Banning Milo, Redux.

A quick follow-up to a post from last week regarding Twitter’s “permanent suspension” of Milo Yiannopolous follows.  If you’re so inclined, you can read my original thoughts before continuing.  It’s cool, I’ll wait.

I was surprised at the reactions Milo’s ban received.  Many people responded with “I’m glad he’s gone” and outlined the “horrible” ways this “monster” had treated people.  Funny enough, most people couldn’t identify a single way Milo treated them horribly.  It was all anecdotal stories they’d either read about or heard from other people.  More tellingly, no one could justify Yiannopolous’s Twitter ban beyond the standard tropes involving the First Amendment, free speech, how Twitter was a “private company,” and so on.  Evidence, or the lack of evidence, regarding the “Dangerous Faggot’s” alleged coordinated attack against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, didn’t matter one bit.  It was all about the narrative.

That narrative ignored a basic understanding of what phrases like “targeted attack” means, as well as “hate speech (quick hint, there’s no legal definition of “hate speech” in America.).”  It also indicated a bizarre line of reasoning that retweeting “racist” comments on line and “exposing” said thoughts for the world wasn’t the same thing as directing a targeted attack against another user’s account.  Those who prattled such tripe in my direction seemed a touch blind to statements like “Get her” and “I’ll blow you up.  If you tweet hateful things at me I’ll retweet it so all of my followers see it and come after your punk…”  None of this surprises me, after the work I’ve done for a couple of months now.  What did surprise me were the people who came rushing to the defense of censorship.

Those who spoke in favor of silencing Yiannopolous were arguably people who depend on free speech the most.  There were performance artists, musicians, and stand up comedians all telling me “words can and do certainly hurt people” and that being pro free speech was only a good thing “during the days when you could beat a man within an inch of his life.”  People whose very livelihoods depend on pushing the boundaries of what you can and can’t say in public flocked to the side of silence.  The display absolutely confounded me, until I started to think about the deeper issues behind this pro-censor stance.

There’s an element of profit at stake, for starters.  The only way you’re really guaranteed a steady income in the entertainment industry is if you display to the public your commitment to the “correct” way of thinking. Any question of authority, any attempts at dissidence will only cost the artist money.  Even if the dissident position is one with which the artist actually agrees, they will deliberately silence themselves to make sure that extra paycheck is available while establishing a name and brand recognition for their work.

Worse still, there’s an implicit tone of rejection for those who dare express wrongthink as artists.  All it takes is one incorrect statement that doesn’t jibe with the current buzzphrases of “diversity” and “inclusion” and you’re squarely in the crosshairs of the Internet Outrage Machine.  Once you’re a target for the digital mobs ready to scream their offense, you’re done.  Your career is finished, or you’re going to at least lose out on the possibility of millions in the process.

In that sense, you might be able to forgive the artist for choosing a life of self-censorship.  The businesses that stand to benefit the most from an open, robust exchange of ideas are the ones that stand to lose out the most when the content creators actually express ideas outside the mainstream views of normalcy.  It’s only good capitalism at work, then.  Everyone likes to own nice things, and many artists have families to feed.  The biggest issue with the “anti-Milo” stance, especially when it comes to the arts, is by limiting the “free speech extremist” you’ve officially shifted the Overton Window on your own work to a position with which you might not be entirely comfortable.

Love him or hate him, the “Dangerous Faggot” always stood on the side of free speech and free expression.  His outlandish stunts on college campuses designed to poke fun of speech codes and grandstanding with people ranging from Christina Hoff Sommers to Dave Rubin all serve a point.  If his ideas and speech aren’t acceptable at the most outlandish of times, then there’s a good chance your “moderate” or “nuanced” view won’t stand the test of time as the politically correct “regressive left” comes to shout down any opposing voice.  Once the modern “Nero” is eliminated from the public’s discourse, then your more “principled” view might very well be next for elimination.

Worse still, eliminating Yiannopolous’s “hate speech” from the digital domain doesn’t make the web any “safer” than before.  It just allows newer forms of hate to fill in the cracks, ones the mobs of “social justice [insert Dungeons and Dragons class of your choosing]” deem appropriate.  Shortly after Twitter smacked Yiannopolous with the Banhammer, a post appeared on Medium, the Twitter owned “platisher’s” Daily Digest slamming Milo, calling him part of the “A-List con men” at the Republican National Convention.  It didn’t serve any purpose than acting as the new official stance on what form of hate was acceptable for modern society: a hatred of those who stood for free speech.

The dangerous line we tread when eliminating people like Milo Yiannopolous from the public eye is choosing a life of hedonistic, intellectual comfort over a forced examination of the ideas and people with which we disagree.  So many of us already engage in this practice daily with block buttons and lists.  The creation of those echo chambers leads to the treacherous line of reason where we automatically assume we’re right, and those who express a different view are guilty of the sin dubbed Wrong On The Internet.

