Frank Sinatra would have recognized this tale…
That’s life (that’s life) that’s what people say
You’re riding high in April
Shot down in May
But will Milo Yiannopoulos, the deliberately offensive Breitbart editor, alt-right cheer-leader, misogynist and professional troll be able to emulate Ol’ Blue Eyes and be back on top, back on top in June?
In case you missed it, Milo had this very month soared higher than any vile, bigoted, uncivil loudmouth without any talent other than being vile, bigoted, and uncivil—are those really talents?—had soared before. Thanks to the fact that his threatened presence as an invited campus speaker had exposed the deep, anti-speech, totalitarian strain in U.S. higher education, and that the currently super-charged Leftist hypocrites who were already playing Brown shirts in response to the Presidential election smoothly transitioned to rioting at Berkeley because of the alleged threat posed by this silly, self-important jerk, Milo had become a genuine celebrity, thus ruining the name of Milo, maybe forever, which had previously evoked…
…late Irish character actor Milo O’Shea
…”Catch 22″ con man Milo Minderbinder (Jon Voight played him in the film), and…
…nauseating Japanese puppy and kitten-pal flick “Milo and Otis” (that’s Milo on the right).
But I digress.
Milo’s infamy had snagged a book deal that would guarantee him millions. He scored a high profile interview on HBO with fellow troll, misogynist and jerk-in-arms Bill Maher, who is as much of an asshole as Milo but never gets shouted down when he appears on college campuses because he aims his vile words at conservative values, icons and figures, and most conservatives believe in free speech. Best of all, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, debased itself by inviting him to speak, on the theory that the enemy of their enemies is their friend, or something like that.
Milo had hit the celebrity jackpot! Rich! Famous! Influential!
Last week a tape surfaced of his appearance on The Joe Rogan show in 2016, in which Milo talked about having given oral sex to an older priest when he was 14. He joked about it (he is gay), and on a second tape, talked about younger “boys” frequently having sex with older gay men, thus appearing to endorse and make light of pederasty. On Monday,CPAC disinvited him. Simon & Schuster killed his self-promoting book “Dangerous,”and even Breitbart itself was reported to be considering letting him go. Yiannopoulos took to his Facebook page to issue an explanation and defense, saying in part,
I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim. I would like to restate my utter disgust at adults who sexually abuse minors. I am horrified by pedophilia and I have devoted large portions of my career as a journalist to exposing child abusers. I’ve outed three of them, in fact — three more than most of my critics. And I’ve repeatedly expressed disgust at pedophilia in my feature and opinion writing. My professional record is very clear. But I do understand that these videos, even though some of them are edited deceptively, paint a different picture….
1. Milo had intentionally deadened his ethics alarms. In his pursuit of political incorrectness and to become a poster boy for the freedom of utterly vile and obnoxious speech, he pulled out the batteries, and this is the result. You see, civility and manners aren’t just a vestige of archaic values and times gone by. They force you to think before speaking, and to consider gratuitous and unnecessary harm that your choice of words and subjects might inflict. There are are not only ethical reasons but practical reasons for developing the habit of civility. One is to protect yourself. by having sufficient fail-safe systems in place to block statements that will make you a pariah.
2. This is the risk that all “fearless,” “tell it like it is,” free speech rebels and iconoclasts take. Eventually, it gets almost all of them, usually when they feel most popular, powerful and invulnerable. (Hubris, you know.)
Don Imus was riding high as a suddenly respectable shock jock, hobnobbing on the air with celebrities and politicians, promoting his camp for kids with cancer, even MCing the Washington Radio and Washington Correspondent’s Dinner. Imus abused his production team, sometimes on the air, made disparaging jokes about gays and women, called public figures “weasels” and worse, and prospered. Imus was named one of the “25 Most Influential People in America” by Time magazine. He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Then, on April 4, 2007, riffing on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, Imus mocked the mostly black Rutgers University women’s basketball team players as “rough girls” and “nappy-headed hos.”
That was the end. He had punched down for no reason, and attacked innocent female college athletes with a demeaning racial slur. There were apologies, explanations, meetings with civil right leaders…none of it helped. Imus was poison, and still is.
