It’s pointless to even write about Trump, it only feeds the beast. Whatever you say is inevitably subjected to, and twisted by a perverse sense of logic, spun in a way so as to support a new ideology that resembles something dreamt up by the mind of a prepubescent delinquent in the throes of an elaborate meth binge. I say ideology but at the centre of an ideology there must be some sort of coherent idea, and as yet I’m not sure that Trump has ever had one of those. Trump simply thrives off of attention, whether it’s good or bad. Like Oscar Wilde once said,
There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about.
Since Trump’s inauguration, I have on a couple of occasions been in conversation with people who expressed opinions along the lines of how certain past writers would be reacting to this current state of affairs. Writers and social commentators like George Orwell, Christiopher Hitchens, Tom wolfe, Norman Mailer and Hunter S. Thompson, each of whom possessed the ability to express their observations with a well honed laser like focus and precision that enabled them to clinically dissect their way to the heart of any situation. While I agree that they were all exceptional writers, I disagree that they would have found Trump to be a muse worthy of any great journalistic endeavour. This opinion might surprise you, I’m not saying that Trump wouldn’t have shocked them like he has nearly everyone else, but as a subject of skillful and considered pieces of journalism Trump is severely lacking. The reason for this is that Trump is too easy a target, about as big a challenge as shooting fish in a barrel. Writing about Trump is like trying to get your voice heard amongst a crowd of drunken, vociferous football supporters, whatever it is you have to say, no matter how enlightening, will inevitably be drowned out by chants that imply the referee is addicted to masturbation.
Trump is the tip of the iceberg, a clown at the head of a vanguard, beating a drum heralding in the dawn of a new era. A post-truth age, the epoch of the alternative fact. Every literary or artistic movement is a rebellion to that which preceded it. For what has seemed like an eternity, the catch-all, inescapable terms that have been used to define postmodernism have shackled the potential for artistic creativity and expression. Political correctness has been perhaps the most pervasive and pernicious progeny of the fetid fertility of postmodernism. Recently people have asked the question what would Obama’s legacy will be? And the answer is simple, Obama was a part of the system that produced an audience willing to listen to Trump’s perverse rhetoric. The ambiguity and lack of identity that has resulted out of the centrist, middle ground politics of presidents Jimmy Carter through to Barrack Obama, helped spawn this love child that we now see kicking and screaming before us, the brat that we are labeling the Alt-Right. But, as they say hindsight is 20/20, it’s fairly straightforward to see how we now find ourselves in a Bunyanesque slough of despond.
I’ve seen the healthy cynicism of a generation of our youth trying to satisfy its intellectual needs by feeding off of the vast, barren plains of the internet. Somewhat like an all you can eat buffet at McDonald’s, while appealing to the palates of the masses and satisfying the hunger of only a few, its nutritional deficiencies leave the consumer inevitably suffering long term health issues as well as preventing them from ever gaining the experience of, and sustenance from, a more wholesome diet. It is impossible to understate the role that the internet has played in facilitating the rapid and alarming rise of the alt right.
A polemicist, an agent provocateur, or what the digital age reduces to calling pejoratively, a troll. Right now Milo is the voice of the Alt Right, and a self proclaimed cultural libertarian. Yiannopoulos is an advocate for the freedom of speech, thought and expression. As a half Greek half British, 100% gay pseudo-celebrity aggressively defending America’s first amendment, one might quickly disregard this most improbable of characters. Initially demonized to me by the headlines of articles, that until this week I’d never even bothered to read as he appeared to me to be nothing more than a celebrity whose agenda was just to put make the Opinions of the new president look moderate, even warm and fuzzy. He uses his sexuality as a weapon in a carefree and blatantly offensive way, often making casual references to how he has a penchant for fellating black men, to intimidate his listeners and put them immediately on the back foot. Leading a rainbow colored crusade up to the heavily fortified citadel of political correctness. Adopting a siege warfare mentality, loading his verbal trebuchets with payloads of acerbic vitriol and charging at the doors of decency with an enormous battering ram shaped like phallus. Yiannopoulos has declared war against what most people would consider common decency.
Milo Yiannopoulos’ The Dangerous Faggot Tour has provoked a firestorm of criticism as it makes its way across the universities of the United States, and that’s nothing less than what has always been his intention. Only 32 years old and a senior editor of the alt right American news website Breitbart, he has been responsible for producing articles with the titles Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer, and Birth Control Makes Women Ugly and Crazy. He shot to infamy after having been banned from Twitter for branding one of the female stars, Leslie Jones, of the unwatchable Ghost Busters reboot, a dude and a man.
This was a far as I’d got with this blog article before the enigmatic Milo’s already volatile career took a rather dramatic turn as a result of comments he made during a show streamed live on YouTube over a year ago, coming back to haunt him. The opinions that Milo expressed were quite easily interpreted as being that of an apologist towards paedophilia. These comments have resulted in him losing a book deal which had record pre-sales, and having to resign from his post at Breitbart, but given the publicity they have gotten him I’d be very surprised if lost any sleep over the public condemnation he’s recieved. It is from this point on that continuing to write about Milo has felt like jumping down a rabbit hole into a world of nebulous, vague and fallacious reasoning. The comments that Yiannopoulos’ made during the Drunken Peasants show streamed live on YouTube in January 2016. The video is attached below. If you only wish to listen to Milo’s most inflammatory comments, (which I advise as the show itself reminds me of one of those conversations that you’d get into at a bar at two in the morning, in some small town, jerky chewing backwater that the United States has been so adept at nurturing) then they start at around 56 minutes. That’s not to say that the opinions he expresses prior to this are in any way reasonable, it’s just that they tend to become less memorable once he starts to discuss the issue of paedophilia and the age of consent.
