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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Social Justice Bard vs. Milo the Troll

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Image description: Social justice bard T-shirt
People like Milo Yiannopoulos know exactly how to avoid having their "Hail Hydra" moment on camera. But their entire self narrative of being JUST a troll or JUST a terrible asshole is contradicted by everything around them.

Without attempting to dictate at which point in the struggle against violent ideologies violence itself becomes acceptable or to enter the fray as to whether a University should host anything up to and including hate speech, let me just say that MiloYiannopoulos and the folks like him who know how to color just within the lines are ambassadors for their particular brand of bigoted ideology. They are the public facing spokespeople with the Mouth-of-Sauron smiles and smooth-voiced reason. They've worked very hard to find the most palatable way to present their ideas–particularly to a younger crowd who have fewer tools for hearing what's not being said.

And they're clever. There's no doubt about that.

Some of them, though I doubt highly this applies to Milo Yiannopoulos, may even hold their bigotry in a way that this society makes it possible to do: without ever forcing them to acknowledge their impact over their intention. Doing one shitty thing after another that demonstrably, measurably hurts people but believing that so long as they pinkie swear that they're really about equality, that's all that matters.

They know full well that this gambit works on liberals. Liberals with their nuance and their empathy and....well liberal ideals about freedom and liberty and mistrust of authoritarianism are quite susceptible.  (Not that any of these things are weaknesses, but they can be leveraged.) A fair number of moderates will always back someone who indignantly cries that the only thing they want is a fair shake in the marketplace of ideas, and maybe even wonders why no one will debate them. Intellectuals will rigorously look for smoking gun caliber proof, even though there isn't any. Pacifists will fall for the wounded men's soccer player routine that happens when these provocateurs successfully provoke their marks. Staunch free speech advocates will waver when they howl about free speech if they are stymied in any way (conflating a freedom to say most things without government interference with an entitlement to medium and venue for spewing hate speech in a breathtakingly sophist way). By keeping their worst harm at two degrees of separation, they continue to avoid the conflict that right now only "unhinged liberals" are challenging them about.

But it is very easy to see the ideology by working with the context clues, so I'm going to use my English degree to do a close reading of something that "the author" never comes out and says.


