Photo by Jason Bergman
The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Milo Yiannopoulos
In the space of two fateful days in February 2017, the self-styled ‘provocateur’ and media ‘super-villian’ lost a book deal, had his appearance at a major conservative conference cancelled and resigned as an editor at Breitbart. His career imploding spectacularly after a video appeared which seemed to show the journalist defend child molestation.
It was a crushing defeat for the charismatic media personality who looked to be on the cusp of world-wide fame. As a major supporter of Donald Trump’s succesful US presidential run the previous year, Yiannopoulos was fast becoming one of the
most sought after conservative culture critics.
It had been a meteoric rise for the Briton who had come to prominence in his native country before finding fame in the US. An eloquent and evocative writer, Yiannopoulos became known for his politically incorrect and often savage takedowns of ‘progressive’ ideologists through his numerous blog postings and media interviews.
Born in 1984 as Milo Hanrahan in Kent, England, Yiannopoulos grew up in a middle-class family. He is of Greek and Jewish descent and has described himself as a practising Catholic. After dropping out of University twice, he began writing for the Catholic Herald before covering technology for the Daily Telegraph.
But it was through his involvement in the ‘Gamergate’ scandal that Yiannopoulos found his niche as a witty iconoclast. Appealing to the wild-west nature of platforms such as 4chan and Reddit, Yiannopoulos found an eager audience of internet ‘trolls’ who were lashing out against a popular culture dominated by left-wing ideology.
And his deadly mix of brutal sarcasm and “gallows” humour inevitably allowed him to transcended the small dark corners of internet and make his way into the public consciousness. He uncompromising views on individual rights and personal freedoms
appealed to the growing anti-establishment ‘new right‘ movement in America.
Other targets included modern feminism, identity politics, and political correctness. But his main focus had always been on the issue of free speech and on those who wish to curtail the right to free expression without consequence. He has often described himself as a “free speech activist”.
His views constantly see him wrongly associated with the controversial ‘alt-right‘ movement, a group he has repeatedly distanced himself from and criticised. Although he has expressed sympathy for many of their concerns, he appears to reject the overtly racial element fundamental to their cause.
In reality, Yiannopoulos’ views can be better characterised as ‘alt-light‘. His ideology has a lot in common with other conservative agitators like Gavin McInnes and Ann Coulter. He has often identified as having ‘classic liberal’ and ‘libertarian’ political views.
As a magnet for controversy, Yiannopoulos has been attacked with a visceral passion by both sides of the political spectrum. According to ‘progressives’ he is the odious hate-filled monstrous face of the far right. While traditional conservatives dismiss him as a crude, insincere, attention-seeking phony.
His dramatic fall earlier this year was unsurprising to anyone vaguely familiar with his antagonizing antics. His rock star ‘Dangerous Faggot‘ tour of American colleges has made him a lightning rod for violent protestors while the behaviour of some of his followers on twitter led to Yiannopoulos being permanently banned from the networking service.
For his many critics, Yiannopoulos had become public enemy number one. Yet with every failed attack, Yiannopoulos gained in strength. Furiously typed articles condemning Yiannopoulos pushed him further into the media spotlight, propelling
him to greater popularity and influence than ever before.
It became clear that to stop Yiannopoulos’ impressive ascent, his relentless detractors would need a knock-out blow. And it came in the form of a misjudged and badly articulated interview in which Yiannopoulos spoke of his experiences of being in
a relationship with an older man when he was still a “young boy”.
A misleading edit of his remarks was plastered all over various media outlets in the following days and Yiannopoulos faced a huge backlash for appearing to defend pedophilia. A grudging apology from an unusually sheepish Yiannopoulos could not
withstand the barrage of criticism from ‘progressives’ and conservatives alike.
And in an instant it was gone, his book deal, conservative speech and media job. Leaving Yiannopoulos to sweat it out in front of the worlds media at a hastily arranged press conference where he clarified his beliefs, “I am horrified by pedophillia…I would like to express my utter disgust at adults who sexually abuse minors”.
The incident should have been enough to send Yiannopoulos into an eternal obscurity. Even his most ardent public supporters found it difficult to stomach his original comments and felt that he had finally flown to close to the sun. Yiannopoulos had always been a tough sell for traditional conservatives and now he appeared an increasingly toxic figure.
But as the left celebrated, the wily Yiannopoulos was already plotting his next move. He announced the launch of the $12 million dollar media company MILO Inc. which he aims to turn into a free speech media destination. And it was through its creation that Yiannopoulos was able to self publish his cancelled book ‘Dangerous‘.
Predictably, like moths to a flame, his enemies still can’t seem to get enough of him. A myriad of left-wing media outlets produce countless articles frantically urging their readers to ignore Yiannopoulos, while simultaneously reporting extensively on his every act with a haughty thrill.
And crucially for Yiannopoulos, in spite of his public scandal, he is as popular as ever. As is often the case, his followers have rallied around him and continue to show support for their somewhat beleaguered leader. Ultimately, the controversy has only made Yiannopoulos an even more alluring and outrageous character.
If the Yiannopoulos story was turned into a Marvel movie, he would be gearing up for the all important third act where our flamboyant, partially sighted hero returns stronger than ever to strike vengeance on the ‘progressive’ left and destroy political correctness once and for all.