Is Milo Yiannopoulos the Devil they say he is? (Part Two…)

For part two, let’s look at a few quotes from media outlets and see what they have to say about Milo Yiannopoulos:

Yiannopoulos is one hateful fellow who is rightly called out as a misogynist, racist, transphobic and — oh yes — a self-loathing homosexual, and the alt-right is a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state.

-The Washington Post https://goo.gl/iiiJXk

 

Mediocre Conservative Dirtbag Lands $250,000 Book Deal*

*We have changed the headline on this post. Yiannopoulos is not a white nationalist. Please read why here.

-The Stranger https://goo.gl/0aYOsk

 

Yiannopoulos is a self-proclaimed spokesperson for the alt-right, a group presenting an alternative ideology to mainstream conservatism in the United States, associated with white supremacy and the rejection of immigration and multiculturalism.

Melville House https://goo.gl/f6A9Ti

In these few examples, the terms used to describe Milo include:

  • Hateful fellow
  • Misogynist
  • Racist
  • Transphobic
  • Self-loathing homosexual
  • Mediocre conservative dirtbag
  • White nationalist
  • Self-proclaimed spokesperson for the alt-right

Also put forward are assertions that he’s part of a movement called the “alt-right”, and statements that the alt-right is associated with white supremacy and the rejection of immigration and multiculturalism. This broad-brush painting is tempting to dissect, but would take me too far away from my main focus.

It would take an entire book to catalog all the name-calling and slander that have been leveled at Milo Yiannopoulos. A quick Google search of his name produces nearly sixteen-million results (a search on Adolf Hitler returns twenty-six million, so I suppose Milo has a way to go before he takes the “Michael Jordan of Evil” trophy, credit to Bill Burr for dreaming that one up). Let us not overlook Milo’s cardinal sin: he is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump.

Most recently, video of Milo has been discovered in which he made some comments that have been interpreted to be in defense of pedophilia. The video spread like wildfire; in the resulting media storm, Milo has resigned from his position at Breitbart, lost his keynote speech appointment at CPAC (the conservative Political Action Conference), and Simon and Schuster rescinded his $250k book deal. Watch for yourself, and draw your own conclusions (caution, there is some hard language, and the audio may be NSFW). I am not here to defend what Milo said, or the way he said it. There is no question that the activity described was unlawful, some of the circumstances were tragic, and these issues are no laughing matter. As crude and inappropriate as Milo’s words and presentation are, however, it seems to me that he was waxing tactlessly about subtleties in age of consent scenarios, and making a tasteless joke about his own experience, not encouraging pedophilia.

For an exercise in relativity, consider the this clip of George Takei (or “Scotty” as you may know him from the TV show Star Trek). Takei graphically describes activity he participated in as a thirteen-year-old with an older man at summer camp, clearly advocating it and going so far as to say it was “delicious,” on the Howard Stern show.  Measure the media response to Takei’s comments (it is virtually non-existent) and Yiannopoulos’ comments (the sky is falling), and you’ll begin to grasp what’s bothering me about all of this. If Milo were a darling of the progressive far-left, his comments would have garnered about as much attention as Takei’s.

In this present and politicized media culture, there are many who see political positions they disagree with as “hate speech,” and who give themselves license to demonize, verbally abuse, and assassinate the character of those who hold those positions. It has become vogue to jump on the hate train without trying to objectively examine the reality of a given issue, just as it was vogue to jump on the bandwagon with those who said that a Trump presidency was impossible, and ridicule anyone who thought otherwise. Listen to the Real Time with Bill Maher audience laughing at Ann Coulter when she said that out of all candidates in the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was most likely to win the presidency.

Who turned out to be right?

There is a particularly corrosive brand of weaponized, reactionary ignorance infecting the American mindset, where reality is no longer as important as one’s political worldview, and the destruction of dissenting voices is the ultimate goal. No political party is immune. The irony, though, is in the progressive far-left; for all its talk of eliminating hate speech and bullying, and its extolling the virtues of protecting others from discrimination, far-left talking heads spew discrimination and hatred via globally connected social platforms at alarming decibels.

Milo Yiannopoulos is guilty of crude, tactless, and sometimes offensive discourse – there is no question about that. Whether or not his provocations are a healthy and constructive way to generate visibility and expand his brand can be argued. What we are seeing in response, though, is what is really frightening to me – the normalization and validation of an explosive, reactionary, and hysterical mode of discourse that threatens free speech altogether. If you disagree, you may be accused of anything. That type of conduct, if not treacherously disingenuous, is deluded. To knowingly make false accusations to discredit a person is a disgusting abuse of the public trust. To make false accusations because you believe falsehoods to be true, is disordered and/or deceived.

Back to that thought we were holding from Part One: Did Milo Yiannopoulos really launch a campaign of racist attacks and abuse toward Leslie Jones? Or did the media launch a campaign of political attacks on Milo Yiannopoulos? Is it all just bullshit, part of public relations campaigns on both sides? There is more to the story than what I covered, but I have yet to find a single thing Milo wrote that could be considered racist. Leslie Jones, however… Look up her twitter posts. I guess it’s not racism if you’re denigrating and stereotyping white people.