  • Notice what folks like M.Y. speak out against (equality movements mostly, but "the left" in general) and the way they heap on as many villainous adjectives ("profane, angry, bitter, lesbianic [in the case of feminism], truculent, horrible, evil, debased") as they can. Feminism, Black Lives Matter, trans activism, body positivity. Any movement that seeks to point out the systematic harm that exists in our society is automatically discredited completely with a few quick brushstrokes of massaged statistics and a liberal application of more vitriol. They trash all such movements whole cloth, never really sticking with any particular criticism long enough to have the cascade chain of their logical fallacies unpacked, and every erroneous moving part examined. Insisting that the world is perfectly equal already, they pounce on any iota of energy that is expended trying to examine inequality, and lump it into "identity politics," which they claim is the worst blight on society ever.  ANY lived experience that is shared based on an identity marker is shot down as "the REAL bigotry." Cis het white men are held up as the real victims of every equality movement. Sure they don't come out and openly announce their bigotry. These folks (and M.Y. in particular) avoid confrontation by saying "I don't hate people of color/women/transgender folks/etc... I swear!" But what isn't being noticed is the subtext: "I just hate every single movement ever that seeks to address the problems that people of color or marginalized folks have to deal with specifically and I think they are evil and the real problem."
  • Notice how M.Y., and those like him, claim cyberbullying isn't even real. Even as they engage in absolutely ruthless examples of it. 
  • Notice what their less-diplomatically-trained acolytes spew (wanton white supremacy and bigotry–including [ironically] some pretty virulent anti-gay bilge). The "alt right" is a horrid cesspool of white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, trans-antagonism, fatphobia and every other bigotry you can think of. They hang out on message boards and fantasize about violent hate crimes they'd love to commit. (The same boards that Dylan Roof, Elliot Rodger, and Alexandre Bissonnette were on.) Do folks like Milo refuse to associate themselves with this? Do they walk away? Do they call out their own? Do they ban the worst of their ilk and try to clean up the quagmire of turpitude that has festered unchecked? Is there ANY water's edge for the anti semitism or Islamaphobia? No, of course not. His fans chant "cuck" at his engagements and gleefully perpetuate the most horrific bigotry imaginable.
  • Notice that neo-nazis show up to almost every event he goes to. Why would that be if his message was as innocuous as he claims? One of these white supremacists recently shot and critically injured a protester. 
  • Notice that his events coincide with an uptick in hate crimes. Why would this be the case if his message was as innocent and equality-loving as he unerringly insists when pressed? Could it be that something about his subtext is emboldening to ideologies based on fear and loathing? Could it be the dog whistles? 
  • Notice how radicalized young white men flock in throngs wherever he goes.
  • Notice that the only diversity at his events are the victims of his harassment and hate mongering. A group of marginalized folks who he shouts over to insist that he's doing no harm–no matter what they have to say about it.
  • Notice the publication that M.Y. works for. Breitbart news is casually runs articles about an ethno-state. Did M.Y., as the senior editor, refuse to run such a piece? Did he tamp down? Does the timbre of articles (something a senior editor has great control over) reflect a restraint or limit on what it will suggest about bigotry. Or does Breitbart actually represent a horrific glimpse at an ideology of white nationalism and rank bigotry? 
  • Notice that the Southern Poverty Law Center tracks Y.M. by name for both his words and the institutions to which he lends his energy. Notice that the track the groups he associates with as hate groups, and points out their white supremacy, homophobia, transantagonism, and misogyny. 
  • Notice that the words of M.Y. and those like him, even when they know better than to come straight out and say that they want an ethno-state or that they hate women, are classified regularly as hate speech.
  • Notice that he is an inspiration to white supremacists–including Richard Spencer. 
  • Notice the icons they embrace like Pepe (an appropriated symbol white supremacy that is a bit less well known than the swastika) or triple parentheses around a name to denote a Jew or Jewish interests. Of course with faux innocence, M.Y. can just say he is being edgy, but he somehow chooses never to be edgy by wearing a feminism symbol or a t-shirt suggesting 9/11 was awesome. His "edgy" always goes one way: bigotry.
  • Notice that M.Y., and those like him, rarely schedule debates with their peers (rather they schedule a few minutes of Q&A's with the mostly sycophants who endure their talks in places with young people who are less likely to understand how to critically think about these things.) They don't want their ideas appropriately challenged. They want to piss off college students and marginalized folks and claim THEY are the victims. When you can find them "debating," they are often shouting down their moderators, repeating a single point ad nauseum, and declaring fiat. ("That's simply not true. There is no wage gap! No economist in their right mind believes in the wage gap." In fact, many official bipartisan organizations staffed by an army of capable economists do demonstrate that the wage gap occurs when accounting for X factors like "choices" despite this poisoning of the well fallacy and the insular insistence otherwise.) His style of "debate" (if you can call it that) depends greatly on insults, interruptions, and abuse. 
  • Notice–AND THIS IS KEY–what M.Y., and those like him, DO say.  Outing trans folk in their college engagements. Teaching people how to out and report undocumented immigrants to "weed out illegals." (His words.) Calling fat people gross and calling for forced exercise centers. He endorsed "The Triggering" (an event intended to provoke PTSD reactions in as many as possible even if it involved transantagonism, pictures of rape or beheadings, or bigotry of any magnitute). He ordered his followers to go after Leslie Jones with some of the most racist filth imaginable. He wrote an article saying it should be legal to hunt any man with over 20% body fat with tranquilizer darts. He says that women's liberation was a mistake and women would be happier without labor saving devices that men were foolish to invent. He regularly uses slurs. He has said that "Behind every racist joke is a scientific fact." When he's on stage, he shows people by example how to literally harm marginalized folks and leaves his prey to be harassed. He probes the edges of what is socially considered absolutely unconscionable.
  • Notice the grant he set up available only to white men.
  • Notice M.Y.'s allies do when they are in power. Milo loves Trump. And he and Bannon have a strong connection through Breitbart. What are those operatives doing within days of being handed real power? Did they just stick to "edgy" jokes and dank memes because it was only ever about free speech and they weren't really racist? No. Rather they took all of six days to use Executive Orders to bypass congress in creating transparently racist laws that even conservative federal judges recognized as unconstitutionally biased.