When self-inflicted, it does little harm to the rest of society.  The public elimination of figures like Milo Yiannopolous through outside third parties with massive amounts of power, like Jack Dorsey and Twitter, is a more egregious sin as we’re told by those with the real technological power what to think, absent suffering penalties.

Banning Milo

It was nice while it lasted, but the ruse is over.  The “free speech wing of the free speech party” dropped their ruse of holding a platform for all voices when Twitter, late last night, permanently suspended “conservative provocateur” Milo Yiannopolous’s @Nero account.

It didn’t take Twitter long to let the world know following the formation of their Trust and Safety Council that Yiannopolous, an editor for Breitbart, was a marked man.  They took away Milo’s precious blue “verified” check mark, a sign letting the world know the account was his and not one of the numerous fake accounts bearing his name.  The last straw in Yiannopolous’s antics, apparently, was his bashing of “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones.  Some called Milo’s work an “organized campaign of online harassment” eventually leading to Jones quitting Twitter.

That didn’t last long.  Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, eventually reached out to Jones, and the two conversed via DM.  Then, last night, Yiannopolous joined the ranks of the Twitter Banned, standing beside people like Robert Stacy McCain and Got News’ Chuck Johnson.  This banning is different, though, and it’s one Twitter might regret in the days to come.

Within hours of Milo’s @Nero suspension, the hashtag #FreeMilo started trending on Twitter.  Right now it’s sitting as #1 on my “Tailored Trends” topics.  Adding the hashtag into Tweetdeck produces a torrent of tweets on the subject, ranging from people fully in support of Milo to those gleefully rejoicing in Milo’s ban, and suggesting those upset about the issue join him and delete their accounts.  In essence, by removing Milo from the social media platform, they managed to amplify the “Dangerous Faggot’s” presence more than ever before.  It’s also highlighted Twitter’s disingenuous stance on free speech.

Make no mistake, Twitter is a private company, free to select who uses its services and who doesn’t.  And they’re free to select what they term “harassment” or “hate speech” and silence those voices.  But in taking the anti-Milo side, Twitter stands on treacherous grounds of doing something no one in their camp wants to do: prove him right.

During Yiannopolous’s last appearance on Dave Rubin’s “Rubin Report” show, Yiannopolous predicted Twitter would eventually shed its chosen mantle as a bastion of free speech and stand as a platform only devoted to allowing those ideas it deemed “safe” or acceptable.  They’ve done just that with the banning of Yiannopolous, and even allowed others to posit wilder stances than his, such as the ban’s “targeted” nature as it came right before Yiannopolous attended a “Gays for Trump” party during the Republican National Convention.  The ruse is gone, and Jack can’t take it back.

Worse yet, Twitter managed to give credence to the throngs of “men’s rights activists,” or MRAs, who claim women can’t handle criticism on the platform.  It also places Leslie Jones in a negative light, as a female comedian, arguably someone who should be able to handle criticism from hecklers or otherwise with ample savvy, was outed as someone who needed a Twitter knight in shining armor to activate the Trust and Safety Council’s jackbooted digital thugs and suppress Milo’s voice.

It’s an odd stance for a social media platform to take, especially one so allegedly pro free speech, and ostensibly the bastion of the marketplace of ideas.  A gay man with a fetish for black dudes is silenced for criticizing a black comedian.  In the meantime, pro-ISIS accounts are allowed, and tweets advocating for the killing of cops are prolific.  Even Jones, originally clutching her pearls and whining about how something had to be done to stop all the hate, is back on Twitter denouncing “white people shit.”

Yiannopolous’s presence has yet to end on Facebook, which poses an interesting conundrum for Mark Zuckerberg and his team.  They’ve already been outed as anti-conservative through leaked information, when word circulated his team internally wanted to stop Donald Trump from becoming President.  Zuckerberg, firmly in the crosshairs of the free speech world, invited a number of prominent conservative talking heads to his offices in California and affirmed his commitment to promoting all values, no matter what.

The ball is then ostensibly in Facebook’s court, and can be used to breathe fresh life into a platform now largely seen as an echo chamber for those still using it.  If Mark Zuckerberg takes a strong stance and blows the doors open for any and all, firmly distinguishing Facebook from Twitter, it will send a powerful message and bring the disenchanted back to the land of “likes” and “pokes.” If Zuckerberg remains silent on the issue, or worse yet adds fuel to the fire by endorsing the ban of Milo Yiannopolous, then both social media platforms will suffer.

Only time will tell, as the story is less than a day old and yet gaining international attention.  One thing’s for sure, and that’s striking down Nero only makes him more powerful and amplifies his voice than one would possibly imagine.

