Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
Roughly 48 hours after outrage erupted over his comments in defense of “cross-generational” relationships between “younger boys and older men,” Milo Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart News. On Tuesday afternoon, New York Times writer Michael M. Grynbaum tweeted a statement from Yiannopoulos announcing that he is “resigning from Breitbart, effective immediately.” Perhaps to quell rumblings that the right-wing provocateur was pressured to step down—including rumors that multiple Breitbart staffers planned to quit if he did not—Yiannopoulos noted, “This decision is mine alone.”
The statement comes as numerous other entities scramble to disassociate themselves from Yiannopoulos, who has built a highly profitable brand on a foundation of racist, misogynist, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant rhetoric. On Monday, the Conservative Political Action Conference disinvited Yiannopoulos from making a keynote speech at its high-profile annual event. Hours later, publisher Simon & Schuster rescinded a book deal (which the company had steadfastly defended for months despite widespread criticism) that has already reaped Yiannopoulos a non-refundable $250,000 advance.
As tech editor, Yiannopoulos was reportedly given “free rein” at Breitbart, where he helped former boss Steve Bannon (now U.S. president in all but name) transform the outlet into the “platform for the alt-right.” Stories like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “Gay Rights Have Made Us Dumber, It’s Time to Get Back in the Closet” helped Yiannopoulos gain cachet among the site’s readers, elevating and celebrating their anti-woman, anti-black, and anti-Muslim views.
None of this was enough to earn disavowals from the right wing that instead made him its darling in recent months. Earlier this year, Yiannopoulos slandered African-American comedian Leslie Jones as “barely literate,” purposely misgendering her as a “black dude.” On a stop at the University of Wisconsin as part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour of U.S. college campuses, he spent the better part of his speech singling out a trans woman for mockery and maligning Black Lives Matter as the “last socially acceptable hate group.” At a pro-Trump event last year, Yiannopoulos, who is openly gay, sported a T-shirt emblazoned with a rainbow flag-decorated gun and the words “We Shoot Back.” In his overtly Islamophobic speech, he railed against Democrats he claimed “were welcoming in… belief systems that are completely incompatible with the Western way of life.”
At every turn, the right has lauded him as a free-speech hero, while disregarding his attacks on the most vulnerable of targets. Yiannopoulos invaded Leslie Jones’ mentions to shut her down, lob misogynist insults, and invite his followers to do the same. He has suggested that women should stop “screwing up the internet for men,” and instead of speaking out about online harassment, “just log off.” He endlessly fetishizes black men, reducing them to hyper-sexualized stereotypes, then doubles down with yet more stereotypes. “I lift young black men out of poverty every day.” Yiannopoulos, proud troll by trade, wrote in one Facebook post last year. “Sure, the next morning my driver takes them right back there but whatever.” Apparently, the only way conservatives can think of to assert their free speech rights is by dehumanizing people based on race and gender identity.
Several weeks ago at his University of Washington tour appearance, a Yiannopoulos supporter shot a protester in an incident that conservative corners apparently shrugged at. When riots broke out at UC Berkeley in opposition to Yiannopoulos’ appearance, Donald Trump angrily threatened to withdraw federal funding from the school, claiming Yiannopoulos’ First Amendment rights had been violated. (This from a man who has not once expressed anger or concern about the six Muslims killed last month in a Quebec terror attack or the possibility of election-meddling by the Kremlin.) According to this thinking, CPAC, Simon & Schuster, and Breitbart, in cutting ties with Yiannopoulos, are also oppressing the alt-right mascot’s free-speech rights. Yet Trump has remained conspicuously silent on the topic of Yiannopoulos’ remarks about men having sex with 13-year-old boys.
That’s probably because pedophilia is a low to which the right wing has begrudgingly decided not to sink. The lesson of this whole disgusting debacle seems to be that for half this country to hit rock bottom, they have to dig past racism, xenophobia, misogyny and religious hatred, and then keep right on digging until they hit pedophilia. It’s not surprising that a segment which believes boasting about pussy grabbing is no biggie would be fine with any horrific thing Yiannopoulos said as long as he kept it to those it resents—the non-white, non-Christian, and non-male—for demanding equal treatment, an idea it disparages as “political correctness.”
It’s hard to imagine that were he straight and talking about sex with very young girls, the reaction would have been the same. The right would have brushed this off as yet more locker room talk, conservative code for “we don’t care.”
This is the same group that values the lives of children less than it values gun rights and has little problem with recorded admissions of criminal sex acts. For Yiannopoulos to overstep the line of what passes for decency among conservatives, he had to raise the specter of a Republican boogeyman: the false idea that gays are pedophiles. It was never about free speech to begin with, because why close down the show now? A large segment of this country want women to shut up and black folks to sit down. If you’re putting your very best efforts into making that happen, as Yiannopoulos was, there’s a rich market demand for your services that includes corporate book sellers and right-wing media outlets.
But with bad PR and profit losses on the table, the entities that were so ready to sign up with Yiannopoulos are pretending to be surprised an awful person turned out to be exactly what he seemed. That turns him into a liability. It’s odd to read that Alex Marlow, editor-in-chief of Breitbart, says that Yiannopoulos’ latest “comments are absolutely indefensible,” “appalling” and “disappointing,” mostly because I always find such glaring displays of hypocrisy striking. Yiannopoulos has revealed that he was molested by a priest when he was a teen. Here’s hoping that if he is a survivor, he’ll put his time in dealing with his trauma, instead of inflicting his pain on everyone else for a quick buck.
But I’m not holding my breath. At a press conference late yesterday, Yiannopoulos announced a new media venture and live tour, and promised that while he doesn’t plan to compete with Breitbart, he does “intend to do more of the same.”
“I haven’t ever apologized before and I don’t anticipate doing it again,” he said, and there’s reason to believe he might not need to. There’s a massive swamp full of racists who want what Yiannopoulos is selling. They voted for it in November, and like Yiannopoulos, they aren’t going anywhere, either.
Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.
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