La Commedia non è Finita
BY ED SIKOV | “‘The people that we are encouraged to think of as complex and interesting on the left, aren’t,’ [Milo] Yiannopoulos says. ‘Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham are intensely dull, boring people, but we are required to look at them from a million different angles from a million different profiles in saturated media coverage. But things are starting to change. And I am one of the primary engines of change in American culture because I’m demonstrating that someone sassy and silly and gay and flamboyant who loves “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and sucks black dick doesn’t have to vote Democrat. That matters. That’s really important.’”
No, it isn’t. It’s just self-aggrandizing bullshit, the kind of Me! Me! Me! drivel we’ve come to expect from Yiannopoulos, whose pasty, oddly featureless face appears increasingly often in a media world always on the lookout for the next superclown. This time it’s Out magazine. The article, by Chadwick Moore, isn’t half bad. It’s half good, which is worse.
“Sassy and silly and gay and flamboyant” sounds harmless enough. It would make a good theme song lyric for an updated remake of “That Girl” starring Jim Parsons, but it’s just putting a happy face on the vicious, mean caricature Yiannopoulos has created for himself. And Moore is too busy giving Yiannopoulos’ a journalistic blowjob to call him out on it. There is nothing benign about Milo Yiannopoulos. He’s a racist, a bigot, a woman-hating and manipulative stooge who’s smart enough to turn himself into a media whore — and a particularly skanky one at that — but not nearly smart enough to realize that he’s being played. He’s the resident court jester for the alt-right, the contemporary term for fascists, only unlike the classic court jester, he never tells his all-but-entirely straight alt-right masters what they don’t want to hear. No, he tells them precisely what they want to hear: that gay men are narcissistic buffoons, great for faux-racy entertainment and nothing more.
His obsession — which has crossed the line into clinical — with telling people about his adoration of black cock gets recycled here in a sentence that ends ludicrously with “doesn’t have to vote Democrat.” This is the brave little engine driving a massive cultural shift? I laughed out loud at that point — excellent comic relief because I was on a slow but building burn from the beginning of the article, which features this extraordinary preamble:
“Editor’s Note: It should not need saying that the views expressed by the subject of this piece in no way represent the opinions of this magazine, but in this era of social media tribalism, the mere act of covering a contentious person can be misinterpreted as an endorsement. If LGBTQ media takes its responsibilities seriously we can’t shy away from covering queer people who are at the center of this highly polarized election year, and we ask you to assess Milos [sic] Yiannopoulos, the focus of this profile, on his own words without mistaking them for ours.”
Yes, it not only should need saying; it must need saying, if must and need can be rammed into the same sentence. And magazines don’t have opinions. Editors do. They make conscious decisions to give space, for instance, to neo-Nazis like Yiannopoulos — space for him to obfuscate to his wormy heart’s content. The misspelling of Yiannopoulos’ first name suggests that this self-serving disclaimer — or, more accurately, self-serving claimer — was written in haste and put up on Out’s website even quicker, perhaps because of all the complaints (not to mention subscription cancellations) that suddenly came pouring in. If you will indulge me in an anachronistic comparison, it’s like a gay magazine in 1930s Germany deciding to profile Ernst Röhm, the gay Nazi. No, it’s actually worse than that; at least Röhm did something to merit the coverage: he cofounded the storm troopers. Yiannopoulos actually does precious little, and what little he does is entirely devoted to self-promotion. The “social media tribalism” comment, as sassy and silly and flamboyant as it may be, doesn’t merit a response.
It was Yiannopoulos, you will recall, who launched the vicious, racist, and exceedingly personal attack on the African-American comedienne Leslie Jones, who starred in “Ghostbusters.” Here’s how Chadwick Moore and Out handle the incident: [with my comments in brackets]: “This summer, Yiannopoulos made headlines when following a sensationally bad [deliberately cruel], anti-feminist [woman-hating] review of the new all-female “Ghostbusters” movie, posted on the conservative [fascist] site Breitbart News, where Yiannopoulos is employed as tech editor. Online, he referred to one of the stars, Leslie Jones, as ‘a hot black dude.’ (On CNBC, in September, he went a step further: She looks ‘remarkably like one of my ex-boyfriends,’ he told reporters. [This is a very sad boast.]) A Twitter war [“war” implies two sides; this was pure harassment] ensued. Yiannopoulos’ followers [neo-Nazis in jackboots] took his insult [personal attack] as permission to descend into racist and violent threats. Trolls posted memes comparing Jones to a gorilla, tagging her with the caption, ‘I know you only wanted to protect that kid.’
“[Poor] Twitter found itself in a no-win situation: allow Yiannopoulos free rein and be perceived as [why the passive voice?] condoning trolling, or silence him and become a lightning rod for the frustrations of the alt-right. [Oh, they’re not hateful bullies! They’re merely frustrated!] On July 19, Twitter permanently suspended Yiannopoulos’ account, which had around 350,000 followers, for violating terms of service that prohibit inciting targeted attacks against other users. ‘I’m only responsible for what I say,’ Yiannopoulos says. ‘I am held to a totally arbitrary, unique, hypocritical double standard because people don’t like my politics.’
“Overwhelmed by the deluge, Jones briefly left Twitter, after tweeting, ‘Ok I have been called Apes, sent pics of their asses, even got a pic with semen on my face. I’m tryin to figure out what human means. I’m out.’ A month later, her Web site was hacked and personal photos were published online [more obfuscation via the passive voice].
“One might [might?] wonder if the escalating tirade of abuse targeted at Jones would give pause [giving pause: that’s really sticking it to them!] to some [some!] of Yiannopoulos’ devotees: What purpose do such personalized attacks serve? What had their infantile [neo-Nazis as babies — gimme a break!] campaign against a movie [no, it was against a human being, specifically a black woman] contributed to the greater sum of human happiness? [This is so ridiculous I can’t even respond.] Instead, the incident merely served to convince many of Yiannopoulos’ followers that the system was rigged by the liberal left to censor and shut down the right. The fact that the only other high-profile people to face permanent suspension were also Trump supporters (the rapper Azealia Banks and the right-wing troll Chuck C. Johnson) was grist for the alt-right mill.”
Where does one begin to dismantle this steaming pile of crap? Yiannopoulos is practically guiltless in Moore’s rendition; all he did was say she looked like a man. It’s his “followers” who are really to blame. And Moore doesn’t offer much of an argument to Yiannopoulos’ idiotic and typically self-centered claim that he is “held to a totally arbitrary, unique, hypocritical double standard because people don’t like my politics.” Arbitrary? Unique? Hypocritical? It’s as if Ernst Röhm had tweeted benignly about hook-nosed Jews and then blamed everyone else for the ensuing violence. Moore simply asks if the tidal wave of abuse that Yiannopoulos’ jackbooted “followers” hurled at Jones “would give pause” to the jerks in jackboots. Yiannopoulos hands a bunch of pimply and particularly nasty kids a box of matches and a can of gasoline and expresses shock when they burn down the synagogue, and all Moore can muster is a mealy-mouthed rhetorical question about “human happiness” that he was apparently too chickenshit to pose to Yiannopoulos himself? Please.
In what is evidently considered irony by the editors of Out, the illustrations accompanying the article depict Yiannopoulos as a harlequin, as though dressing up a media clown as a clown is terribly witty and satirical. No, it’s neither. I’ve always found clowns to be more disturbing than amusing, and this is no exception. More important, it’s not irony when you literalize an obvious metaphor. And the title of the piece is an outright lie: “Send in the Clown: Internet Supervillain Milo Doesn’t Care That You Hate Him.” Seems to me that that’s all he cares about.