Is Milo Yiannopoulos the devil they say he is?

I don’t believe so. I have listened to a good number of Milo’s speeches out of curiosity, and I haven’t detected any of the misogyny, racism, transphobia, self-loathing, white nationalism or white supremacy that he is accused of. I hear a shamelessly self-promoting and sometimes tactless and offensive showboat who delights in pushing buttons, but who also raises some very legitimate points – points that he has a right to voice. Milo, for whatever reason and however it happened, finds himself at the center of a violent war for control of the public narrative. It is fascinating and saddening to witness.

Is Milo Yiannopoulos the Devil they say he is? (Part One…)

If you’ve been following recent news, you may have heard about a violent riot at U.C Berkeley, which broke out on campus during the protest of a speaking appearance by Breitbart News Tech editor, Milo Yiannopoulos. The stop was just one in a nationwide tour of college campuses, which Milo titled the “Dangerous Faggot” tour. Yiannopoulos intended to be provocative in naming the tour – he is openly homosexual.

I became aware of Milo Yiannopoulos roughly around the time that he was banned from using the Twitter platform. This event made national news. I love a good controversy, and I had to know why. The brief internet news snippets in my periphery indicated that he had launched a campaign of racial attacks and abuse toward Leslie Jones, a comedic actress on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. After brushing up on the coverage across multiple sources, here is my summary of what happened:

  1. Leslie Jones began expressing her dislike of messages she started receiving on Twitter regarding her role in the recently released Ghostbusters film (2016). I am unable to find these messages in order to learn of their content.
  2. Milo Yiannopoulos, under the handle @Nero, tweeted the following in response to Leslie Jones:“If at first you don’t succeed (because your work is terrible), play the victim.”

    “EVERYONE GETS HATE MAIL FFS https://t.co/W572qB4Vqw

    “- Milo Yiannopoulos ひ✘ (@Nero) July 18, 2016”

  3. Leslie Jones reported this message as abuse of Twitter terms, and blocked Milo from following her account.

Stop right here. Read Milo’s tweet a few times. While you’re doing that, ask yourself: do you see anything you would consider racist in his comments? Hold that thought.

I have been fascinated by the expansion of Milo’s reach over the last couple of months, kind of watching in disbelief as events unfolded. The plot thickened quickly. I do not have the space to recount it all in one shot- this is going to be a multiple-part post.

What is interesting to me, however, is not only the provocative crossing of lines that has landed Milo in trouble; it is also the power of the media to assassinate one’s character, the free speech implications, and the current political climate.

Reading recent coverage in the mainstream news, you might already have the impression that Milo Yiannopoulos is a misogynistic, transphobic, Islamophobic white supremacist – a real life monster. The media have propped him up as some kind of alt-right demon, an embodiment of everything nasty they’d like you to believe the new conservative movement stands for. As always, there is more to the story.

Part Two forthcoming.

Whatever Happened to Polite Discourse about Ideas?

Regardless of where you stand on recent political events, I think you would be hard-pressed to argue today that tolerance for conflicting ideas and freedom of speech is being observed. The news of late has been a carnival of misinformation, name-calling, slander and hatred, the likes of which I have seldom seen, with warring sides laying claim to the “real” truth and leveling horrific accusations at one another. Reading and listening to the news has become akin to voluntarily drinking poison – the venom and vitriol are acidic; and bitterness and rage are contagious. I do not choose to surround myself with corrosive influences in my personal life, but they are finding their way in through my desire to follow current events. I am in a toxic relationship with the news.

The climate is not improving in the wake of the recent presidential election. It is getting worse. We are a nation at war with itself, and a house divided cannot stand. This concerns me deeply. Rather than polite discourse about ideas, we have a kind of raving domestic violence case. We are shrieking incoherent condemnations in a pitched battle for total control, aiming for complete annihilation of our opponents. When emotions run this high, we lose sight of real issues. At the end of the day, we are all in this American thing together, and we have more in common than we are letting on. We are focused on our differences, and inventing boogeymen. Who exactly is attacking race, religion, and gender? Who is promoting the exclusion of anyone from constitutional protection, or proposing that anyone cannot be part of this nation based on the above, should they pursue it legally? I could argue convincingly that men, and especially fathers, have been stripped of their reproductive rights and the right to pursue happiness by corrupt government bodies and family court systems – who out there cares about that, when we can decry male privilege? Maybe putting an end to toxic masculinity is the higher priority. When did feminists decide to take up defense of Islam and Sharia Law, systems that actually do oppress women and deny their fundamental rights?