The problem with looking at all of this, seeing that M.Y. (and those like him) talk like white nationalists, are followed by white nationalists, pal around with white nationalists, inspire white nationalists, attack people who aren't white nationalists, and behave like you would expect white nationalists to behave and then wondering if he's "really" a white nationalist just because he hasn't said so on the record is that it's beyond absurd. It is ludicrous. The level of incontrovertible proof being demanded gives him infinite licence to be as bigoted as he wants in deed as long as he doesn't come right out and say it. This idea that we have to know what is in people's heart of hearts is something any "spokesperson" for such a movement knows well how to exploit. M.Y. and those like him to hide in that shadow of plausible deniability and gaslight the world by convincing people that they aren't really seeing young white men being radicalized into neo-nazis right in front of their eyes. As long as he rolls his eyes and says that's ridiculous and of course he's all about equality, the growing numbers of them that appear wherever he goes won't matter.

Instead we could just look at who he's hurting, harassing, and bullying and it would be crystal clear along which lines his ideology tracks. As if we can't look at the racism, homophobia, transantagonism, and misogyny in the wake of his passing and instead need a beam into his soul of souls.

What white people have been doing for centuries when they are confronted by anything but a guy in a KKK hood being unmasked is to heap on this infinite doubt from the slightest ambiguity that goes beyond reasonable, beyond unreasonable, and into patently ridiculous. Instead look at the veritable Mt. Everest of evidence and the impact that marginalized groups are pointing out spreads outward like a blight from every place Milo's foot touches the ground.

He's a Hydra hailer. And so are those like him. Pinkie swear.

4 comments:

  1. I think the strength of MY in the videos I've seen of him is that he keeps to a very narrow subtext of debate. He looks for and uses the faulty maxims and axioms of his opponents and uses them against them by building a strong cogent argument for HIS claims using the initial conditions of his opponents. If you accept those initial conditions as true (his opponents do) then his logic is impeccable. For a different group, he will alter those initial conditions.

    Thus, the only way to debate Milo is to attack his initial conditions, because you will never get him on his logic. To attack his initial conditions, you risk the ire of his opponents.

    Most of what he says is designed to provoke an emotional response. His detractors respond emotionally, leaving him to take the intellectual high ground.

    To really take down Milo, you have to avoid deductive reasoning and use Socratic reasoning (if he will let you). Question his sources, compare them with others, deconstruct the foundation. Ask lots of yes/no questions, challenge equivocation, use paired examples. If you look, that's exactly what he does to his detractors, and they fall for it. Every. Single Time.

    For example. Milo doesn't believe Rape culture exists. Simply contrast that with his views on Islam and terrorism. Would you agree Milo, that Muslim terrorism exists because it is enabled by a larger segment of Islamic society? Would you agree that although there are only a handful of terrorists, there are a larger group of extremists that provide support both materially and ideologically? And that beyond that there is an even larger circle of sympathisers that enable that inner circle? Would you consider this a terrorist culture involving a significant proportion of the Muslim world that needs to be tackled first?

    After that, it writes itself. To disagree with you, he must deconstruct his arguments on other issues.

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    1. I actually found your reply to be more interesting than the article!

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  2. Very interesting, very ethereal, though correct and to the point. I would like to point in more obvious terms to something else that is going on here. If MY were as unappealing physically as Bannon, would he draw so many young white men? His act is not even sexually ambiguous, it is outright homoerotic as are pro sports heroes.

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