He came to the fore as a consequence of the Gamergate mire and in true Warhol-esque fashion, mixed with his penchant for the instant gratification of spectacle, Milo’s rise, and fall has been a heady 15 minutes. Has the Milo-mobile stalled, or does it need a fresh bout of juice? Only time will tell. Falls from grace are usually spectacular in their bloody evisceration of the subject that is rent apart before the media amphitheatre. Milo Yiannopoulos’s has seemed rather protracted and more akin to a war of attrition compared to the often sudden Icarus plunge to Earth.
His position as tech editor at online conservative outlet Breitbart gained Milo infamy while tackling the ideological bent of Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn’s attack on gaming/gamers. He built on this notoriety by cultivating a walking contradiction persona as a gay Catholic half-Jew, a Conservative opposed to “Born This Way” with a self-professed liking for black men. Eventually declaring support for Donald Trump and touring US college campuses on his “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” denouncing Feminism/Social Justice, Milo did not win many friends. Including Leslie Jones and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, the latter evicting Milo from the social network after giving the Ghostbusters remake a bad review, which only served to spur his fans on.
Even riots at UC Berkley and petitions against his $250,000 book deal with Simon & Schuster failed to dampen the ire of Milo’s rock-and-roll right rhetoric. Until an anti-Trump Republican news site unearthed a snippet of Milo’s interview on an old Joe Rogan Experience podcast where the media deemed Milo to be endorsing paedophilia that is. The mainstream media have often overlooked this most ghastly of crimes at will, Hollywood elites applauding Roman Polanski, going on to lambast Trump more than a decade later (*ahem, Meryl Streep). Another liberal darling, George Takei, made light of his abuse as a teen, yet Milo’s admittedly sloppily phrased – even by his admission – unleashes the full disgust deserved against child abuse previously lacking.
While speaking on the podcast in question, Milo remained evasive on the whys and wherefores of several things, namely his experiences of being abused as a teen by a priest. Too invested in being an ever-vivacious provocateur, his flippancy on the subject became easily exploitable, particularly when Milo says that at 14, he was a predator. He likely meant that at that age, he was sexually willing, as most teenage boys are. I recall a line from the UK version of Shameless: “I am 19, I get an erection in a light breeze!” Thinking and lusting after sex in your teenage years is sexually willing, but it differs from being sexually able.
When I was 14, I ran up a massive phone bill ringing gay dating lines. I even managed to obtain the personal numbers of three men and arrange to meet them, something that I chickened out on doing (thankfully, and I remained a virgin until 19, deflowered by a 27-year-old man). So did Milo misspeak and intend to say he had been willing as a teenager fired up with hormones because that scenario differs from endorsing sex between teens and adults. It proved enough to pull Milo down, however, despite his allusions to being a victim of abuse. In a stroke, Milo lost his keynote speaker spot at CPAC, his book deal and he resigned from Breitbart. A backlash sprang up from all sides, in defence and condemnation, to which Milo eventually responded by holding a press conference to release a statement where he condemned child abuse, highlighted his work in exposing paedophiles.
He goes on to mention his relationship at 17 with a 29-year-old man (which was legal in the UK) as an example and is on record in the podcast as saying the current age of consent laws are about right. The media never evolved beyond the lynchings of old; they just employ the adage of “the pen is mightier than the sword,” to affect their witch hunts. Attach to this Milo’s penchant for creating controversy that allowed his mask of a firebrand to sear on too tight, with a moment of casual flippancy at a time when he was too comfortable with a Joe Rogan who listens and doesn’t editorialise. Throw in the often mixed up ways people attempt to rationalise the difficulties of their past, and you have the blend for a scandal and character assassination. I recall Gene Hackman saying in The Birdcage: “Americans do not care about details, they do not even trust details, they only believe headlines”. A sentiment the mainstream media has to exploit a lack of nuance and alter perceptions, much in the way an abuser grooms a victim. Milo was foolish, careless, not evil.