Milo went on to express a similar set of opinions When he appeared on Joe Rogan’s radio show some six months later. Watching the video below left me with the same uncomfortable feelings I experienced while reading Nabakov’s Lolita. What makes Yiannopolous’ comments that much more disturbing is that he relates the stories in the first person, a trick that has been in the armory of story tellers since the dawn of time and one that didn’t escape Nabakov.
Paedophilia is always a highly dangerous topic for humour. Myself, I only know one paedophile joke and I take into very careful consideration the company that I’m in before I venture to tell it. If I’m honest the joke itself is pretty weak and really just trades off of the shock value that the joke teller has decided to tell it. I’m no comedian, in fact when I told people I intended to be a comedian they all laughed at me, well they’re not laughing now. But even to me, the subject of paedophilia appears to be somewhat anaemic at best in its opportunities for humour. It’s considered the fifth worst topic to make a joke about by the website http://www.ranker (a website whose name alone is enough to make me smirk like a mischievous school boy who’s just been caught staring at his teacher’s breasts). They list the top 5 inappropriate topics of humour as follows:
- Burn victims
- Animal cruelty
Milo’s interview with Joe Rogan is disturbing and there should be little doubt that it was ever intended to be anything else, but a person doesn’t have to spend much time or effort to find people saying things that can be reasonably argued as being equally inappropriate. The jokes made by the comedians in the video compilation below make reference to the real life cases of the murders and abductions of children, people jumping to their deaths on September 11th, and the practice of necrophilia with victims of the holocaust, but none of these were capable of courting the controversy that Milo has achieved recently.
Is Milo Yiannopolous just a new type of celebrity spawned out of the moral vacuum that is the internet? A direct descendant of the genealogy of shock humour? The inevitable progeny that had to follow on from Lenny Bruce, Andy Kaufman, Bill Hicks, Dennis Pennis , and Frankie Boyle? My own personal opinion is that Yiannopolous is just a pioneer for the next generation of media whore. I’m not even sure that Yiannopoulos even exists or whether he’s just a character that has been skillfully constructed just to annoy the masses. The combination of far right, flamboyantly gay Catholic, and Breitbart editor, is a volatile mixture that will raise the hackles of anyone who considers themselves to be “reasonable”. But, I very much doubt that these ingredients were something that have randomly coalesced to form society’s most toxic cocktail, instead they have been skillfully blended together in order to serve us with the most indigestible aperitif possible. Essentially Milo is a new Sacha Baron Cohen character with the exception that we don’t know the person who is playing Milo, and it is this that makes his character so entertaining. Milo is shock art in the genre of social media for the 21st century and as such he’s about as original as a Star Wars reboot.
Anyone older that forty will remember that back in the late eighties through the turn of the millennia Madonna produced a number of music videos that were quickly banned by MTV and therefore immediately garnering them more attention and ensuring that they would be immortalised in pop folk lore. Entertainment has always found room to accommodate the shock artist and it always will. It would be wrong to consider shock art as a necessary evil, it’s an essential part of the fabric in the tapestry of entertainment.
What can, and can’t be said? What is and isn’t acceptable? Who decides what is decent? Is there anyone decent enough out there to be empowered with deciding upon decency? Isn’t it always the case that if somebody doesn’t like what they are watching or listening to always has the right to reply or walk away?
Shock artists have pervaded every medium of society and entertainment, from comedy, through to politics, from sport through to art. Polemics have been offending their way to making a living since the time of ancient Greece. The word itself deriving from the Greek Polemikos, meaning warlike or confrontational.
I had intended to finish this piece with the following quote by Volataire:
‘What a fuss about an omelette!’ he had exclaimed when he heard of the burning. How abominably unjust to persecute a man for such an airy trifle as that!
It is from this that we hear the somewhat tired and overused saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. This is commonly misattributed to Voltaire, instead, these are the words of a biographer of Voltaire Evelyn Hall, whose aim it was to summarise Voltaire’s ideas on the freedom of speech.
One thing that we probably can’t deny is that this week Milo Yiannopoulos dropped the cultural libertarian version of the atomic bomb. It’s difficult to find any meaning in the destruction he’s left behind if we are to allow a person’s right to the freedom of speech to include the right to make the comments that Mr. Yiannopoulos decided to make. Despite the grotesque nature of some of his comments, I do still stand by every human’s right to be able to say whatever they wish, no matter how gratuitous, inappropriate or disgusting it might be. Ultimately the audience must be responsible and exercise their right to respond, not to listen, or marginalise people that express views that promote the suffering of others.
So for today at least, I can still say that I disagree with what Milo says, but will defend to the death his right to say it.