Dogma. It is in part why I abandoned my religious upbringing. When your arguments don’t make sense anymore, and are not grounded in reason, but are driven by a desire to advance your worldview and see your ideas implemented at any cost, then truth becomes subjective. I have seen journalists and talking heads using the term “post-truth” to describe the condition of our present discourse, implying that we’re not working with facts anymore; we’re just saying whatever we want and calling it truth. They are right, to a degree. Where they err is in the assertion that the political right is the faction creating this post-truth culture. It is everyone. Liberals are outraged when they claim that conservatives don’t pay any attention to data, and then they present disingenuous interpretation of data to serve their cause. Take the gender wage gap myth. The only way to argue that there is a gender wage gap is by taking the mean salary of all employed American males, and comparing it to the mean salary of all employed American females, regardless of title and position. The mean female salary comes out lower.  But when one accounts for all relevant variables, by taking a look at mean salaries between males and females working the exact same jobs, the gap is reduced nearly to the vanishing point. A reporter for the Huffington Post, a left-leaning news outlet, revealed this in an article entitled “Wage Gap Myth Exposed – by Feminists” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-hoff-sommers/wage-gap_b_2073804.html). And yet, we still hear the wage gap myth coming out of government talking heads and feminists everywhere. If you point out the facts, and you happen to be male, you are labeled a misogynist, a woman-hater. God help you if you are also white.

We are witnessing a war on truth, a siege on ideas. Somehow we have lost our ability to discuss our differences politely – that, or wherever it happens, it’s not getting attention. Free speech is under attack. Race and gender baiting are shamelessly leveraged to arrest the discussion of actual issues. I’m not saying our country doesn’t have any issues to deal with in these areas, but for everyone’s sake, we must stop generating hysterical national crises that do not exist.  I would like to turn on the television one day and hear a real debate, where meaningful data is evaluated rationally, and minds change in the undeniable light of the facts. Where hatred and incoherent rhetoric are no longer mainstream. But I do not believe that goal can be achieved by the silencing of dissenting voices in order to create a safe-space utopia where nobody is ever offended. We will always be passionate, emotional, conflicted human beings. We will always think and say dumb and hurtful things. That is our right, and that right is protected by the first amendment.

America, please… can we just talk?

Pussy Hats

I have to take a break from my story today, and get something off my mind; something that has been bugging me since the Women’s March that took place on Saturday, January 21.

I have no problem with peaceful assembly and protest, and I do not deny that women have had a hard fight for rights over the decades that they should have had to begin with, as human beings of unquestionable and equal value. I have a high degree of respect for women, which is why I was baffled and disappointed by some of the things I observed during the march.

Enter the Pussy Hat.

pssyhat

You can see an ocean of them here:

gty-womens-march-washington-4-jt-170121_12x5_1600

I get it – many in this crowd have female genitalia. They’re women. That’s great. But with nearly a million people congregated at the nation’s capitol, the unifying symbol was… a pussy hat? I started grappling with the meaning of this immediately. I googled “pussy hat” (carefully), and found the movement’s web site at http://www.pussyhatproject.com (nothing lewd here, but probably NSFW because of the nature of the language). According to the web site, the Pussy Hat Project started back in November 2016. This is the Project’s two-part mission statement:

“1. Provide the  people of Washington D.C. a means to make a unique collective visual statement which will help activists to be better heard.”

“2. Provide people who cannot physically be on the National Mall a way to represent themselves and support women’s rights.”

A unique visual statement was most definitely made, but what was it? Which rights were we talking about in a sea of pink, knitted pussy hats gathered at the National Mall? If the Project had to reduce its message to a single symbol for visual effect, was this the right one? Was this not the symbol of the very thing that Donald Trump boasted about grabbing, in an awful sound byte that aired in the run up to the presidential election? Maybe that was the point – to rub it in the president’s face. Pardon the pun.

Jokes aside, I question the project and the symbolism. The message seems rather crude, and I think it distracts from the real issues women face. I saw photographs of children wearing these hats. My own daughters witnessed this on television. Are they old enough to comprehend what they are seeing? Might a little girl subconsciously absorb the message that the most important thing about a woman’s identity and message is her genitalia? Would it be unreasonable to think that the Pussy Hat Project has objectified women? What if we had elected a woman president, and a million men marched on the Capitol with Dick Hats? Begin the process of trying to forget that visual.

Aside from hats, there were a number of other crude and irresponsible demonstrations at the National Mall, including Madonna’s use of hard expletives and openly claiming to have fantasized about blowing up the White House on live national television. I think a movement can, and should, do better than all this. I have no doubt that there were many people at the march who clearly articulated their real concerns, even their anger, with dignity and class. It would be unfair and inaccurate to paint the entire movement as vulgar and irresponsible; my intent is not to do that, nor to minimize the positions and feelings of the marchers.

Still, I can’t help but feel a bit put-off by the gender-based rage and animosity that I witnessed. The symbols and messages seemed vague and sometimes inappropriate, extreme in their vitriol. A few casting a shadow over the many, I certainly hope. Are things really this bad?

I waited in line behind a woman waiting for coffee at work today. She was wearing a pussy hat. I had a negative, unspoken internal reaction. Therein lies the problem, and I do not think that was the Pussy Hat Project’s goal. Then again, maybe it was, and things are much worse than we’d like to admit. .