Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Milo Yiannopoulos: A post mortem

By Lawrence Rosenthal

Milo was always dispensable.

He wasn’t the business end of things. He wasn’t going to wind up in the White House, like his old Breitbart boss, Steve Bannon. In the alt-right eco-system he was useful, but not essential.

Provocateurs like Milo did important work—outraging the normies and exposing the cuckservatives . Milo was good at it, uninhibited like a Sasha Baron Cohen of the right. And he had that weird pedigree that totally disoriented his critics: Greek, British, gay, entitled, and a touch Jewish.

But still he was fiddling around at the alt-right’s children’s table.

The serious work of the alt-right is ideological. It’s the work that’s brought the likes of Sebastian Gorka and Michael Anton into Bannon’s White House. Ideologically, it’s a point of view, radical nationalism, that utterly rejects the conventional bases of American politics as it has been practiced for decades. It’s a point of view that has lived at the margins of American politics. Until this year. Until Donald Trump based his presidential campaign on the scapegoating of Mexicans and then Muslims.

Nationalism is the most elastic of political doctrines. The alt-right embraces the most virulent of American racists and anti-Semites, the likes of the neo-Nazi Stormfront, or contemporary versions of the KKK. But white supremacy, white nationalism and what alt-right founder Richard Spencer calls “white identity politics” blend into what Bannon, the movement’s most acceptable face, calls “populist nationalism.” The racist overtones remain: the Others, sometimes domestic, sometimes foreign trading partners, are responsible for the “ carnage ” of American life. A decadent establishment, indistinguishably both Democratic and Republican, has proved itself too weak to stand up for “traditional Western values” in the face of the onslaught by the Others.

The alt-right is a product of the Internet age. It coalesced like an online affinity group. But a good deal of the alt-right was not particularly ideological. It was youthful and edgy. It was the alt-right of Pepe the Frog . It was the alt-right of what used to be called alienated young men. It was the alt-right of online trolling and planting fake news stories and watching them move into and befuddle the mainstream. It was the alt-right that wished to outrage proper opinion. It was, often, fun.

This was Milo’s remit. It was important work, and he was its outstanding practitioner. Not only did Milo provoke the normies, he mobilized the alienated. His was emotional work. He turned resentment of the Establishment into contempt for the Establishment.

And this work had a vital connection to the alt-right’s ideological project. As Donald Trump the candidate never tired of repeating, “[T]he big problem this country has is being politically correct .” Political correctness was insidious, in this view. It was the Establishment revealing its weakness and its decadence in its own words. Testifying to it. It was the establishment not merely failing to stand up for “traditional values,” it was them undermining those values. The Others, the enemies, could smell the weakness. It smelled of inexorable decline.

Political correctness had two major tributaries. One was multiculturalism. In terms of immigration, this was inviting in the enemy. And the enemy was nowhere as naïve as the multiculturalists. The Mexicans weren’t merely not assimilating; they had plans to take over the whole of the Southwest . The Muslims were bringing Sharia law. Multiculturalism is destruction from within. It is cultural Marxism .

Milo was a bit of a renegade in terms of multiculturalism, cavorting as he did indiscriminately.

His specialty was the other major tributary of political correctness, feminism. Milo loved nothing better than to expound on his extended metaphor, “Feminism is Cancer .” America and the West too weak to stand up for its traditional values? It’s because their men have become weak. Cowed by feminism. In this thinking, multiculturalism and feminism—identity politics—have combined to single out white men as the problem. The alt-right, and Trump, is their revenge: You want identity politics?   We’ll give you the identity politics of the white men you’ve been trashing all these years.

The alt-right will miss Milo as a provocateur against feminism. But there will be no shortage of others to take his place. It is a field with many practitioners.

Milo was always dispensable.