The most vivid example is the fate of Doug Tracht, aka The Greaseman, once the highest paid disc jockey in Washington D.C. Tracht was a genuinely talented performer with a quick wit and improvisational skills, but his trademark was outrageous, politically incorrect and often cruel humor. Cruising at the peak of his popularity, he said, regarding the just declared new federal holiday, Martin Luther King Day, “Why don’t we plug four more and get the whole week off?” It is a measure of his popularity and talent—Tracht was more talented than Howard Stern, Don Imus, Bill Maher and Milo put together—that Tracht survived this, though he was suspended and funded a scholarship at Howard University to atone. His next gaffe destroyed him. Thirteen years later, a day after a Texas jury had convicted John William King of the horrific dragging death of African American James Byrd by three white supremacists, Tracht played a sound bite of singer Lauryn Hill ,who had ten nominations at the 41st Grammy Awards, and said, “No wonder people drag them behind trucks.”
And that effectively ended his career. The lesson is that when you live by defying society’s conventions and values, you will eventually defy one that society won’t tolerate being ignored, because you have erased all the lines and no longer remember where they were. Those lines, however, were there as guides and also warnings. We need them. Even shock-jocks need them
3. Conservative blogger/essayist Ace of Spades wrote a long post about Milo’s fall yesterday. In many ways it’s an ethics post,a very thoughtful one, and I recommend it highly. His main theme is the speed with which a career and a life can be destroyed through social media and the news cycle. Excerpts, with my comments in bold..
“CPAC is now in the strange position of having invited someone precisely because he was not permitted to speak on college campuses due to his controversial statements, and yet now having banned him from speaking there due to his controversial statements.”
It is in that strange position because it never should have invited Yiannopoulos in the first place. This is the ugly side of U.S. conservatism. Milo had a right to his cruel and bigoted views, but for a major conservative confab to embrace his hatefulness confirmed every negative stereotype the Left and the news media promote about the Right.
“The way this works is that the Outrage Mob gins up its hatred quickly, giving no one a chance to actually think slowly and carefully about these things — and they should be thought slowly and carefully about, because what’s being engineered here is possibly an irrevocable negative hit on someone — and then people feel pressure to react instantly precisely the way the mob wants because God Forbid we stand up to the mob and say, “Stop your baying, and give adult men and women of rational mind and good spirit a chance to actually think,” then maybe they’ll turn on us next. Proud anger travels twice around the world before cool reflection has even slipped on its first sock.”
This is an important observation, but I don’t think it applies to Milo, who should have been shunned long, long ago.
“I just think that when the whole world sets its sights on one lonely target, it’s not really terribly useful or moral of me to join in the collective attack. I don’t think the world will end if a couple of voices here or there caution, “Maybe we shouldn’t rush to extirpate him from the face of the earth with just these three seconds of contemplation.”
That’s my least favorite rationalization on the list, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.” No, the world won’t end, but nobody should have to think very hard about the absurdity of someone like Milo being celebrated, awarded huge book contracts, and having a forum for his despicable views, or to recognize the disturbing implications of the fact that so many conservatives cheered him, or to arrive at the conclusion it is troubling that saying and writing things to deliberately upset women and minorities can be a lucrative occupation in this country.
“But I do think Milo has done some good work in exposing the increasing intolerance and hateful mob mentality of our twitterfied, outrage-addicted society. Whether that outweighs the sins he is said to have committed, I don’t know.”
I do. That good work didn’t outweigh the harm he did before trivializing child rape.
Is it my scalp they’ll be coming for next week?Who knows — maybe this very post you’re reading right now will be cited as the reason Ace Must Now Be Purged to Maintain the Purity of the Body of the Church of Twitter….One can dispute his claims and criticize the callowness and the occasional meanness and casual offensiveness of his statements without taking the next step of deciding that we’re going to mob up together to destroy his life just because we’re kinda bored and not doin’ much else on a slow news day.
Or can we? I don’t know that we can any longer. This is where we are; this is what we are. Perhaps this is what we’ve always been — perhaps we just needed a technological innovation of social media to enable us to focus and purify our hatred into a polarized speck of white-hot dissolving heat. Maybe we just needed this one stupid little tool so that we could take this week’s pleasure in inflicting cruelty on strangers, like a sadistic kid just needs a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays on a random ant.
Again, an interesting point, wasted on Milo. Applied to him, this is Silly Slippery Slopism. There are already many examples of the Cyber Mob setting out to destroy someone that should alarm us, but fearing the mob because it turned on Milo is like fearing the military because it shot Osama bin Laden.
6. Society and political discourse will be better off and more ethical without Milo’s hateful bile polluting them. That is a good thing.
7. Oh–I almost forgot:
There is someone else who is currently at great risk of meeting the same fate as the I-Man, The Greaseman, and Milo.
The President of the United States of America