported homophobic politicians and whilst they will permit him to advance their cause, there will be few within their camp that would stand beside him. The appeal of Milo will wear off once the novelty of hearing the ideas of the 1950’s through a camp English accent does.
The actual content of what Milo says is nothing new. His criticism of Islam is not outrageous in its content, purely its delivery. Respected intellectuals like Sam Harris do not shy away from addressing perceived incompatibilities between Islam and Western Society however Harris not only refuses to allow his arguments to be misappropriated for the cause of racism, but he also ensures a consistent approach to all subjects, institutions, and religions in his criticism, not just choosing the easier targets.
Even the delivery method used by Milo is not unique, he is really nothing more than a right wing version of Russel Brand. Making the most of a charming and seemingly educated English accent (neither men have so much as an undergraduate degree) they have made their mark predominantly on US talk shows by refusing to adhere to norms of conversation and thus causing awkward silences and dumbfounded hosts, a state of affairs some confuse for ‘out smarting’. However the moment Milo is served with any serious inquisition he retreats to gimmicks and outrageous distractions which serve to frustrate any meaningful discourse and allow him to avoid any meaningful defence of his stances.
Milo fares best when he stands unchallenged in front of a crowd of his obliging followers punctuated only by outraged and incoherent interjectors. These incidents play straight into his hands. Milo is more than capable of slapping down a hyperbole cliché attack being yelled out from the crowd, especially when he has the microphone and the interjector is being escorted out by security. This image of the calm and well-mannered white man bravely continuing to speak despite the violent and exaggerated screams of an unwelcome guest convince the crowd that supporting Milo is a cause that needs to be supported, and to this end they are not entirely incorrect.
Of all the roles Milo plays, a martyr for free speech is probably his most genuine. We should never forget the great quote incorrectly attributed to Voltaire “I don’t agree with what you say but I will fight to the death your right to say it”. The idea that Milo presents dangerous ideas is a myth, the ideas have been around for centuries. He is an intellectual minnow that has not proven any capacity to formulate new ideas, he has simply voiced the chants of the Alt-Right with a new inflection. Milo has convinced a large following of mainly uneducated men that he is an intellectual, thus validating their campaign against modernity.
However, for any intellectual to remain relevant over time they must continue to form new opinions on new topics, to this end he will run out air the moment the media begin to lose interest, and they will.
In his first ‘show’ in Perth Milo displayed on the big screen an image of a teen aged feminist and known Milo critic Clementine Ford, with the words “unfuckable” underneath, this is the standard of his discourse. There simply is no further need to debate the fact that Milo is a juvenile mouthpiece for misogyny, he has presented the evidence himself. However, so long as there is a movement to silence him he has a valid soap box to stand on as an advocate of free speech. The moment he loses this authority to champion what is conceivably a noble cause he will succumb to irrelevancy.
So what should we do about Milo? Don’t worry about him. Certainly we should be concerned that there is an element in our community that support him, but he did not create their opinions, he merely championed them. The more we present Milo as a dangerous man the more he will be worshipped. So stop the petitions, don’t picket his ‘shows’, and don’t feed his ego by accusing him of being more than he is. He is a nobody who in a few years’ time will inevitably grace the cast of a celebrity reality show that will share in his desperation for relevancy. In the meantime, keep calm and carry on.