Lessons From Nero’s Spot on The Rubin Report

The Rubin Report is becoming one of my new favorite podcasts.  Dave Rubin is unapologetically advocating for sensible discussions regarding free speech, and has taken to task the “regressive left” with their attempts to silence people through name-calling, labels, ideological politics, and more.  In doing so, Rubin made a commitment that’s laudable for many: he would present all views on an issue, even those he disagreed with and made him uncomfortable.  That takes remarkable integrity, and I applaud Rubin for it.

I also applaud Milo Yiannopolous for showing up to discuss anything and everything related to his conservative leanings, why he leads the life of a provocateur, and his unapologetic support of Donald Trump’s Presidential bid.  You listen to Milo for a little bit, and you’ll learn why the self-proclaimed “World’s Most Dangerous Faggot” has such a massive following.  Here’s what I learned from his appearance on the Rubin Report.

  1. Milo values fun and sees the current state of affairs in America as “boring” because of progressive left politics.

One recurring theme that circulated around Milo’s time on the Rubin Report was that he loves his work because it’s “fun.”  He loves seeing Trump’s rise as President because it’s “fun.” One thing Milo despises is “boring,” and that’s where he lays the finger of shame on the left.

His work as a journalist means living a life of “fun” as well.  One of the more entertaining bits on the Rubin Report appearance was when he talked about his creation of a “Feminism or Cancer” poll and a two time cancer survivor said she’d STILL pick cancer over feminism!  That may be an unappealing view for some, but Milo calls it fun, and he’s enjoying his work.  Good on him.

2. Milo values the ability to say whatever you want, whenever you want, without fear of repercussion.  He also practices what he preaches.

There’s some things in Milo’s appearance on the Rubin Report that will shock a few people.  If you get shocked by Milo or offended by Milo then you’ve never really taken the time to “get” Milo.  He takes issue with the current mentality that people cannot say what they want when they want without worrying about losing their jobs or alienating others.

Give the man a chance, and he’ll give you some quotes that will make your day.  One example comes from when he describes a press conference he would hold if he was President Trump’s Press Secretary.

“Daddy doesn’t feel like answering your questions today.  I’m going shopping.  Please leave your comments in the box.”

3. Milo is incredibly persuasive when speaking on just about any issue.

There’s a point in the podcast where Rubin and Milo get into a discussion of an issue Rubin had with a Buzzfeed writer who took issue with Rubin’s label of the “Regressive Left.” Rubin took what would be considered in many circles the “moral high ground” and tried to avoid naming this individual.

Milo would have none of this.  He badgered Rubin into naming the Buzzfeed writer under the rationale of “If someone does something stupid, I want their name and face exposed to the harsh light of scrutiny so people can see just how stupid they are.”  Eventually, Milo got Rubin to name the Buzzfeed writer that aggrieved him, and they discussed the entire issue.  It was clear Rubin didn’t want to go there, but after being called a “cultural librarian” by Milo  all gloves came off and Milo got his way.

4. Milo is willing to say things people are thinking but don’t have the ability to say, and that’s important.

Two points here.  The first is when Milo says the influx of Islamic culture into Europe is a big reason why he’s spending more time in America.  He views the way Islam treats the LGBT community as something he wants no part of, and that means he has to distance himself from places he once called home as a result.  Milo also says this is a bad sign for women too, but people aren’t recognizing it, because as soon as an attack by “radical Islamists” happens the first thing our world leadership and the news media goes to is “This was radical Islam and it wasn’t the view of the regular Muslim.”

The second is his indictment of the LGBT community for going after Christians on randomly “offensive” topics.  Milo takes a large issue with the LGBT community, for example, going after a bakery to find alleged “homophobia” because they’d rather not bake a cake for a wedding, and then grind that into an OFFEND stance that puts people out of business.  He’s not a fan, and sees it as a way of alienating people that would otherwise be allies.

5. Milo is unabashedly conservative and free speech, and sees all of it as the best way to be.

“If you want to be punk, if you want to be cool, you’ve got to be conservative.”

That’s Milo for you.  That’s a guy who says “free speech” means you have to take the piss out of words like “gay,” “faggot,” and other slurs that have been used to denigrate people who just happen to be attracted to others of the same sex.  His take is he wants to see the word “gay” go to mean “stupid” or “idiotic” as it’s been used by straight/cis/heteronormative shitlords for ages.  Milo’s take is that when you get to that point, then you’ve reached a society where “free speech” means something.

He also sees the current state of liberalism/progressive politics as a stifling of everything good in life, anything that’s fun at all, and that’s why it needs to be destroyed.  The same thing goes for conservatives in his book, though, and that’s why he thinks a Trump Presidency will do wonders for this country.  Milo is of a mindset that if and when Trump his the White House, our country will start to reconstruct itself into what it once was.

I can’t say enough good things about Dave Rubin and Milo Yiannopolous, so I’m just going to cut it short and say go look for the Rubin Report on iTunes or YouTube, and follow Milo at @Nero and Dave Rubin at @RubinReport on Twitter.  You’ll be glad you did.