There’s an argument to be made that the best way to respond to Milo Yiannopoulos, the self-consciously provocative right-wing figure who just lost his speaking slot at the country’s most prominent conservative conference because he once suggested it’s acceptable for adult men to have sex with 13-year-olds, is to ignore him. The various white-nationalist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and transphobic rhetoric that Yiannopoulos emits is transparently crafted to “get attention” and provoke backlash, the thinking goes—so why give him the satisfaction?
One answer to that is that unlike truly fringe figures like David Duke, Yiannopoulos does have a constituency—his Facebook page has 2 million followers—and his supporters include the president of the U.S. and some of the president’s top advisers.
- Before joining the Trump campaign, White House senior adviser Steve Bannon was the publisher of Breitbart, the far-right site on which Yiannopoulos posted much of his most infamous work, e.g. the column in which he wrote that American women should stop taking birth control because they need to “breed” in order to “keep the Muslim invaders at bay.” Said Yiannopoulos of Bannon in a Washington Post piece: “He made me a star.” Bannon has praised Yiannopoulos’ work as “valuable.” (Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart on Tuesday.)
- In July, the Trump campaign held a Reddit AMA that was exclusively open to members of The_Donald, a subforum rife with anti-Semitism, white supremacist ranting, and various other forms of hate-speech garbage. (At the time, I noted that the word cunt had been used on The_Donald 458 times.) The_Donald’s most prominent member was Milo Yiannopoulos, who’d just been banned from Twitter for inciting harassment of black actress Leslie Jones. Trump answered questions from only 12 users of the many who submitted comments; as you can see above, one of them was Yiannopoulos.
- Just-ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn called Yiannopoulos “brave” and said he was a “phenomenal individual” at a November conference for young conservatives.
- In February of this year, Trump tweeted a threat to revoke the University of California–Berkeley’s federal funding because it had canceled Yiannopoulos’ appearance on campus when protests against him turned violent.
With all these fans at the top levels of government, it seems like this Milo guy might just land on his feet!
Incidentally, some of the other users from whom Trump took questions during the Reddit AMA had previously used the The_Donald forum to refer to a high-profile victim of an alleged sexual assault as a “little whore,” to refer to multiracial Daily Show host Trevor Noah as “filth from South Africa,” and to refer to Black Lives Matter marches as “chimp outs.” Again—these are the people Trump made time to take questions from during an exclusive campaign Q&A event.
We dumped about 2,000 tons of sewage in the White House on Jan. 20, and it’s going to take a long time to clean it all out.