Milo Yiannopoulos is proving the power of the modern troll

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Milo Yiannopoulos has a style and humor that could only work in the era of Internet. He first gained fame from Gamergate. Trolls need attention, but they also get attention for getting attention — that is, their fans are often minor trolls themselves, all hungry for attention, so they give props to the better trolls, for being good at it, just like a tennis player might admire another tennis player of exceptional skill.

Milo Yiannopoulos, a bleach-blond Brit whose work frequently appears on the conservative website Breitbart, rose to prominence writing about Gamergate and now writes opinion pieces about things like political correctness, feminism, Black Lives Matter, and Islam. In a speech that questioned the existence of transphobia and the eating habits of Lena Dunham, he called out the lack of anti-Trump protestors at the “America First” rally. “The midgets of social justice haven’t shown up today because they’re lazy and boring,” he taunted.

Although Yiannopoulos seemed vindicated by the fact that protestors didn’t show their faces, his schtick in some ways depends on their existence. When he appeared at DePaul University in Chicago this May, for instance, he didn’t really have to do much––his event was shut down due to the demonstrations against him. His appearance and subsequent ejection is often the whole show. So on Monday, it actually seemed like he might bomb in the absence of some kind of drama, that the self-deprecating jokes about being a “dangerous faggot,” as he calls himself, might go over the heads of the old people in wheelchairs and the leather-clad dudes from the American Legion Riders.

They all loved it.

…A throng of barrel-chested men eventually escorted Yiannopoulos out of the event. He did not look up from his phone once––not even as he was crossing the street. He didn’t say a word the entire way back to his hotel, although people behind him were chattering.

“I can’t believe that’s Milo,” a bro with a Georgia twang and Oakleys whispered to his friend. “He’s the only guy I would go gay for.”

The two paused, looked at each other, and high-fived.

He also manages to capture that style where everyone who defends themselves from his attacks is in fact attacking him. The style is nostalgic for the old style of 20th century authoritarian rulers. Consider that Mussolini gave a speech when Italy launched an unprovoked attack on Greece. Knowing that an attack was coming, Greece had taken some measures to defend itself, and Mussolini listed all of the defensive things that Greece had done as if these were offenses against Italy. Trying to defend yourself is not allowed. That’s the same illogic that Yiannopoulos uses here:

In a comment, Milo said “With the cowardly suspension of my account, Twitter has confirmed itself as a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists, but a no-go zone for conservatives.”

“Twitter is holding me responsible for the actions of fans and trolls using the special pretzel logic of the left. Where are the Twitter police when Justin Bieber’s fans cut themselves on his behalf?”

“Like all acts of the totalitarian regressive left, this will blow up in their faces, netting me more adoring fans. We’re winning the culture war, and Twitter just shot themselves in the foot.”

“This is the end for Twitter. Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter.”

Twitter sounds good in this exchange:

We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree. We are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to better allow us to identify and take faster action on abuse as it’s happening and prevent repeat offenders. We have been in the process of reviewing our hateful conduct policy to prohibit additional types of abusive behavior and allow more types of reporting, with the goal of reducing the burden on the person being targeted. We’ll provide more details on those changes in the coming weeks.

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