Twitter is playing directly into hands of Milo Yiannopoulos
Twitter’s former top creeperati makes it clear he’s not for gagging
Milo Yiannopoulos: banned by Twitter over abuse of Leslie Jones, comedian and co-star of the recently released Ghostbusters movie. Photograph: Sam Hodgson/The New York Times
Milo Yiannopoulos has been making a lot of noise about being silenced. “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,” Milo told those inclined to listen.
Arriving at the Republican national convention to host a Gays for Trump event, the conservative blowhard confirmed that he had received an email from Twitter banning him from the microblogging platform. “Anyone who believes in free speech was sent a very powerful message today, which is that you’re not welcome on Twitter,” he said.
I have a feeling that Yiannopoulos will say a lot more about being shut out of the conversation. By the end of the summer we’ll all be sick to death of him complaining that he can’t be heard.
The story of Yiannopoulos’s battles with Twitter tells us much about the localised nature of fame and the impossibility of satisfactorily defining free speech. Most people probably haven’t heard of him, but, in those parts of social media that discuss politics and social justice, Yiannopoulos has become one of those rare folk who can be identified by forename alone. If I tweet “That’s like something Milo would say” few will think I’m talking about the late Milo O’Shea.
A professional shock flogger who makes no secret of his delight in annoying progressives (he finds atheists particularly easy to enrage) the dark baron of the alt.right was always likely to become involved in the preposterous controversy about the female-friendly reboot of Ghostbusters. His lack of sympathy for Leslie Jones, the black actor targeted savagely by racist trolls, proved to be the final provocation.
After several suspensions and a withdrawal of his verification tick Twitter has now banned him permanently. The professional victimhood that he diagnosed in so many liberal opponents is his to enjoy across all remaining platforms.
Outrage merchants The media has always entertained full- time outrage merchants. There was, no doubt, some 17th-century Yiannopoulos who spent his afternoons yelling support for the ritual dunking of women who lived alone with cats. But the digital angry brigades have, with the rise of the internet, become considerably more numerous and volatile. Yiannopoulos is simultaneously their chief of staff, information minister and (perhaps the job he savours most) court jester.
Born in Greece and raised largely in the UK, Yiannopoulos spent a few years at Manchester University and a few more at Cambridge (without completing a degree) before veering into the punditry business. He has written for the Catholic Herald and the Daily Telegraph, but he properly registered through association with the right-wing website Brietbart News.
“The endless celebration and mollycoddling of homosexuals in the media has transformed the genteel, camp rightsists of the 1950s into brash, glitter-drenched Pride queens,” Yiannopoulos, who is gay himself, wrote on the website.
He will take any opportunity to stand beside a banner saying “Feminism Is Cancer”. If you want a pundit to sneer – with ruthless wit, it must be admitted – at those arguing against sexism in academia (or whatever), then Yiannopoulos is your man.
Had you been asleep for the past two years you might reasonably ask why the editor of Brietbart Tech is writing a 2,000-word pan of the new Ghostbusters movie. The answer, of course, is that the film, recast with women in the central roles, has become a source of great outrage to knuckle-dragging misogynists of nerdish inclination. Yiannopoulos wanted a piece of that action.
It got nasty very quickly. The decent reviews and respectable box-office returns made the tapping trolls even angrier. With appalling inevitability, Leslie Jones, the only African-American among the four Ghostbusters, became the victim of a racist Twitter mob. She eventually announced this week she was quitting the medium. “If at first you don’t succeed (because your work is terrible), play the victim,” Yiannopoulos tweeted. “EVERYONE GETS HATE MAIL FFS!”
It is satisfying for Twitter to expel someone so unmoved by a hate campaign. Such irresponsible sentiments come close to satisfying the “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” rejoinder to pleas for free speech. Then again, the moderators cannot convincingly deny that less famous users tweet much more offensive remarks in huge numbers every second.
More troubling still is the realisation that Twitter is playing directly into Yiannopoulos’s eager hands. “Are you kidding? This is the most gigantic possible gift!” the silenced man told the Los Angeles Times.
In other words there was, for Twitter, no correct response. Everything is a little more dreadful.