Submitted to It’s Going Down
Milo Yiannopoulos is on a speaking tour of universities throughout the US, including major universities in the Mid-West & West Coast. Yiannopoulos is best known as a bulwark of the website Breitbart and an influential internet troll—at one time boasting some 350,000 followers on Twitter before being banned from the social media site. Despite identifying as gay and refusing claims that he is a member of the Alt-Right, his writings categorically place him in that community. Moreover, while his personal project of attacking women on the Internet clearly pins him as a misogynist, he can equally be described as a white supremacist based on the themes found in his work. Former editor at Breitbart, Ben Shapiro, describes Yiannopoulos as “pushing white ethno-nationalism.¹”
In addition to Yiannopoulos’ extremist right-wing political orientation, he is also a narcissist that enjoys the spotlight, and rarely misses the opportunity to talk about himself; in other words, he thrives on controversy around him. Like much of the Alt-Right, Yiannopoulos clings to a rhetorical and aesthetic style that attempts to normalize white supremacy and patriarchy: this includes his appeal to the values of free speech (while telling women to shut up), distancing himself from overt white nationalist rhetoric by using dog-whistling² and coded language, and his savvy and fashionable use of media.
The Alt-Right & Yiannopoulos should not be mistaken for the typical conservative right in the US. They do not play by the same rules, and have less direct connections to the establishment right. The Alt-Right is, without hyperbole, a white nationalist movement. They may be less overt than the Klan and Neo-Nazi movements in the preceding decades, but their base of support is largely rooted in this cohort. The normalizing and legitimizing of the Alt-Right is particularly dangerous. The incorporation of advocates (and, frankly, members) of the Alt-Right into Trump’s campaign and ensuing transition team is alarming (Re Steve Bannon). The rhetoric they utilize emboldens fascists and racists to increasingly act both online and offline.
While Yiannopoulos’ presence may draw less extreme crowds interested in simply observing his “eccentric performance,” it also directly mobilizes white nationalists and brings them into whatever space that welcomes Yiannopoulos and his ilk. Twitter banned Yiannopoulos for a reason: while many online trolls harassed women like Leslie Jones (of the recent Ghostbusters film), it was his leadership that brought the worst out and—critically—brought them together at the right moment to be effective. In other words, he provides a hub to which scattered white nationalists & misogynists connect and use for networking purposes.
His physical presence is a threat to our safety. Our spaces should not be allowed to attract vile people, and should certainly not be used to legitimize them. This isn’t a call to silence Yiannopoulos (though his mouth should be sown shut); no, this is a call to reject the presence of white nationalists, klansmen, nazis, or whatever they call themselves in our spaces. We create our community by coming together in these spaces, where we can laugh, discuss, and enjoy each other’s presence without fear of being the targets of assault. Yiannopoulos poisons that concept and reverses it by making space for those who are only interested in wiping us out. We must use any means necessary to make Yiannopoulos (or any other member of the Alt-Right) unwelcome in our spaces. To quote Assata, “we must love and support each other.” This is our duty.
@davisantifa | #NoFascistsOnCampus
2. A subtle message intended to be only understood by a certain group. This metaphor refers to the high pitch of a dog whistle which can only be heard by its’ intended audience (dogs), but not by humans.